When I was still in high school, my mother and I went to New Orleans by car. The trip was in June and started with a stop at her friend’s house in Western Pennsylvania. We stayed overnight, had breakfast and then drove to Wheeling, WV to visit the Fostoria Glass Factory, where she bought some of their footed water glasses. After lunch we drove to Columbus, where she spent time doing genealogical research and where we spent the night.
In the morning we headed south to our next stop; it was a visit to the Indian Burial Mounds in Chillicothe, OH. From there we continued south, crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky. We stopped in Frankfort, KY, where she did some genealogical research and we had lunch. We then headed further south before stopping to spend the night just outside of Bowling Green.
The next day took us into Tennessee where we stopped at the home of Andrew Jackson, the Hermitage, before traveling westward to Memphis where we had lunch before crossing the Mississippi River. The day ended in North Little Rock, AR. We checking into a hotel before making arrangements to meet up with some of her friends, who were also distant relatives, for dinner.
The next morning, we visited these friends at their house, where they treated us to breakfast. They had two trees that they were especially proud of, a large spreading Magnolia tree that provided shade and an orange tree full of fruit. They took us to downtown Little Rock for a tour of their historic district.
We headed south and crossed the Mississippi at Vicksburg; we drove south to Natchez before making our way into Louisiana. We finished the day in Opelousas, LA, staying at a small hotel at the edge of town. Downtown was a short walk, as it was a small town. We took time to visit the Jim Bowie house while we were there.
Our next stop was to visit the Sacred Heart Convent and school in Grand Coteáu. She had stopped to do some genealogical research and I did my best not to be bored. I remember meeting a woman that I was convinced was the world’s oldest nun; she was at least ninety years old! We headed down toward Lafayette where we climbed aboard the Atchafalaya Expressway towards New Orleans.
The Expressway (I10) stretched for miles through forest and swamp, but it was travelling across the bridges that took my breath away. The view was spectacular over the vast waterways on the Atchafalaya Basin. I almost felt as if I were flying as we sped down the highway. It was almost a disappointment to have arrived in New Orleans.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn on Royal Street, just off Canal Street, in the French Quarter. While she attended her meetings in the hotel, I would spend time in the pool or in the room watching television. I took early morning walks on some days; the streets were curiously empty and quiet.
There is a timelessness to the French Quarter, the Old Town. There are rows of two story homes that have been there longer than this nation has existed. There is a flavor to the place that lends itself to the telling of vampire stories. It is a mixture of old world and new world. It has also survived multiple hurricanes.
After her meetings ended for the day, we go out and sample the local cuisine. One restaurant that I remember quite well was Le Vieux Carre on Bourbon Street. It featured a fusion of French and Southern cuisine at that time. Prominently featured on the menu was a side of grits whether you ordered steak or fried chicken. I tried the grits and discovered that I did not like them and made a promises to avoid them in the future.
Despite the constant high humidity, it was not terribly hot as it was only June. We walked down to the waterfront market to poke around in the local shops. Because most of the streets in the French Quarter are quite narrow, it is easier to walk than to drive. The French Market lived up to our expectations at the time.
We left New Orleans on the last day of her conference and spent the night in a hotel just outside of Bessemer, AL. We had breakfast at a nearby diner where you could pretty much get anything you wanted – with grits. Coffee came with a side of grits, or at least it seemed that way. I had tried grits in New Orleans and decided that I could live without them. Apparently, in Bessemer, you can’t. I begrudgingly accepted the grits as part of the order; I didn’t eat them.
We drove up toward Virginia, where we spent the night in a town along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I don’t remember the name of the town, only that it had something to do with Thomas Jefferson. The drive along the parkway was spectacular. the foliage was lunch and the views were breathtaking. When it ended, we returned to the Interstate and headed for home back in Pennsylvania. We stopped in Maryland at a truck stop for dinner as they were reputed to have good food. We were not disappointed.
We arrived back home late at night and decided to unpack the car in the morning as we were very tired.