Stan, my boss, has been trying to get Keilee and I to come to New Orleans for 2 years.† I had told Keilee that I would take her for her 13th birthday and after a tough 6 months we were ready for an adventure.
Stan is filming a movie and told Kei that she could get an extra role.† We decided to take the train.† We both have ridden a train for a 3 hour tour [why am I humming Gilligan's Island now?] but this was a 7 1/2 hour trip.We packed way too much, got Daddy to take us to Birmingham and hopped on.
WARNING: This post will have WAY too many pictures but you just can’t go to New Orleans without taking tons of pictures.
The trip down:† The train ride was wonderful.† We rode Coach but had plenty of room.† We packed our lunch and spent the trip playing cards, watching DVD’s, reading and just laughing and talking.† It was so awesome to just watch the towns and states go by.
We got there around 7:30.† Stan had a Production meeting and he sent a driver!† We got† off the train to see a man dressed in a suit holding a sign that said, “Karen and Keilee”.† He loaded our bags into his Lincoln Town Car and off we went.† The hotel was beautiful.† It was a Westin and Stan had gotten a room for the film and wasn’t using it. This is one of the main reasons we were able to go. FREE room!!† After we were settled in we just walked around and got something to eat and came back to the room.
We woke up Monday and started walking and couldn’t believe all the wonderful things we saw.† We walked almost everywhere.† We did catch the bus a couple of days when we were going too far to walk.† Stan also chauffeured us a couple of times.
Our first stop was for breakfast at Cafe du Monde.† Every.single.person that we told we were coming to NOLA said to go here for beignets.† They were delicious!!!
After eating we decided to explore Saint Louis Cathedral. This church has been in existence since 1727!† In mostly burned down in 1788 and was rebuilt the following year.
We stayed so busy the entire time.† Here are bits and pictures of the most interesting things we did.
WORLD WAR II MUSEUM
This was awesome.† What is so cool is that we are studying this now.† We had no clue New Orleans had this museum when we first planned our trip.† Keilee adores museums more than just about anything.† She said in her perfect world there would be a town with museum after museum after museum.† This one was spectacular.† I learned SO MUCH!
Every few feet they had little media areas with videos and audio by real people who were there during the war.† They also had tons of 7 to 9 minute videos.† It made everything so much more real to actually see and hear people talking about it.
We spent a† couple of hours of Tuesday and Thursday on the set.† Keilee had a chance to be an extra in the movie.† They were filming 2 days at the zoo.† The call was for 5:30 AM and lasted most of 2 days.† After talking about it she decided not to do it.† She said she would rather explore New Orleans.† She has been an extra before and it isn’t that exciting.† She did get to meet Alexis Bledel [of "Gilmore Girls" and "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" fame].† Keilee just went up and started talking to her and they chatted for about 5 minutes.† She asked Keilee her name and Kei told her how Gilmore Girls was both of our favorite shows of all time.† The top right picture is Keilee and my boss Stan talking about the film business.† He has been in it for over 30 years.
THE NEW ORLEANS ZOO
Keilee’s love for acting runs neck in neck with her love of all things animals.† We spent 4 hours at the zoo.† The weather was perfect and we both had such a ball.† I so wish that there was a zoo near here.† She would love to do some of the programs they do.† We took TONS of pictures here.† Actually Keilee took all of these unless she is in the shot.
It was fascinating watching how the elephants stood on big branches and broke them.† Elephants are just so beautiful. There is something wise and old as time about them.
The big cats were gorgeous.† It was a warm sunny day and most of them were just relaxing in the sun.
This was the “Petting Zoo” portion of the zoo.† We spent a lot of time here.
A gorgeous cockatoo.† We learned they live to be 80 years old and how many end up at the zoo after people realize how much work they are.† What a personality this sweet girl had!† She was so beautiful.† And look at this parrot!
Seriously I could have stayed for hours just watching these.† So sweet and funny.
This was a male and female and we just fell in love with them.† They were so unbelievably loving toward each other.† We watched them for 20 minutes and at no time did they not touch each other in some way.
This orangutan was our favorite.† He was playing it for all it was worth to his audience.† A guy had a potato chip and he spotted it and jumped as close as he could get and held out his hand.† He also kept blowing kisses to all of us.† We loved him.
I have always felt torn about Zoos. On the one hand where else can you see such beauty all in one place but on the other hand it is sad to me for them to all be in cages.† Even though zoos do so much good for endangered animals.† I love the giraffes.† Giraffes are my favorite animal and has been all my life.
The last pictures are of the sea lions.† Seals are Keilee’s favorite animals.† She had such a hard time getting good pictures because they never stopped moving.† She wanted to jump in there with them so badly!
The weather was beyond perfect.† 70′s all week long.† We both got so much sun and thankfully had brought clothes that we didn’t burn up in.† They are getting ready for Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl and there were people everywhere setting up stands and all sorts of things.
The day before we left we took a New Orleans tour and Cemetery tour.† We had our own tour guide.† She was a historian and told us SO many things we didn’t know.† It was like a 3 hours history lesson.† The cemeteries were fascinating.† I had wanted to visit these most of all.
We learned that the graves are not built above ground because of the weather but because that is the way the French and Spanish had always done it.† The tradition has continued because of the flooding.† She explained how the bodies would be buried and then dug up after 1 year and 1 day, the bones ground up and placed at the bottom of the crypt and the coffin destroyed.† It is now ready for the next family member.
Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo Queen, is supposedly buried here.† Her tomb was very interesting.† It was 3 “XXX” all over it and people had left all sorts of things.† This is what we found when we researched it:
The thousands of Xís are largely the result of tour groups, who have paid to learn how to practice Voodoo. Their instructions always include breaking a brick off of other tombs (notice the neighboring tombs depleted of their bricks) and a combination of steps which involve spinning around three times, scratching three Xís on the tomb, knocking on it, or rubbing a foot on it or hollering at it or kicking it, etc., (everyone does it slightly, if not very, differently from everyone else) and then leaving an offering to get a wish granted. (Incidentally, since 2005, it has been illegal to mark on Marie Laveau’s, or any other, tomb in New Orleans.) Also, once a year, on All Saints Day, the Monette family, whose tomb is just across from Marie Laveau’s, repaints the entire tomb white.)
After the cemetery tour we toured Armstrong Park and other places of interest.
The entire vibe of the city is unlike anything I have ever seen.† I have lived in San Francisco and it wasn’t like this.† Everyone seemed to be happy and full of joy.† There is music everywhere and wonderful smells of food.† We spent a couple of hours at the French Market which was such fun.
Stan took us out to eat our last night at a wonderful restaurant called Muriels.† The food was unbelievable.† Keilee got a fish called Puppy Drum that we had never heard of.† She also ate†CrËme br˚lÈe for the first time.
Stan decided to upgrade our tickets home to first class on the train so we got a sleeper car!† It was AWESOME!!!† Seriously I think I would rather do that than fly.† We got all of our meals, which were delicious and met some of the greatest people.† It was a perfect end to our trip.
This was just what we needed.† We have been home for 3 days and I don’t feel like I usually do after a trip, just glad to be home.† I want to go back!† It was that awesome.
I have had a couple of non-homeschooling people say to me, “So do you have to make up a lot of work that Keilee missed?” and I just laugh to myself.† Really?† We learned more in a week than we would have learned in 2 months sitting at home.† 4 hours of WWII, 4 hours of animals, 3 hours of the history of New Orleans and more!† Learning at its very best.
I am so thankful that we had this opportunity.† It was a perfect 13th birthday for my girl!
ìThe world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.î ñSt. Augustine
ìTwenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didnít do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.î ñMark Twain