Exploring Cajun Country

Thanks to Samantha’s encouragement and patience, I awoke on Wednesday with an eagerness to (finally) explore.  I wanted to wait for her to see the French Quarter, so I started by hopping back in the car and checking out a few sights that I’d marked around the area.  The first place I went to see was over an hour away.

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I took the highway out of New Orleans and headed southwest on I-90.  I crossed a magnificent bridge across the Bayou des Allemends before seeing my first lift bridge in Houma, which carried me across the Bayou Terrebonne.  I followed that same canal for about ten miles until I stopped at the Smith Ridge Bridge.

Smithridge Bridge-4

The little green span was a single-lane crossing over the Bayou Petit Galillou.  It’s a swing bridge, meaning it rotates in the center to allow a lane of passage for boats.  A man fished contentedly on the dock as I walked the area, snapping photos and taking it all in.  No boats needed to pass through while I was there, sadly, so I didn’t get to see it swing open.  Still, it was worth the drive!

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Instead of heading straight back to downtown NOLA, I sought out a few neon signs in the area.  In Laplace, they had a spinning mug of root beer at the Frostop Drive-In.  On the western edge of New Orleans, I snapped a few more photos along Veterans Boulevard and the surrounding area.

I saw several places that looked like they would serve a terrific lunch, but I had a specific place in mind: Bud’s Broiler.

Buds

The local chain started in 1952, though the oldest location still operating (#2) opened four years later.  That’s where I headed.  Like the best burger dives, the menu was limited and the customers were regulars.  Burgers were charcoal broiled on an old brick grill.  I enjoyed my delicious lunch at one of a handful of two-seater tables and observed the generations of New Orleanians doing the same around me.

Bridge New O

A few miles away, I stopped again.  The Magnolia Bridge at Bayou St John is one of the oldest bridges in the city.  The small two-span crossing originally served streetcar traffic and was also a swing bridge. Today it carries only pedestrians and stays in one place as the waterway isn’t used by boat traffic any more.  The nearby Cabrini High School made for a nice backdrop as I admired the old bridge.

Crescent City Conn

When I returned downtown, I took a walk around the (insanely large) convention center to get a better view of the enormous cantilever bridges that span the Mississippi River.  They’re called the Crescent City Connection in honor of one of the city’s nicknames.  The first span was built in 1958 and the second one was completed in 1988.  They’re beautiful!

Cafe Du Monde

When Samantha’s day at the convention finished, we finally boarded the Riverside Trolley and headed to the French Quarter.  First, we stopped at Cafe du Monde for a beignet and coffee.  Well, I had coffee, anyway.  I drink mine black but I had to at least try the Cafe Au Lait, one of their specialties.  The cafe is a tourist magnet, having been around since 1862 and open 24 hours a day.  The cafe was staffed mostly with immigrants; our waitress didn’t speak English and just pointed to the simple menu printed on the napkin dispenser.  The beignets were marvelous!

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For dinner, we walked to Pat O’Briens, a restaurant known for their Hurricane cocktails.  It was another place that was mostly peopled with out-of-towners but the food wasn’t bad.  Neither Samantha or I like seafood (which makes dining in New Orleans less of a big deal) but the blackened chicken was really flavorful.  While we enjoyed the patio ambiance, Sam told me that the first time she visited she dreamed of bringing the love of her life to that place.  It’s a dream I was so happy to make a reality. ❤

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After dinner, we went back to the hotel.  The French Quarter was nearly abandoned, both before and after dinner.  I assume it was the calm before the Mardi Gras storm, but we encountered maybe a dozen other people on the streets not counting the solitary tarot readers in the square.  It may have picked up as it got later (we headed back to the hotel at about 9:00 PM) but as it was, it was a little eerie.  We planned to return the following day during a long break in Sam’s schedule, which I was really looking forward to.

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
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