New Orleans and Austin – aka “the game is to survive”


New Orleans

Thank you, Hotel Monteleone, the most classic in New Orleans, for the pristine quarters that made us feel like royalty.   Sometimes good things do happen to good people.  Or those who just take risks on Priceline, and end up getting a 4-star hotel for a fraction of the price.

Far and away, New Orleans had been my favorite stop so far, with the exception of that dump called Bourbon Street.  I loved the history, the haunted stories, the bars, the ghost tour… Did you know that we used to hang people in Jackson Square, right in front of a church?  And not only did we hang them, but the origination of that magic trick of “put the person in the coffin and cut them in half” actually started in New Orleans when it wasn’t a magic trick.  They would keep people alive, put them in coffins, cut them in half, and then enjoy the moment when the victim realized they were lying next to their own legs.  Got to love entertainment before cable.

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Needless to say, there was no shortage of drinking surrounding us in New Orleans.  We did all of the must-dos: the hurricane at Pat O’Briens, Alafayatcha in the Garden District for the bloody mary bar, dinner at Herbsaint (the waitress definitely thought we were on a date), drinks at Carousel Bar, benignets at Café du Monde and all too many hilarious encounters with strangers to count.

When we didn’t have a beverage in hand, we rode the St. Charles trolley, saw the Calypso Tumblers in their famous street performance, visited some cemeteries, went on my very first carriage ride (does a mule count?), learned so much – the difference in single shotgun vs double shotgun architecture, that it’s actually the backs of the houses that you see on the street, with a courtyard and front door in the center, and not visible from the street. We visited the Lower Ninth where most of the Katrina devastation took place, and is in a state of rebuilding, courtesy of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation.  The weekend was very humbling, haunting, and hilarious, sometimes all at the same time.

From there we made a stop in Baton Rouge, hit up Houston to see some of E’s friends, and saw a lot of this along the way, just in case you forget about Jesus while you’re driving:

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Austin

Let’s begin at The Salt Lick, a very famous BBQ joint that was a must on our list. They also happen to do weddings, and I’m not kidding, there may be one of mine there in the future.  Maybe my second wedding.

We ate mostly in silence, in awe of our combo platters of brisket, ribs, and sausage.

Eileen: When it’s a three napkin dinner, you know it’s a good one.

Elizabeth: Yeah, except it’s lunch.

Austin is exactly what I hoped it would be.  I always had a special fascination with it, and I was not disappointed.  We stayed in a lovely guesthome, and had our hosts’  black lab, Lyla, as our adopted pet. She enjoyed her walks and all of the ear scratches.

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Not all was hunky-dory, though.  In all of my poise and decorum, I managed to fall off a patio and land in a rosebush – but I managed to not break my computer, just my pride.  I had to ice my shin with the only thing available, frozen pigs in a blanket and was met with no sympathy from Elizabeth “It’s just a flesh wound” Singleton.

Everyone kept apologizing for the rain, but I loved the late night thunderstorm, and every place we visited.  I saw a new friend for some wine, and an old friend who scored us SXSW badges, which are about $950 each, allowing us to the front of the line and access to all events and parties.  He showed us his favorite haunts and treated us like queens. Which continues to beg the question, “Why do I have to eat until I’m in physical pain?”

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One of the highlights was the rodeo.  I had never been to one, and as an avid equestrian, I appreciate the symbiotic relationship between horse and rider.  I still have some bronco riding concerns, but all in all, it was amazing to see the speed and effortless of the cowboys and girls.

To alleviate some of the sodium poundage, I ran the Greenbelt, walked the University of Texas (Hook ’em, Horns!), which then only led us to more food, drinks, and live honky-tonk music. From  Magnolia’s Café to Uchiko, a famous Japanese restaurant with the most incredible jalapeno yellowtail, we were never far from deliciousness. Only in Austin can you do “Japanese farmhouse” dining

To sum it up:

Eileen: I can’t believe how good this food is.

Elizabeth: I can’t believe how good my life is.

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