One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

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5 days in Boston, Massachusetts

Recently we were able to make a quick family getaway to Boston and explore the city for a long weekend in the middle of my two-week Epic computer system goLive for my hospital client in Boston. I had to put in some 12-14 hours days on both sides of the days off, so it gave me a nice little window to fly Norah and Kegan up for a few days. I always love the flight from New Orleans to Boston, which I’m having to make monthly at the moment, because the route goes directly over New York City and I love catching the island and dreaming about how I wish I lived there 🙂

One of the great perks of doing a Boston trip in the middle of my trip was that I already had a reserved and paid for hotel room! Well, a closet. The hotel was the MOXY Downtown Boston, so the location was great…but its a weird hipster hotel that is “euro style” meaning a single full bed in every bed, no two bed rooms, no seating, no closets, no iron… literally a bed, a TV and a bathroom.

The lobby did have a tabletop Pacman

Me showing off my 2 weeks worth of clothes in my “closet” – pegs along the TV wall.

Poor Norah was a great sport. When I checked in and found out they had no two bed rooms, they said they had air mattresses they’d send up. The only floor space in the room was the entryway so you had to walk overtop of Norah’s mattress to go to the bathroom. lol It was ridiculous ha but she took it in stride.

The first night they were there I had to leave at 5am for work and the poor kid’s mattress had a leak and she was sleeping on the hard floor. We got the air mattress swapped out for another for the rest of the nights.

My daily ride to work at the hospital was fun, going past sites like Fenway and Harvard Medical School.

Walking back from the subway station one day prior to Kegan and Norah arriving, I found this Edgar Allen Poe statue at the corner of Boylston and Charles St dubbed “Edgar Allen Poe Square”. The bricks have books trailing out behind him, there is a heart on a stack of books behind him and a raven perched on his briefcase.

Interesting fact I read- apparently Poe was born in Boston, although he wasn’t raised there and only ever returned to Boston twice- one time being to attempt suicide by overdose… but was unsuccessful. I’m not sure he was a big fan of Boston.

The afternoon before Norah and Kegan arrived, I got us our Charlie cards, which granted us unlimited rides on their public transportation system.

Its no London or New York subway…in many ways they seem to still be working out the kinks of moving into the 21st century. Like, currently, you cant even board buses or subway train cars through the rear doors because they don’t have the card readers working to be able to accept your pass/fares. They still get you a paper receipt with a barcode to scan for a single ride. There is no tap/scan pay system… and on my first attempt to use my CharlieCard, it wouldn’t scan at their kiosks…and the solution I was given by the attendant at the station was that I could take my card to this one office downtown (not even in a subway station, mind you) and they could transfer the pass to a new card. haha it was comical.

Kegan and Norah’s flight arrived to Boston after the poor guys sat on the tarmac in NOLA for over two hours waiting for a repair. So they got in to the hotel just an hour before I got there from work.

We explored Chinatown a bit because we are always down for the best Chinese or Asian food and the hotel sat right on the edge of the Chinatown area of Boston.

We walked by the China Trade Gate, donated to the city by the Taiwan government in the 1980s

We ended up at a Dim Sum restaurant called Windsor Dim Sum Cafe and it really hit the spot with a spicy marinated tripe, taro cakes, sesame balls, egg custard tarts….all of the staples.

We had to try to fit in as many escape rooms as possible for Norah, that’s always her first question when we tell her we’re going someplace new: “are there any escape rooms?” lol …so, that was our only evening event after dinner. I put what seemed to be the lowest quality room on the first night so that it went in increasing order of fun and quality throughout the week. Night one was what I expected. A run-down single college student run place….but overall-a good time. The only photo I have is this weird wide angle one with our faces looking weird-its not doing Norah or I any favors…ha…but oh well. It lives forever on the blog! ha

The Paramount Theater was on our way back to the hotel. Originally owned by Paramount Pictures and opened in 1932 as 1,700 seat single screen theater- one of the first theaters in Boston to show moving pictures with sound.

We walked by French Quarter, a bar and restaurant which legit looked like a New Orleans bar in the French Quarter. Not enough time to test it out and see if the food was legit.. plenty of New Orleans cuisine available any other week 🙂

This book shop had a parking lot beside it and the utility closets on the side were painted to look like bookshelves. It was super cool.

Wednesday, I had to work again, but Kegan booked tickets at Fenway park for Norah to catch her first baseball game. They beat the Atlanta Braves 9-0 and Norah got to see rookie Jamie Westbrook get his first MLB hit. They got to see 2 “ova the Monsta” home runs, too.

After work, we ate at PF Changs where we met up with a couple friends in Boston and then went to another escape room together- this time at a place called Trapology- in a room called The Hot Dog Heist. It was super fun. We were attempting to steal the Golden Weenie from Frankfurter National Bank.

All in all- it was a difficult room! With lots of crawling through between rooms… without all of us, we never would have escaped. But… with just a few minutes to go, we made it out! Highly recommend it, but only if you have 4 or more people.

Thursday was our first day of full-on mini vacation. But… it was supposed to rain, so we swapped our planned Freedom trail plans for something with more indoor time.

We started the day over in Chinatown at a bakery and with Vietnamese coffees.

We next headed over to the Wharf to check out the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum because Norah saw this ad and REALLY wanted to throw tea in the ocean. ha

Their 6th grade history was all centered around early American History, so between Hamilton and her entire history year, she’s been living the American Revolution.

One of the highlights is that you could sample all 5 of the teas that were tossed into the Harbor during the Boston Tea Party. So we got our unlimited tea cups and began our tastings.

We tasted Singlo -a Chinese green tea picked late in the season that was just coming to Boston at a lower price point due to the Tea Act. However, none of that lower priced Singlo ever made it to the Bostonian’s who were awaiting it.

Next was Young Hyson green tea- a green tea picked early in the Spring on new growth leaves. It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

Next we moved to the black teas- with Bohea (boo-hee) which was a botched English version of the original Chinese Wuyi. This was bottom of the barrel late season affordable tea and was the most common tea. John Adams, always appealing to be a man of the people, loved a “good cup of bohea”.

Following Bohea, we sampled Congou, a high end Chinese black tea that had a bit of apple pie flavor, very sweet, very good.

Lastly, we tried Souchong – a very smoky tea, dried over a charcoal fire. It was like drinking a Scotch, in my opinion, although not a favorite. Kegan liked this one the best. Norah didn’t like any of them lol

After drowning in 5 cups of tea, we headed out to Cambridge to visit the Harvard campus.

We started out at the Harvard Book Store to get Norah a Harvard sweatshirt. Planting seeds lol

Getting her picture in front of something Harvard in case its needed for a time lapse later 🙂

We made our way across campus to the Harvard Museum of Natural History

Norah’s favorite animal is the capybara so she was thrilled to find one.

We also took a couple fun pictures imitating the animals. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to find these made the blog! lol

They had a super interesting special exhibit of glass plant specimens. I mean, once I learned about this, it makes total sense. This Czech master glass blower would construct plant specimens for study made entirely of glass… and even this close, you couldn’t tell! Glass never rots or changes… and can be created to demonstrate whatever features you want to show at any given time. It was an entire room of these… I was surprised how cool it was after I was like, “I’m not sure I really care about a bunch of glass sculptures of plants”. Well, I do. and you should too if you ever end up at a place with this exhibit.

They also had huge collections of rocks and minerals, so of course Kegan and Norah just walked around nerding out at every case and picking their favorites.

We passed by Memorial Hall a couple times while on campus.

Lunch was a quick stop at an Indian food truck in a plaza on campus. I had a spicy paneer wrap. Norah had the non-spicy version.

I think she liked walking around a college campus.

Next we went to the Scientific Instrument museum. The coolest item they had, in my opinion, was this Grand Orrery. A mechanical model of the solar system

Around the dome are bronze figures of Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin and James Bowdoin (the governor of Massachusetts) and the figures were cast by Paul Revere himself, somewhere between 1776-1786.

They had tons of other cool instruments and even an old floppy disk computer and an old control panel of a 1960s lab. I guess I was so involved I forget to take photos of anything else. ha

On our way off campus, we passed the music building, so I captured the girly in front of the concert hall. She may play something here one day.

