We woke up at 3am CST to get ready for our trip to New Orleans to attend my brother Michael’s wedding to his bride and my new sister Johnna. We departed at 6:05am from Minneapolis airport with a stopover in Chicago before our final destination in New Orleans, LA.
Besides myself the travelers were Jason(my husband), Jena , Makenzie and Jena’s boyfriend Chris. Makenzie had not been on a plane since she was a baby so this was very exciting for her. We flew Southwest airlines which is my preferred airline. Being that I worked for them in my early twenties, I know and love their service. As we got on board I mentioned to the flight attendant that this was her first plane ride (okay I fibbed a bit, she was a baby last time) does that count? Anyway, Mak did so well on the flight, even slept. Once we landed in Chicago I hear the flight attendant asking everyone to congratulate Makenzie on her flight. The flight attendant came over and gave her wings and then a certificate with her name and signed by the pilot. Makenzie was escorted up to the cockpit where she sat with the pilot and took a picture. Great start to our trip!
When we arrived in NOLA, it was 11:30 am. The airport is not large, so it is easy to deplane and grab your bags quickly. We got a cab and reached our hotel. We stayed in the Quarter at a hotel I had previously used for business trips. We had a wonderful river view within the east tower. Jason and I were beat, we never sleep on planes. The girls who had slept ready to explore. Jason and I made a deal that he would nap first while I took Makenzie out to see the sights. Jena and her boyfriend had already gone off on their own. I took a shower to freshen up along with Mak and then we started off on our walking tour.
It is wonderful seeing a city you know so well through new eyes. Makenzie was thrilled with the architecture, the sounds and even the smells. We ran across a wall of honey suckle and she loved it. She was hungry, knowing we would eat a big meal later we stopped at a familiar place, the corner oyster house and grabbed an appetizer to split. We were right by the square and there were a lot of performers out. The restaurant has tall windows that open like doors so you can sit and walk out of the restaurant from your table. Makenzie had finished up and decided to step right out the window and start dancing with the music. It was a sight to see. We did some souvenir shopping and ended up buying a pretty pink Mardi Gras mask for her with feathers and glittery paint. The fatigue started building for me so we headed back to the hotel so I could tag Dad and get a little nap myself.
Jason and Makenzie left to spend some time looking around and he was hungry by then. I got comfortable, pulled the blackout curtains and started to hit that sweet spot. Then I hear the door and in comes 4 teenagers. Jena, Chris and my niece Jordan and her Boyfriend they came in for a bit I cannot recall now why but missing that sweet spot made me a little cranky. Jason had also texted me to wake me too so it appeared that sleep was going to be hard to come by. I determined that no nap was going to be in the cards for me so I gave that up.
My other brother Keith was incoming too. We had expected that he and his son Kyle would arrive around the same time but their flight was delayed and they were expected at 5:30pm. So the plan was to eat dinner with them, that was the main reason why I held out on a real meal. In the interim, I went back out and met up with Jason and Makenzie.
After Keith arrived we met in the lobby and went to Cafe Pontabla for dinner. It was very good, a little restaurant there on the corner of the square next to St. Louis cathedral. Keith and I ended up getting a little voodoo juice with dinner. It was pretty strong and came in a tiny glass. The group was Keith, Jena, Chris ,Kyle and myself. We ended up walking around and taking in the sites. We did several Bourbon street runs, and even stopped by Saints and Sinners to meet up with our Brother and his bride briefly. Following that we went to Cafe Du Monde to cap off the night with some Cafe Au Lait and some biegnets. Kyle had never had beignets so he was eating them up like no tomorrow. I think he had 10! We also got our palms and tarots read by a very good reader. Why not do it, its NOLA right!?
The following morning we all wanted brunch, so we went to Court of Two Sisters. A historic place from the 1800s that has just a beautiful courtyard and atrium area to eat in. We were seated in a great spot within the atrium and enjoyed a huge selection of creole food along with any type of egg you could possibly desire. Makenzie also got to try her first piece of King Cake!
