As we drove south over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway toward New Orleans, I could not help but think of all the other times over the past 5 months like this one where we were on our way to do something one or both of us had always dreamed of. Not only had I always wanted to go over the causeway (it is one of the longest bridges over water in the world), but also I had never been to New Orleans and was so excited to see what all the hype was about.
As we drove across the causeway, we watched the skyline of New Orleans become clearer through the fog, and I was beyond excited to see the French Quarter, stand along the Mississippi, and eat some delicious food.
We parked near the French Quarter and headed straight toward the riverfront walk at Woldenberg Park. We took in the sights and were especially drawn to watching the large ships and barges make their way down the Mississippi. We walked pretty much the length of the park and ended up turning into the French Quarter by the Joan of Arc statue. As we admired the statue, I could hear jazz music playing in the distance and it felt like what I always thought of when envisioning standing in New Orleans.
We made our way down Decatur Street with a quick stop at Central Grocery and Deli to get a muffuletta, which was first made there, then we continued our walk to explore Jackson Square. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in the square, so we took turns standing with the girls outside the gate and watching the passersby and horse and carriages, which was equally (if not more) entertaining than the square itself.
We made it back to the truck in time to eat a quick lunch and then for me to get on a call for work. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to work a very flexible schedule, including the ability to jump on a conference call from the truck wherever we may be. While I took my call and Daisy rested, Will and Bird made their way back to Woldenberg Park where Bird was able to run around and keep them both busy.
Up to this point, our experience in New Orleans was everything I had hoped it would be. However, we had yet to make it to Bourbon Street. While I was hesitant to make this short walk, I knew I would be disappointed if we were so close and did not at least try.
As soon as we turned onto Bourbon Street, I had major doubts about our decision. While it was not at all busy (especially in terms of New Orleans standards), it was more than I was comfortable with. The pandemic has gotten to me in a lot of ways, and the anxiety hit hard on Bourbon Street. I immediately felt incredibly selfish for even thinking a quick walk would be okay, and we turned back toward the truck at the next block. The mom guilt came on heavy (and is still there, to be honest).
At this point, I was ready to call it a day in New Orleans. What I know is that it is definitely a place I want to return to when there is not a pandemic. And maybe either without Bird or when Bird is much older.
Luckily, though, Will had another stop on our agenda for the day, so we did not end the day’s activities with me being an anxious and crazy mom.
From the French Quarter, we headed to the Chalmette Battlefield. I had zero clue about this battle and would have never seen it on a map and gone on my own, but I am really glad Will wanted to take me there (he had been on his previous visit to New Orleans). The drive to the battlefield took us through the Ninth Ward, which was incredibly humbling and disheartening as the evidence of Katrina is still obvious over 15 years later. Driving through this area, I could not get the images out of my mind from the news coverage of the hurricane with people clinging to their roofs and the feet upon feet of water that these buildings were under. While the evidence was still there, it was hopeful to see where things have come back and are growing.
We pulled into the battlefield, which on first impressions felt and looked like a huge soccer field. I was not incredibly impressed or interested at first, but once we pulled in and started reading about the battle, it actually turned out to be a very interesting and worthwhile stop.
The battle fought here was between the British and Americans and took place after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed to end the War of 1812. Word had not yet reached the troops, so the battle went on as planned and ultimately helped the Americans gain the important upper hand at the negotiating table. This battle was the last battle fought against a foreign enemy on American soil.
We drove around the battlefield and stopped for a quick visit at the national cemetery that is adjacent to the battlefield, then we stamped Little Bird’s National Parks passport and started making our way back to the Causeway.
While all of the day’s activities did not live up to the hype in my head, New Orleans, overall, did not disappoint. The pandemic really has a hold on so many things, and I am glad that Will and I are on the same page in terms of comfort level and being 100% okay when one of us says it is time to change our plans. Even though I am disappointed we did not get daiquiris on Bourbon Street or any Mardi Gras beads, I am absolutely looking forward to a time when we can comfortably return and enjoy those things and more.