We wrapped up our time on campus by heading back towards the hospital I’m working with to quickly meet my team at Wahlburgers for a drink. They had planned an outing to relax for an hour or so at the request of our VP and he was disappointed I wouldn’t be joining, so he asked me to bring the family by. So, like a weirdo, I strolled into a work function with Kegan and Norah. ha but it was all good, just a few people chilling on a patio, and it was nice to be able to connect work friends to family faces and the other way around. We hung out there until it was time for our dinner reservations back downtown at Union Oyster House.

Union Oyster House is the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest restaurant in continuous service in the US. Open to diners since 1826. It has tons of ties to history. The Massachusetts Spy newspaper by Isaiah Thomas was printed in the upstairs, the first paymaster general of the Continental Army set up the first pay station here. Wives of famous revolutionaries like Adams, Hancock and Quincy mended clothes for colonists here. A future king of France lived on the second floor at one time. Daniel Webster used to eat oysters religiously at the famous half-circle oyster bar. Toothpicks were first used in the US at the Oyster House.

Overall the food was fresh, but average. But I expected that for the history and how busy it was. It wasn’t for the culinary depth, it was for the history. And oysters!

We made our way past some historic sites that we would revisit the next day including Faneuil Hall (pronounced Daniel with an F) and the Old State House.

We had my favorite escape room of the trip next- Storyteller’s Secret at Boxaroo. It was widely listed as the best escape room in Boston…and I agree. The technology in the room was fantastic and the story was unique. We escaped in plenty of time, but it wasn’t overly easy.

For Friday morning we were up and at it for a long walk along what’s known as the Freedom Trail. A 2.5 mile walking path through Boston along 16 historic sites relevant to early American history.

We started with a walk through Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States. From around 1660 to the 1800s, the park area was pastureland for the local family cows to graze. Revolutionary troops headed out to Lexington and Concord from this park.

On the edge of the park starts the trail at the Massachusetts State House.

Following to the Park Street church, a church founded in 1809 and still open today. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother preached here, My Country Tis of Thee was first sung on the front steps. However, the most interesting thing to me was the Granary Burial Grounds next door.

This cemetery is full of so many cool old tombstones and some notable names.

James Otis – a Harvard graduate lawyer that was one of the first outspoken voices of the revolution. Heavily influenced John Adams speaking style and stances but was plagued by alcoholism and mental illness…so we don’t really put him up on the pedestal we do some of the other Founding Fathers.

John Hancock himself, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Peter Faneuil – who built Faneuil Hall in 1742, but died shortly after. Faneuil Hall became a public hall and many public speeches for the revolution were delivered there.

The famous Paul Revere. Famous for silversmithing, copper plate engraving, carving picture frames, drawing political cartoons…even dentistry when times got tough…and many other artistic and business ventures…but none as famous as his Ride.

The parents of Ben Franklin. Benjamin Franklin only lived in Boston until he was 16 when he left town for Philly after he got fed up of working for his brother as an apprentice in his printing shop.

Samuel Adams, of beer fame- although the beer didn’t come around until 1987 in Cincinnati… cousin to John Adams, a politician, Declaration signer and patriot of the revolution. He did inherit his father’s brewery in his life and worked as a brewer… but not really the link to the brand today.

The Boston Massacre victims. What really kicked off the actual revolution. 9 British officers fired into a crowd of 200-300 protesters. Although only a few people were killed, the colonists were successful in branding it a “Massacre” and engravings by Paul Revere and speeches by people like James Otis and Samuel Adams inflamed the already angry colonists and mobilized them to finally take action against Britain.

Next up was King’s Chapel. The first anglican church in Boston pre-dating the revolution. Notable members and visitors including George Washington, Paul Revere, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, Charles Sumner and more. It was the first church in New England to have a pipe organ and it has the oldest in-use pulpit in the country dating back to 1717.

They had marked where each notable person sat. Back then, people paid for a pew for their family and it was their own personal property and they furnished it as they saw fit. U shaped benches, singles benches. Some even had hidden compartments. This was a status symbol. A “see and be seen” sort of thing.

They have a crypt underneath…but they were charging a lot for a tour. I found that with a lot of these sites. If you toured everything on the trail with 3-4 people, I think we figured up you would spend $400-500. I know things require upkeep and maintenance…but can’t we have our tax dollars subsidize something like these sites?? Why should your financial status determine whether you or your children can visit and learn from these important historical sites? My Democrat is showing.

Next was the Old City Hall, which also used to house The Boston Latin School from 1704-1748

Randomly, in regards to my Democrat comment above- there is a bronze donkey in this courtyard with two bronze footprint in front of it labeled “stand in opposition” and a plaque that explains that this statue is the origin of the party symbol.

Our next stop was the Old South Meeting House. Most famous historically for being the site where 5,000 people gathered on December 16th, 1773 to protest and debate the tea tax and when the final attempt at compromise failed, Samuel Adams gave the signal that started the Boston Tea Party, with the Sons of Liberty leading the way to Griffin’s Wharf to dump 342 chests of tea into the sea.

The clock tower’s bronze bell was made by Paul Revere in 1801.

Following the trail, we passed the Irish Famine Memorial

I think they got “the Irish guy” right. ha

Up next was the Old State House, the oldest surviving public building in Boston, built in 1713.

The Declaration of Independence was first read out from this balcony to Bostonians below.

This was also the site of the Boston Massacre with a brick circle out front marking the site. The actual massacre location was a few feet away- but was moved up to the sidewalk because people were getting hit by cars looking at the original- which was in the street.

We probably should have paid to tour the interior of this building… but I was honestly just kind of angry they were charging like $25/person to walk through….so in a huff, I was like forget it.

The Gold Lion and the Unicorn are from the days of Colonial Boston, symbolizing British rule- the same used on the Coat of Arms in the UK. These are replacements because the colonists burned the originals in the heat of the revolution in a bonfire on King Street.

Next up was Faneuil Hall, built in 1742, that has been a marketplace and meeting hall ever since- still a space filled with over 200 vendors

Earlier in the morning, back at Boston Common we saw two college age boys walking through the park both wearing these bright red crab hats. Norah thought it was hilarious and asked if she could have one. I said, if we come across one…sure. Well…. we did. ha Silly girl wore it the rest of the day. ha

We ended up with lobster rolls from Quincy Market, part of the Faneuil Hall complex. Kegan got the cold lobster roll with mayo. I got the hot buttered lobster.

Norah wanted the lobster grilled cheese and she said it was amazing. Bussin’ , I believe, was the term used. ha

We sat down on a bench and as we are sitting there, looked up to see a sign for Co-Operatives. It ended up being a pop up mini escape puzzle event. So, you KNOW we had to check for openings. Everything was open lol so… we did one of their rooms. It was just a puzzle set up in a little cubby area, but it was interesting and different. Norah seemed to enjoy it.

After lunch and puzzles we headed out towards the North End

We stopped at Paul Revere’s house. It was built around 1680 making it one of the oldest remaining buildings in the city. Revere did live here during the revolution years… and likely where he set out from on his famous ride.

Walking further we came upon Mike’s Pastry and I had read they had the best cannoli in the city… so we stood in line to test that theory out.

I had the chocolate cannoli

Kegan had a lemon cannoli

and Norah had…a doughnut lol

We found a kneewall in the park in front of the Old North Church to sit and eat our cannolis

The Old North Church was the famous signal station for “one if by land, two if by sea” for the lanterns hanging in the tower. This alerted Paul Revere about the British troops movement as he set out to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were coming.

Caught a glimpse of the “skinny house” – skinniest house in Boston- last sold for 1.25 million, by the way… its only 10 feet wide. Legend has it, it was built as a spite house by a brother returning from war to find his other brother had built a house on their shared inherited land. So, what else do you do but build your own house and block out all their windows and light? ha

The trail continued across the Charles River over a bridge towards the USS Constitution. Literally, there is a brick or painted trail to follow along the entire path:

The USS Constitution or “Old Ironsides” is a Navy warship- the oldest still in existence- that was launched in 1797, served in the War of 1812 where it helped defeat 5 British battleships… completed a world tour in 1840 and still sailed under her own power until 1997. it has been a museum since 1907.