Later in the afternoon it was time to get ready for the wedding. The rain had come that day and was starting to clear but that does not work well with ladies dressed up in heels and nice dresses. So we summoned a cab to the wedding venue. The wedding was at the Beauregad-Keyes house in the quarter. A lovely yellow and white plantation type home with two courtyards and surrounding former servants quarters. The home was beautiful decorated with ornate french furniture and antiques. When entering the first room had a string quartet which was lovely. The wedding set to start at 7:00pm with a reception following on site.
It was wonderful seeing all of the family in the same place at the same time. This rarely happens. My girls were thrilled to see their cousins, Grandparents, Aunt and Uncles. It was moving to me to see how much it meant to the girls, they were glowing and I could sense their feelings about this gathering. It was full of gratitude and love for this moment in time.
The wedding took place by the fireplace in the main sitting room, which was decorated with many candles in crystal vases of varying size. The bride was absolutely beautiful in her dress of ivory with flower details. After the ceremony,we moved to the adjoining room where there was a variety of hor d’oeuvres and creole food to choose from. There was also an open bar on the back veranda. The send off at the end was spectacular, long sparklers were lit and everyone lined up as the bride and groom walked through to their limo. Fantastic end to the event!
After the send off, the teenagers took Makenzie back to the hotel so we could have some time with Keith out for a couple hours. We went to Pat O’s to try and get some quiet but that was hard to find. My husband does not care for clubs, and other places were just as noisey. So we setttled on Pat O’s courtyard which was packed full. It was impressive that the waiter seating us knew exactly where a table was open in that mass of people. We were nicely placed in the corner by the fire fountain and proceeded to order 3 hurricanes. It was a nice conversation and then Keith spilled his hurricane on himself and Jason. We ended up I think with a total of 2 hurricanes for Keith and I and 1 hurricane and 1 beer for Jason. We left and went to Famous Door for some music on the way back. Trying my best to convince Jason to stay out longer than he normally would, also I had a secret reason Keith and I had a bet about if we could do it. That was not flying. Jason decided he wanted to go back to the hotel and told me to stay out all night if I wanted and left with a smile. I did not plan on staying out all night but I practically did. Keith and I had some fun and even met a group of 7 brothers from San Diego who all had the same exact head! It is true- I have a picture. I ended the night back at my room by 5:30am. Keith headed for his elevator or so I thought but next morning I found out he had gone back out until 9:30 am. He slept in late of course. I slept in a bit but ended up meeting with Jason and Makenzie to take a streetcar to the garden district. We ended up getting some lunch while there and walked quite a ways. Later that night we went to dinner at the Corner Oyster Bar.
Keith was scheduled to leave Monday but ended up heading back Sunday due to some flight changes. So Sunday and Monday were just us. Talk about chillin! Mak finally got some pool time, then a nap, then more pool time. I went out and strolled while doing some final shopping. I walked around with Jena and Chris and showed them some other areas of the french quarter off the beaten path. Jason and Mak met up with me later and we did one last visit to Cafe Du Monde. That evening had dinner at Pere Antiones.
Our departure day came pretty fast. The trip to the airport was uneventful and the flights back were good. Seemed longer going back , I am guessing just anticipation to get home and back to the quiet life. I resisted loading up my laptop when we got back knowing I would have at least 500 to 800 emails to review. So 7am the next morning I finally loaded up and started reviewing and following up. Three days later I am still following up! The girls are back into normal life again, although I do see that they already miss the extended family. Makenzie is talking non-stop about everyone and cannot wait to spend more time with her friend Kristian. It is hard to forget Jena on the verge of tears with seeing everyone there.
Gatherings such as these make your heart full and you feel good. But it also brings a longing and hurts knowing you will be far away again. When I see my girls with these people that I grew up with it makes me smile inside and out. I also feel guilty that I chose to live so far away my entire adult life. It was not a conscious choice to say I must live 1000’s of miles away, it just happened. The opportunities always seemed to take me further away to where I am now.
One thing is for certain, I love my family. No matter our differences and there are many. But one thing we do have in common is the caring and strength of knowing that we will support each other in need. It seems the older I get the more I desire to be closer. With all the miles making it happen is the challenge. A challenge has yet to stop me so I feel optimistic about the future.