And so it was that we entered New Orleans trailer-less. Along Interstate 10, we had noted all the trailer parks, one of which was right in the French Quarter.
We did our best not to be sad, and checked in to the Holiday Inn on Royal Road, smack-bam in the middle of the French Quarter. It was kind of scuzzy, and 24-hour parking cost $28. But it did have internet, TV and two full-size beds.
After a restorative cup of tea, we set forth into the unusually windy and cold weather.
New Orleans does not look like it’s in America. First a colony of the Spanish and French, it didn’t become part of the US until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, when Napoleon sold it and other lands west of the Mississippi River for some $15 million.
We spent our entire visit in the French Quarter, or Vieux Carre, which because of its marginally higher altitude was spared much of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. On our way into and out of New Orleans, though, we saw lots of shells of houses as well as lots of houses that looked brand new.
The French Quarter is a bit of a Cajun theme park, but it’s so beautiful and charming that it doesn’t really matter. We ate gumbo, fried crawfish, fried catfish, fried shrimp, hush puppies (also fried), French fries and the most amazing crab cakes.
Plus, at Café du Monde, some local doughnuts called beignets that come with a chicory coffee blend you find only in New Orleans.
Then, having learned that in the South, ‘fried’ is its very own essential food group, we rolled around appreciating more beautiful buildings, the great Mississippi riverfront, groups of excellent musicians and tarot card/ne-er do wells and the Louisiana State Museum. We caught an exhibition featuring Mardi Gras costumes through the ages, and my, were they fancy. Sophia thought that every last one of them was fit for a princess, a wedding or both.
We also figured out the meaning of the ubiquitous signs proclaiming “Who Dat?” meant. Getting the football theme was the easy part – the New Orleans Saints won the Superbowl in January. Working out Who did Dat was more of a challenge.
It turns out that the ever-faithful supporters of the always-losing Saints liked to shout “Who Dat”, or who’s that about to beat our team? So often is this invoked that Saints fans are known as Who Dat Nation.
Here’s the chant: "Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?"
So now, of course, the chant’s losers have come out on top. Yey, Saints.
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.