Sunday, 3 April 2016

New Orleans

Road trip City #4 The mid point

New Orleans, how I found my groove doing it NOLA style...

Over a year ago, happen to me what many chefs go through. I got burnt out, I was ready to change my day job. What I used to love, I hated it, I went to self destruction-land, all in name of the kitchen. I remember hating to wake up to go to work. I thought the change of kitchen would made the trick. I was so angry all the time, I got a job in a bigger restaurant, which would keep my mind motivated, but to the opposite, I saw bigger problems I didn't want to tackle. I counted every hour, until I would go home. I made it through the shift, run home and decided I would quit. I negotiated in my mind the rest of day, the night came and it was bed time. I couldn't fall asleep. At mid night wrote a very honest to myself email to my new employer, thanking for the opportunity but... that wasn't for me. Then I got another job, but 2 days before starting, I couldn't sleep again. I knew then I was in trouble. I was burnt out. I need it a break.
I took 3 months off, and a planned a trip of a lifetime. I would've love my husband to do this road trip with me, but as the more responsible, someone had to work. So, my younger sister was my partner in crime. Part of this trip I have written about, just click on the link to read more about it.

Pensacola, Florida

Crossing the deep south, dramatic as it looks, the saltines in the air full of oxygen is so energising. Driving between beaches from Florida and Alabama, crossing the the 100's of swamps from the Mississippi, for sure you don't want fall over those bridges. 
All to make our way down to Louisiana.

While driving through Alabama, we stopped to admire the most amazing trees, I could see they have survived wars, hurricanes, hot days, storms... history is written all over it. 

If you ever drive through Alabama, next to the sea, there are many Crab shacks, where you can order amazing seafood, but the best is the Bloody Mary's, they garnish it with salty Olives, that goes amazing with the citrusy fresh squeeze lemon and heat from the tabasco sauce. 

Crossing so many states in such a short period of time, gave me a sense of achievement. We felt the change of weather, scenery, accents, foods, music influences. It was very impressive to cross over 2 mile bridges long, passing over water and mud, and I guess thousands of crocodiles. 

Crossing a two mile bridge, over the swamps...
At this point we really need it to rest, we were desperate stop driving and start relaxing. Getting to New Orleans was a bit shocking. We've been many years before and it was nothing like we remembered.
Our hotel was a couple blocks from the french quarter, even we were so close to the touristic area, the ambience was full of fear, and poverty. Hurricane Katrina after 10 years, still left the tail behind leaving homeless people, unfitted buildings, and sorrow within the people.
One of the most rich in culture and architecture cities in the US, was is still working in recovering its original charm.
We left the car to rest, while we took our feet to walk. The more we got into the French Quarter the more we wanted to find what we remembered New Orleans is about. We were not interested in souvenir shops, or the happy hours free tequila shots... We wanted the forge iron balconies, the wood work, the blues music, creole food,  the oyster with natural pearls. 

We found ourselves at Chartres St. facing the St. Louis Cathedral, sitting down in some stairs looking the sun goes down, and a band of musicians just settle in front and start playing. Live music in the streets, Yes! this is what I am talking about, we found the soul music, the music that keeps alive this city. We stayed listening to the music until they picked up their instruments and look for the next audience and street corner.

We were told to go to The Frenchmen St. to listen to the real deal of music. In a second we were full of energy and ready to dance all night. I know it sounds weird, but dancing cheerful blues for tourists is more fun that you can imagine. If you ever go, get comfortable shoes, New Orleans has to be walked, and walked, and there is so many places to go and dance... 

That night we dance to the old blues, we hop from bar to bar, listening those "Cats" jamming NOLA style.

We were at the centre of the Soul food & music, can't get better than that.  Well... it did when I went up and dance at the stage with the musicians! It was my birthday so they sang happy birthday and I dance for them!

To find my soul and passion again, I did had to cross the Atlantic, drive over 1000 miles, gain a lot of kg, take 100's of pictures, listen to all kind of music. Try the fattiest, greasiest and tastiest foods. Best Poboy with fried chicken and coleslaw, gumbo,  grits, deep fried oysters with Frank' Sauce & blue cheese, corn breaded soft shell crab. No wonder my weight was compromised.

We spent two nights, and it was time to go back, of course there was so much more to see, there was much more to eat, but we still we had another 1000 miles to drive on our way back to Chicago. We said good bye to New Orleans at Cafe du Monde.

We were rested, dance, ate and drank, full of energy again, ready to see the other side of the Mississippi River, the light rain fill the sky and streets, listening to Ottis Redding (Sittin' on) The Dock Bay seem the perfect way to continue our journey. Next stop... Elvis Presley's land and best bbq sauce ever!!!