So, no conference for me today. Today was the day of GirlTourism (tm). And it was really a fabulous day.
I got my days mixed up very slightly and realized late last night that my reservation for the swamp tour was this morning. I forget how, but a week or two ago I had discovered that there are, in fact, swamp tours to be gone on. I didn't know at the time just how many there were - since I've gotten here I've seen quite a few advertised - but the Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour seemed promising. There were only three of us on the tour, which was actually on some alternately privately- and federally-owned canals that ran through the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Add to this that apparently this Jean Lafitte fellow was a pirate; I got to hold two alligators (which was seriously awesome); the weather was gorgeous - sunny and very warm in the sun, but not muggy (not until much later in the day, at any rate), and very breezy; and our tour guide, Captain Jamie, was just a very nice guy who got the alligators to come right up to our boat by tossing them marshmallows, of all things, and told many, many corny jokes (Me: "Why do you feed them marshmallows?" Capt. Jamie: "Because they're marsh animals."). Added bonus: There was the option of transportation to and from my hotel. It was a good long tour, about 90 minutes, and the land was beautiful, and it smelled like nature, which I guess is obvious, but it smelled fresh and green, and I forgot how much I love that smell.
I hung out in the hotel for a little while before going to the Old Ursuline Convent. I was under the impression that there were tours at specific times, but I'm glad I called before I went because it was open a bit later than I had been told previously. I got there a few minutes before 4, when the office was closing, but I was told that that's just when they close the front gates, and although the tour was self-guided, that I was welcome to wander throughout the gardens and lower level and church as long as I liked. It didn't take long, but it was beautiful and cool and peaceful. The gardens were beautifully kept, and the attached chapel had all these very bright, vividly painted statues, sanctuary, and Stations of the Cross in French. The docents told me that Mass hadn't been said there since Katrina because of the severe shortage of priests; between that, and a lot of older parishioners not coming back and St. Louis Cathedral being three blocks down - and that being a minor basilica, and garnering a lot of local and tourist attention, etc. - the Convent just didn't have the ability to have Mass anymore. As it is, I was told, they rely on tourism, which really is a shame.
I poked my nose into St. Louis Cathedral for a few minutes before wandering through Jackson Square and down to the French Market in search of a muffuletta from Central Grocery, but I got there just as they were closing, so I decided to have more beignets and an iced cafe au lait from Cafe du Monde. (I fully support these kinds of chains, in which I get tasty treats that occasionally ruin my dinner.) I sat outside, listened to some live music, and watched people walk by. At which point I realized that I should start to meander back to the hotel.
But it took me a long time to get back to the hotel because on the way I stopped at the Riverwalk Marketplace. I'm not too keen on shopping this trip - it's not fun to do alone, anyway, although I did look into some stores at the French Market; but that was just as well because by the time I got there it was about 6:30 and the whole place closes at 7. Just enough time to pick up some sushi to go (I got a Mardis Gras roll - "Cajun crawfish inside, tuna, avocado, masago outside and crunchy on top"; and a Premium Spicy roll - "spicy salmon and Tempura flakes, topped with spicy chopped tuna") and sit outside looking at the river before it started to pour.
Fortunately the rain didn't last long and the walk home was actually very pleasant. Night was falling, the wind blew, the wind was clear and clean and a bit sweet, and warm and cool at the same time. I wish I could open the window in my hotel room.