Our Senior Trip To New Orleans- What A Party!

Our Senior Trip To New Orleans- What A Party!

The high school I graduated from was an all female, Catholic school that organized two trips for students-one during our junior year, and one in our senior year. The trips were optional, but usually well attended. The junior trip was to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York, but the senior trip varied in location. In our senior year, we went to New Orleans. There were many factors that converged to make it one of the most fun, interesting and talked about trip of our lives. And we went about this time of year, so this seems like an appropriate week to share it. The details follow.

I will start with the east coast trip. For many of us, it was our first visit to those cities. We saw all of the famous sites, and it was fascinating to me since I loved American history. The day we visited Mount Vernon, we also took a boat down the Potomac back to Washington. I remember telling my parents I wanted to live there someday with a view of the water. Pretty funny since the only way to do that was to buy a multimillion dollar home. In New York, we ate at Mama Leone’s near the theatre district, and a small group of us went to a new Broadway show called Grease. This was before the movie, and I remember trying to explain to friends who didn’t see the show how good it was. Our chaperones were well organized, as was the entire week.

The New Orleans trip was quite different from the very tame journey the year before. One of the reasons was due to the difference in legal drinking age- New York had been 21, but Louisiana was 18. And in a bit of poor planning, no one thought to check our ages before we left. Many of us had already turned 18, so it was a very different dynamic. Add to that a memorable remark from one of our “chaperones” the day we checked into the hotel- as he went down the hall, he said ” Ok girls, beer and wine is 18, everything else is 21″. More about the “chaperones” in a minute. His announcement was the first clue we had that this was going to be a very memorable outing. In our home state of Nebraska, the drinking age was 19, but in our next door neighbor, Iowa, it was 18. So there had been some legal trips to Iowa, but New Orleans was in another realm in terms of bars and entertainment. Actually, more like another planet.

It didn’t take long for us to venture out on the town, and the French Quarter was very close to our hotel. I remember walking down Bourbon street, with its interesting architecture, and the doormen trying to get us into their establishments. The barely clad dancers on swings going in and out of second floor windows is a distinct memory. Musicians on every street corner, and the strains of jazz and zydeco coming from many of the clubs. We didn’t have enough sense to go to Preservation Hall and hear the best jazz in the world, but at least we heard some as we walked around.

A bit more about our “chaperones”. I use the term in quotes because they were pretty lax, to say the least. I thought that was spiffy at the time, but I look back on it now and know it wasn’t what any of our parents, or the school, had in mind. There were two “chaperones” that I remember, one a part time coach ( he of the beer and wine is 18 advice), and the other a full time teacher who had very recently gotten married. He may have been using the trip as his honeymoon, because I only remember seeing him on the first and last days of the trip.

So basically a bunch of 17 and 18 year old girls were turned loose in the French Quarter and any place else they could get to for an entire week. Kind of like Billy Joel’s classic song Only The Good Die Young. Most of us still had midnight curfews at home, so the ability to stay out as late as we wanted, and do whatever we wanted to do, was quite fun. There were a few daytime bus trips that were available to see the sites, but no one kept track of whether you went or not. So attendance was very affected by what had gone on the night before.

The things that happened the night before varied quite a bit. I shared a room with three of my closest friends, so we did everything together. One of the first places we discovered was Pat O’Briens, home of the famous hurricane drink, that came with a souvenir glass. What fun! They tasted just like fruit juice! And the “everything else is 21” advice didn’t exist. Nobody was being carded. If you could walk into the establishment and order a drink, it was yours. We went there more than once, and had so many souvenir glasses that I took the extras home in my suitcase. I remember my dad asking what was rattling around when he picked me up from the airport. Souvenirs, I replied. Lots and lots of souvenirs.

