Best Birthday Ever!

February 6th was my 50th birthday. Not a day I have been looking forward to but not one I had been dreading either. Ordinarily I am not one to get too caught up in a number, but this one was a quite different. My 49th year was excruciatingly painful and not a year I would ever, ever wish on another person. My birthday, in particular was very lonely for a variety of reasons. When I look back to this time last year I realize that I was on the verge of figuring out a number of troubling facts, one of which was my cloak of invisibility that I didn’t realize I had been wearing. I would find out near the end of this month, 2016. This blog was one of my attempts to shed that cloak, and thanks to this wonderful community, I know it is working. I feel stronger now then I did then, or have in a long time.

For my milestone birthday, my husband and I have been in New Orleans and I have posted about the first part of our trip in Beignets, Bourbon street and Breaking a Sweat in New Orleans! Today I will write about the birthday plans. My husband surprised me with a tour of a plantation, an airboat ride through the bayou and a fabulous french dinner.

We started out at Destrehan plantation. I have to admit, being from Seattle I don’t think about Louisiana when the topic of slavery comes up. Georgia, Virginia and Mississippi spring to mind. But of course there were numerous plantations all along the Mississippi River and Destrehan Plantation was one of the most prosperous. The property is still beautiful and the main house has been restored with much of the original art work, building materials and furnishings. The first thing that caught my attention were the numerous oak trees and the spanish moss that symbiotically thrives on them.

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This massive branch was a small part of the larger tree

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The main house was set a little way from the main road, which of course did not exist in the 1700’s. The entire plantation was self sustaining with a black smith, small trading post run by the slaves for profit which they kept and 2 hospitals. Each plantation was so far from one another that they had to be more like small cities.

The main house had a wrap around porch wide enough for four adults to walk side by side. These pictures are from the butlers pantry, two views of the room held by the lady of the house (who had 14 children!), the Master’s room and the eldest daughters bed, where she died from yellow fever.

The slave’s quarters were considerably more modest, as you can imagine!

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By our count, 2 adults and 5 children lived together here

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The adult bed

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An example of a child’s sleeping area

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This was a separate building called the wash room

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all the laundry for the plantation was done here

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Part of the blacksmith area

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A loom that was maintained in the main house, used to make all the clothing needed by the slaves and master’s family

The tour guide took great pains to remind us how great the slaves in Louisiana were treated compared to the other slaves in the south. Still, two slaves were found guilty of collusion in the uprising of 1811 and put to death-guess no one told them how great they had it!

After the plantation we made our way over to the airboat tour. The boats were noisy, fast and fun! We began by moving through the canals of the bayou, and were immediately impressed by the many cypress trees that naturally grow in the swampy water.

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More Spanish moss, it was everywhere!

We moved from the bayou into the marsh, were there were less trees and a lot more snakes! The water moccasins were masters of camouflage and I never got a good picture, the alligators were a little easier to spot.

 

We wrapped up our outing and were pretty tired after the 5 hours of history and eco tourism! Our next stop was an amazing dinner at Bayona. My brilliant husband made this reservation in advance. This restaurant was neither cajun nor creole, it was traditional french and delicious!

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My first cocktail of the evening

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Crispy Quail Salad

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Rabbit Ravioli! 

It was the perfect end to a fantastic birthday celebration! My hubby will have a tough time out doing this one next year! No Pressure!

My final gift was one that a gave to myself. I have never been a tattoo kind of girl, but this year needed, begged really, for something different. I needed to take my invisible-no-more concept to a new level and I wanted my outside to reflect the intense growth I have been experiencing through my mid life crisis. So,

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This is the celtic symbol for New Beginnings. Thank you New Orleans and my dear husband for an amazing trip!

 

Beignets, Bourbon street and Breaking a Sweat in New Orleans!

I have wanted to visit New Orleans for years. I have read so many novels set in the big easy that I feel like I have already been to the French Quarter several times. For my 50th birthday, my husband and I, are finally crossing this one of my bucket list. We set out on Friday and spent all day in airports so did not arrive until dark.  All we had time for was a quick catfish po’boy and some chicory coffee ice cream. We are staying at the Lafitte Guest House right on Bourbon Street. Probably not the best choice as it is crazy, all day and night! We are not sleeping a lot but can walk everywhere we want without the need of a car, taxi or horse driven carriage.

Saturday we set out for a full day. Our first foray was to the convention center. Ya, I know. Who goes to the convention center for sightseeing? We were registered for the Rock and Roll  10K and had to pick up our packets in person. The convention center is accessible from the Riverwalk located along the Mississippi River, which I have never seen so that was the path we chose. Here are a few of the sights we captured along the way.

The convention center itself is rather impressive. We clocked the length from our entry point to the other side and it was 1/2 mile long! It was the biggest convention center we have ever encountered!

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This was my favorite statue in the convention center

Now that this errand was completed it was time to do something I have always dreamed about, a trip to Cafe Du Monde for chicory coffee and beignets! To say the line was long would be an understatement. And, the look on my husband’s face sent a very clear message-why do you want to stand in this huge line for some donuts? He did not dare actually say that to me because he knew this was a critical component to my birthday trip, but he was not eager for the experience. Fortunately the line moved quite fast. I was able to snap some fun shots and enjoyed the treats!

Now that we were full of fried dough and powdered sugar, we had plenty of energy for The Museum of Death. It was nearby and all the good Voodoo shops were on the other side of the city-so, why not? This museum is full of letters from serial killers, crime scene photos and torture gadgets. It’s a distinctive New Orleans experience so we went for it. They do not allow pictures inside the exhibits (which is probably for the best) so I have just a couple shots of the outside.

My husband was left feeling slightly destabilized by the experience but quickly recovered enough to head over to one of the historic, local cemeteries but we were not able to enter without a tour group and decided we had enough death for awhile. We returned to Bourbon street and found it swollen with people. It was hard to walk down the middle of the street due to the crush of humanity drinking, dancing and watching the many street musicians. I tried to photograph a small fraction of the action.

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One of my favorite sights in the city are the decorated balconies on the buildings

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We saw 2 or 3 celebratory wedding processions that parade down several streets with a police escort

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That evening we put our walking shoes on again and went to Harrahs Casino for our pre run dinner and some black jack. We lost $55 dollars but the buffet fueled us up so it was all good. We ended up logging just under 9 miles for the day!

Sunday morning we woke up at 5:30am and started prepping for the run. I didn’t take my camera because I was busy running, but I did get a proof of completion shot of the medals.

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The run was great, the course flat and the weather perfect. I ran the 1/2 marathon in both Seattle and Vancouver B.C. last year and there were too many hills and cold! I am hoping to convince my husband to head back this way next year to run the half here. We did have to walk to the start line, run the 6.2 miles and then walk 3+ miles back to the hotel. We found lunch somewhere nearby and are now getting ready to watch the super bowl. This was a 12 mile day for us and we are tired!

Tomorrow, I turn 50, Ugh! My husband has some big plans and I am excited about that part, not the aging!