After hours of driving in the dark, through what seemed to be raised highways above trees, we arrived in New Orleans at 11pm. Google maps took us through small, winding streets and I could see the shadows of houses with porches and old trees. When we arrived outside our hotel in the French Quarter, the street was dark and vacant, and I had trouble seeing the hotel sign. Was anyone around to let us in?
I hopped out of the Mini Cooper, a little disheveled and amped, eager to get my head on the pillow. Seeing the hotel sign hanging amid gas lamps, I spotted the little call box outside the large green doors of the hotel. Driving in the dark always gets my nerves up, so I was a little rushed as I relayed who we were and that we were late check-ins. Immediately, the door groaned open and out stepped a man from a bygone era. He was wearing a velvet hat and emerald vest, and when he spoke my pulse slowed down to meet his southern drawl. I felt quite underdressed in my brief tank top and jean shorts, but he politely urged us to leave the car and head inside through the door.
Inside was a magical courtyard full of palms, overgrown ferns, and happy moss soaking up the humidity. We were taken up a small windy staircase to our room, which had an old world French feel and was brimming with antiques.
In the morning, we were awoken with offers of fresh biscuits and coffee in the courtyard.
Welcome to the Soniat House, a boutique hotel that’s even better looking in the daylight.
Walking outside the hotel gates, New Orleans hit me like a ton of bricks. I think I walked three blocks with my mouth agape, wondering how I had never been here before.
I had no preconceived ideas of New Orleans before our visit, so I really didn’t know what to expect.
The buildings are beautiful, the ironwork is old, and the heat gives a feeling of excitement and anticipation. As I snapped photos of everything, Jon and I decided we had to stay an extra day.
We arrived in Jackson square for the first time to a brass band joyfully pumping music through the streets. I felt myself suddenly holding back tears, overwhelmed by the beauty of the city, the suffering caused by hurricane Katrina, and the optimistic trumpet, boasting that it would triumph over anything.
It took me less than five minutes to see how special New Orleans is.
From there, we visited the Louisiana State Museum to learn about the founding and development of the region. New Orleans, in particular, has an incredibly rich history, was founded by crooks and thieves, and has bore the flag of several different countries before it became part of the United States via the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
And it was there, in that museum, that I also found proof that Jon is a vampire.
He was very slowly reading each plaque and as I’m rather turned off by dense information, I went looking for amusement elsewhere. I wandered into a stairwell to examine the detailed and creepy death mask of Napoleon (thanks for Louisiana, by the way!). I turn around to head up the staircase and there, across the way, is a large painting of…well…Jon.
I studied the face so thoroughly, in shock at the similarities. The chin, the eyebrows, even the grey eyes that looked back at me. Does anyone else see this!? I thought.
It’s proof that he is, in fact, of the undead. I did have my suspicions…
What do you do next after finding out your fiancé is a vampire? You hightail it to the Voodoo Museum and buy yourself some protection candles!
After many hours of walking and exploring (my favorite thing to do in a new city), we decided on another spooky activity and booked a ghost tour. I love ghost tours, but I am quite scared of the dark and I have a vivid imagination, so they tend to be counter to a good night’s sleep. As we walked the streets of New Orleans our tour guide pointed out haunted buildings, horrible crimes, and as the tour neared our hotel I thought, please don’t let the hotel be a stop! Instead, the guide pointed out the convent across the street, where it was believed that the nuns were raising vampires. She didn’t get my joke when I said I had discovered one myself!
We were sure to get beignets from Cafe du Monde (maybe more than once…) and enjoyed dinner on Frenchman’s Street, accompanied by wonderful live music. New Orleans is so full of life, it’s bursting with art and music wherever you turn!
New Orleans -> Mobile
Distance: 177 miles
Driving Time: 3 hours, 3 minutes
Sad to leave New Orleans, we first drove south to Jean Lafitte National Park to see the swamps where the famous French pirate and privateer lived with his roving band of smugglers.
Simultaneously fascinated and horrified, I walked the path through the marsh, where everything moved and wriggled. Above our heads were giant spiders, hanging their webs across the walkway right at eye level. They were not small, by the way, and I spent my time walking around like a hunchback, making sure I wasn’t going to eat any spider webs.
Jon carried on, poking things with his umbrella like a true British explorer.
Surviving the swamp, we headed back north and passed through a very brief sliver of Mississippi.
Soon, we crossed into Alabama and we were greeted with a huge rainbow, that stayed with us for several miles.
The Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage had just been passed the day before, and it felt like Alabama was finally letting their rainbow hang proud.
As we drove further away, I wanted to turn the car around and head back to New Orleans. I missed eating biscuits in overgrown courtyards and felt there was much more to see. Already resolved to return, I looked forward to adventuring deeper into the south with my vampire companion.