Finally we were down to the last stop on the Freedom trail- the Bunker Hill monument. I work right next to this monthly… so I REALLY wanted to call it a day and NOT complete the last push UP Bunker Hill to see it…but Kegan called me a weenie and made me. He said you cant stop at site 15 of 16… so, onwards Norah and I pushed… completely annoyed and tired.

The monument was erected where the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought-one of the first major battles of the American Revolution, across the Charles River from Boston. Bunker Hill was a bloodbath- of the 2400 British soldiers who fought, over 1000 were wounded. Compared to about 400 wounded and killed on the colonist side. The British said “A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America”. The famous saying “don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” supposedly comes from the Battle of Bunker Hill, although scholars seem to dispute if anyone actually said it. We at least like to think they did. Basically, the ammunitions were limited, so they were told to save it for where it would have the greatest impact. Seems to have worked.

The Marquis De Lafayette set the cornerstone 50 years later on this monument. Its actually sitting on top of Breed’s Hill, not Bunker Hill… but…details. 🙂

We took an Uber back to the hotel after messing with Norah and telling her she had a two mile walk back. haha Norah and Kegan played Mortal Kombat in the lobby, but it was short lived because none of the buttons seemed to work on Kegan’s controls.

We hung out for a while, then headed to the WNDR (Wonder) Museum. An interactive art exhibit type place.

They had this cool thing where they would take a photo of your eye and display it in hi res on the wall

Norah’s Eye

My eye. You can actually see my astigmatism haha how un-circular my eye is and how yellow and light brown my eyes are.

Kegan’s piercing brown McKinney eye

The final stop was at another Chinatown resturant- Liuyishou Hotpot

This was the best hot pot I have ever had (excluding the Las Vegas Lobster broth $400 dinner- but thats not authentic hotpot or ever something I would splurge on again ha) The tray of 9 dishes are the “traditional” hotpot dishes including things like spicy tripe, beef aorta and duck blood…. and a discovery we all thought was awesome- a green peppercorn beef. The peppercorns are not spicy at all… but instead have this strange herbal taste and leave your tongue numb! like one peppercorn can do this! ha I had to ask the waiter what it was…and then Kegan got me a jar at the asian grocery before they flew out ha

Saturday morning, we headed out of the city, but first- a stop at The Dubliner- a fairly authentic Boston Irish Pub serving Full Irish Breakfast, scotch eggs, seafood chowder, brown bread and Irish tea. And we had all of those. We were both hardcore missing Irish breakfast… and I must have been focused, because no photos were taken of the meal.

We walked to North Station to pick up the commuter rail line out to Salem, Massachusetts. Not knowing that THAT line wasn’t part of our 7 day passes. Luckily, it was easy to get a ticket for that and it was all of about $7 a piece roundtrip.

Salem was a bit underwhelming. It felt like it maybe used to be super quaint and a lovely historic seaside town…but now it was just touristy, gimmicky, busy and focused on one thing- the witch trials, of course.

Since we didn’t have a car and limited time, we did a trolley ride around town seeing some sites.

The highlight for me was the Peabody Essex Museum downtown. It was massive and seems really new.

I don’t know if this is the ACTUAL Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter, or if its a copy… but it said this is “one of two copies created” – not sure if that means in 1629 or later. But this document is King Charles I granting the Massachusetts Bay Company permission to establish a colony between the Merrimack and Charles Rivers. It was delivered by English envoys to the governor in Salem, MA.

I thought this was a cool Inuit carving

An actual ships log from the Friendship that sailed between Salem and India, a merchant ship that made at least 15 trips to Asia. There is now a replica of this ship in Salem.

Overall, glad we went.. likely never make the effort to go back 🙂

We hopped back on our train and headed back towards the city.

We hit up a Nepalese restaurant/pizza place with jhol momo to see if it could hold a candle to my place in New York. It didn’t. but it was good.

Our evening was spent at Boda Borg- a big puzzle room concept in Medford where you pay by the hour and go through multiple puzzle rooms trying to make it through 3 phases to the end to collect the stamp to show you beat it. The catch is, they give you no info, no clues. So you literally enter the room, and have to figure out the point, the puzzle and the solution. and the second you do something wrong you get a red light and you have to exit the room and start over.

I think we went through a couple rooms 20 times- one we were SO CLOSE to… but the other group ahead of us had such bad body odor, we had to abort mission and go find another room to tackle ha. It was interesting… but not sure it was really my thing. But, it was a new experience.

Sunday, we slept in and headed out for museums because it was raining all day, so I traded the South Shore for museums.

We started at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. If you aren’t familiar with this one, I recommend the Netflix documentary about a famous heist they had in 1990 where 13 works of art worth 200 million were stolen. To this day, no arrests have been made, no works have been recovered…and that’s with the museum offering a 10 million dollar reward for info…

The building itself is modeled after a Venetian Palazzo

It is just FILLED with the most amazing collection of art. Its hard to believe that one woman collected all of these things.

John Singer Sargent painting

They have left the frames and empty spaces on the walls for items that were stolen.

After the Isabella Stewart Gardner, we headed to the Museum of Fine Arts since it was still raining pretty heavily. We spent a few hours there but I only captured a few photos. It was a very decent museum, but wouldn’t make my top 10.

This dresser was a hilarious find as we have this SAME dresser in our spare bedroom, a long term loan from Kegan’s family’s farmhouse because I commented that I loved it and if they ever decided to get rid of it, to please let me know. I had to text a photo to Kegan’s dad. I know I have an expensive eye…but who knew I had a museum eye lol

This one was my fave. An actual tea kettle shaped like an ostrich, made with a real ostrich egg.

Norah posing with her likeness from ancient Greece lol

We ended the day at Lobsta on a Roll on Newbury St to end the trip by gorging ourselves on lobster rolls and clam strips.

The evening was just hanging out watching TV and me catching up on work. Shipped Kegan and Norah home and finished another week of work in town. We squeezed a LOT into 4-5 days and at some point we’ll spend a few more days to explore the south shore and some other areas outside of town. Until next time!

Day 9 and 10-Zoo, New Year’s Eve and Wrap Up

Today was an easy day planned because a lot of places were closing early or were closed completely… I wasn’t able to make reservations anywhere I tried over a month ago… so we just decided to play it by ear…and maybe not even do much today but hang out in the hotel room.

We got tickets to the Audubon Zoo out past the Garden District in Audobon Park- famous for its 300 year old Live Oak trees.

They had a lot of REALLY cool animals. I think we are a bit spoiled with the Indy Zoo and Cincy Zoos… and even the Louisville Zoo…. this one was good- and you could tell it has major history and has been here a long time… but some of it felt a little run down. I just hope the animals are healthy and as happy as they can be in a zoo.

Some of the cool animals we saw:

The Roman Chewing Candy cart was open inside the Zoo. Its been an institution for over 100 years at the New Orleans Zoo. The guy running it said that today was the LAST day ever for $1.00 a stick candy. I said, wow- that paint on the cart has been there a long time, when was the last time you raised prices? He said 1986. ha Went from .50/stick to $1.00/stick. January 1, it goes to $1.50 a stick. Pretty cool if Norah ever goes back when she’s old- she can tell her grandkids that she still remembered getting this candy for $1!! ha
and she has the photographic evidence to prove it!

I had made lunch reservations at a place called Superior Seafood on St Charles on the recommendation of a coworker. It wasn’t totally bad… but it wasn’t great either. I know better than to blindly listen to people about my food. ha

We had 1:30 reservations- they immediately sat us outside on the patio instead of asking which we’d prefer… strike one- I hate eating outside lol Maybe its a bit Karen of me…but you ask your reservations what their preference is…you seat your walk-ins where you have space left. Anyway, whatever, not that big of a deal… but now its 1:50 and we still haven’t placed drink orders. Then its 2:10 and we still haven’t placed food orders. Now its 3:15 and we still haven’t got our food yet. lol was the meal that never ends. In the end, an almost 2.5 hour lunch… and Kegan’s meal came so far ahead of mine that he was done almost before mine arrived. And I want to add that his main course- at a seafood restaurant, the Shrimp and Grits, had 5 shrimp on it. ha Ok- thats all 🙂

We got one dozen Charbroiled oysters and I got a dozen raw oysters. When in Rome.
Crawfish Cornbread. Kegan and Norah devoured this. It was very tasty.
Kegan’s shrimp and grits

I messaged my friend Tim to see if he was still around and he was… so we Uber’d straight to his hotel and met him outside. We ended up walking around downtown and looking for a Starbucks to hang out in for a while- the one we found-limited hours- closing at 2pm all week due to short staffing or covid. So..on we walked- found a gelato and espresso shop and popped in there. I got a good strong coffee to hopefully keep me up past midnight.

