This post is by Joe Stephens
As you read this, there’s a really good chance I’m either in the sky between New Orleans and Baltimore, in the Baltimore airport, or in the air between Baltimore and Columbus. Or, if you read this a little later, I may be on the road between Columbus and my home in Parkersburg, West Virginia. I’m sure it will be nice to sleep in my own bed, but I sure am going to miss this place and these people.
If you read my personal blog, you know I’ve been in New Orleans since last Wednesday. If I were to list all the activities we’ve done and all the shockingly delicious places I’ve eaten, I would be here for another week. So I’ll just share a couple of highlights.
Highlight number one would have to be the Honey Island Swamp tour. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it sure wasn’t what I got. We went on the first tour and it was almost (key word being almost) cool when we left. It wasn’t by the time we got back, but that’s okay. We rode in a big flat-bottomed boat and saw all kinds of cool animals. Our pilot fed alligators with hot dogs and marshmallows (they think the marshmallows are eggs), and we saw tons of turtles, birds, and even feral pigs. Not to mention some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever experienced.
Highlight number two is definitely brunch and the Commander’s Palace. Simply put, I’ve never had a dining experience even close to like this before. And I don’t mean eating. I mean dining. It was one of those events where more than half of what you were paying for was the out-of-this-world experience, and this is despite the fact that every bite of what I had to eat was the best bite of food I’d ever had. Everything about the event was perfect. The service staff was attentive and impeccable. They struck the perfect balance between friendly and completely professional. Every contingency was planned for. There were three of us and we were each served each of our three courses simultaneously, meaning there were three staff members at our table at the beginning of each course. I had crab and corn bisque, barbecue shrimp with grits (the barbecue was nothing like any barbecue I’ve ever had and defies description except I think I know what love tastes like), and pecan pie a la mode. I also had my first mimosa. It was delicious! To help you understand the level of service, our main waiter, when he brought back our check, informed us that it had just started raining and we would be welcome to wait in the bar until it passed. They even check the weather for you! To top it all off, we were serenaded by a trio of minstrels that were just perfect. Not too loud, not too soft, not too raucous–just right.
Finally, and I’m having a hard time narrowing it down, was probably the World War II Museum. We saw what they called a 4d movie narrated by Tom Hanks. It was fully immersive, with even our seats moving to mimic being in a tank or a plane or in the midst of an atomic blast. After that, we toured for an hour and a half and could easily have stayed another three or four hours. The thorough nature and level of sophistication in the displays is something I’ve never seen before in a museum. It made me feel like I was right there with the men and women fighting that war. It is a must-experience if you’re ever near New Orleans.
We also saw a baseball game, went to a concert of big band music from World War II in a realistic canteen, toured a local brewery, listened to traditional jazz at Preservation Hall, watched a movie under the stars in the zoo, toured the Oak Alley Plantation, rode a train, toured the Audubon Aquarium, picnicked at the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, took a drive along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, had genuine p0′ boys and beignets and snowballs, and ate more good food than I thought it was possible to eat in only a week. And we just scratched the surface of this remarkable city. I’m already trying to figure out when I can come back.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my remarkable hosts. Jenna is a former student of mine and she’s just like a daughter to me. She and her husband Mitch not only graciously opened her home to me, but Jenna took time off of her extremely busy job to chauffeur me all over the state of Louisiana and even into Mississippi. I’ll miss New Orleans, but more importantly, I’ll miss them. You guys mean the world to me.
Joe’s newest book, Dawn of Grace, just debuted on June 9. It’s available on Amazon.
Check out his third book, In The Shadowon Amazon
Take a look at his debut book, Harsh Prey on Amazon
Take a look at his second book, Kisses and LiesonAmazon