Day Three of the family road trip took us to explore more about New Orleans’ regional flavors as a food capital of the U.S., its history rich French Quarter and its brush with catastrophe during Katrina.
We started the day at Cafe Du Monde, easily the nation’s most famous coffee place and a fixture of the French Quarter. It just took Elena one sip of the Cafe Au Lait and a bite of a Beignet (a French version of the Mexican Sopapillas except with powdered sugar) for her to officially declare Cafe Du Monde her favorite breakfast spot in the nation. When you go, don’t expect anything else at Cafe Du Monde because that’s literally all they serve at this 24/7 landmark!
Just behind Cafe Du Monde is the Moonwalk Park where the kids first saw the mighty Missippi River. Jonathan and Elena were so excited they stepped down a pier to touch it. That makes another U.S. landmark they’ve collected.
THE LOWER NINTH WARD
Rain cut our plans to walk the French Quarter so we relegated our trip to touring New Orleans in the comfort of our Chevrolet Traverse. Our first stop on the drive was the Lower Ninth Ward, which despite its tragic recent history during Katrina has actually embraced the disaster as part of its proud heritage. When Angela and I last visited the area in 2006 during her move from Texas to Miami, the place looked dismantled. Homes, churches, basically any structure you found were twisted in all sorts of weird shapes. Some buildings literally looked like accordions. Fast forward four years later to today. The neighborhood is slowly but firmly coming back. A drive by the same parts we saw then demonstrates that about 90 percent of all the blighted buildings have been razed. In their place are either sparking new homes with nicely trimmed grass and shiny cars or just tall grass waiting to be cut for the new ones that will be built.
One of those who returned home was a gentleman we met today who we will call Mr. Hamilton, a former United States Marine and disabled Vietnam War veteran who lives just three blocks from where the levees broke. He tells his story on this YouTube video we uploaded today.
SKIP LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN
From the Lower Ninth Ward we headed to Lake Pontchartrain which at 23 miles and 1538 yards is the longest bridge in the world.
Being the Guiness Records buff that I am, I thought the family would love the full drive through but two miles into the flat bridge everyone, including my wife, revolted. We turned back to New Orleans for one final piece of NOLA cooking and a potential visit to a historic cemetery that would not be because it closed early.
MOTHER’S RESTAURANT AND THEN ON TO AUSTIN
Our last hurrah in NOLA would be a visit to Mother’s, a New Orleans home-style culinary destination that was founded in 1938 and claims it serves the “world’s best ham.” We thought that claim was dubious until we ordered their famous sandwich Ferdi Special Po’ Boy (baked ham, roast beef, debris & gravy). The Ferdi is normally recommended for two but no one was sharing. In addition to great “Nawlins” cooking, Mother’s is nationally revered by
U.S. military leaders and servicemen. Every wall in the restaurant is stocked with signed photographs from nearly every U.S. military leader of the last 60 or so years. It turns out that the original family members who established the restaurant and later sold it to its current owners had numerous family members that served in the military.
FUELING UP WITH COFFEE
The drive from New Orleans to Austin is flat and generally unspectacular so we fueled up for the nine hour drive at McDonald’s, our new home for family coffee since they introduced their new McCafe line up of coffees. Jonathan only discovered coffee a year ago during our family vacation to Costa Rica but during our trip to Austin he looked the part of a veteran coffee drinker gulping down TWO Caramel Frappes. My wife and I favor the Mocha flavored Frappe.
FAMILY ROAD TRIP TIP OF THE DAY (Sponsored by Sprint Nextel)
If you’re ever planning to do a social media trip journal like the one we’re compiling, note that it takes A LOT of time, energy and strong Internet connectivity to make it happen. We’re extremely impressed by the network reception we’ve been enjoying through our technology
partner Sprint Nextel, who provided us with the new HTC EVO 4G (an Android phone that’s the fastest phone in the market and has wifi) and the 4G Overdrive Mobile Hotspot (our back up mobile wifi). Believe me, in a car full of computers and Internet surfers like ours (Jonathan is on a Sony VAIO netbook) you need wireless wifi or you will have chaos.