New Orleans more than redeemed the state’s reputation as a culinary wonder – the peppercorn-barbecue mahi mahi and shrimp at dinner made the little men in my stomach do dances and compose epic poems, and the gumbo that preceded the main course replaced the slightly-dirty flavor of yesterday’s offering with equal amounts of deliciousness, joy and rainbows.
As is clear from the previous paragraph I’m now in New Orleans, but the trek here had its own noteworthy moments. I-10 actually travels over swamps for 18 miles, and that portion of the road is the tenth longest bridge in the world. The engineer geek in me was salivating while the nature lover was digging the scenery, so I got off at one of the two exits and spent three hours exploring the swamps. Sadly, without a canoe the really scenic parts of the swamp were unreachable, but what I was able to see was still a good change of pace from the Southern California deserts. It turns out I’m a HUGE fan of the cyprus trees in these waters, so I might need to figure out a way to work Congaree National Park into this roadtrip in order to spend more quality time with these water-loving giants.
Arrival in New Orleans was in mid-afternoon and with low expectations; however, while the prior expectation of a dirty, sleazy, crowded city may encapsulate some parts of what’s here, to a much larger extent it’s a lively, old town with as much character as any city that I’ve ever visited. A boutique hotel in the French Quarter served as a base for exploration, and I was able to roam along the Mississippi, through Jackson Square and the old St. Louis Cathedral, and down random roads past voodoo shops, art galleries, cafes, bars, street performers, carriages, trees filled with thousands of chirping birds (literally), and past all manner of unique sights. A future trip now seems infinitely more likely, although not during Mardi Gras when I suspect the “dirty, sleazy and crowded” factor rises dramatically.