NOLA and JazzFest'15

Day 12 – Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Allison was much more sick the next day. She could barely stand up, let alone ready herself for a day around the Crescent City. She stayed in bed while Dori and I walked to Magazine St. for some breakfast and exploration. We found the perfect breakfast café, La Boulangerie French Bakery, where we sat in the sun while we enjoyed some coffee and pastries. Dori is a fan of all things French, especially if they include a slowly sipped cup of coffee. Sitting outside the bakery was euphoria for her, and equally as enjoyable for me. I felt very lucky that I was getting to expose her to New Orleans. We contemplated life, as we had so many times before, and shared our pride in each other’s personal accomplishments. We have been friends since we were small five year olds, when we barely knew what it meant to be alive. We continued our conversations as we walked up and down Magazine, admiring the Spanish architecture and the Mardi Gras beads before going back to check on Allison.

Having a car in New Orleans was a new experience for us. The only problems we ever encountered were parking and potholes. As one might expect, driving enabled us to make it to a farther area of the city in a much more timely and affordable manner than a taxi, walking, or the streetcar would have. It didn’t improve our time management, however, and the three of us made it to the French Market just as it was beginning to shut down. We spent some time checking it out and doing a loop around Jackson Square, thought most of the artists and fortunetellers had packed up for the day. Winnie had suggested we check out some music and food tents at LaFayette Square. It was difficult to tear our eyes from the sky as we walked over because there were literally words being written in the clouds. We again called it an early night.

Day 13 – 15 Thursday, April 30, - Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

Moving to our next Airbnb kick-started our day. We had the pleasurable task of getting the, now dry, cargo carrier back onto the roof of the car. Luckily, there were three of us now, and it proved less of an ordeal than we had anticipated. Dori joined us for a community wide event we had scheduled with Ronald McDonald House. We caught the end of a second line heading to JazzFest as we settled in do some laughter yoga with community members. Dori ran over to invite a couple of nearby school groups of young children to laugh with us. It was our largest and most willing-to-participate group yet. Passerby’s stopped to watch and smile at what we were doing, some even pushed some dollar bills into the donation box set out by the RMHC staff. Some time between the contagious laughter that filled the park and the goodbye waves, our friend Kim had arrived in a cab from the airport. We immediately went out for some Parkway Po’ Boys.

Bellies full with delicious New Orleans cuisine, we returned to the French Quarter to revisit some of our favorite places before taking some down time back at the new Airbnb. Kim had gone with us to JazzFest the year before, and we were excited that it was becoming an annual tradition. We remembered a restaurant we had happened upon last year that had killer charbroiled oysters. We racked our brains for a while to figure out what we could remember about it, and with the help of GPS, we were able to figure out the place so we could eat dinner there. Neyow’s Creole Café is very Big Easy style atmosphere with delicious hush puppies and charbroiled oysters.

Finally being in a place for more than a few days caused time to blur. The next couple of days were filled with delicious NOLA foods, JazzFest, more catching up with friends, and spending nights on our Frenchman Street, where all the best live music can be found. We also frequented Café Du Monde more this trip than any previous trips. We simply couldn’t get enough beignets to satiate our late night needs. We visited one of the oldest bars in the country, where they still gather around the piano with their drinks in the candle lit bar.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival always lives up to our expectations of phenomenal food and incredible music. This year our favorite act was No Doubt. Gwen Stefani killed it on stage. There were lots of other quality performances, but they were by far the best that we saw. We only attended two days of the second weekend. The Saturday headliners were Elton John, T.I., and Ed Sheeran. It was almost uncomfortably crowded on the fair grounds. We couldn’t walk between food vendors and stages without holding on to each other in a train-like fashion so as not to be separated by other people. It was overwhelmingly more crowded than the previous year when Bruce Springsteen had headlined. We should have expected a larger crowd because when we lined up to get in, the lines went on for blocks down the street and were several people thick. We walked right up to the entrance and maneuvered our way into the bag-check lines. On our walk back from the festival, there is always plenty of live street performance and people selling their crafts. One of my favorite things is a woman who uses a marionette to paint pictures. It impresses many and always draws a crowd of people who whip out their phones to take pictures like this one:

We were sad that our time in NOLA was coming to a close, but we were excited for the journey ahead. It really hadn’t hit me yet what we were doing, the impact we were having on the people we volunteered with, and the reality of our situation. I kept thinking it would hit me after New Orleans, and I awaited the epiphany with anticipation.

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