It was so good to catch up with Tim… but I totally forgot to get a picture of us all! Oh well.

We talked to him until it was time for us to head to our very last Escape Room- Inventor’s Attic at Escape My Room.

It was-hands down-the hardest room we’ve done. I did not have a good time. ha I have no idea how we managed to actually pull it off in the end with 2 minutes to spare. I’m not certain we actually did. ha They may have just been being nice… but they said we made it. They have a super cool machine that vibrates at certain frequencies and displays patterns- but the sand that vibrates into the patterns- there wasn’t enough on the plate to make out the patterns…and adding more sand didn’t actually work- so we probably messed with that for 15 minutes… even asking if anything was wrong with the machine and letting our guide know we couldn’t see the patterns and in the end she did help us ensure we were on the right track… but after the game she says “yeah… we’ve been having tons of trouble with that all week”. and we spend another 5-10 on another piece that “the timing is a little hard sometimes” lol In the end- the room was super hard, very cerebral, the theme was fantastic…. I hate to complain. All the other rooms there were the best anywhere… and the staff are phenomenal. I think I just had a bad and angry day lol I don’t like feeling stupid from equipment malfunction ha Kegan and I both were not on our A game tonight… he missed some basic math stuff, we missed instructions right in front of us… we missed an item literally on a ledge in front of our faces. lol Truth be told, the machine probably wasn’t our only barrier!

We got back to the room, feeling like we failed even though we escaped. ha They said there is only like a 20% success rate on that room. So we just hung out for a while and ordered some pizza and wings from DoorDash so we didn’t have to go out into the craziness that was really picking up downtown.

We stayed in the room, Norah did a Google Meet with an old classmate from her online classes and decided she didn’t want to go down to the ball drop… we were thinking cool! ha

Then about 11pm, she changed her mind. ha So…off we go into the craziness.

It really wasn’t as bad as I expected. Police had traffic blocked off for blocks around Jackson Square…and most people were up on the Moonwalk on the riverfront waiting on the fireworks. We stood on the railroad tracks in between so we could see the Fleur De Lis drop from the Jax brewery roof – the New Orleans equivalent of the Times Square ball drop. The fireworks over the river were very nice and we rang in the New Year with 25,000 of our closest friends.

Norah had this grand idea that she was going to ask all the drunk people around us to yell HAPPY POTATO at midnight. haha I told her if anyone could get it done, it would be her. But I didn’t let her actually ask anyone. lol

So, HAPPY POTATO from the New Orleans McKinney clan. LOL

The sea of people leaving the Jackson Square area was CRAZY. lol Literally filled every street as far as you could see.
But these people had it figured out! They had a guy peddling them around on a lounger! haha

Finally, got Norah wound down and asleep about 1:45am… and told her she was not going to be happy at 8am when I woke her up… but I told her all she had to do was get her butt to the car and she could go back to sleep.

Fast forward to Day 10 and packing up to head out- she cried over brushing her teeth this morning. ha so, its safe to say that she didn’t get enough sleep! ha

Our only plan today was to drive around some neighborhoods in New Orleans in case we decide to get serious about a move somewhere, we’d at least have seen some suburb areas in person… and to make some stops at an area grocery store chain that sells my La Croix Cola flavored sparkling water. ha I cant find it around Indiana anymore- every once in a while at a Big Lots, but that’s it… so when we went to Florida, I looked up where I could buy and we stopped at 3-4 grocery stores there on our way home, too.

So we combined neighborhood viewing with Rouse’s Market LaCroix hunting! Stopped at 7 different locations all around the area. Found about 15 8-packs! That should do me for a bit 🙂

It was interesting to look around and how different the items in the store there where compared to everywhere else. It really is like a whole different country down here.

This was just one section of the freezer case:

If we did move here, I can tell you Kegan would be shopping at Rouses Market! ha He was like “jaw-dropped-open” when he saw this case of dry aged beef lol
They even had Wagyu, tomahawks and other uncommon cuts
I have never had pickled pork, but now I’m intrigued!
Norah saw this cereal and asked if she could have some. Sure…why not? haha Not sure what “spoke” to her about this… but sure thing, kid. It’s yours. Come to find out, this is a new cereal from the rapper Master P- who is from New Orleans- and is quite the entrepreneur…but he decided to sell cereal, because he said that everyone eats cereal…and nobody was making cereal that was the equivalent of the Wheaties box for inner city kids…so, he put his own face on the “Wheaties” box…. and marketed it, with a portion of the profits going back to inner city communities and elderly. He said “no cereal company out there was giving back to people who need it, so I created one that did”. So, after reading that…I’m like, RIGHT ON. ha Turns out, they are only selling Master P cereal in New Orleans at Rouses Market. So, right place, right time. ha

I had planned to go to a new Vietnames restaurant called Kim Ahn’s Noodle House, but when we arrived it was closed. So we decided we’d wait until we got to Hattiesburg and hit that Landshark food truck with the cajun crab boils boxes… but they, too, were closed today according to their Facebook… So… we went with something we knew we loved- we went back to the Dong Phuong Restaurant and Bakery that we hit on our way into the city on Day 1. Such a good decision.

Kegan said he wasn’t in the mood for soup- so he got the short ribs and rice plate. It was outstanding. It was like meat candy. Glazed and charred… i could eat that every day.
I got an iced Vietnamese coffee to hopefully make the 12 hour drive after less than 6 hours of sleep. ha I forgot to photograph the rest, but I got the special Pho with meatball, beef, etc… it was very good.

The highlight though was after our meal, I went next door to the bakery since we had a cooler and ice (Kegan had picked up Andouille sausage at Rouses Market and had it on ice already) and I just asked to get some assorted meat pies and steam buns. The lady was super nice and helped me get an assortment of pies and I saw signs up for their King Cakes. You can only get king cakes in Jan/Feb leading up to Mardi Gras… and the ones from here are super famous for being one of the best.

I asked her “I assume you have to order the king cakes ahead of time?” fully figuring you did… she said Yes, that the shipping had already sold out for the year on Day 1… but if I hurry, she thought there was a few spots left for pickup that would likely sell out soon, too. I told her, that’s OK…we were headed back to Indiana today- maybe next year.

Then…she surprised me. She said “you’re so sweet…” (which- HA. just like Kegan is a pleasure in the mornings) She said “we have a few “rejects” in the back that she didn’t think were good enough to sell…. if you’d want one of those, I can ring you up and meet you outside and give it to you. I can’t give it to you in here because I can’t have any of the other people see it”

So…. that is the story of how I got a back alley reject cream cheese King Cake from Dong Phuong Bakery!!

This thing weighed like 5 lbs. Its sort of a flaky, laminated brioche cinnamon dough with a silky light cream cheese frosting. It was AMAZING! I have no idea what a king cake is supposed to taste like, but I can tell you I see why theirs is famous. That’s for sure.
Assorted meat pies. I cant tell you what they are…but I do know 1 is a crawfish pie
Assorted steam buns- I know the 2 in front are pork, egg and onion….no clue on the others. It will a surprise for breakfast or lunch tomorrow 🙂

We drove straight home with only 2 stops for fuel. Left New Orleans around noon- rolled in about 1am Eastern time- so a 12 hour drive. We crossed Louisville around midnight with the bridge all lit up, thought that looked cool

Have to give credit to Kegan’s mom and step-dad for keeping our dog so we could go on this trip… and to my dad and step-mom for watching our house, the chickens, the cats, the plants, the mail… EVERYTHING else!


Overall takeaway- we loved the city. Had a really great time. Met some cool people, ate some amazing food, experienced a very deep rooted culture and learned way more about New Orleans that I knew before. The weather was fantastic. We only had rain one evening… and it was 80 every day all day. 70 all night. I could definitely get used to that weather, I miss the heat since leaving south Florida.

