Red Beans and Ricely

Last week we took a family vacation to New Orleans, Louisiana. I realize that “New Orleans” and “family vacation” are not normally associated, but I assure you that 1) New Orleans has TONS of family-friendly activities, especially if your kids are in elementary school or older, and 2) this post is NOT sponsored by their tourism board. Additionally, the Junior Olympics were being held while we were there, so there were even more children than usual.

The cast of characters:

Tyler, me, my mom

Jensen, Jason, and Hollyn

And the Pumpkin, our rented chariot:

I can honestly say that this vacation would not have been possible two years ago, and maybe even last year. It has taken that long to hammer decent manners into their little heads. We warned them ahead of time that it would be hot, that we were going to do a lot of walking, and that they’d be trying a lot of new foods.

To the childrens’ credit, I did not hear a single whine about the heat or the walking. They were absolute troopers – we probably covered 3 or more miles per day in 90 degree temperatures. We didn’t use the car once from the time we arrived on Saturday until we left on Friday. 

Two-thirds of the children made excellent food choices, but one put up a fight at almost every meal. At first, she would glance over the menu and declare, “There is nothing here that I will eat.” Then she tried to bargain. “Can they make it without seasoning/sauce/flavor?”  The other two ate raw oysters, alligator tail, and duck gumbo. 

Tyler had his eighth birthday while we were in New Orleans, and we started the day off right:

After that breakfast of champions, we went to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Later, we celebrated his birthday dinner at Galatoire’s:

My mom wanted to buy him a birthday present from New Orleans, and we saved that shopping trip for the last day. After a few hours of fruitless searching, I let him peek his head in Rev. Zombie’s House of Voodoo. Game, set, match. He was in heaven.   

Later in the week, we went to the Audubon Zoo, where we met this Ladder Bear, who apparently was hot. Or sad. Or emo:

Buck up, Ladder Bear. This way lies inner peace:

 I’m not going to lie, it was not a relaxing week. Traveling with three generations is a bit of a balancing act – but my mom didn’t complain about the heat or the walking, either. (But that’s because she’s tougher than you are. She played field hockey.) We made sure to keep everyone hydrated, and scheduled a nice block of down time every afternoon for the kids to relax at the hotel pool before dinner.

New Orleans is my favorite city in the United States. My family used to go every other year or so when I was growing up.  It’s a Greek tragedy of a city, full of beauty and suffering. It’s a city I loved when I was a kid, and I love the same city now – for entirely different reasons.

It was hard to come back; partly because I can never do enough there, and partly because we didn’t have a home to come back to. Friday morning I woke up thinking, “Tonight I’ll sleep in my own…. oh. Never mind.” We joked with friends that it was pointless to go on vacation since we were already living out of suitcases.

But come back we did, all six of us in the Pumpkin. And life rolls on like the Mississippi.

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