I remember sitting in the hotel lobby one night, and seeing several of my classmates get off the elevator in nice, formal dresses. They were soon met by a group of Navy members in uniform who were their dates to some type of military ball. Since New Orleans is a port, this shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it kind of was. I was amazed they had either packed or purchased dresses for the occasion. Anchors Aweigh! And it just so happened that we had a sailor theme for our school’s hotly contested annual Field Day that would be held when we got home. Of course our classmates had to attend that ball.

In addition to the entertaining evenings, we did make it to some of the famous restaurants. I remember Cafe Du Monde and Brennans, with the pastel exterior and bananas foster. And we found a relatively quiet bar right across the street from the hotel, where we met some locals who were our age. They were a lot of fun, and we were the first Midwesterners they had ever met. There was a jukebox, and the song we requested repeatedly was The Locomotion, by Grand Funk Railroad. Nobody knew how to actually do the dance, so we made up our own- kind of a conga line. It worked well, and when we’ve had class reunions with music it’s always requested.

The last full day we were in the city was a Sunday, and it may have been Easter- unlike Pat O’Brien’s, I don’t remember that part with any certainty! We were all expected to show up for mass at the St Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. That was the only time anyone took attendance, and apparently we all made it because no missing persons bulletins were issued. The church was fairly close to our hotel, and platform shoes were in style at the time, so it was an interesting walk on the old style streets to get there. I’m sure we looked like a group of devout, high school girls on vacation. And on that morning, I guess we were.

The trip home was uneventful, and shortly thereafter we won the Field Day competition, graduated, and went on with life. I am happy to say I am still friends with my roommates from the trip. Over the years, our class has had a lot of fun reunions, and invariably the senior trip is mentioned. In the days before Facebook and email, we used to ask classmates to send in their contact info and high school memories, and we put together a booklet. Lots of senior trip memories, but I think the one that summed it up best was the following: “New Orleans- some party!” And we all knew what exactly what she meant.

4 Fun Tips For Travelling With Kids

4 Fun Tips For Travelling With Kids

Spring has arrived, the virus is receding, and families are starting to organize summer trips with their kids and grandkids again. After some memorable travel adventures while my children were growing up, I offer some funny memories and tips to assist with your planning.

Aerial photo of the California coast

One of our first trips as a family was to California when our first born was 18 months old. We flew to Monterey, rented a car and planned to site see for a few days, then drive south on the beautiful Highway 101 to San Luis Obispo to visit relatives. Although we had driven on the Pacific Coast Highway before, it was our first visit to Monterey. The plane rides to California took all day with layovers, so we were all tired when we got there.

After a night of not too restful sleep due to adjusting to Pacific Time, we decided to see some sites. The 17 Mile Drive, from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, seemed like a good choice. Hugging the coastline, and with views of beautiful homes and a famous golf course, we thought the little one would probably fall asleep while we enjoyed the drive. We had made sure to time it after eating lunch and changing diapers. The little one had other ideas. After we paid the fee to get onto the drive, it was only about 30 minutes until the crying started. Non stop, full on, over tired, I am not on Pacific Time, not in my own bed, toddler howling.

We thought the motion of the car would eventually lull said child to sleep. We also thought the drive was only 17 miles, so how long could it take? Well, quite awhile with traffic. Trying to stop and console the little one outside the car didn’t work, so I moved to the backseat in the hope of helping, and we drove as fast as we could. It was like being on a European road race, but with traffic. I remember seeing a bit of the ocean, some pricey homes, one hole at the Pebble Beach golf course, and the trunk of the famous Cypress tree.

The little one did eventually tire herself out and fall asleep, after we exited the famous drive. Then we had to drive around to keep her asleep with the hope of a more restful night. From that day forth, I have referred to this picturesque locale as the 117 Mile Drive, because that is what it felt like. A return trip might be in order now that retirement has set in.

Fun Travel Tip Number One- if your kids wear diapers and take naps, avoid air travel and stick with driving trips close to home, in the same time zone. Or just stay home.