No future vacations booked right now. Norah has 2 weeks off in March- I may book something last minute, but our plan was to go to Spain… but now with Omicron spreading like wildfire, I’m not sure we want to deal with overseas travel at the moment. Europe takes Covid way more seriously than the US does. Who knows what would be closed, what kind of testing and quarantine rules will be in place… likely better to wait a few more months before heading across the pond on a deadline to return.

This summer we’ll likely do another road trip in June/July… likely this time to New England since Kegan hasn’t ever been up that way. Gotta see if any of those states or cities have relocation potential 🙂

When I have a plan or tickets booked, You’ll get updates here! Until then, thanks for following along with our gypsy caravan!

Day 8-Chalmette Battlefield and Art

We slept in today, got some coffee downstairs and then caught an Uber out a few miles east of New Orleans proper to see the Chalmette Battlefield- the site of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.

Initially, my plan was to Uber out there, then walk back to New Orleans through the lower ninth ward to see that area- as it was the hardest hit and absolutely devastated by the levee breaches during Katrina. There have been tons of focus on rebuilding houses in these neighborhoods and getting people from the ninth ward back in their homes instead of developers and landlords taking over. Brad Pitt even had a charity called the Make It Right Foundation that brought in famous architects to build avante garde modern homes, then offered them at greatly reduced costs to former residents. But…no good deed goes unpunished. The lumber, which was supposed to last for decades started rotting within 2 years. Ventilation issues and mold became an issue, the foundation was sued for selling faulty construction homes, the foundation sued the program manager and the architects for not using sound products and following code. It became a mess from what should have been the success story of the century. They’ve already had to bulldoze 2 of the homes that were built and there are other ongoing lawsuits.

We didn’t drive right by those particular houses… but we did get a pretty good tour of the lower ninth from the Uber. He recommended we didn’t walk. He didn’t say it wasn’t safe… he said “he didn’t know what we would see if we did- just empty lots and houses” and then told me it was too hot to walk that far anyway… we got the impression he was saying it might not be a great idea. So… I can listen sometimes 🙂 Also, it was like 4-5 miles… further than I initially thought from the map. ha We didn’t miss much, just a couple houses, like Fats Domino’s old house… and a small house turned into a “living” museum dedicated to the people and the history of the lower ninth, that I wasn’t even sure if it was open anyway.

We arrived at the Battlefield- but the visitor center was closed.. very limited hours of 1p-4p. I’m guessing due to staffing and Covid issues like everything else.

“In 1814 we took a little trip,

Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.

We took a little bacon and we took a little beans

and we fought the bloody British in the town of New Orleans”

I can’t say “Battle of New Orleans” without that darn Johnny Horton song popping into my head! ha

The Battle of New Orleans was the final battle of the War of 1812 between a superior British force against a ragtag band of pirates, free people of color, Kentucky Riflemen, Tennessee Volunteers and one really pissed off British-hating Colonel Andrew Jackson. They say his intense hatred of the British started at age 13 during the American Revolution when he was ordered to clean a British Officer’s boots. He refused and was slashed with a sword across his face and hands… and thus started a vendetta against all things British, along with losing both of his brothers in the Revolution.

After the Revolution- once the British finally settled their little war with Napoleon in 1814, they felt they could finally put focus on reclaiming their stake on some North American territory and stop the US westward expansion. They felt that any land deals made with Napoleon (ahem.. the entire Louisiana Purchase) were null and void and shouldn’t have been able to be made. They felt like if they could recapture the territory, they could argue the US’s claim to the land was void.

They first targeted Washington DC, burning the White House (Dolly Madison, Washington’s portrait and all that). They next tried to capture Baltimore…but couldn’t quite win there…but never to be deterred, they proceeded to try to take New Orleans, thinking that if they could capture the Mississippi River, they could stop westward expansion and necessary trade routes.

Andrew Jackson was a military commander in Mobile that was warned of the British advance on New Orleans and immediately-his head exploded- and he made his way to New Orleans to ready troops to resist the British. He was suffering from dysentery at the time and is said to have not eaten in 8 days. He could barely stand when he arrived and spent the entire ordeal eating nothing but boiled rice. He had one month to ready an army… and…he didn’t have the people. He had 1,500 soldiers.. and it was estimated that the British had 12k-15k.

He was definitely backed into a corner. He was approached by legendary pirate Jean Lafitte with an offer to double-cross the British and fight for the Americans…if Jackson would free his brother Pierre from prison. (surprise, that wasn’t needed, Pierre escaped ha) Jackson was disgusted by the offer…. but, eventually, Jackson realized he didn’t have a choice. He got 2,500 Kentucky Riflemen, more militia from Tennessee, Lafitte’s pirates- who didn’t add a lot of men… but it did add a ton of weapons, cannons, and the knowledge of how to navigate the swamps- knowledge that ultimately led to victory. He also recruited free people of color and even Choctaw Indians (which is a little rich since Jackson earned his stripes fighting so successfully against the Creek Indians…) People were so willing to sign up to fight because rumors had spread about how in the Spanish wars, the British had raped and pillaged everything after their victories… the whole city was in hysterics over the possibility of British victory.

This bend of the Mississippi is where the Americans waited to fight the British as they came up the river. This area was surrounded by cypress swamp, making it impossible to flank or surround the US troops.

The British troops sorely miscalculated how rough the Americans would fight. They didn’t stand in a row and fire on command with drummers and pomp and circumstance… they hid in the swamp, fired a cannon from a sunken battleship at them.. and targeted all the officers first. Take out the head, the body dies… Once the US took out the British officers, this caused pure chaos for the troops… and quickly, the battle was won…. with fewer than 70 casualties on the US side…and over 2,000 on the British side. The battle itself lasted around 30 minutes.

The British withdrew back and continued to bomb a fort at the mouth of the Mississippi for another week or so…but eventually retreated.

The actual battlefield the fighting occurred on.
Chalmette Plantation house in between the Mississippi river bend where the British arrived and Jean Lafitte’s pirates fired at them… and the battlefield where the so many British soldiers would die.
An artsy photo I took from the battlefield site.

The crazy thing is, that when this battle was fought in January of 1815, the Treaty of Ghent had already been signed over a week before- marking an end to the War… but news hadn’t reached the US yet. Once it did, Jackson was hailed a hero…and eventually would be elected President on that popularity… and the story lives on as folklore of another example of our American Exceptionalism in the face of a stronger, better opponent….and it lives on in that stupid Johnny Horton song. ha

After we walked around the battlefield, we went to the Parish diner out in Chalmette on the recommendation of our morning Uber driver. He said it was one of his three favorite places in the city. So, since we didn’t have lunch plans yet, sounded like a winner to me! They had a huge menu. Tons of breakfast, tons of platters, sandwiches and more.
We decided to share the boudin brisket egg rolls as a starter. They came with a blueberry chipotle glaze sauce. They were pretty wonderful.
I had the Cajun Po-boy- Fried shrimp and a cajun sausage patty dressed on a bun. The roll was super dry and just kind of crumbled apart… so I just ate it open face with only the bottom bun- but it was good! and the fries were stellar.
Kegan got the fried pork chops meal. He said it was fine… but nothing to come back for again.

When we finished, we called an Uber to take us back downtown to walk along Frenchman street. Man was that guy weird. He spent the whole ride coughing. He was an old retired white guy from Massachusetts. Talked nonstop about hurricane science and then got into Katrina as we drove through the Lower Ninth ward… then started in with the “those people” comments. Could not get out of the car fast enough.

We started along Frenchman St, just seeing the bars and shops along the street. Frenchman street down this way really started growing in the 1980s. It was almost a direct response to the growth and tourism of Bourbon Street. As Bourbon got more touristy and loud… Frenchman became the spot for locals to gather and it has the highest concentration of music venues in the city.

We did find some live jazz coming out of Bamboula’s and hung around a bit to listen

We walked north and came across Washington Square Park with a playground… so we let Norah play for a while. She made friends with a 6 year old named Dwight. lol he was a cutie.

Walked a mile or so around the neighborhood… found lots of cool building street art.

Went to a shop called WE BITE Rare and Unusual Plants… but I forgot to take any photos. It was in a cool old church building… but they only really had like 6-8 types of plants inside… none of which were terribly rare…or unusual lol So I didn’t buy anything. I was hoping to clean house with some cool plants- maybe even a pitcher plant or venus fly trap or something… but alas… it was not to be.

