My Favorite Week



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, 20160706_193907if 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 woul20160708_094101d 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.

sunrise cover option 7Joe’s newest book, Dawn of Grace, just debuted on June 9. It’s available on Amazon.




ITS Cover ArtCheck out his third book, In The Shadowon Amazon

kindle cover

Take a look at his debut book, Harsh Prey on Amazon 

Kisses and Lies Cover Michele croppedTake a look at his second book, Kisses and LiesonAmazon



23 thoughts on “My Favorite Week

  1. Joe, Everyone who has visited the WWII museum says the same thing. That time period, It is an important part of my research life.
    Almost everyone can’t say enough about how wonderful that region is. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Are you still standing? I don’t think I’d be – what a week! So glad you had great friends to stay with and enjoy all the sights and great food with. Sounds to me like you had a favorite week we’d all like to have!


    1. I’m so sorry I didn’t reply to this sooner! I somehow jumped right over your comment. I did almost nothing for two days after I got home. I was quite content but my body was ready for a long, long nap.


  3. Joe- I’m completely delighted that you have the kind of long standing friendship with ex students as I had with some of my teachers. It’s a rare bond but such a valuable one. Your visit sounds fabulous. My husband has been to New Orleans, but sadly not I. (He’s also been to Baltimore when his brother lived there but again -I haven’t, nor Parkersburg…) There’s always the future, though, and I’m heading to Pasadena soon and Las Vegas that will be new to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right–it really is a rare thing. I have a handful of former students I count as genuine friends, even family. Lots with whom I’m still friendly, but not nearly as many actual friends. But those few mean the world to me.


  4. Wow, what a great experience you had. Been to New Orleans twice but didn’t see the museum, had workshops to go to. Did get on a swamp tour and jazz cruise. It is quite the place and you make it sound a must to see. So glad you shared with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great column, Joe. Back when I was a technical writer, I spent a couple of years in Baton Rouge working with operators at a paper mill at nearby Port Hudson/Zachary. Since we’d stay on-site two to three weeks at a time, we’d oftentimes drive south to New Orleans and spend a Saturday there eating in the French Quarter, etc. That’s how I took in the World War II museum. Also, saw an aquarium. Those were good times. Loved hearing Cajun accents.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love New Orleans. One of my favorite cities. Jazz Fest is always a fun time should you ever get a chance to go then. You did so much more in one visit than I ever have and I’ve been 8 or 9 times! I finally went on a swamp tour on my most recent trip last year. I didn’t realize the marshmallows were seen as eggs. I wondered why that’s what we fed the wild boars. Commander’s Palace is definitely an incredible experience. All the food there is amazing. Thanks for the post, makes me even more excited for Bouchercon in Sept!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I need to keep track of the conferences so I know which ones I would like to attend. I’d like to go to Bouchercon, but I also want to spend the month in Florida. Cher’ley


  7. My father is from the New Orleans area — north of the city from a small town called Hammond. When I was a child, we’d visit occasionally (dad dislikes hot, humid weather) and I remember the zoo and the large plantation homes. I’ve thought about going back to visit, but just haven’t made it although last week I was close when we were in Vicksburg, MS and Meridian, MS visiting family for a day. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights! If I ever get back that way, I’ll have to see about getting to New Orleans.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Joe, you make New Orleans sound wonderful. I think we’ve watched so many COPS shows, and also when we went there one time in the truck, the police told us to be careful, that we’ve avoided that area. We may take another look at it. I’ll share your blog with Del. Thanks for sharing your adventures and glad you had such a marvelous time. Cher’ley


    1. The key for me was being there with someone who knew the town well and knew what to avoid. I never felt unsafe, but I was never alone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s