This past week we stayed in NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) and did everything New Orleans style.
From ferry boat rides across the Mississippi river to eating fresh hot beignets at Cafe du Monde.
From listening to jazz music at the National Park Jazz Center to watching street performers act in front of large crowds of curious people.
New Orleans has a culture and style unlike any city we have ever seen. We spent several days in the French quarter, exploring the French architecture with its second story balconies and ornate decorations.
We walked along the shoreline of the Mississippi river near the steam powered river boats.
We visited the Louis Armstrong memorial park, and enjoyed the artistic sculptures that paid respect to legends of jazz.
We rode the street cars along the waterfront, down Canal St. and through the Garden District.
We visited the famous above ground cemeteries.
We even saw skilled glass blowing artists wielding their craft (unfortunately photography was prohibited).
The only thing we did choose to avoid with our children was Bourbon St. We could go on and on about all the adventure we had in this city of unique culture. But, there is one specific experience that we had that epitomized the city of New Orleans for us and that will forever be a family memory that we will never stop talking about.
Last Saturday we went into town with the intentions of staying out later than usual to take in the full flavor of the New Orleans night life. To our surprise, we experienced much more than we originally bargained for. Because of the large size of our motor home, it is difficult to drive through narrow streets (like those in New Orleans). We solved this problem by parking a half mile east of the french quarter and walking into town from there. After a full day of sightseeing, street car riding and dinner with live music, the kids were exhausted and I myself (Josh) was at my emotional limit for the day. Walking back to our RV through the now dark streets of New Orleans, we enjoyed the lively bustle of the night life scene. Walking through the French Quarter and then along French St. the energy and the vibe of the city grew louder and more energized. It was confusing to me why the crowds of people seemed to be increasing as we walked away from the city’s center. There seemed to be a large gathering up ahead of us with loud music and I realized there was some sort of live concert in the street.
Getting closer and closer, we moved ourselves into the crowd to find not a concert, but a night time parade. This parade, as we had been told about by someone earlier in the day, was the 9,000 person strong “Krewe of Chewbacchus.” With a cast of people I thought resembled nothing like any of the Star Wars movies I had seen, we watched an eclectically costumed hoard complete with neon flashing lights, multi-colored “brain” wigs, space vikings, illuminated human sized hamster wheels and creatively designed parade floats.
Though we thought the parade to be a fascinating display of human creativity, we were all tired and wanted nothing more than to be back home (in our RV I mean). We followed the parade route, pushing through the crowds of drunken spectators. The crowd watching the parade seemed to be getting thicker with inebriated onlookers the further we traveled, until finally we reached the street our RV was on. At this moment we realized two things. 1.) Our RV was on the opposite side of the parade, making it impossible to get to it without walking directly through path of the parade. 2.) Even if we could get to our RV, the parade route was in a perfect circle around our RV making it impossible to drive away from the city with diving directly through the path of the parade.
The kids, overwhelmed with all the stimulation, started to become worried that we would never be able to leave. Talking to a police officer helping out with the parade, we were told that not much could be done about our situation, we would just need to wait for the festivities to be over.
Then, a sudden misfortune for a costumed man on top of one of the parade floats became our ticket to the other side of the street. A large, low hanging tree branch snagged the top of the parade float, nearly knocking the man off.
The parade stopped as they tried to remedy the situation, and, in a flash, our family dashed through the parade to the other side of the road. Mission one accomplished. Jumping into our motor home I cranked the engine and sped away, looking for a passage way out. Seeing the parade in front of us I did a U-turn (yes a U-turn in an RV) and drove the other way. Seeing the parade in front of us again (like I said, a circle around us, I turn left and drove East. Mel, giving me turn by turn instructions through the narrow streets we had earlier made sure to avoid, we sought to find the street on which was the start of the parade, with the hopes that it would by now be empty of people. Following other cars, who being stuck in the “circle of death” like us, were searching desperately for a way out. We did finally find the correct route and, to our relief, was free from the madness of people we had recently left. Free at last, we were able to escape from the chaos that was, in fact, the very reason we had stayed out late on Saturday night to begin with. We had been given a truly unique taste of the night life culture of New Orleans city. I am confident that our children will remember this day for the rest of their lives.