New Orleans Itinerary:
Eat…a lot. Drink. Bourbon Street Ride St. Charles Streetcar Eat. Cafe du Monde See Garden District Wander French Quarter Listen to jazz See a cemetery
- Plantation or swamp tour
For Andy’s sake, I sort of feel bad about not being able to go gator huntin’ on a swamp tour, but I’m sure he loved gawking at houses in the Garden District so much he doesn’t really care. At least that’s how I feel about it…
Before our trip, I printed off this walking tour, gave it to the guide (Andy) and half listened while I became more and more mesmerized with each corner we turned. I could not get over how breathtaking these homes were! I mean… people actually live here?!
The best part of our little walking tour was that it ended in Lafayette Cemetery. I know a cemetery as a tourist attraction sounds a bit questionable, but the cemeteries in NOLA aren’t the ones most of us are used to seeing every day. The city of New Orleans was built on a swamp so early settlers frequently had problems with floating caskets (awkward..). Eventually the city adopted the Spanish custom of using above ground “vaults” and viola! Problem solved. The tombs are so enormous the cemeteries got the nickname “Cities of the Dead.” I guess it could be kind of creepy at night, but during the day…
Upon entering the Quarter, I am captivated by the intricately designed and decorated balconies. For someone who may or may not be obsessed with balconies, The French Quarter is my playground. I quickly whip out my camera and transform from the unassuming visitor into that tourist. I am snapping pictures left and right, zig zagging through the streets for the best angle, dodging cars, bikers and pedestrians…I am a camera-wielding crazy woman, if you will.
I instantly notice the street signs and my heart skips a beat.
Something about seeing those tiled street signs on the corners of buildings feels like home to me. Not to mention the fact that they are actually in Spanish and many of them are broken, falling apart or nearly illegible. Oh Spain, I miss you so.
Jackson Square is basically everything I’ve come to expect from a large, open plaza area in the center of the city. It is brimming with artists, musicians, horse drawn carriages, and powdered sugar covered faces (one of the city’s most famous cafes is right across the street).
Then there was Bourbon Street. I almost can’t put the Bourbon experience into words. By day it’s nearly deserted…almost scary. The neons still glow, but the bars are mostly empty and quiet. Plastic beads are littered carelessly along the street lacking the proud, belligerent owners that were decked in them the night before. The beer trucks rattle down the road, re-stocking…preparing for the inevitable mayhem the night will bring.
By night Bourbon Street is vibrant and alive. Brassy jazz music fills not only the air, but the bodies. People are spilling into the street everywhere you turn, dancing and grooving to the beats. Not a soul is without a large alcoholic beverage in an obnoxious looking souvenir glass. The balconies are full of spectators taunting the crowds below, scoping out their targets with beads dangling from their fingers. So, I do what what any seasoned traveler does…I immerse myself in the culture.
A weekend jaunt to New Orleans was just exactly what I needed. Travel, something that had been a major theme for me during the first half of this year seemed practically nonexistent during the second half. I was becoming restless, irritated. The itch was definitely back…and after a long hiatus, it came with an urgent need to be taken care of. So, to the Crescent City we went.
One of my favorite things about living in Europe was the ability to be transported to an entirely different culture, a different world after spending a mere three hours on a plane. One minute you’re sipping a cafe con leche and the next you’re using hand gestures to order pierogies in Krakow. I guess the same is true when you live in Middle America. From my current locale, a three hour plane ride in any direction still yields an incredible amount of uncharted territory. I guess I’ve never really thought about how much my own American culture varies from state to state. Everything from the language to the fashion is subject to change, and change it does! I mean, can you imagine walking into a restaurant in oh, say Billings, Montana and trying to order a fried oyster po-boy with a side of red beans and rice? Or shrimp and grits? Or a spicy, piping hot bowl of auntie’s famous gumbo ya-ya? After last weekend, I sure can’t!