We started walking south towards Studio Be where we had 4pm reservations to an art installation.

We passed a wall mural and this historical marker designating the site where Homer Plessy was arrested for violating the Separate Train Car Act- segregating black and white passengers.

Ruby Bridges- also pictured in the mural on the site, was from New Orleans, too. The school she was escorted into is still an active elementary school in the area.

Studio Be is a 35,000 sq ft warehouse filled with art by New Orleans artist Brandon “BMike” Odems, who strives to show the relationship between art and resistance. From his website: From film to murals to installations, Odums’ work encapsulates the political fervor of a generation of Black American activists who came of age amidst the tenure of the nation’s first Black president, the resurgence of popular interest in law enforcement violence, and the emergence of the self-care movement.

We really looked for this one all around the gallery, but I think it has already been moved elsewhere or sold… Its a super inspirational painting.
A portrait honoring civil rights activist and Representative John Lewis who said “never be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
I just love the defiance of this one.
A mural dedicated to the Mardi Gras Indians in their suits

At 5pm, we had tickets to another art project called JAMNOLA. Which stands for Joy Art Music New Orleans. This was a visual art exhibit from various local artists and super cool.

Norah grabbed some props to do the 360 degree rotating glam cam…. her poor hat fell off mid-spin- but I think that might actually make the video better. lol

After JAMNOLA, we had our last escape room at The Escape Game downtown- it was called Special Ops- and we were undercover agents in a Moroccan Market trying to find a rogue bad guy’s secret bunker. We found it and then had to find the intended site of a nuclear bomb attack, and then disarm the bomb! It was a toughy! Definitely their best room. Norah saved the day- at the end Kegan and I could NOT figure out a certain section… and we worked on it for a while. Norah finally figured it out for us and it was our final task to disarm the bomb. Couldn’t have done it without her.

As we walked back to our hotel, it was a bit busier downtown than it has been… and it was the first time I saw a police presence camped out waiting for trouble.

We used the PostMates app to order sushi from a restaurant across downtown we didn’t want to walk to. ha I forgot to take photos but it wasn’t anything to write about. I forgot to order Norah’s California roll, then they missed including Kegan’s seaweed salad… but I gave Norah one of my rolls and she ate the whole thing plus an order of dumplings. She definitely got her mamma’s love for all asian food. ha

We had time before bed, so we watched the new Matrix revolutions 4th installment. I sure hope there are more planned, because that whole movie was like over an hour of back story building and like 15 minutes of movie. I was terribly disappointed. The whole thing just felt like a nostalgic throwback to all the original catchy pieces of the originals… but since I did love the originals, and all things 90s are cool again, (I saw a girl in black leather low rise pants today…. I’m going to pass on that trend this time around haha) I’m sure that’s what the creators are counting on. People like me that grew up on the Matrix throwing their money down whether it is good or bad. The ideas were fresh… but just maybe a little too big for the 1.5-2 hour format to create a cohesive roadmap. Would love to hear someone else’s thoughts on it.

As we’re headed to sleep, Kegan notices my old friend Tim Jackson has marked himself “interested” in an event in New Orleans for New Years Eve. He asks me if he’s in town. Heck, I don’t know… lol We talk every few months and see how the other is doing.. and we share an online movie streaming database haha…but I don’t keep up on his weekly whereabouts. lol He got married last year, he’s not my responsibility anymore. 🙂

I message him around midnight and sure enough he’s literally staying NEXT DOOR to the Roosevelt Hotel we were in! hahaha He’s well on his way already this evening in a bar and says “meet me downstairs now!” ha – I inform him I’m now across town in another hotel, I’m also old… and I have a 9 year old. I would not be joining him in a bar at 1am on a Thursday. ha

We agreed to check in tomorrow and meet up just to catch up for a bit. So I’m excited for that! It’s been 7 years since our paths have crossed- last time was when we still were working out in California. So it is time!

Day 7 – Jazz Museum, Voodoo Museum and lots of Covid closures

Today we headed out in search of coffee because the free coffee in the lobby is terrible and weak…and the espresso machine for the pay shop inside the hotel was broken… so along our walk back to the French Quarter we found a PJs coffee. I got a cold brew, Kegan got his normal espresso and Norah got a frozen hot chocolate which was straight syrup lol. So… she had energy for walking around to say the least ha.

We walked through the French Market.. tons of shops and vendors. Lots of food it looked like would be available around lunchtime.
Our first stop for the day was the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old US Mint
The US Mint was built in 1835. It was seized by the confederates during the Civil War and the building was used to mint confederate money. When it was recovered by federal troops in 1862, they hung the man in charge- William Mumford. It stopped being used as a mint in 1909, then it was a prison, then a Coast Guard headquarters… now… a museum.
They had a few neat artifacts from the building as a mint on display
This 1868 coin press was built in Philadelphia, used to mint circulating and proof coins in San Francisco until 1974, now on display in New Orleans. It’s travelled to all the mints except Denver lol
The other half of the first floor was dedicated to Jazz music.
They had a photo gallery from Rick Olivier of various New Orleans musicians. I like this one of Art Neville showing him as a Trekkie. Apparently he was a huge fan of Star Trek…and this one below of Mannie Fresh, a rapper from New Orleans who rapped with Hot Boys, Lil Wayne, Juvenile, Big Tymers.. and also did some solo stuff.

Upstairs was an exhibit on Louis Prima, a Jazz and big band leader from the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans.

I have a few more vinyl records to find in my searching
They also had these old cutouts of the Preservation Hall Band Members

Preservation Hall is a jazz institution of New Orleans. It was started in the 1960s by Allen and Sandra Jaffe- it was truly the first integrated black and white music venue in the south during segregation. Sandra Jaffe was even arrested once for violating segregation laws… They were from Philadelphia… but were on a grand adventure to find a place to settle, then went as far as Mexico City experiencing other culture and cities… but when they got to New Orleans, they fell in love with the culture and beauty and decided this was the spot for them. They rented the small space from a man who was letting some Jazz musicians play there in the evening, most of whom were elderly musicians from the Jazz era… and Allen Jaffe formalized the venue as Preservation Hall to preserve the jazz legacy and educate the next generation on the genre.

Allen Jaffe died in the 1987, but Sandra Jaffe just died Monday Dec 27th…

Their son Ben Jaffe runs the Hall now and plays Sousaphone in the jazz band. They travel and educate on New Orleans Jazz around the world and they hold shows at the Hall most days. If you want to learn more about this band and venue, I highly recommend a documentary called A Tuba to Cuba. Great film.

There was a tradition post-Katrina of a created festival called “ChazFest” in someone’s backyard… and the museum had tons of photos of present day musicians in the area taking photos in front of a wallpaper backdrop. They did this for 5 years, so there was quite the collection of candid photos in a gallery. They also had the wallpaper from one year on the wall, so you could take your own portrait. Of course, Norah was all about that.
The original cornet from the Colored Waif’s Home where Louis Armstrong learned to play music as a young boy.
This was a piano from Fats Domino’s house. His house was flooded in Katrina and the piano was completely destroyed with mold, mildew, water damage, etc. A restoration project that took apart every piece of the piano and cleaned, fixed, reassembled and even re-lacquered the piano to preserve what they could.

There was an amazing painting gallery by James Michapoulos of famous New Orleans musicians

After leaving the museum, we headed north into the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.

This tree caught all of our attention. The roots had taken over the entire square that was available. I’ve never seen anything like that.
There is a marker for the site of the slave pen that existed here prior to the end of the Civil War. If you’ve ever seen the movie 12 Years A Slave, it was based on the true story of a free black man, Solomon Northup, who was sold into slavery and spent 12 years fighting for freedom.

Now it was time for lunch. I found a Dim Sum restaurant open for lunch online… so that was our destination.

Except…they were closed today… lol

So… on we went, looking for something else that looked good and was open at 11am ish for lunch. We ended up killing some time looking through some various shops along the street.

We eventually stumbled on a restaurant that said they opened at 11:30… and it looked like from Google that they had some dim sum type appetizers.. so we decided to wait. 11:30 came and it was still dark. Darn. 11:35, still standing on the sidewalk, hoping they were just a little late to the game… I’m writing a work email and trying to find another restaurant and the lights pop on and the hostess gets dropped off out front. Just running a bit behind. Woohoo!

