Every winter semester, Canadian universities will typically get a “reading week” to let students catch up on their studies, read, and prepare for upcoming midterm tests.
Instead, this year I left all my homework and worries behind and joined a group from Habitat for Humanity – University of Guelph chapter, on a reading week trip to Louisiana!
We left the first Friday night of reading week, and drove down there in vans in one straight shot. It took us about 24 hours and was an adventure and a half, but we got there all in one piece on Saturday night. We settled into our accommodations, provided by Habitat, where we’d be staying for the full week.
The next day we headed out for New Orleans!
Our group started with lunch together on a balcony in the French Quarter. I split several dishes with friends so that we could taste a little bit of everything, including crab cakes, gumbo, jambalaya, alligator sausage, and crawfish mac ‘n’ cheese. Before I left on the trip, somebody advised me that the two great past times of New Orleans were music and food, and this certainly held up!
After lunch we split into smaller groups, and spent several hours exploring the city. The city had hosted their biggest party of the year, Mardi Gras, just a week beforehand, and though they seemed to have done a pretty good job of cleaning it all up, there will still remnants from the party, including beads hanging off wires and trees and glitter ground into the sidewalks.
We wandered around by the river, the parks, and enjoyed some live street music, which seemed to spring up everywhere in New Orleans. It was beautifully warm there – we had left temperatures hovering around freezing in Ontario, and in Louisiana it was a gorgeous 27 degrees Celsius and sunny!
The architecture was also really beautiful. New Orleans has both strong French and Spanish influences and is a truly unique city, probably one of my favourite cities that I’ve been to.
In the evening, we rejoined our group for a walking ghost tour of New Orleans, which was satisfyingly creepy.
(This building isn’t haunted, it’s just beside one of the buildings that is haunted, and I thought it was really pretty. Taking pictures of the actual haunted buildings is supposed to be bad luck, and who am I to mess with spirits?)
After an exhausting but very fun day, we headed back to our accommodations in Lafayette, to rest up for our first day of work at the site the next day.