This continues a series of posts about a road trip to New Orleans that starts here.
We crossed the state line from Mississippi into Louisiana just as night fell. I had hoped and planned not to do any night driving, especially in the south, but it hadn’t worked out that way.
The car started making a subtle chunk-a-chunk-a-clunk-a noise so I got out my secret weapon—Abba. Yes, Abba. I have a friend who loves to compile CDs, and she volunteered to make a set for the road trip. Who was I to say no? She went above and beyond, and created a boxed set of seven, each with a play list, and two bonus CDs of classical and new age music.
I appointed Lynn the DJ of the car and away we sailed, singing along to Knowing Me, Knowing You.
I could no longer hear the noise—problem solved!
If you’re unfamiliar with New Orleans, here’s the lay of the land. The city is bordered on the south by the Mississippi River and on the north by Lake Ponchartrain (pronounced ponch’-a-train), which is the 11th largest lake in North America. If you don’t count the Great Lakes, which are outliers, it’s the 6th largest.
To get to New Orleans (pronounced nu or’-luns, by the way) from the north, you have to cross the world’s longest causeway, which is a bridge over a body of water. The Lake Ponchartrain Causeway is 24 miles long.
Ponchartrain is a salt lake. Supposedly there are sharks in it but I didn’t want to think about that. I also didn’t want to think about my mom’s friends who had crashed in the lake at night in their small plane and drowned because they’d lost their bearings. In the dark, you can’t see the horizon. There are no landmarks, no trees or lights to tell you how far you are from land or how far you’ve got to go. It was pure darkness on either side of the road, except for the one oil rig we saw off in the distance.
“Is that New Orleans?” I asked excitedly.
Lynn, as always, had the US map in her lap. “No, I think it could be Baton Rouge.”
We drove on and eventually it became apparent that the “city” was an oil refinery. We’ve got one south of St. Paul that everyone calls The Emerald City.
After a half hour of feeling like we were hurtling through outer space, we cleared the causeway and entered the crazy spaghetti-like New Orleans freeway system. Once again, I was flanked by semi trucks on both sides going 85 miles per hour.
“This is when the engine light turns red!” I joked—sort of.
“No! We’re so close!” Lynn said encouragingly.
And then we were there. New Orleans! I pulled up in front of the B&B and killed the engine. I would have her towed away tomorrow, but right then I just wanted a beer. Maybe three.
Our friend Christine and my cousin Molly had already arrived and they came out to greet us. “Welcome to New Orleans!” we all exclaimed, hugging and laughing and already feeling the relaxed vibe of the place.
My friend and former neighbor who lives in New Orleans had recommended the B&B, which was called the Ould Sweet Olive. It was lovely:
As is the case with old buildings that have been rehabbed for new purposes, the layout was a little weird. I had reserved the suite, and the entrance was through the bathroom. The shower had a glass door and the bathtub was in the middle of the room. There was no real door between the bathroom and the sleeping area, just these:
But hey, who cared? It was charming. We had arrived! The Ould Sweet Olive was in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, which was quiet but just a few blocks from Frenchmen Street and the French Quarter where all the action was. There was a patio outside our suite with a fountain and a giant kumquat tree. There was beer and wine in a mini fridge for $1 a glass. Best of all, the weather was 70F and clear, compared with 30F and snowy in Minnesota.