Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we guided you through our annual road trip in fifty episodes, driven July 11-17, 2015, from Indianapolis to Louisville to Birmingham to New Orleans to Biloxi to Mobile to Monroeville to Montgomery to Nashville to home again. Our previous outtake gallery gave you one last look at our Alabama explorations. Here, then, in our grand finale: outtakes from everywhere and everything else we saw, with an emphasis on New Orleans, the ostensible centerpiece of our vacation. A few were alternate versions of previously shared pics; a few were skipped by dumb oversight; and a few were left behind due to insufficient pizzazz.
Throughout our drive from Indianapolis to New Orleans and back again, my wife took pics of each major metropolis as we passed through them. During our walks and our detours we found a few other neat vantage points that let us gaze upon these cities and wonder if the life bustling along their streets is that much different from our own. In most cases probably, but it was fun to contemplate.
Our final sixteen hours in New Orleans saw physically debilitating lows, frustration with the transitory nature of small businesses and mapping apps alike, a few new sights that came along at just the right time, and final encores with our favorite French Quarter sights before we bade farewell to Louisiana.
For this year’s scenic tour of the American South, even if everything else went wrong or turned out boring, we kept our hopes high that the cooking would prove to delight our senses and heap shame upon our own meager kitchen skills. On Day Four we found two restaurants — one a fine-dining restaurant, the other an open-air market booth — that delivered the goods and won the week.
The Louisiana State Museum is no single building, but rather a statewide aegis for several full-size museums and a few structures of historical significance. Over half are in New Orleans; one of those, the Old U.S. Mint, sits near the north end of the French Market. After lunch on Day Four we sped through three such locations bordering Jackson Square — two on either side of St. Louis Cathedral, the third nestled in one of the quaint strip malls, cleverly disguised as one of many gift shops.
The French Market strives to attract your attention for all your New Orleans souvenir needs, but French Quarter shopping and culture don’t end there. Across the street, around the block, art and commerce dot the sidewalks and lure in tourists starved for a change of pace from their milder, blander hometowns.
Day Four was spent walking here, there, everywhere around the French Quarter — gawking at random sights, browsing festive shops, learning history from museums, weaving through crowds, and trying our best to withstand the 90-degree heat that kept hammering at us all along the way. Fortunately a few places offered respite from melting.
Our first indoor stop on Day Four that wasn’t a restaurant was the grand St. Louis Cathedral, centerpiece of New Orleans’ Jackson Square and one of the oldest cathedrals in America. The outside id distinct in its own right, but the interior decorations and designs were impressive in their own right, even the parts identical to what you see in other, newer, more modest churches. There’s something about such a venerable structure that elevates even the most mundane details toward a greater spiritual presence.
At the end of Day Three, we first laid eyes upon Jackson Square when the sun was on its way out of sight. Some clouds had lingered after a light drizzle that had peppered the city while we were inside Mardi Gras World. The world generally looked gray everywhere we turned. Then we got a good night’s sleep, commenced Day Four, and walked into the idealized sky-blue morning you see above, beckoning us with its possibilities and begging for a photographic do-over.
On the morning of our second full day in New Orleans, one of our first stops was St. Louis Cathedral. The majority of the structure dates back to 1850, with minute portions integrated from still older predecessors. It’s the centerpiece of Jackson Square (as you’ll notice in the preceding chapter), free for tourists to visit (donations are suggested), serves an active congregation, and remains the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Bordering one side of the French Quarter is our old friend the Mississippi River, which we last saw in Minneapolis on our 2014 road trip. We’ve effectively now seen both ends of it. After dinner at the Royal House, we ended our day of too much walking with even more walking, checking out the art, the businesses, and the life teeming and scheming along its banks.
Over the last several entries in this series we’ve shared large batches of photos and memories from our visits to the National WWII Museum and to Mardi Gras World, but those two locations weren’t the only points of interest we saw on Day Three of our trip. For this episode we backtrack to recapture some of those random bits that made their own impacts on our overall New Orleans experience.
Day Three of our seven-day road trip was our first full day in the city of New Orleans. We already covered our musical breakfast at Cafe Beignet. As noted previously, “Going into this year’s vacation, we hoped the cuisine would be a highlight at our various stops — be it good ol’ Southern kitchen cookin’, Gulf-sourced fresh seafood, or, really, anything outside of international franchisees.” In that vein, lunch and dinner each had their own approach.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my wife and I visited Mardi Gras World, a giant-sized warehouse-shaped museum in New Orleans in which floats are constructed, painted, stored, disassembled, reassembled, repainted, reconfigured, and displayed for guests who want to take a long walk through local party-time history.
As promised last time, here’s a sampling of the many heads, bodies, persons, places, and things on display that have entertained generations and enthralled the sober and the drunken alike.
When people ’round our parts think “New Orleans”, once they get past the memories of Hurricane Katrina, the next thing that pops into their head is Mardi Gras. Other cities and countries may honor the grand finale of every annual “Carnival” multi-part holiday, but the way it’s talked about, you’d think “Mardi Gras” was French for “New Orleans party”. For all I know, maybe it is.
Anne and I don’t drink, party, observe Carnival, or socialize while our clothes are missing, but we thought it wouldn’t hurt to look into the prettier, safer element of those shindigs: the famous parades and their scintillating floats. So that’s what lured us to Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our road trip to New Orleans continued as my wife and I spent much of Day 3 touring the National WWII Museum. Not every activity they offer involves artifacts or invites photography. For a few dollars more, guests can visit the Solomon Victory Theater and catch an exclusive viewing of Beyond All Boundaries, a 48-minute “4-D” experience designed to be thoroughly incompatible with home video.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our road trip to New Orleans continued as my wife and I spent much of Day 3 touring the National WWII Museum. Of all the buildings in the complex, the tallest was the most fascinating and contained the largest objects of all: half a dozen military airplanes suspended in midair.
(See that yellow-and-orange dot in the faraway window that kinda looks like a Ms. Pac-Man fruit? That’s my lovely wife.)
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our road trip to New Orleans continued as my wife and I spent much of Day 3 touring the National WWII Museum — four super-sized buildings and one smaller, locked gallery used for restoration work. With all that square footage and so many high ceilings, the Museum has plenty of space to display the largest wartime souvenirs: the vehicles that men drove into combat.
Considering recent headlines, maybe I picked the wrong week to share photos of guns. Or the perfect week, if you’re on the other side. Blame World War II for the wide selection here.
When I first suggested driving to New Orleans for this year’s road trip, my wife was hesitant because most online tourism resources summed up the general ambiance as HERE THERE BE MANIACS. No matter where you stay, how brightly the sun shines, how large your group is, or how tall and muscular you are, message boards and review sites and travel books and Fodor’s agree sooner or later a tag team of America’s Most Wanted will come gunning for you.
Then we found out New Orleans is the home of the National WWII Museum. Not a WWII museum — the National WWII Museum, as duly designated by Congress in 2003. Anne knows stuff about WWII. Longtime MCC readers might recall the story of how we first met:
[Anne had] been a WWII buff for years, and read extensively about Germany in general and Hitler in particular. I still remember the time when the teacher (one Frau Schmitz by name) basically turned the class over to Anne and let her give us a speech about Hitler. Anne proceeded to do so…with no notes, and no real preparation beforehand. As I recall, her extemporaneous speech filled two solid class periods over two days — roughly 100 minutes total — with what she knew about Hitler before Frau Schmitz finally stepped in and resumed teaching.
She’s always up for learning more about WWII, above and beyond what she’s already accumulated over the course of decades. When she learned the National WWII Museum was in New Orleans…well. Murderers, schmurderers.