Alligators and Beignets

We got up early Tuesday morning with a packed day ahead of us–the doggies were coming downtown with me!

Our first stop was the beautiful dog park in the New Orleans city park. At least it looked beautiful from outside of the gate, as I was informed that the dog park was always closed on Tuesday mornings for maintenance. We made do with the big open field across from it. Snickers and Meeko were full out sprinting in huge figure eights chasing each other. After several nights in a hotel, they were very excited to release all of that energy! We met a nice man with two dogs, one of whom was a large rescue with a sad story of neglect and being forced to live outside for a year. Meeting this dog, you would never know– it was so friendly and loved playing with Meeko. When I pet it’s head, it leaned into my leg like it just couldn’t get enough attention. After chatting for a bit, the man and his doggies left, so my doggies resumed their playing. Snickers went for several dips in the questionably clean pond and chased a Great Blue Heron!

Piling back into the car, the smell of wet dog in the air, we headed to Jackson Square, a large open marketplace with food and tourist-y items. I ate some cheap tasty crab cakes and the dogs were pet by every passing friendly stranger. They both really enjoyed meeting all these new people, especially families with little kids. Snickers loves to give sneak attack kisses when kids bend down to pet her! I realized that most of the other tourists were assuming that I was a local because of the dogs. One group even asked me if I thought it was going to rain that day!

By 1pm we were back at the hotel, and I changed outfits to prepare for my Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour. The dogs were very happy to be back in the air-conditioning for their nap. I drove an hour Northeast into the Bayou which included several highway sections directly above the swamps. $25 poorer and a red band around my wrist, I was ready to see some alligators! After waiting about 45 minutes, watching the blue group, the green group, and the yellow group leave, the red group was escorted through the parking lot and onto a wooden walkway towards our boat.

There were about 20 people on the boat with me, and I found myself seated between a family and an Asian girl about my age, also traveling by herself. Our guide wasted no time in getting us to some alligators inside of the protected wetlands. I got the sense that all of the guides knew where certain gators liked to hang out. He stuck a hot dog long-ways on a stick and held it in the water. “Come and get it Cindy!” Cindy was an 8 foot lady gator who preferred hot dogs over marshmallows, another popular gator treat. We met several other smaller gators, many turtles and 2 herons.

At one point, we went into the inner swamp through a small natural opening between the trees. The guide stopped the boat and pulled a baby alligator out. “Alright this guy is about 1 year old, he’s got about 80 teeth– hey quit trying to bite me!– so we’ll just pass him around so everyone can hold him”. Our whole group got really quiet, trying to figure out if he was joking or if we were really about to hold a baby alligator. The guide passed it to the first person on his left with some final advice “Just keep his mouth pointed away from you!”

And just like that I had a baby alligator in my hands. His belly was very smooth, almost like rubber. He was a little squirmy at first, but eventually he settled down. The girl next to me kindly took some pictures of my and the gator. She was too scared to hold him, so I passed him along to the next person.

I got back to the hotel around 6pm, ate dinner and then packed up the car. We were headed to Corpus Christi with the goal of making the 10 hour drive in one day. Wish us luck!

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana