We hightailed it through Alabama and Mississippi with promises to come back and soak up the history of those two states in the future. We stayed at Bayou Segnette State Park across the mighty Mississippi from the French Quarter and it was just perfect for our needs. First, let me emphasize…there is FREE LAUNDRY at Bayou Segnette. FREE. LAUNDRY. The sites are well spaced with plenty of green in between and behind sites. The bathhouses are adequate, but can be a bit of a hike depending on your site number. If you’re using the bathhouses (or if you’re doing some FREE LAUNDRY and washing every scrap of fabric in your camper), try to snag a site near the bathhouses. We didn’t get one and hiked a wooden path through the bayou (um, swamp…?) to get there. Also…a full week in this park and this is the only picture we got of the park itself.
Other than the campground, there isn’t much to do AT the state park if you don’t have a boat or aren’t there when the pool and wave pool are open. But really, who goes to NOLA to hang at their state park!? The Algiers ferry terminal is about 20 minutes from Bayou Segnette and has free street parking (or $5 all day lot parking) and it’s only $2 per person to cross the river. The hulking, clanging, squealing, circa 1940s (feeling) battleship ferry drops you at the tip of the French Quarter and you can walk to all the madness that is this fascinating city. If you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of a real, live Mississippi river rat. It’s part of the experience guys.
We started our first day in the French Quarter with a walk down Bourbon Street (which smells like warm beer and hot, overflowing dumpsters), street performers and toe-curling beignets at Cafe du Monde…obviously. After strolling the city a bit more and being led by the more pleasant aromas of the many incredible restaurants, we ducked into the Gumbo Shop (highly, highly recommend!) for lunch. I couldn’t decide what local delicacy to order so our fabulous server said she’d surprise me. Shrimp creole, red beans and rice with andouille sausage and jambalaya all on one plate. Yes please. The boys enjoyed a roast beef po boy and Shan devoured his jambalaya. Please go here for a meal if you’re in NOLA.
During the week we also visited Oak Alley Plantation. Always a struggle to see such a gracious home and property but know on whose backs that property was built and operated. The tour was very informative, but there’s so much emphasis on genteel southern plantation life and so little emphasis on the absolute horrors of slavery. The home and the 300 year old oaks were lovely though. The mint julep was knock-you-on-your-tush-strong. Oak Alley has an extensive exhibit of slave quarters with some very honest and awful examples of slave life. Awful. Friends had just toured Oak Alley and the Whitney Plantation. They told me about how the planation truly looks at the entire “plantation experience” from the slaves’ perspective as opposed to the more common plantation owner’s side. The Whitney Plantation was the one we meant to tour.
On our next foray into the French Quarter there were more beignets. Beignets. Beignets. Beignets. Oh, sorry. We also walked through the open air market and stumbled on the LEGO mini figure booth where the heavens opened and the angels sung (sang?) and the boys’ looked like shaken sodas, ready to explode with joy. Next we toured the Jean Lafitte National Historic Site/French Quarter Visitor Center, where the boys completed the Junior Ranger program and scored another badge for their collection. Jean Lafitte (1780-1823-ish) was a French pirate and smuggler who paused his illicit adventures to fight on the side of the United States in defense of New Orleans in the War of 1812.
Continuing the French Quarter trend, on Thursday we headed right to the Jazz National Historic Park. You guys, there’s a National Park location dedicated to jazz music!! The boys burned through this Junior Ranger program fast and earned yet another badge. This National Park is temporarily being house at the Old US Mint building which also hosts Music At The Mint. We got to enjoy an amazing jazz concert performed by actual National Park Rangers along with special guest Charlie Gabriel (unbelievable musician and historian). What a special treat! There was more Gumbo Shop food on this day. 🙂
We rounded out our week in New Orleans with an afternoon at the Audubon Insectarium (super cool!) where I got to see the things nightmares are made of come to life…creeping, crawling, buzzing life. Wrapped it up with a dinner of po boys and crawfish etouffe at Mother’s Restaurant.
When asked what they thought about New Orleans, the boys were split. Callum says it was his favorite place so far because it was so wild. Quinn says it was interesting but strange. I think Shan and I are a mix of both. I do know that the food will keep me coming back. OK, the weird too. I do so enjoy some weird.