You might imagine, at the frequency of my postings, that staying out of the picture isn't really a problem for me. Largely, you'd be right. I'm fairly good at flying under the radar, managing to do things without people noticing or taking note of me. I'm the kind of person that can stand the middle of a room filled with hundreds of people and not say a word, and hardly be noticed, but not like a wallflower on the periphery.
I'm sure this is the product of years of being ignored or shunned, maybe even partly due to those years as a kid where I was the target of bullies or kids that just needed to feel "big" around others. I don't regret those times, or the fact that I am this way. Most of the time, at least.
But I mean this post quite literally, actually.
This last weekend I made my first journey to New Orleans. I have to say, I didn't know quite what to expect, and I'm pretty certain that's what I found. As in much modern travel, my introduction to the city was the airport, perhaps a bit aging and rough around the edges, lacking for the amenities of many of the terminals I've been in over the last decade or so. That being said, the location was serviceable and clean, so I was off to a good start.
As we departed the airport, there was clear evidence of the new airport being built, construction and orange cones serving as constant evidence for some time. And then, like most cities, the roads swelled with cars as we proceeded into the heart of our destination. Along the way a very pleasant, albeit slightly hard to understand, Uber driver welcomed us to the city and offered advice on places to eat, things to see, and places to go. Making one stop to drop off another wedding attendee, we then proceeded to our own hotel in the French Quarter.
Our arrival at the Dauphine Orleans Hotel was pleasantly brief as we were both hungry (having only eaten peanuts aboard our two flights spanning the usual lunch hour), so we checked in quickly, received a few words of advice from the desk, and then quickly hurried across the street to the extension of the Dauphine, the Hermann House, where our room was already ready. I was pleasantly surprised at the low temperature of the room upon entry, and only did a quick look about to admire the quaint space before grabbing a couple of things to start looking around a bit for a bite to eat (but not too much as the rehearsal dinner was only three-ish hours away).
Unfortunately for my wife, I get a bit testy when I get too hungry. It's an interesting state because if I'm working or reading a book, I can work right through hunger and not even bat an eye, but when I'm out and about doing something (which is usually shopping for something more often than not, sadly) and I've not eaten, I'm less than pleasant and can't really make decisions. Walking down Dauphine, crossing to Bourbon and around the streets as we neared the river, I was losing it and I turned the reigns over to my wife to make a decision.
In her typical style of choosing something seemingly at random, we sat down in a Mexican restaurant... two blocks from Bourbon Street in New Orleans. I suppose I should be glad that she didn't situate us in front of one of the numerous daiquiri machines that seemed to fill every corner for blocks. Anyway, chips greeted us, and eventually we were able to order a Cuban to split. Although it wasn't the best Cuban I've ever had, it certainly met a need and made me a much better person to be around.
Hunger handled, I knew my next mission was to take the edge off of my wife, and there could be no possible better way to do that than rum drinks, rich with pineapple and tropical flavors. Independently we had both come across an establishment online by the name of Tiki Tolteca, but unlike my wife, I knew where it was. Only a few minutes after quenching our hunger, the sweet nectar of the islands was flowing and there was an obvious easing of tension for her. After a bit of texting and calling, we managed to encourage her father to join us from his own hotel a couple of blocks away and we had a grand old time.
Adjourning from merriment, we retreated to our hotel to wash up for the rehearsal dinner (this trip was about my brother-in-law's wedding, after all) and then wandered our way a mile south-west of our hotel to meet up with the rest of the family. Through the course of the evening, I found it rather easy to not be part of what was going on while being among. I am already on the outside of this being married into, and even more so by not being especially close to the family most likely due to the fact that none of us are less than three states apart.
The next day, my wife and I decided to explore some of the French Quarter we'd not seen already. We headed north east along Dauphine to Esplanade, then toward the river. Along the way we stopped and admired and observed various homes, strange things, and even a few people as we made our way to the Old US Mint. We explored briefly the Mint before moving on, expecting that we were supposed to be meeting my wife's parents at Cafe du Monde. As we walked that general direction, we passed through the French Market and took in the many sights along the way. Around the time we reach the cafe, we came to know that we'd not be meeting them, so we proceeded to pause briefly and let my wife recover from the heat a bit.
Over the next ninety minutes we wandered along the Riverwalk, checking out the Oyster Festival taking place nearby, and watched ships cruising along the river, people walking around, and taking all of the hubbub in. As the afternoon wore on, we eventually heard from my in-laws that they were ready to meet up just as it started raining. We planted ourselves under the umbrella we'd been lugging around and awaited their arrival. Fifteen minutes later, we were united with her parents and the rain had stopped. As we chatted, we move back along the Riverwalk, through the festival and eventually to the Jackson Brewery building were we decided that we should cool off with a brew, and then decided the food sounded good, too. Silly as it sounds, we managed to go back to the tiki bar before parting ways.
We made our way slowly back to our hotel on Dauphine and cleaned up for the evening's main event. Making contact with other family members in the same hotel, we made arrangements to take an Uber down to the site of the wedding later on in the evening, and followed through as planned. As everyone gathered near the entry to the Steamboat Natchez, pockets of conversation sprang up, and I just stood in the middle of it all, taking it in, catching snippets of various conversations here and there until we were taken onto the steamboat for the wedding.
As the minutes ticked by, we were gathered on the top floor of the aft of the ship, and awaited the arrival of the groom and then bride. I made myself useful with my camera (mainly for my own benefit), and added some technology support to the proceedings when the wireless technology involved with the ceremony's music proved to be challenging. The ceremony was nice and the setting was pretty, but from the back where I was, it was hard to hear much of what was going on... maybe I should have been seated next to my wife where I would have had an easier time hearing it all, but honestly, it wasn't about me and I certainly knew what was going on.
After the nuptials, the obligatory photos took place, then the signing of paperwork, and merriment of the evening commenced as the couple was introduced, shared a dance, and the other wedding formalities ensued. It was a fun time, with food, drinks, music, rain, and even the pleasure of seeing my grandmother-in-law cut some exotic rug in the rain on the upper deck as the live band played wonderful music the the early twentieth century. All the while I had my camera in hand, snapping away, staying on my preferred side of the lens.
As the evening wound down, I could tell my wife was pretty tired, so we declined to join some of the younger folks present (along with the father of the groom) in after-party on Frenchman Street. We made our way back to our hotel, and within a few minutes of washing up, my wife was fast asleep.
The next morning we packed up, checked our bags with the valet, and made our way to meet other celebrants for breakfast at The Court of the Two Sisters. I admit that I didn't do much research into this place, so I'm quite unsure of its significance, but it was a beautiful setting. From here, we bid adieu to most of the party, and returned with a small contingent bound for hotels and airports.
As we left the French Quarter, I was struck with how much it was different from what I'd come expecting, yet exactly the same. The beautiful remnants of the French, the mass of people, the juxtaposition of the whole area--it seemed an echo to me of my own place in the weekend. It was just as it should be.