New Orleans to San Antonio to Galveston to New Orleans
November 2009

Thanksgiving in New Orleans The Wedding San Antonio and Galveston Island Return to New Orleans

I agreed to be best man for degenerate RVI's wedding a while back and poked around the web and the group of friends to see if it would be best to fly in and out, maybe swing by Austin, or make a road trip of it and see New Orleans and other points of call en route. In the end degenerate DN and I ended up renting a car and putting around 2200 miles on the thing, most of them intensely boring miles of swamp. But at the end of each long drive we were rewarded with good times, so buckle up for safety - it's going to be a whirlwind trip.

The drive through south Georgia and across Alabama is mind-numbingly dull. We left Thanksgiving morning (I learned my lesson long ago never to drive on Wednesday before) so the traffic was light enough to speed along, but not so light that we were the only ones speeding. Fortunately the rented V6 Kia Sportage handles well and runs smoothly, even approaching 100mph. The little SUV was roomy enough for all our luggage and camping gear.

First stop, a Shoney's somewhere in Alabama. A burger and onion rings for me, the turkey day buffet for DN.

Then on through the swamps of south Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, chasing the sun to New Orleans, hoping we arrive in time to see a few things, or at least get a decent meal before degenerating into after-dark distractions.

I hate navigating New Orleans. It's one of those towns I can't seem to get straight in my head. At best, I can remember which way to my favorite bar once I'm in the French Quarter but outside of that few blocks of neighborhood everything is an impenetrable maze. And it's not the safest labyrinth in which to get lost, even in daylight.
Fortunately, DN brought along a little GPS, which guided us to our hotel when Googlemap directions failed.

We stayed at St. Vincent's Guesthouse, a former infants' asylum. The building is lovely, all brick and wrought iron, thought it could use some refurbishing inside. The beds are squeaky, sway-backed, and mine had springs that attempted to stab me to death in my sleep (when I could get any.) And the bathrooms need a coat of paint and/or a serious scrub.

But the location was convenient - a $7 cab ride to the French Quarter or a couple block walk to the trolley line - and the place was cheap - $60 a night for a double.

St. Vincent's by day.

DN had never been to New Orleans, so we started off on the most famous street - Bourbon - at a bar named for one of the city's most famous residents - Jean Lafitte's Absinthe House. The room was lovely, but at $9 a drink no architectural details are going to keep me in the place. We quickly fled the main drag, eventually finding something more to our liking.
Boondock Saint is on St. Peter a block off Bourbon, close enough to be near the action but far enough away to have non-tourist regulars and reasonably priced drinks. The film Boondock Saints plays on permanent rotation on one of the screens above the bar while lovely and friendly bartenders sling drinks. The atmosphere is so easy-going we found ourselves back there every time we wandered off in search of something else.

We asked some fellow patrons for a food recommendation but the bartender overheard and offered us Thanksgiving dinner from the buffet they'd be setting up later that evening.

So we headed back out into the French Quarter in search of a snack and some entertainment. If there's anywhere on earth you can find the two, it's New Orleans. In fact, the first intersection we came to drew us into The Krazy Korner, thanks to the raucous sounds of an extremely energetic zydeco band.
Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers had a few moments of comparative calm, with Dwayne's accordion sounding like an organ, but then they'd turn up the heat and pretty soon everything is a furious blur. Seriously badass.

After a set of the best zydeco I've ever seen we returned to Boondock Saint in time for the buffet, laid out for the staff and regulars (which, thanks to Southern hospitality, we became.) Bartender Jenny B. cooked up the second best turkey I've ever had, while others brought in trays of Thanksgiving standards, most homemade and most fantastic. Two plate-fulls later I needed to walk around a bit.

On a trip down Bourbon we were accosted by a huckster offering to let us smoke cigars with the ladies in the strip club behind her. I hadn't been in a strip club that wasn't the Clermont Lounge in... I can't remember how long. We were cajoled into Sex Acts (the club, not the activity) where we were immediately hustled by two strippers trying to talk us into paying more for the VIP lounge. Chris Rock's song No Sex in the Champagne Room echoed through my head as the ladies worked us over. Despite one of them being familiar with our former home town of Dahlonega, they couldn't get us to part with the few dollars we budgeted for the trip, so eventually they gave up and moved on to other marks.

Rather than pay another $7 for another Bud and watch some less-than-amazing strippers from some distance in the rather scummy club, we headed down Bourbon where DN recognized some of the models on the covers of Hustler posted outside one of the several joints owned by the magazine on the famed street. I can't even remember which of the clubs we ended up in, but it was very nice inside with very attractive dancers who, ironically, don't hustle the customers as hard as the ones at Sex Acts. However, a bottle of Coors is $8 - what is this, the apocalypse? They don't carry Bud and their other beers are even more expensive. But if you're in town on an expense account I'd recommend it, if you're into naked ladies.

In the morning we felt exactly like you should when waking up in New Orleans - hungover, sore feet, and hungry. Fortunately there is Mother's Restaurant, on Poydras down by the riverwalk, serving shrimp omelets and perhaps the best biscuits I have ever eaten. I got mine with roast beef debris. Perfect hangover killer.

We wandered around a bit, seeing the French Quarter by daylight, including Jackson Square, named after the hero of New Orleans and my least favorite president.

The line at Cafe du Monde stretched down the block so we took a gander at the mighty Mississippi before heading out of town.

Out through the swamps of Louisiana, some of which still show the devastation of Katrina and Ike - trees stripped clean of everything but bare limbs standing in black water as far as the eye can see for hours and hours.

Finally into Texas where flocks of grackles cover everything as they migrate south for winter. Can't blame 'em. Unfortunately we're headed west, and it's only for the weekend.

Again we're racing the sun, this time to San Antonio, and this time we lose. Brain dead after so many miles of nothing, we finally arrive at RVI's and settle in for what passes as the bachelor party - a couple of old dudes, the fiancée and her kids all sitting around swapping stories.

Thanksgiving in New Orleans The Wedding San Antonio and Galveston Island Return to New Orleans

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