On Monday, we left the reunion site and made our way along the Gulf Coast, going the long way so we could see any remaining effects from Katrina. Starting in Biloxi, Mississippi, we saw many vacant lots long the beachfront, mostly for sale. In many of them, there were just remnants of what used to be quite grand beach homes - sometimes just the front steps left, or a fence, a foundation, or a pool. As we drove into New Orleans East, you could see from the highway many abandoned homes, or ones in great disrepair but still occupied. It was surprising to us how much there is left to rebuild.
We checked into a very cool hotel in the French Quarter. It used to be a school for boys in the early 1800's. There was an historic courtyard in the middle of the hotel, and our rooms had walkout balconies where you could sit and look through the iron lacework at the narrow street below. We went out that evening and walk the Quarter, eventually finding our way to Acme Oyster Bar, which according to a local cop, had good red beans and rice (a requirement for Kevin). We had a nice dinner, then walked around some more, eventually taking the girls on an "educational tour" of Bourbon Street!
For dessert, we went to the Cafe du Monde and enjoyed the famous, and very delicious, beignets. They are a fried, flaky pastry sprinkled heavily with powdered sugar. The place never closes, and if you look under each of the tables, you see the floor covered with the white powder. We added our own to the mix!
After dessert, Kevin's dad, Donna, and Kevin went over to Preservation Hall and listened to two sets by their jazz group. The musicians were amazing, and it was great listening to such fun music in such an historic venue. It's a really small room, dark, with only eight wooden benches (which everyone fights for). All others stand for the set.
Tuesday morning, we did a little shopping and a walking tour of the rest of the French Quarter, then checked out. Our plan to go on a Swamp Tour was thwarted when the thunderstorms began. So, we got a new reservation for the tour, changed hotels and are now just sitting around. The girls are doing summer homework! We'll let you know how the Swamp Tour is tomorrow...if we survive the alligators!