The food was EXCELLENT. Highly recommend. We just ordered a bunch of small plates for all 3 of us and shared.

After lunch, our walking continued, on towards the LaLaurie Mansion. If you’ve ever seen the season of American Horror Story on New Orleans and Voodoo, then you are familiar with Madame LaLaurie and her physician husband, who kept slaves in their attic and tortured them to within an inch of their lives. Some eyewitness accounts said their eyes were gouged out, skin flayed open…and other way worse things I won’t write here in case someone reading is squeamish. A true house of horrors. A fire broke out and when the firemen discovered the slaves in the attic, the rage of the town turned on the lady, and 4,000 townspeople rioted and destroyed her house, but she fled with her driver… never to be heard of again. Some say she went to Paris… the world may never know.

The Beauregard-Keyes Mansion and gardens, owned by Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard- the general who ordered the first shots fired of the Civil War at Ft. Sumpter, South Carolina in 1861.
Across the street is the oldest building in the city, built in 1734- the Old Ursuline Convent.

We had a 2pm Escape Game room booked- this time Prison Break. We started the room separated in 2 different cells, and we had to work together to unlock our cells, then escape the common area outside of the cells, then navigate the boiler room to find the secret hatch to the wardens office, then clear 3-4 puzzles to eventually escape.

We did it! With only like 13 minutes left. We really didn’t think we were going to make it. ha We got stuck for a long while on one puzzle that we had right… but it was so poorly written, in such a dark room, it took us a good 10-15 minutes to finally get it solved. Then we crawled through a tunnel to the last room and we both went…oh no… there’s more. We’re never going to make it. ha But…in the end we did. and got this fantastic picture of Norah acting afterward. ha

Next, I wanted to check out the Pharmacy Museum… thought that would be a cool museum to walk through, so we hoofed it that direction, but when we arrived….

You guessed it, Covid. lol They are closed, likely due to staffing issues related to Covid.
Next we were supposed to see a show at Preservation Hall, but they are closed for Covid as well. I assume even if not for Covid, they would have been closed for the funeral of Sandra Jaffe anyway. Next time, Preservation Hall.
With our afternoon greatly opening up, we wandered towards the Voodoo Museum. It was such a tiny little place- total tourist scam. ha but The lady was nice- gave Norah a free little travel monopoly game… but I’m fairly certain she stole $2 of our change knowingly… I’m not fighting anyone over $2. lol and I’m sure thats what people like that count on.
Lastly, the last sight marked on my map was Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop- now a very popular bar on Bourbon Street. Its one of the oldest surviving structures in New Orleans- built around 1770. Supposedly once owned by the pirate Jean Lafitte.
Around the corner, there was a lady set up on a quiet side street with a deck of tarot. Norah had mentioned finding the gypsy lady in Jackson Square on our way back to the hotel if she was still there… so this quiet side street lady seemed like a better choice. And turns out she did palm readings which Norah was super excited about. This lady was very good… everything she said was spot on to our lives and Norah’s life. Now, of course, its all a little vague…. but this lady had me questioning my sanity a bit. ha Keeping in mind, she doesn’t have a clue who we are and we’ve not said hardly anything around her- she says Norah is incredibly smart, she will get her business acumen from her mother…she will have an inheritance to make her comfortable, she has female teachers, she lost a female family member in the past- the “matriarch” she says- which is what I always say about Kegan’s Grandma Sharon- she was the matriarch glue that held everything together. Then she said “you’ll be a baby until you die”..which is exactly what I always say to Norah. “You’ll always be my baby, even when you’re 40, you’re still my baby.” Now again, generic I’m sure… lots of parents say that…but her phrasing was just like things we often say. She also told Norah most girls wont be able to handle her spirit and to prepare for that…and she told her to always tell her parents things she dreams so we can help decipher the meanings. She rattled off a bunch of other stuff…but in the end I was like DANG, this lady is good at this. lol
Our next stop was the Caricature guy in the square. For two days, every time we pass there is a line for drawings and I always have told her “later…” but this was “later” ha it was likely the last time we’d be by here….so we waited.
Norah made friends with a 14 year old from Texas and they showed each other their cats back home. lol
His airbrush machine was broken, so he could only do black and white today…. but that’s OK. Norah was thrilled. ha

We walked back to the hotel and put on the 3rd Matrix movie- Matrix Revolutions while we waited for our 8:45pm dinner reservations at Saba. About halfway through we notice this:

Poor thing couldn’t hack it and needed a power nap for an hour before dinner. (giant arm bruise from running into the bathroom door knob on Christmas Eve. lol)

When it was time, we grabbed an Uber way out to the Garden District to the restaurant. Its just a pretty drive all the way out there with million dollar homes all along the street for miles and miles. The housing density here is so crazy. every house is 4 feet from the next one.

Norah asked the waitress if they had any mock-tails. ha Turns out they had 3. She chose the Pineapple Shrub…then proceeded to drink one drink of it because it was too herby. *eyeroll*
We ordered a Blue Crab Hummus and a roasted beet spread as starters and we were so hungry, I forgot to photograph it.
I had the short ribs on couscous
Kegan had the market fish which was a Spotted Trout on creamy grits.
Norah had a pita pizza from the kid’s menu. For dessert she chose the dark chocolate sorbet with mint. It was so rich…. so good.
Kegan had the Pecan baklava
I had a milk custard with a satsuma/rose/orchid gel on top. It was so light and fabulous. It was a perfect end to a very good meal.

Overall, we had SUCH high expectations after Shaya…. that I was fully expecting more “wow”… and everything really was great. Objectively- perfectly cooked, great flavors… but I still preferred Shaya better. Their menu was more robust, the portions a little larger, the price a bit lower… but both are great, great restaurants.

We caught an Uber back downtown and finished up our Matrix movie before bed. Now Norah is fully prepared to watch the new Matrix Resurrection film for our New Year’s Eve in-room party evening 🙂

Tomorrow, we’ll head out east of the city to Chalmette to the battlefield of the Battle of New Orleans and see the Lower 9th ward and some other east end points of interest.

Day 6 – Jackson Square, Cabildo, Presbytère and more French Quarter

Today started out by trekking it across downtown to the other side of the French Quarter. We were headed towards Jackson Square… and I knew there was the original Cafe Du Monde across the street at the French Market…so I thought if nothing really opens until 9, if we get there around 8:30 or so… we shouldn’t have too much of a wait.

HA. Nope. The line stretched all the way down the block. Then we found out there was another line on the other side of the building for take away… and it was just as long. ha Craziness. BUT… its Cafe Du Monde. You have to get coffee and beignets once if you’re in New Orleans, right? So we waited.

Coffee itself came to North America via New Orleans in the mid-1700s. It was grown in some French West Indies colonies in the 1720s, and French settlers brought coffee with them as they settled the Mississippi river area. During the Civil War, coffee was scarce, and people started grinding up chicory roots- the root of the lettuce Endive into the brew to give it more flavor and body and an almost chocolate quality to the coffee.

Cafe Du Monde has been open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day at this location at the French Market since 1862. The French Market location itself stretches back prior to European settlers in New Orleans, the Choctaw Indians used to use this high dirt natural levee at the bend of the Mississippi to trade goods with the river traffic. Then French settlers used this area to trade and sell produce and dairy and then in 1718, the city of New Orleans was officially founded here.

Ended up taking us about 45 minutes to order and get our food…The Beignets were very good. Basically a doughy funnel cake. I wore black. ha Not a good combo with all the powdered sugar… and the wind was blowing in so strong from some incoming rain that I was getting other people’s powder sugar on me. ha The coffee…. meh… I’m so picky about my coffee and it has to be oily and strong… no acidity. A dark French Roast is my thing. The Cafe Au Lait was weak… Kegan said the same about his black coffee. The do have a no chicory French Roast coffee that if I end up by another cafe again, I’ll try that instead. I’m sure objectively, its great to most people. Just wasn’t my thing. However, Norah’s hot chocolate was spectacular. ha I’d order that again.

This Cafe Du Monde sat directly across the street from the prettiest and most famous plaza in New Orleans- Jackson Square.

