The Travel Bug

I have the travel bug. Big time. I believe it’s actually in my genes as I am the product of two people who spent the first ten years of their marriage living as gypsies. Ok, that might be a tad over dramatic. But my mom started traveling right after graduating high school to sing in lounges around the country.A few years later, she met a handsome fella fresh of the Air Force who was just the right kinda guy to travel along side her. Shortly after they abandoned their gypsy lifestyle for a more sedentary one, my father became an over the road truck driver, once again spending his days traversing the country. So as you can see, travel is in my blood. And right now, I am feeling quite the itch to go somewhere new. But since a trip isn’t in the cards quite yet, I am placating myself by revisiting the trips I’ve already been blessed with. And lucky for you, you get to come along 😉

We’ll start with New Orleans, which is actually two trips a year apart. Our first trip was in 2005 and it is a tantalizing saga filled with bandaids, museums and a daring escape from an infamous hurricane. Yes, you heard me correctly. My life is filled with excitement and adventure, the likes you can hardly imagine. Ok, once again I may be a tad over dramatic, but for the sake of the story, go with it. It was also my first time using a digital camera, my mother’s to be exact, and I have no digital copy of those pictures. I do however have the most amazing scrapbooking pages ever. (Let’s just say a little bit has changed in my scrapbooking and photography life since 2005, as well as in the industry as a whole. Going through these pages feels a bit like revisiting my junior high yearbook.) I also have a few of the photos I took with my 35mm SLR and developed in my darkroom (yes I had a darkroom, because my mom is the coolest). But I digress.

Our adventure began with an EMT convention that Justin was working at. For the first time since he started his “real” job, I was able to tag along and spend my days exploring. As we embarked on our journey, a little hurricane with the sweet name of Katrina was headed towards Florida. We didn’t really even notice. While Justin worked at the convention, I spent my days exploring the streets of the French Quarter and falling in love. For a history lover like me, it’s pretty much a dream city come true. Everything was so beautiful and I felt like I was surrounded by history on every side. Seriously people, I know I’m a nerd. It’s ok.These courtyards were so incredibly beautiful. I spied through every gate I could to admire them, and quickly began dreaming of having one of my own. Oh yes, it only took about a day before I was ready to move down there.

There are museums everywhere in the French Quarter and I visited all of them (I’m starting to think this post should really be titled How Big a Nerd is Jackie???). The first museum I visited was the Urseline convent, the oldest convent in the US. I admit, I was a little scared to venture out by myself at first, but it didn’t take long before I was loving it! My favorite museum was the Cabildo, which is in an old government building next to the St. Louis Cathedral, and included things like Napoleans death mask and an auction block from the slave market in New Orleans. Are you loving these old scrapbooking pages?!?! I would like to take this moment to add that some of my New Orleans scrapbook pages feature my first use of rub-on letters. I still have them. Yes, I have a hoarding problem.The street musicians and artists were so incredible. The talent that lines the streets of the French Quarter is unbelievable. I could sit and listen to them play for hours.

In the picture above, you may notice that I am holding what appears to be an enormous slurpee. It is in fact the leftovers of my seemingly never ending hurricane. Let me preface this by saying I don’t drink. I may have the occasional half glass of wine but that’s it. But when in Rome… You buy a Pat O’Brian’s Hurricane so that you can bring the glass home. But it doesn’t feel real if you just dump the hurricane out so you have to drink it to make your souvenir legit. And if your husband decides he doesn’t like the way hurricanes taste, you are stuck drinking it alone. Forever. And then you wake up feeling rather unpleasant in the middle of the night. Ok, maybe that’s not what everyone does, but that’s what I did. And then the maid took my glass when she cleaned the room???? So I called them and they said they would look for it. And then an actual hurricane came and my glass was no longer terribly important. The French Market was totally amazing. It’s the oldest open air market in the country and the nerd history buff in me enjoyed imagining what it was like shopping there 150 years ago. These are the things that make my heart sing.I went on a cemetery tour to the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 which is the more “urban” cemetery if you will. Lot’s of cool history there, along with some slightly spooky stuff like the burial site of the voodoo queen, which to this day is visited by people leaving small red x’s all over the mausoleum. I am morbidly fascinated by voodoo in a slightly terrified, read a lot of books about slavery that include voodoo way so this was both fascinating and disturbing to me. Just saying. It was on this tour that I realized that even the lightest summer skirt does not breathe enough for New Orleans. When it is 100 degrees with tropical humidity you need any moving air you can possibly get, and if said skirt covers your knees, you may just die in the sun. Just a fair warning to future travelers. That was the only day there that I didn’t wear my denim skirt, and I rushed back to the hotel after the tour to change back into it. Don’t judge me. It was the only bottom I had that didn’t make me feel like I was going to die.The cemetery tour included a stop at Congo Square which was rather awesome to me. If you’ve ever read a book about slaves in New Orleans, you’ve read about this place. Once again, this book and history lover was in heaven. This is the place where the slaves would gather on their Sundays off, to dance and socialize. Bet you didn’t realize you were going to get a history lesson today, now did you??? One of our evenings there, Justin and I visited the aquarium which was amazing. Lots of fun animals to see there like albino alligators, otters, sharks, anacondas… It was a beautiful place.It also included some ridiculously fun photo ops. We are so cool, what can I say??? We also took the streetcar through the Garden District and checked out all of the beautiful houses there and ate lots of delicious food. By the time we left, my feet were covered in bandaids because they were raw from all the walking, and I had to throw my flip flops away in the hotel because they were completely destroyed. Clearly I was enjoying myself. We squeezed so much good stuff into a few days that I was totally head over heels in love with the city when it was time to leave.

Saturday morning, as Justin prepared for his last day at the convention, after which we were headed home, we learned that little miss Katrina had changed her path and was now bearing down on New Orleans with a whole lot of fury. Justin went to work and I went to the Pharmacy Museum (more morbid fascination paired with a lot of gratitude for being born in this century). While I checked out the museum, the girl that was running it was busy sand bagging. As I walked through the city one last time, everyone was busy taking signs down, boarding up windows and closing down shop. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life, especially as I look back now, knowing what was to come.

The evacuation was in full effect by the time we hopped in a cab to head to the airport, and that dear cabby risked his car and the wrath of his wife to get us out of town safely. As he took back roads to avoid traffic and, when the freeway was unavoidable, drove down the shoulder, his wife called over and over yelling at him to get his butt home so they could leave. And then the poor man’s cab started overheating, and kept overheating (which we did point out but he was a man on a mission, bless his heart) until we pulled into the airport and it died. I kid you not. Justin and the doctor we were riding with gave the man all the cash we had left (never has a cabdriver deserved a giant tip more!), thanked him profusely, and walked through the airport parking lots to get to the airport. And that my friends is how I escaped from Hurricane Katrina. Alright, it may not have been the most daring escape ever, but for this midwestern girl, it was quite a bit of excitement.

Stay tuned for “The Return to New Orleans.”

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