Friday, June 08, 2012

The Big Easy

Soooo, the kitchen was a mess. Looking at it all was beginning to give me hives. Then, I got a TravelZoo email with a great deal on a small hotel in New Orleans. The Maison St. Charles, right on the streetcar line between the Quarter and the Lower Garden District. A room, breakfast, and parking for $60.

I'd been wanting to take little man on his first trip to The Big Easy. It seemed as though the universe was speaking to me. One phone call later, we were booked for Friday and Saturday night.

We packed a bag, loaded up on some car snacks, and hit the road. Then, the road hit us. In Amite, La., we got a flat tire. Cut to two hours of "browsing" at the Amite Wal-Mart while they replaced the tire. (Yuck. I hate going to Wal-Mart, even at home. Even on a good day. Not how I envisioned starting our trip, but I suppose it could have been worse. We could have gotten a flat tire 20 miles onto the bridge.)

So that was the downside. The upside? It put us in Manchac right at suppertime. You know what that means - fried thin catfish at Middendorf's! I never even KNEW they had a back deck on the water, but as soon as I saw it, I knew that's where we'd eat.

Covered, out over the water, replete with ceiling fans and misters. They even had live music and a sand area (with a water fountain and sand toys) where the kids could play. The sun was setting, the music was good, and it was heavenly out there. I ordered two mojitos for us, and you could smell the mint on the wind as they made them at the bar. We had oysters, catfish, fries, and hushpuppies as we watched boaters gliding up to the dock, tying up, and hopping off for some serious dinner. It sure felt like a vacation.

After that, it was a quick hop to our hotel, which we found without much trouble, even in the dark. (God bless smartphones and their mapping functions!) We bedded down for the night in anticipation of a busy Saturday.

We decided to eat breakfast close to home the next morning. Finding the continental breakfast rather uninspiring at the hotel, we turned to Urbanspoon for some ideas. A few screens later, we'd settled on The Blue Plate Cafe, which was easily walkable from our location. What a great find! Prices are a little on the spendy side for breakfast, but portions are HUGE, and the food is amazing. I had a big cup of hot coffee and Sue's Special, a split biscuit topped with ham, creamed spinach, and poached egg, served with a side of browns. Hubs had a giant breakfast burrito, and little man contented himself with pancakes, bacon, and pineapple juice.

The whimsical decor and great service (and I mean great - fast, friendly, lots of personality) made it all the better. And they serve lunch and dinner, too! A nice new spot to add to our New Orleans rotation.

After breakfast, we got into the car and headed for Audubon Park. We were still a bit early for the zoo (Why on EARTH they wait until 10 a.m. to open, in the HEAT of SUMMER, is completely beyond me. They should open at 8 a.m. and save patrons from the heat of the day. I'll bet the animals are a lot more active then, too, before the heat has sucked the life out of them.), so we explored the park a bit. At the stroke of 10 a.m., we were in front of the gates of the Audubon Zoo. After renting a stroller and grabbing a glass of lemonade, we were off!

Since most of the crowd appeared to be heading straight or to the right, we headed left. Good call. We explored the Komodo Dragons, the reptile house, and the sea lions in relative peace. We did a little tree climbing, got a great view of the rhinos, and peeked at the gazelles. Clay LOVED the play area around the bronze lion statues - climbing, wading, secret trails, a giant web, and a shady tree house.

We chatted with the giraffes, got a fabulous view of the leopards, and had a little bit of lunch at the Zoofari Cafe on site. A few rides on the carousel, and we were pooped! We headed back to the hotel for a bit of a rest before meeting up with one of my college buddies and his sweet family for dinner.

Dinner was at Reginelli's, where I had a delicious Shrimp Forrest - tortellini with shrimp, pancetta, and cheese in a red pepper cream sauce. Hubs had an excellent pizza, and Clay got the Tortellini Pomodoro. It was so great to catch up with an old friend and meet his sweet family. He has four gorgeous girls. After dinner, we went back to their house for a bit, where the girls showered me with pretend food from their kitchen, strung Mardi Gras beads around my neck, and let me try on all of their sparky butterfly rings. I was in HEAVEN!

More to come . . .

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