A Mardi Gras Trip to New Orleans

A month ago, my mom invited me to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  She hadn’t been back for Mardi Gras since she was pregnant with me, so it only felt right that I should be there if she was going.  I said “YES!”  And so did Joey and we were beyond excited.

I think a MAJOR misconception about Mardi Gras, is that it all takes place on Bourbon Street and that you have to take your top off to get beads and while that sort of thing is happening on Bourbon, most of Mardi Gras takes place elsewhere and it’s family-friendly.  I saw so many families, with kids, having the best time together and look, we never even set foot in the French Quarter.   Let me tell you what we did instead.

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We maybe took a Spirit flight that got into Nola at 1 AM, but it was cheap so oh well!  I’m sorry for the dark and blurry picture, but let me explain.  Back in 2012, my sister and I attended our first Mardi Gras and, after taking us to a balcony party on Bourbon where we threw all the beads our hearts could desire, my Uncle went to drive us back home but we literally ran into a barricade.  He got out of the car and proceeded to move it, when a cop showed up and they had a brief argument, before she made us turn around.  Once back in the car, I reminded him that he was wearing a jester’s hat.  I requested that he wear that exact hat when he picked us up from the airport and to my SHEER DELIGHT, he did! 😛

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We slept in the next day, then headed to breakfast at Surrey’s Uptown because I could not get those Shrimp & Grits out of my head.  Happy to report they were just as good as I remembered.  Emily joined us!  Afterward, the three of us walked Magazine, stopping into a pop art gallery, Fleurty Girl and finally, the Craft Beer Cellar, where I more or less forced Joey to get a beer because he had taken like 10 work phone calls during our walk and seemed very stressed.

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It got pretty rainy that evening so we figured our Muses parade plan was done for and went to dinner at Blue Oak BBQ instead.  I thought it was so good!!!  We wanted it all so we got the “all meats, all sides” to share and man, that rib felt like changing.  By this point, the rain had cleared out, so why not head to Muses??

All the floats are ridden by women and they occasionally throw out a shoe they’ve decorated.  It’s a hot commodity and I went home with one!!!  I was so happy and so covered in glitter.  Also, there was a group of men all dressed as Freddie Mercury and seeing them all walk by, singing along to “We Will Rock You” was just too much fun.  This was Joey’s first ever Mardi Gras parade and I think it was a good introduction 🙂

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On Friday, we grabbed a quick breakfast then hit the road to run some very important errands.  First up, KING CAKE!!!  Not any King Cake, though, a Dong Phuong King Cake, specially ordered by my uncle.  I held this box on my lap and it smelled SO GOOD.  We also picked up crawfish, then the rest of the supplies at an outrageously busy Walmart.  My uncle has boiled us crawfish twice now and it is so amazing.  I feel so lucky!  This batch was seriously so good.  Spicy and flavorful and those crawfish were a real nice size.  Don’t worry, we had room for King Cake afterward.  We maybe all ate two pieces, except my mom, who ate three.  I love her!

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Saturday!  Endymion Day!  Joey and I walked over to District Donuts to grab breakfast and I ate a “taco” that was basically a baby burrito and was not mad about it.  So good!  The big parade on Saturday is Endymion and you best be prepared for it.  My uncle has access to a lot on the parade route (THANK GOD), so we showed up around noon and the place was packed already.  We walked around before and got to see bands playing on front porches, parade ladders (guys, I want one!) and all the floats lined up!  We also ate muffulettas for lunch and more on that later but it tasted really good at the time.

Endymion is just so cool!  Flo Rida was on one of the first floats and Joey caught a football he threw!  Not going to lie, the float riders were straight CHUCKING beads and frisbees and footballs and I was maybe doing more ducking than catching, but it was still fun.  I think my favorite part was my mom yelling “throw lighty things!” once the sun went down.  Don’t worry, we got some glow stick necklaces.

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We went to Bacchus on Sunday night and even though it was cold and I started to not feel very good halfway through, I think this might be my favorite parade!  Plus we managed to tag along with my uncle’s friend and neighbor Laura to the most beautiful house, with an epic view of the parade.  I didn’t mind it one bit!

This is sadly where this vacation must come to an end, because I got sick that night, my uncle got sick that night and my mom got sick that night.  I figured it was food poisoning, but the only thing we all overlapped on was that muffuletta and Joey, who didn’t get sick that night, ate the most BY FAR.  We were all bedridden the entire next day and I was still struggling when we flew home on Tuesday at 6 AM (ugh!).  I barely got off the couch, once we were back home and I don’t think I really started to feel better until Friday or Saturday.  So that’s a sad ending to an otherwise wonderful trip.

Mostly though, I want to remember (almost) everything about this trip.  I want to remember having dinner with my mom and Joey at Root Down inside DIA before our flight.  I want to remember hearing someone order a burger with extra lettuce (???) while we waited at the terminal.  I want to remember the humidity and the smell of New Orleans that hit me when I got off the plane.  I want to remember seeing that jester hat.  I want to remember standing in line at Fleurty Girl with my mom.  I want to remember looking back while we were at Muses and seeing my mom and uncle standing together.  I want to remember asking my mom to hold my parade loot and seeing her stuff it all inside her coat.  I want to remember using a light-up ring as a flashlight.  I want to remember all the arrangements my uncle made for crawfish and Endymion and how he did it all, even though he wasn’t feeling well.  I want to remember eating that King Cake.  I want to remember putting glitter on my mom and Joey’s faces and thinking how much better my sister would have been at it and missing her a lot.  I want to remember having breakfast at District Donuts, just Joey and I.  I want to remember the float with the band from Michigan rocking out at both Endymion and Bacchus.  I want to remember all the families, camping out, just enjoying themselves before the parades.  I want to remember how beautiful those floats were in the daytime.  I want to remember seeing Harry Connick Jr. visiting his dad’s house across the street (OMG!).  I want to remember being able to share this fun experience with the people I love best ♥ 

