Hugging Gators in New Orleans

Not the alligator I hugged!
Not the alligator I hugged, this guy looked at me like I was lunch!

I’ve decided to try to go back in time a bit and fill in a bit of the gaps for the months that I was silent while travelling. I’m not going to do these in any particular order and honestly I may skip quite a bit since I’m still backpacking and doing new things. So follow me back to June 2010 when I traveled to one of my favourite cities in the world… New Orleans!

I’ll admit I love a good vampire story and reading Anne Rice’s books a few years ago gave me an even stronger desire to visit New Orleans than I’d even had before. The scent of magnolia blossoms swirling on the breeze, the sound of music drifting in the air at all times of the day and night, southern charm… yup, this is a place I knew I had to visit and when I was leaving Mexico it was the perfect time! After all, it was pretty much on my way.

I could go on about the beauty and charm of the French Quarter (I fell in love with it completely!) or the history of this amazing city but I’m sure you’ve heard that all before. Picking the highlight of my time there would also be too difficult, but if I had to choose one thing that I feel makes this city special it’s the people. They were so incredibly friendly and I finally understood the concept of southern charm. This is a city where people say hello and smile while passing on the sidewalk, chat while waiting in line, you name it.. the people in Nola are social and when they found out I wasn’t American many were even more interested in hearing about why I’d traveled to their area. (Apparently my Canadian accent passes as American unless I say the dreaded word ‘about’… that’s the giveaway every time.)

One thing I would recommend if you travel to New Orleans is to take a swamp tour… yes, it’s touristy… yes, it’s a guided tour, but it really is the best way to get up close and personal to the alligators in the swamp (without being eaten) and you’ll learn a bit of the history. It really was one of the highlights of my time in Nola.

Some of you may know that I’m terrified of water, it’s my biggest fear but one I’ve slowly been trying to conquer during my trip. I was quite worried that the knee-shaking terror would make it impossible for me to climb aboard the boat, but I was so thrilled to be seeing real, live alligators that I pushed through and almost forgot my fear a few times!

The boat captain was wonderful, he brought marshmallows to feed the alligators so that they would come right up to the boat. Yeah, I thought the same thing when I heard.. alligators like marshmallows? They went crazy for them! He even hand fed a few so that we could see how far out of the water they can jump and how fast they swim. Lots of fun! I even learned the difference between a bayou and a swamp. (In case you’re wondering, a bayou is like a highway through the swamp, an open water area that a boat can pass through, swamps are thicker and muddier.)

The best moment of the day was when I got to hold a baby alligator. This little 6 week old gator’s name was Elvis and he loved being pet on top of his head and getting a little hug. I swear he grinned for the photo! :)

New Orleans, Louisanna

French Quarter
Beautiful Buildings in New Orleans’ French Quarter

The houses in the French Quarter are painted rich, vibrant colours and the iron work of the balconies looks almost like lace it’s so detailed. What can I say, it’s as charming and beautiful as everyone says!

Jazz Musicians Immortalized

New Orleans is the birth place of jazz and it’s still going strong, both immortalized with bronze statues of famous Nola musicians as well as flowing out into the streets from houses and bars.

Statue In New Orleans
Statue in New Orleans

I was so excited to get this photo that I forgot to look to see who it is, if you know please tell me so I feel a bit less silly. :)

Jackson Square
Jackson Square

Jackson Square is one of the many famous places in the French Quarter of New Orleans and is a perfect place to sit and relax while snacking on one of the many local treats.

Mardi Gras Beads
Mardi Gras Beads

Even though I travelled there in June there were still Mardi Gras beads tangled in the trees along Charles St. It was quite pretty really with the colours glistening in the sunlight.

Marie Laveau Tomb
Marie Laveau’s Tomb

Here’s a photo of the tomb of the famous Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. Her (possible) resting place in the St. Louis Cemetery #1 still has people visiting requesting favours by either leaving 3 items or making 3 marks in her mausoleum wall.

Alligator Close Up
Alligator Close Up Photo

We really did get to get up close and personal with some of these alligators, in this photo you can really see the how intense their eyes are. This one felt like he was staring me down!

Alligators Feeding
Alligators in the Bayou’s of New Orleans

They came right up to the boat to eat food from the captain’s hand. At one point he even kissed on of the gators on the nose!

Marshmallow Head
Gator with a Marshmallow Hat

Yes, this alligator really does have a marshmallow on his head! :) The swamp tour guide tosses marshmallows out into the bayou because the gators love them and will swarm around. Somehow this guy got one right on the top of his head, were it stayed until the guide successfully knocked it off by getting him to jump for more food.

Me And Baby Gator
Elvis the Baby Gator and Me

I love animals of all kinds, so getting to hold a baby alligator was one of the high points of the day! Look closely at the little gator in my hands, I swear he’s grinning. :)

New Orleans found a place on my ‘could be a home someday’ list. Have you found places in your travels that felt so right that you could picture living there as an expat for a while?


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