So We Went to New Orleans…
As you can imagine, 2020 was a hell of a year here in Casa Cameron as it was everywhere else in the world. The last time I went out for recreational purposes was March 13, 2020. By the time the one-year anniversary of that date rolled around, Ramón and I were in gradually crumbling shape. We went out to the store, to medical/dental/vet appointments, and to drop off the taxes. That was it. We hadn’t gone out for a meal, the movies, to see people, or to travel anywhere in over a year.
And then the vaccines became available, God bless the scientists who came up with them. Both of us qualified for Texas’s 1B tier so I scrambled to get both of us vaccination slots. That happened in late March and early April — my second shot was on April 3, and by April 17 we were both fully vaccinated.
That night, I booked a flight to New Orleans. We had been dreaming of going somewhere, anywhere, for months once it was safe for us to do so. Out of the country, however, was unfeasible due to COVID restrictions, so we settled on a long weekend in NOLA, which Ramón had only visited once a couple of years ago. We figured getting out of the house for a whole four days would be one hell of a tonic, and I had money from a contract project I’d done in March and April that would cover air fare, hotel costs, food/drink, and any entertainment. I didn’t mention this to anyone for security reasons, and also because NOLA is my sister’s favorite place in the world and she would set my hair on fire if she found out we were going without her.
Finally, our departure date arrived last Thursday, and I swear to God it was hilarity itself. After fourteen months of every day being like the day before we had forgotten how to get ready for a trip. We wound up running around like headless chickens trying to bring everything that we thought we’d need (and somehow I still managed to leave my melatonin behind), get the house ready for the cat sitter, print off boarding tickets and hotel registration, etc. I have to be honest, it felt like prepping for an Apollo mission.
But Thursday afternoon we got everything loaded into the car, thanked the (fully vaccinated) cat sitter profusely, reassured the J Crew that we loved them, and headed off to DFW. My paycheck had extended itself to business class seats, so the flight to NOLA was comfortable (helped by the Bailey’s on ice I had, since I wouldn’t be driving anywhere once we landed), and getting through security had been a breeze. The other end was something of a different story, as we’d landed out in Ulan Bator and getting to the baggage claim was a challenge for Nick the Gimp whose mask was now soaked with respirated moisture and had to stop twice to pull it away from my face and gasp for breath. By the time we braved the taxi queue and got one to take us to the Four Points Sheraton on Bourbon, I sortakinda wanted to pass out. I mean, I hadn’t moved that much in over a year, and it showed.
Our hotel, however, was a thing of beauty, right on Bourbon Street so we could watch the assorted party people from our balcony on Toulouse. Even better, they’d instituted a policy where housekeeping wouldn’t come into our room unless we requested it. Since we could do towel exchanges at the door and I was perfectly capable of tidying the bathroom and making a bed, this was fantastic — we could sleep in and not worry about the eventual knock on the door and the call of “Housekeeping.” After I requested extra pillows and blankets, the bed became comfortable (remember, I’ve been spoiled rotten by my Purple mattress) and we were ready for the weekend.
Now, there had been some changes to the French Quarter thanks to COVID. The hotel’s restaurant and bar were closed, so we couldn’t eat there. Servers were few and run off their feet, so getting into any restaurant usually required a wait. I made sure to be extremely kind and tip like a rock star, but it helped things in the eating department when we discovered this awesome coffee shop called Cafe Conti (in the Hotel St. Marie on the corner of Toulouse and Dauphin) that made some of the best damn chicken salad sandwiches I have ever tasted, and had a full range of bagels and other breakfast goodies. Those, bags of nuts and trail mix, and slices of pizza from various Bourbon joints pretty much fed us while we were in the Quarter (which also saved on money, so yay).
But Bourbon itself was still the party street it’s been for decades. We had to wear masks into bars, but could take them off once we started drinking, and most people weren’t wearing them outside in any case. And Lord, it was a sheer delight seeing people enjoying themselves again.
That being said, I could tell by Friday morning that I was going to have issues walking due to ShitKnee. Ramón, bless his heart, located a Walgreen’s and brought back the niftiest folding cane, as well as bottles of water and pop. The cane allowed me to get around with a minimum of pain, so we were able to stroll up and down Bourbon, go down to Jackson Square for a carriage ride around the FQ and Marigny, and generally Be Outside With People. Which felt very weird, I’m not gonna lie. We almost undoubtedly came into contact with SARS-CoV-2 at some point, so it’ll be interesting to see if we develop any symptoms by May 23. Me, I’m betting on Pfizer and Moderna kicking its ass, but I’m taking Vitamin D and ashwagandha anyway because they can’t hurt.
But even my new cane could only do so much, so I spent some hours out on the balcony people watching. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me that was a ball (spotting not one but two men rolling down Toulouse on hoverboards with large snakes draped around their necks was notable). Ramón took those opportunities to head out for a few solo walks, do some shopping, and take pictures. When he came back, we’d go for a swim in the hotel pool or hang out on the bed napping or talking (often about socio-economic issues, because we’re wonks like that). To be honest, it was heaven.
By Sunday morning I was ready to go home to my own bed, but my heart and my spirit felt so much better. I could tell because I cranked out a K on The Crimson and the Black while we were at the MSY Lounge at the airport without breaking a sweat, and I know exactly where I’m going with the story from that point onward. Ramón also felt heaps better, and he’s got a slew of projects he wants to do over the Christmas hols. Me, I’m musing on where our next trip will take us.
One thing I noticed — if I had to spend time with someone in fairly close quarters I told them that Ramón and I were fully vaccinated. Almost 99% of the time the response was, “Oh, so am I, it’s okay.” That was from both tourists and locals, so clearly 1) NOLA attracts intelligent tourists, and 2) the city is taking vaccinations a lot more seriously than places like, oh, Texas (40.1% of Orleans Parish residents are fully vaccinated, as opposed to 30.4% of Texas residents). So if you’re vaccinated, you’ve spent the last fourteen months cooped up, and you really need to get out for a bit, I heartily recommend that you head down to NOLA and laissez les bons temps rouler. And if you stop off at Cafe Conti, tell them Miss Nicola sent you.