As most of you know, I’m from Puerto Rico and I live in Florida. This year, 2019, will be my 18th year living here. I haven’t traveled much. Usually, my travels are to visit family back in Puerto Rico. I’ve only visited Georgia, where my cousin Adán lives, and I’ve been to South Carolina, well, at least I’ve passed by driving on I-95.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the state of Louisiana for the first time, where my cousin Auranyd lives. She moved to Louisiana in 2014, and we decided it would be a good tradition to meet in person for her birthday. We thought it would be a great way to celebrate her birthday and our friendship, spending some time together.
Auranyd (Aura) is my cousin, daughter of my late auntie Nydia. I am older than her, so growing up we were only together at family events, or when we visited family. When she started college, she ended up staying with me and my sister Lilly. We got to share an apartment, sharing our lives away from our family. We became best friends.
In 2016, we decided to meet “half way”. She drove from Metairie, Louisiana. I drove from Orlando, Florida. We met in beautiful Pensacola. Being so close to the Gulf of Mexico, the beaches have water that’s calm, and sand that’s very white.
In 2017, we met in Panamá City, closer to that “half way” plan. This is another beautiful Florida city with awesome beaches. Honestly, we spent most of the time relaxing and talking, than at the beach. We are moms, so we do enjoy our time away from the kids.
Unfortunately, in 2018 we couldn’t meet. So this year 2019, instead of driving, I decided to fly to Louisiana. We planned a weekend together. Aura wanted to take me around New Orleans, to show me some cool places. I was really excited for this trip.
Okay, I have a confession: I have a fear of flights, especially alone. Not because of the height, although I don’t like heights that much either, but because I’m claustrophobic. I feel enclosed and trapped inside the airplane. I do get anxious during take off and landing, but usually prayer and music help me stay calm.
The day of the flight, I woke up with terrible anxiety. I still planned on going, because I was looking forward to spending time with my dear cousin. I went to the airport early, but the flight was delayed because of weather. We were inside that airplane for two hours before take-off. My anxiety couldn’t handle it. Thanks to two amazing gentlemen that were traveling with me, I still managed to have a good flight. They kept talking and checking on me all the flight. Thank you Hal and Rafael from Orlando!
Before I share my experience, I want to tell you a little about Louisiana. It’s located in the south-central region of the United States, with Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. It was first claimed by French explorer René Robert Cavallier, when he sailed south on the Mississippi River in 1682. He named it Louisiana to honor King Louis XIV of France. The Natives in the area fought hard and didn’t allow any settlement to stay up for long. It wasn’t until the early 1700’s that French explorers were able to keep a permanent settlement. They were not only fighting Natives, but also English and Spanish explorers.
In 1762, France passed Louisiana to Spain in the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau, trying to make Spain get involved in the war against England. In 1800, after France agreed on a peace settlement with the United States, they acquired Louisiana from Spain by the secret (another one) Treaty of San Ildefonso. United States then acquired the territory in 1803 in what is known as “the Louisiana Purchase”. Louisiana was admitted as the state number 18 in 1812. For more information, visit https://www.loc.gov/collections/louisiana-european-explorations-and-the-louisiana-purchase/articles-and-essays/the-exploration-and-legacy-of-the-louisiana-territory/.
An interesting fact about Louisiana is that it’s home to the longest bridge built over water in the world, known as Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. It runs 24 miles over Lake Pontchartrain. Its construction first started in 1948. It first opened in 1956, then its expansion opened in 1969. No, I did not get to ride over it. That’s another thing I’ll pass on, riding over such long bridge over water. But I got a close glimpse of it, since my cousin lives nearby. For more information, visit http://www.thecauseway.us/information/.
While in Louisiana, I did get to enjoy and walk the streets of New Orleans, best known as the French Quarter neighborhood. Louisiana is known as the “Jazz Capital of the World”, being home to Louis Armstrong, one of the best jazz musicians recognized around the world. So many locations are still dedicated to playing jazz music. There’s plenty more information on the city’s website https://www.neworleans.com/plan/neighborhoods/french-quarter/.
The French Quarter is always busy, full of tourists walking around. Some streets, like Bourbon, are partially closed to car traffic, so people can walk and visit all shops. I can imagine Mardi Gras season, must be busier than what I saw! It caught my eye that on many streets, there were still signs with Spanish names for those streets.
We visited the Café du Monde, and I had an awesome cup of “café au lait” (coffee with milk) and yummy beignets. According to the sign, this location has been open since the early 1860s. Service stays open 24 hours, year round. It’s always busy, but servers are fast and efficient. And of course, the beignets and coffee are delicious!
I also visited the Mississippi Riverwalk, located alongside Toulouse Street and the Mississippi River, close to the Jackson Square. There are a few sailboat cruises rides, including the Steamboat Natchez, recognized as the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River by the City of New Orleans.
Close by the Jackson Square, we passed the St. Louis Cathedral, full name “Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France”. This is a beautiful and breathtaking building. Its the oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States. The first edification went up in 1718, and it was expanded and mostly rebuilt in 1850.
I had to take pictures of the two main sports venues. The Mercedes Benz Superdome, where the NFL New Orleans Saints play (football), opened in 1975. The Smoothie King Center, where the NBA New Orleans Pelicans play (basketball), opened in 1999.
Because I couldn’t think of getting on that plane again, we decided to drive all the way to Orlando. Aura and Nick offered to drive me, a noble gesture on their part, since they had to drive back to Louisiana. It took us about 16 hours, with stops for food, gas and, of course, pictures. It was raining most of the route, but we still had a good time. I was able to visit three different states that I had not visited before. Well, at least we passed by Mississippi and Alabama, and made some stops.
Aura and I got to talk, talk, and talk some more. I needed the distraction, and we love our talks anyway. One of the stops was to make coffee. Yes, you read correctly: we made coffee on the side of the road in Florida. Aura put some water to boil, prepped the cloth drainer and ground coffee, and made some “café colao”. We had a much needed cup of coffee.
I plan on visiting again in the future. I probably will have to drive all the way to Louisiana, or I might get on an airplane accompanied, not by myself. I’ll continue sharing my traveling stories as I eventually plan to travel more. Hopefully, I’ll manage my anxiety better. Time for my tacita de café. Salud!
Para versión en Español, visite https://fullofcoffee.blog/2019/05/25/mi-primer-viaje-increible-(casi-desastre)-a-nueva-orleans,-louisiana/