26 and the Big Easy

Whoever thought celebrating a birthday and traveling to New Orleans in back-to-back weeks was a good idea clearly was younger than 26. That person was probably in the prime of her 25th year and thinking she could easily keep up with all the parties, plane rides, and navigating a new city. Well, she was wrong. And that she is me.

March has been a wild month for this old girl. If you could see my Lilly Pulitzer agenda right now, you would ask me what in the hell was I thinking. This month is so scribbled over that, at this point, I can’t tell which events belong with which days. I’m not complaining, though. It’s good to be busy. Especially when you have things such as “Birthday,” “Best Friend Visits,” and “Leave for New Orleans” penciled on your calendar.

I guess you could say I brought all this upon myself, but I choose to place some blame on Justin and Emily (my best friend) because they love me enough to plan a party in my honor and then not tell me about said party. In the months leading up my birthday, it is possible that I mentioned on more than one occasion that I wanted a surprise party. I didn’t think anyone was listening to me. Again, I was wrong.

If I’m being honest, turning 25 was shitty — pun intended.

25 will forever be known as the year Justin accidentally gave me a laxative the night before my birthday and I spent the entire day pooping. I was certain this was an omen for how the rest of my year would go.

Therefore, since my 25th was hijacked, I wanted my 26th to be extra special.

And it was.

My 26th year began with my co-workers singing “Happy Birthday” to me as they walked down the hall to my office carrying all sorts of goodies — including, but not limited to, cupcakes, Dr. Pepper, Chex Mix, and balloons. A nice way to start your morning, wouldn’t you say?

That night, Justin treated me to a beautiful dinner at Kindred, a restaurant in Davidson that I had been bursting to try.

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Our service at Kindred was unbeatable and the meal was more delicious than I imagined. My favorites were their signature milk bread and gnocchi with blue crab. The homemade chocolate birthday cake wasn’t so bad, either. I could barely walk back to the car I was so full.

When I tell people my best friend is like my sister, it’s not simply something I say to convey how close we are. This woman truly is the sister I never had. Our story, which I plan to talk about in an upcoming post, is unique and our bond is special. We live two hours apart but haven’t let the miles come between our willingness to be together for life’s big moments — including birthdays.

Emily took a vacation day at work the Friday following my birthday so she could celebrate with me.

I would like to note that I never go out at night, even on the weekends. I would rather watch Netflix at home with my dogs and cat fighting at my feet. Therefore, the fact that Emily got me out of my pajamas and into a pretty black dress on Friday night says a lot about how much I love her.

With Justin as our chauffeur, we made the 20-minute drive into Uptown Charlotte and danced the night away at Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar with a rather large selection of bucket drinks.

Silly me, I thought Friday night would be the extent of our debauchery. Little did I know, Emily had an entire surprise party planned for Saturday.

I was off my photo-taking game on Saturday — probably because I was focused on waking up at 3:30 a.m. Sunday for my 6 a.m. flight to New Orleans and the fact that I hadn’t started packing yet.

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I wish I could have enjoyed myself more, but all I could think about was the laundry I still needed to do and how late I was going to be up making sure I had everything I needed for my trip.

However, judging by the laughter, cake, and beer in this picture, it is difficult to tell that that my mind was somewhere else.

I later referred to myself as a wet blanket when talking about my attitude at my first surprise party.

Every tired, 26-year-old bone in my body was ready to be in New Orleans after that Sunday morning flight and subsequent 3-hour layover in Atlanta.

I never knew I wanted a job that sends me on trips until I got a job that does. This was my first professional conference and hopefully not my last. While New Orleans wasn’t at the top of my “places I want to see before I die list,” I’m glad I got the opportunity to visit the city.

I consider myself to be an adventurer. One day, when I am truly an old lady, I will sit down with my grandchildren and show them pictures from my travels and tell them stories of the time I have spent in different places. That’s the life I imagine, at least — kind of like in Titanic when the camera pans across all the pictures of Rose doing the cool things Jack told her she would experience.

This trip is particularly important to me because it is one of the first times I have traveled alone. Yes, I was traveling with folks I work with, but that’s different than traveling with Justin or someone I would normally go with. This was all me in a sense.

Plus, holy shit, I went to New Orleans for my 26th birthday!

Even though I was at the conference hotel most of the time, I still managed to see and do more than I imagined would be possible.

On my first full day in NOLA, a group of us walked down to Acme Oyster House for lunch after I read their beaming reviews online.

I ordered the shrimp po-boy and was not disappointed. Hands down the best po-boy I have ever had.

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During a break between conference educational sessions, I explored more of the French Quarter and wound up at Jackson Square and the Mississippi River.

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On my last full day in The Big Easy, I hopped on the street car on Canal Street and rode it down to the cemeteries. Who would have thought spending a morning with the dead could be so beautiful?

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Really, though, the historic cemeteries in New Orleans are gorgeous.

I love how blue the sky was on this day. It painted the perfect backdrop for the architecture I wanted to capture.

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Greenwood Cemetery is a large place and as I walked through admiring its details, I noticed this sign and couldn’t help but laugh a little. There is just something about directing folks to a “sales office” in a cemetery that makes me smile.

Also, shortly after I saw this sign, a man on a golf cart drove up behind me and handed me a brochure. I thought for sure this stranger had just given me a sales brochure — that would have made this story so much better. The booklet actually was a history of the cemetery, which I thought was pretty neat. Now, I have a free souvenir with a semi-funny story behind it.

Odd Fellows was another resting place. Honestly, I just thought the name was cute so I snapped a picture. The gates were locked so we couldn’t walk through, but we were able to to get some photos from the sidewalk.

When I started writing this, however, I did a quick Google search to see what would populate for this cemetery and read that Odd Fellows is closed to the public because of vandalism.

For the rest of my life I will be able to proclaim that I haven taken on Bourbon Street and Bourbon Street won.

I can also brag that I have tasted a “world-famous hurricane” at Pat O’Brien’s.

Today’s forecast: Alcohol, low standards, poor decisions. Thank you, New Orleans.

I was ready to go wheels up by the time Thursday rolled around. Four nights in The City that Care Forgot was plenty for this gal.

Then there was Easter 2016. Thanks to family drama and selfish attitudes, this holiday will go down in history as the weekend that propelled Justin and me to decide to travel on holidays from now on.

Now that I have been back in The Old North State for a week, I feel like I am officially caught up on sleep. This is a good thing since we leave for vacation in one week.

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