I had been wanting to visit New Orleans for a long time, and as my family were unfortunately unable to come and visit me in San Luis Obispo, we decided this would be where we would meet.
We had planned to meet at the airport in Houston, TX. All was going to plan, my parents were on board their plane and Jacob and I were about to leave for the airport from his grandparents house in Flagstaff. Then it suddenly dawned on me, I didn’t have my passport. You may wonder how this could happen, as this is the most important part of being able to board the plane. For those of you who know me personally, it probably comes as no surprise to find out that I had left my passport 100s of miles away in LA. After frantically searching, some shouting at Jacob (sorry) and an amazing plan by his mum, I managed to board the plane.
Houston to Lafayette
By some miracle we met in Houston, ate some crappy, overpriced Domino’s pizza and slept. The next day we set off on a road trip out of Texas and into Louisiana. I kick started the drive as I was the only one fully comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road. We soon entered Louisiana and arrived at our first stop the Creole Nature Trail. The people working in the visitors centre were incredibly helpful. It is a driving trial with multiple points of interest, nature and culture. We selected a few that we wanted to do.
The first was a trial that boasts an abundance of birds and wildlife. We weren’t disappointed. There was a plethora of birds, rabbits and strange crab like creatures. I wanted to enjoy this, but unfortunately there were so many bugs biting me that I had to turn and literally sprint back to take cover in the car.
The next stop was a walk that offered the opportunity to see alligators. I smothered myself in insect repellent and set off eagerly. Soon after leaving the shelter of the car, we were swarmed by yet more bugs. We quickly tried to spot some wildlife and then rushed back.
I was feeling some what disappointed as we headed off to Lafayette that I hadn’t been able to make the most of the experience because of the bugs. Whilst we were on a boat crossing the Calcasieu Ship Channel at Cameron we spotted a group of Dolphins splashing around and enjoying the water. This was the first time I had ever seen Dolphins in the wild and I couldn’t stop smiling. That experience definitely made all the itching worth it.
New Orleans bound
On our way to New Orleans, we took a detour and stopped at Avery Island which is home to Tabasco Hot Sauce. I’ve never really eaten Tabasco and didn’t think I would care for this much, but it was interesting to learn about the history and people involved. We also sampled some Tabasco Chocolate which was surprisingly tasty.
The Island is also home to the Jungle Garden. The garden was created by Edward Avery McIlhenny and was my favourite part of the day. You can either drive around or walk – we decided to walk. The garden beautiful. There were different sections to it, with different themes. Some parts looked tropical, others European and some Oriental.
Experiencing History at a Plantation
I was really looking forward to visiting the Plantations. Human history fascinates me and I wanted to learn about the experiences of the Slaves that lived there. We chose to visit the Laura Plantation. The guide took us around the main house and the grounds, they were full of vibrant colours and magnificent architecture. We were then able to look inside one of the slave cabins, the experience was so interesting but also deeply saddening. Learning the names of some of the Slaves, their lives and the ways they were treated was upsetting and it was difficult to imagine what life would have been like.
Side note: If you are interested in African American history/ life for slaves, I highly recommend reading Kindred.
We were intending to visit some of the other Plantations in the nearby area but a sudden thunder storm caused us to head home early.
Swamps, Alligators and beaches in the neighbouring state
After disappointingly not seeing any alligators earlier in the trip, we booked ourselves onto a swamp tour with the promise of close up viewings of them. Exploring the swamps alone would have been an exciting experience in itself but the addition of the animals made it incredible. The tour guided coaxed these reptiles right up to the boat where they jumped up to gobble the food provided. It was insane to see them like that. We were also lucky enough to see some raccoons.
The tour finished at around midday and we were discussing what to do next, when we realised that the neighbouring state of Mississippi wasn’t far away. I eagerly jumped at the chance to not only visit a new state but also be at the beach (I was missing California).
We headed to Biloxi and were greeted by stretches of sand. My Mum and I decided to take a paddle in the Gulf of Mexico and I am still shocked at how warm and inviting the water was! I was mad at the situation because I wanted so badly to swim but I didn’t have my bathing suit. Although they weren’t as beautiful as the beaches in SLO I had my fix.
The walking tours of New Orleans
After being in the city for a few days, we had only actually explored it at night to get food. We looked at all sorts of tours, but found some that were walking tours on an app which meant we could go at our own pace (and they were free!)
We did the gay history and African American walking tours. They were really interesting. I never really knew that much about the history of New Orleans so it was fascinating to learn it was home to the oldest African American neighbourhood and the first gay bar. These tours were great – although sometimes a little tricky to follow- because it meant we explored and saw parts of the city that we never would have by sticking to the tourist areas.