Steve and I left home this morning after kind of oversleeping a bit. Oops! He'd gotten home from Albuquerque near midnight after a work trip, and so we'd gotten in bed later than we had intended. We had to jump up and get everything ready to go, since we were bringing some of Sara's wedding stuff down for her, and we finally got on the road at about 9:00.
We started out with a big WTF this morning when we stopped for gas. We pulled up to the pump, and right in front of us was a lady with a big leather glove on her arm. She was holding a giant red tailed hawk! Wha? That is not a normal sight at our local Chevron station! That alone would have been weird, but Steve made it weirder. When we both saw the lady and the bird, we looked each other and then back at the bird. Out of nowhere I heard Steve mutter in this tiny, scared sounding voice say, "All I need is to get some gas." I looked back at him and he was still staring, wide eyed, at the hawk. I wasn't sure what was wrong, but I thought he might be scared the bird lady would bring the thing over to him while he was out of the car and the bird would attack him. I had a bad moment thinking he was going to freak out because of a heretofore unknown avian phobia. Fortunately, he was just zoned out, having an inner monologue, and for some reason he said the last bit of it out loud.
When we finally got on the road, the drive was almost uneventful. We did see a white, convertible hearse filled with flowers, which is not something you see everyday. I also got sick to my stomach, which is always a great deal of fun when you're on a road trip. Luckily I had some medicine with me, so that was almost gone by the time we hit New Orleans.
We're staying in an awesome hotel called Masion St. Charles. It's an odd little place, owned by the Quailty Inn folks. The website says that parts of the hotel used to be Antebellum homes, but I'm not sure our particular building is one of them. THe room has very high ceilings and unusual dimensions, but it could have just been built to look like an old house, I guess. The room decor is unusual, but more fun than a regular hotel. We have black and purple striped carpet that makes it look like Tim Burton might have been the interior decorator. Also there is this painting, and it scares the heebies out of me. It'll be fun trying to sleep with that guy watching me!
When we finally got checked in, we had dinner at Voodoo BBQ, which was delicious, if you like barbecue, and I do. There were quite a few of the wedding guests there already, so it was a little awkward at first. There were so many new people to meet, but we still had fun getting to know them. I'd also like to mention that New Orleans is freaking HOT. I forgot how absolutely humid it is here, and even though it probably wasn't more than 85, maybe 87 degrees, it felt like 95. Yuck.
Our first outing that was planned was a ghost tour, done by the Haunted History tour company. We waited forever for our cabs to arrive, and we wound up getting there right before the tours started. Unfortunately, Steve and I almost immediately got separated from the rest of the group. We payed our admission first, and we thought everyone else was behind us. By the time we started walking with our tour group, we realized that everyone else had been put in a completely separate group, and no one knew where we had gone. Apparently, Sara panicked when she couldn't find us (Sorry!) but we finally got in touch with each other by cell, so she knew we hadn't been kidnapped and sold for parts on Bourbon Street! :)
Our tour was very interesting, although it would have been better if we could have heard everything that the guy was saying. New Orleans is so freaking loud, even on the quieter streets. One of our guides was a psychologist/sociologist (I think) that specialized in human perception, which is one of the reasons he is involved in the whole paranormal thing. He actually works with ghost hunters as the person who goes over their data instead of going on the actual hunt. Since he isn't tainted by the spookiness of the actual hunt and he knows the things that simple psychology can explain, he can look for truly unusual things without getting floor creaks and regular noises confused with paranormal activity. He seemed like a fascinating man, and I think he'd be interesting to talk to. The only bad part of the tour was this jackass (sorry, Aunt Brenda) who thought he was so funny, and he really, really wasn't. He was annoying, and he kept making bad jokes and being a jerk. Luckily he, and his drunk girlfriend, left before the tour was over. Yikes. At any rate, we heard some really good stories, one of which still gives me chills. It had nothing to do with anything paranormal, and everything to do with the fact that the people involved were tortured and the husband killed in such a terrible way by people they knew. We also saw the LaLaurie Mansion, which is famous in ghost lore and supposedly a very haunted house. I'd read about it many times, and never expected to roll up on it unexpectedly, even on a ghost tour! The history behind what happened there is awful, but again, mainly due to the human inhabitants of the house rather than the ghosts. In fact, I'm going to say that the tour, while interesting, didn't really seem like a ghost tour to me. I mean, yes, we got ghost stories and info on supposed hauntings, but it seemed like we got more regular history about the buildings we saw than anything really spooky. I'm OK with that, because I enjoyed the tour, but I would have liked a few chills about things going bump in the night!
New Orleans in a truly interesting city, and I wish I could have learned more about it on our tour, but they only had specific places they talked about. I've also learned that New Orleans smells SO BAD. Oh, it was horrible. I have an almost super-human sense of smell, so it was an assault on my nose that almost made me faint. Luckily we moved around so much that I wasn't enveloped by any particular stink for too long. The place is dirty, filthy, and completely amazing.
We finally met back up with everyone and made our way back to the hotel. We are now chilling - literally- by our excellent air conditioner and are about to go to bed. I can already tell that this place, like Athens, GA and Savannah, GA, is going to be a two shower a day town. I just hope I brought enough underpants!
NOTABLE SIGHTINGS: The gas station raptor lady, a convertible hearse (in north Alabama, not in NOLA), two Eastern European hookers in shorts so short and tight that everyone picked out sympathy wedgies, the looks on Ron's kid's faces when they realized the two women were were hookers, and a cockroach the size of one of my middle fingers crawling in an empty margarita cup. Seriously, I could have forgone the taxi and ridden that guy back to the hotel!
I will never sleep again.