The sun peeked over the trees (and our blockade) and woke us up around 6:45AM. We decided to get a jump start on the day since we had 2 stops to accomplish. We broke down, packed up, and managed to be out of the KOA by 7:30AM. We headed straight out to the USS Alabama to spend some time on Memorial Day weekend, remembering the sacrifices of those before us.
The USS Alabama is a preserved/restored BB60 Battleship that served in the Pacific during World War II. It rests within Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama alongside numerous restored/preserved relics of American Military Prowess. (Multiple tanks, a submarine, planes, jets, bombers, and rockets just to name a few) The USS Alabama was originally going to be scrapped but was ultimately saved by statewide fundraising efforts. Interestingly enough, this park is not maintained by tax money which gives one a true sense of the love and appreciation Alabama has for their namesake battleship.
The park offers a few options for self-guided tours of the ship, and after purchasing tickets they provide a piece of paper that outlines the attractions along on the tour lines. We opted for the “Yellow Tour” which enabled us to climb the upper levels of the ship as well as the outer-decks for better vantages out over the sea. As wells as admire all the weaponry that was used during warfare. The self-guided tour took around an hour to complete, but gives one a solid understanding of what it means to move around in such tight quarters.
We left the ship and headed into the airplane hangar where they display the jets and planes they have acquired as part of the memorial. We even got a look at a “field-style” ambulance - which offered 2 bunks for the wounded in the back (one at a time for me please, thank you). We wandered around for a while and then continued outside to see a WWII Submarine, the USS Drum which is the oldest American submarine on display in the world. It was only around this time that we realized we had been terrible fools and forgotten sunscreen. Partially cooked, we headed back to the car to make our way toward our next destination – New Orleans, Louisiana.
We drove towards Mississippi and felt our bellies grumble. So we searched and searched for food that would be close to us, however there was none. There were no grocery stores, no markets, nothing except for Waffle House, Sonic, Chick-fil-A, and the increasingly popular Arby’s. All of them death traps. Hangry, stressed and out of options, we exited the roadway to the Mississippi Welcome Center, hoping they might be able to provide some direction for relief in this food desert. We walked into one of the nicest welcome centers to date. It had an Antebellum Plantation style appeal which is so popular in the South. The woman behind the counter was named Leann, and she offered us ice cold sweet tea and some much needed guidance. She showed us an area where we would have better luck finding food for me, as well as a more scenic route through Mississippi along the Coastal Roads. Rejuvenated and determined, we hit the road again for the coast. We found a Mellow Mushroom and stuffed our faces with gluten free pizza. Satisfied after splitting 2 pizzas, we headed down the coastline. It looked exactly like Pensacola, but was significantly less crowded, lighter traffic, and nicer looking hotels. But I suppose no one ever says that they want to go to Mississippi Beaches for vacation?
We made our way in to the French Quarter of New Orleans and were immediately introduced to one of her less fine traits. The smell of these streets is vaguely reminiscent of the Sunday morning after a weekend bender at a frat house. That familiar nostalgia mixed with humidity, and sun-baked horse manure, creates a potent perfume that singes the nose hairs and lodges itself in your sinuses and memories. Despite this pungent odor, we were somehow hungry. We walked out of Le Richielieu and headed toward the French market. We stopped at El Gato Negro and gorged ourselves on a pitcher of sangria and enchiladas. Primed and ready to take on The French Quarter and Bourbon Street, we stepped out into the heat and explored. We headed back up toward the French Market and walked along the mighty Mississippi for a bit. Then wandered down the streets along some of the parks and admired some of the local artistry.
We encountered a wedding processional strutting down Bourbon Street; the bride and groom looking elated. Following behind them was their closest friends and family, all dancing to the jazzy beats of one of a New Orleans Original “Iko Iko” - complete with a motorcycle police escort. We enjoyed their processional, and wandered into voodoo shops, to-go cocktail bars, and along the streets themselves. After a few hours of drinking and inhaling the hefty aroma of the streets, we headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
We woke up at a lazy 8:30AM in our hotel and began to try and figure our breakfast options. We set out to walking and found an extremely tiny hole in the wall coffee joint called Spitfire. With barely enough room to turn around you begin to wonder if its worth it. We ordered drinks, and then realized that what we had ordered came in the teeniest tiniest baby cups. We began to really question if it was worth it. And, it was. Thank god! Absolutely delicious coffee and plenty of zing to get us going to walk around all day. We sipped our tiny coffee and walked around in search of breakfast. The first restaurant we went to had purported themselves as gluten free and found their way on to my app. Turns out when you ask them for a menu, they look like they’ve seen a ghost, and it becomes “Oh, ah, welllllllll……” let me tell you, this instills A LOT of confidence. After watching 3 servers hem and haw about if they can feed me, Joe and I politely told them we were no longer interested, and ran out.
We managed to find another hotel called the Bourbon House who was able to accommodate my needs, but by that I mean there was exactly one thing that I could eat safely. However, I very much enjoyed my Cajun potatoes and eggs.
Truthfully, traveling down the east coast was fairly easy as far as it came to food. There was always *SOMEWHERE* (It may have been only one place but it was somewhere) for me to find safe food. Normally, we have to travel an average of 50 miles between safe locations. We figured that being in New Orleans, inside the French Quarter, would allow us a little bit of flexibility as far as food goes. Incorrect. There were in fact a myriad of restaurants who stated that they offer gluten free menus, however when you call them because you can’t find their menu, they ask you what you mean. They take a moment, and then, as if the connection has finally been made, they brightly inform me that I cannot have the dairy items included on their menus and that they cannot guarantee my safety. This is agonizing. It is awful getting hopes up to be able to eat culturally relevant foods, and then have them dashed by the fact that no one is willing to take the time to feed you.
Placated by mimosa and breakfast, we paid our check and headed out the door. However a surprise waited for me on the streets! Turns out New Orleans wanted to greet us properly, so a local man - heavily enveloped in the city’s pungent perfume (and adorned with oddities including a black fine toothed comb half in his shaggy beard and half inside his nose), curtsied, and opened his palm. Inside was a small, green…. banana. Plantain? I’m not entirely sure. I said thank you but no, and turned to walk away in the opposite direction and was greeted by another pan handle curtsy. Caught in the panhandle curtsy triangle, we wriggled our way past their offerings while giving our thanks and skirted down bourbon street. We wandered down the streets trying to find something to pique our interests. Lost wandering in the same way that so many had been wandering before, we meandered into Boutique du Vampyre and admired their wares. The woman behind the register could see the appreciation in our eyes and offered us a map to the cities unique secrets. She showed us where to find séance rooms (Muriel’s) and utterly fabulous cocktails, as well as where to get the best absinthe (hint: Pirate Alley) which offered up to 140 proof absinthe. Holy licorice, Batman!
After chasing my absinthe with a random concoction created by our bartender, we wobbled the streets between more to-go bars. And headed back to the hotel in order to figure out our plans for dinner. We called restaurant, after restaurant, after restaurant…… after restaurant. (How can there be a food desert in one of the most gluttonous cities that America has to offer?!) We took this as a small blessing in disguise because as we searched for dinner, New Orleans took this time to cleanse herself, and it rained. Frustrated with the continuous barrage of “No” we decided on a dinner at the El Gato Negro again, as well as enjoying dessert - which was by far and away the best flan that I have ever had the pleasure of eating. So thank you to El Gato Negro for multiple safe meals.
We headed back to the hotel exhausted after a day of wandering and collapsed in our bed.