After baby number two arrived, we knew better than to fly anywhere with two toddlers. But that didn’t stop us from naively planning a driving trip to a lake with another family. The photo of the dismembered Barbie doll above, which I am amazed was available on the free photo site, gives you an idea of how this one went.

Our kids were two and four, but the friends children were a bit older. Since they might be more flexible than we could be, one of our favorite babysitters came along on the trip. She was thirteen, and very willing to help out. The drive to the lake we were visiting went pretty well, and when we got to our destination each family checked into their own condo. That was a great help since we had different schedules our kids were used to, and no one had to adapt too much.

The lake resort was nice, but with two toddlers I spent a lot of time in the condo with one or the other changing diapers or putting someone down for a nap. Our babysitter was a huge help, but we wanted her to have some time at the pool too, so it was a lot of juggling. I remember it as more of a working vacation than restful but not too surprising.

The only real drama occurred on the drive home. The toddlers and babysitter were in the middle row of our van, and each of the kids had a bag of books, toys and snacks. This worked well until the two year old fell asleep with a Barbie doll in her hand. She woke up about 45 minutes later, and apparently wasn’t done with her nap, because for no obvious reason she started hitting the babysitter on the head with the doll. And I mean hitting. By the time we pulled over, and extracted the sitter, the doll was pretty mangled. After some time to regroup, I decided to move to the middle seat and let the poor sitter get a break in the front. Miraculously, the sitter did take care of our kids again, and when she grew up even had three of her own.

Fun Travel Tip Number Two- when travelling with small children who take naps in the car, remove anything that could become a weapon when they fall asleep. Or just stay home.

Photo of the Santa Barbara airport

The next trip happened when the kids were 3 and 5, and involved another vacation to California. Learning from the 117 Mile Drive, no sight seeing was planned, and we flew into the Santa Barbara airport. Our final destination wasn’t too far away. It is a small airport, and has a lot palm trees and open areas since the climate is so temperate. The children, their grandmother and I arrived after a full day of connecting flights. The next stop was the car rental counter.

I took the five year old, and sent the three year old in a stroller with her grandmother while we got the car. The line was full of business travellers, and I clearly wasn’t- I had on elastic waste pants, a sweater, and looked like I had been travelling with toddlers all day. As the line grew, I asked one of the business people to save my place, and I put the five year old on a bench nearby, where I could see her, with stern instructions not to move or talk to anyone. Once I was back in my place, she said, as loudly as possible “Sure, I’ll sit here, and I’ll do whatever you say, you big, fat butt”. There were some stifled laughs. I mumbled something about how verbal she was for only being five, but I felt like my derriere was inflating by the minute. And I made a note not to wear sweat pants again on a flight. Ever.

Fun Travel Tip Number Three-keep your precocious, verbal children in front of you when you are in lines at an airport to avoid any unsolicited comments about your backside. Or just stay home.

The last adventure was when my daughters were 11 and 13. We were at a beach in North Carolina that had a lot of family activities- in addition to the ocean, miniature golf, go carts, and a great ice cream shop on the main street to and from the beach. We visited every year starting when the girls were much younger, but the activities remained the same. It was a popular place, but almost all of the businesses were small, family owned and had great service.

We were long past any missed naps or other mishaps by this point, but something happened that really caught me off guard. One night at the ice cream store, the nice young man serving my daughters mentioned that theirs were free. I thought it was some kind special deal for the family. Then it dawned on me- mine wasn’t free- only theirs, and he was flirting with them! What was he thinking? They were still young children my mind. I swooped in like a mother bird, paid for all of our treats, and hustled them out the door. Our vacations had hit a whole new zone.

Fun Travel Tip Number Four- when your daughters are over age 10, assume that all of the boys you see on vacation will think they are old enough to date. Dispel all boys of this notion by hovering over your girls at all times. It’s not practical to stay home at these ages, so make the best of it.

I hope this post has given you a few laughs, and some ideas for future trips with your family members, especially the kids. Happy vacation planning!