Historically, it is significant because it was the Place d’Armes- or the weapons place- the center of the city. It is also the site of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase. The Spanish built the St. Louis church in the background in the late 1700s and the building to its left, The Cabildo in 1795. After General Andrew Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, the square was renamed in his honor as the savior of New Orleans. The equestrian statue went in in the 1850s.

We were first headed to the Cabildo, the actual building where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. Today it is part of the Louisiana State Museum and houses various historical items on display.

There was a great display of historic Jazz items.

Tuba Fats’ Sousaphone
Vintage tableware from the Roosevelt Hotel from 1950. The Roosevelt, where we stayed earlier this week, used to host various big bands in the ballrooms and has always hosted fancy dinners
This was so interesting! Antoine’s, that we ate at last night- and had the Oyster’s Rockefeller- used to issue a postcard with each order of Oysters Rockefeller! How neat! If they were at 1.2 million orders by the 1946…image how many orders they are up to now!
There was an entire room dedicated to historic photographs of George Francois Mugnier
I loved this image of the French Market showing the old French butchers. We’ve walked along these same arched openings at the French Market…so I loved seeing this old photo of how it used to be.
Looks like Mardi Gras has always been the same zoo it is today 🙂

They had lots of items, paintings and artifacts from the Battle of New Orleans- more on that in a couple days when we visit the Chalmette Battlefield

Swords recovered from the battlefield
A painting of Andrew Jackson
A British plan of attack against the Americans. This was a drafted plan for their final attack that ultimately failed.
This giant oil painting of The Battle of New Orleans was about 16 feet across and 10 feet tall. Absolutely massive.
A coronation painting of Napoleon Bonaparte (Emperor Napoleon I) made by Gérard in 1805.
Napoleon’s death mask
Next we headed across the square to an identical building on the other side of the church- The Presbytère. They had an exhibit dedicated to the causes, effects and science of Hurricane Katrina. Basically tying in global warming, hurricane science, inadequate FEMA and local disaster preparedness, levee design and maintenance issues and the issue of people not following instruction of evacuation. It demonstrated that there was no one single cause for the disaster, but human components exacerbating a natural disaster.
These spray-painted crosses because a familiar sign in New Orleans after the floods. The top number was the Date/Time the rescue team left the structure, the left side the Rescue Team that checked the structure, the right side- the hazards in the structure, the bottom- the # of live and dead victims and pets found in the structure.
A fitting shirt asking the government to focus on domestic works projects like levees that the Army Corp of Engineers never finished in 20 years… before fighting wars on the other side of the world.

There was so much more about Katrina in the exhibit, but I feel like everyone focuses so much on Hurricane Katrina as all they know about New Orleans…anything I’d write or photograph here has already been said or filmed so much better in any of the 100 documentaries on Katrina. My favorite was When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in 4 Acts by Spike Lee. It is on HBO Max. It was filmed in 2006 just after while clean up and resettlement was still going on. Still FEMA trailers lining every street and the culture of New Orleans still missing. It was powerful to watch. He even did a follow up documentary called If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise- revisiting the areas 5 years later.

The next exhibit was far more festive: The history of Mardi Gras.

After leaving The Presbytère, we took a walk down Pirate’s Alley, an alleyway with legend that famous pirate Jean Lafitte or his brother Pierre used to arranged meetings here. No actual evidence of this being true- but its hard to believe a pirate would be making back alley deals, literally in the alley outside the The Cabildo which held the prison at the time… but maybe its one of those hide in plain sight things.

William Faulkner rented a space in the alley in 1925 and wrote his first novel here.
St Anthony’s Gardens attached to St Louis cathedral.
A view down pirate’s alley
Jackson Square has a long history of tarot readings, palm readings and other rituals in the square- so only fitting Norah would get a tarot card reading from someone there. The vendor asked I not put her in the photos but that I could photograph the table.
The reader said Norah showed very “strong” cards for such a young girl. That she was going through a period of change… that she needed to trust herself, trust her abilities, don’t self-doubt so much… (pretty much what any preteen needs to hear, right?) I’m not sure what anything in Tarot “means”… but I did take a photo of the cards in case anyone has a Tarot background and cares to interpret Norah’s future 🙂

We continued walking along the waterfront on a walkway called the Moonwalk- named after Mayor Moon Landrieu that commissioned it to be built.

Instrument Men Fountain along the way
The Joan of Arc statue in the street median.
Well, this was our lunch destination. The Central Grocery – the birthplace and home of the Muffuletta sandwich. So that was disappointing. Their website said they were looking for a temporary location while their building had repairs done from Hurricane Ida in September…. but it looks like they never found that venue. Oh well, next trip.
Our next destination was Esoteric Occult Goods, an oddities shop…but it, too, was closed. I could only look through the door.
We did stop into Voodoo Authentica to see some voodoo related items.
We stopped by the Jean Lafitte National Park and were able to get a National Park stamp for Norah’s book while we visited. It had a lot of history of the Mississippi Delta region and the swamplands around New Orleans.
I didn’t know John James Audubon basically got his start as a wildlife artist drawing and painting birds from the Louisiana swamplands for his Birds of America series.

By now, we were really hungry… and a couple places we stopped all had 2 hour waits… so we walked back towards our hotel hoping to find something with decent reviews without a wait. We found Mr Ed’s Seafood House…and only a 10-15 minute wait. I really wanted raw oysters. When in NOLA, right? Can’t get them this fresh and good at home… We also decided we’d try Charbroiled oysters for the first time. I think it was a mistake to order them here…they were totally burnt and overdone.. but the fried seafood hit the spot and Norah’s kid’s shrimp basket was stellar too. We kept stealing shrimp from her plate and calling it shrimp tax lol.

Our next stop was The Escape Game to play their Heist room. Our game guide Eric the previous night booked us this private room for very cheap the following day… I was happy about it not costing and arm and a leg. lol

Of course we ESCAPED! We recovered a stolen Monet from the egotistical museum curator before he returned from a staff meeting and saved the day. These escape rooms really are the highlight of Norah’s life right now. Its amazing to watch her go through and solve some of the riddles that I’m sure adults struggle with. ha And I’d be lying if I said Kegan and I didn’t enjoy them, too… its a brain workout… but its a great sense of accomplishment to “beat” the game. We really do work well together… and usually its a good mix of all 3 of us figuring out various parts to win.

As we walked back, it started sprinkling on us… and just as we reached the last hotel intersection- it was pouring rain like this…. couldn’t have timed it better!

We hung out in the room for a couple hours and watched the 2nd Matrix movie- Matrix Reloaded. Norah was just as into #2 as #1.

We last minute booked another escape room at Escape My Room- our favorite place so far (the one with our game guide Laszlo). He was supposed to be off tonight, but when we walked into the Private investigators office, awaiting who would greet us this time- we heard a familiar voice- our man Laszlo had traded shifts and was there again! It was a great surprise. I’m sure all of the guides there are great… but we’re basically old friends at this point…ha

The room we booked for tonight was very different.. and we weren’t sure how we would like it… it was called Smuggler’s Den and it was only a 45 minute room instead of an hour…and….like 30 minutes of it happens in the PITCH BLACK DARK.

In the end, we escaped with 13 minutes to spare! Pretty good on a 45 minute room… we had some great teamwork…and Kegan really knocked this one out of the park. I don’t think I would have made it out on my own. Blindly feeling your way around a room for clues and items was totally different that the normal cerebral puzzles and visual clues, but Kegan was very methodical, sweeping the room around the perimeter and putting some texture items together way before I did. Norah was on “11” for the whole thing. I think the dark really freaked her out for a while. Every bump or nudge and she was like WHAT WAS THAT?? WHO’S THERE?? hahaha It was a little funny. She finally settled in about halfway through. She was so amped she was talking at extreme volume afterward. haha

Later after a walk back to the hotel, we ordered delivery Shake Shack from the shop down the street. It was so close, a guy literally walked it down to the hotel for us. haha No fancy dinner for us tonight- just good ole cheeseburgers and fries.

Tomorrow we’ll explore more of the French Quarter for the last day… and hit another Escape room….and dinner is a followup to Shaya- a booking at Saba, the newest restaurant in New Orleans by Chef Shaya. Since Shaya was one of our favorite meals EVER, we’re excited about that one and we don’t even know what is on the menu. ha

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