Labor Day Weekend in San Diego

I have to preface this post by telling you I am a Serial Vacation Overplanner.  It all happens very fast.  One moment, I am dreaming of all the fun we’ll have and the next, I am picking the exact restaurant we’ll go to after checking into our Airbnb at an exact time and scrutinizing the menu to pick the exact meal I’ll eat.  Before I know it, my brain has wrapped itself around this plan so tight and any delineation from that plan sends me into a complete tail spin.  It ain’t pretty.  And it’s also a lot of work making and sticking to this plan, so often times vacations can leave me feeling more exhausted than refreshed.

When we started dreaming up this vacation, I decided I wasn’t doing any of that planning.  The thought of waking up in the morning and just then deciding what we’d do that day sounded thrilling.  So that’s what we did!  We had a few things decided — Rockies game, meeting up with Fletcher and Josh, maaaaybe driving to Disneyland — but that was it and now that I’m on the other side of that more-spontaneous-than-usual vacation, I feel GREAT.

Ran into Food Network Star alum Matthew Grunwald not once, not twice but THREE times, including once at Whole Foods after we grabbed lunchtime tacos at Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill.  He was incredibly nice and those tacos were incredibly good.  Posted up at the beach while we waited to be able to check into our Ocean Beach Airbnb.

Got checked in and semi-unpacked before walking just a couple of blocks up to the Ocean Beach Farmers’ Market which was HOPPIN’ and even though we bought the prettiest bouquet from the friendliest vendor and the teensy squash were too cute for words, it was all a little much for me.

My girl Jessie lived in SD for four years so she hit us with her best food/coffee recommendations and we picked One Door North for dinner.  It is totally decked out in camping/adventuring/outdoorsy stuff — think tents, lanterns, wooden tables and antler chandeliers — and we couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t busy inside.  What a VIBE.

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Woke up the next morning and had toast and coffee before hitting the road for Disneyland!  Because the first thing you do when you get to San Diego is drive two hours to Anaheim, right??  We debated going for many months then rented that car the night before we left and I don’t regret it for a single second because we had the best time!  Joey does not even love rides but he rode them all for me and Disneyland has not lost a single bit of magic since the first time I went as a kid.

Slept in the next day and did some casual beach strolling and deck reading before grabbing lunch at Wonderland Ocean Pub, which was just at the end of our street.  It had an upper deck with giant windows opening out to the beach and probably a spectacular sunset view, but we got a good view of a homeless man dancing in the grass instead 🙂

Met Fletcher and Josh and Josh’s sister Mia and her fiancé James at the Del Mar racetrack for a thrilling afternoon of horse betting, or just losing all our money.  I did learn some betting lingo though.  Headed back to Encinitas (where Fletcher grew up) for burritos at Rico’s Taco Shop.  I ordered a HEFTY “Justin Burrito” that I sadly did not even come close to finishing, followed by an epic game of Jenga at Beachside Bar & Grill.

Saturday morning, we took those public scooters (so fast, but so fun!) up to Sunset Cliffs for a run overlooking the ocean.  Not our fastest but the view was lovely.  Afterward, we headed to Better Buzz and abuzz it was!  Took so so long to get Joey’s iced coffee (a drink that requires very little work) and it was far too loud in there but this avocado toast was divine.

Took the trolley downtown for the game that night but stopped first at Duck Foot Brewing where we attempted to order off their Grand Opening menu before learning they were only serving a portion of it??  Still makes no sense to me.  Then secondly to Harvest by The Patio, which was so-so, but after Joey ate those wings, I proceeded to eat all the fried bits and herbs that had fallen off and that turned out to be a very good decision.  All smiles at the game because we had front row seats, Charlie Blackmon threw Joey a ball and WE WON!

Sunday was my favorite day!  We woke up and scootered over to Jake & Eggs, which was the cutest breakfast pop-up with the biggest mugs of coffee and then we found a rental place in Mission Beach so we could get chairs, an umbrella and boogie board for Joey.  Spent a few hours at the beach before walking over to O.B. Smoothie Bar & Subs and grabbing lunch to go, then read on the deck for the rest of the afternoon.  Cleaned ourselves up and made our way to Belmont Park to see the sunset and experience sensory overload in the arcade before a late dinner at BO-beau kitchen + bar.  It was all the very best ♥

On our very last day, we finally had açai bowls a couple blocks over at The Lazy Hummingbird and look, I’m all for eating it, but can we stop pretending a smoothie topped with granola and more peanut butter than even I can condone is healthy?  Anyway, after we packed up and checked out, we drove over to Coronado Island.  The beach looked nice, the Hotel del Coronado was cool to see and the houses there are BREATHTAKING but there’s only so many shops you can walk into before all the stationary, candles and beach decor start to blur together.  One last meal at Liberty Public Market and even though it was crowded and loud, I LOVED it there!  Specifically the Mess Hall, where you could get different size pours of beers on tap.  Sitting outside with a lobster roll, fries and a brut IPA, I felt like my happiest self.

And thus ended a most perfectly spontaneous or spontaneously perfect vacation to San Diego.