Continuing on the bucket list of American destinations: New Orleans, LA
Arriving on an overnight bus from Austin/Houston at 6am, seeing the city through bleary eyes for the first time
We headed up to our hostel to try and get some sleep before exploring but couldn’t get in till 2
So it was time to get cracking on seeing the city!
Free Walking Tour
Easily, the best way to see a city, especially when you’re exhausted and not sure where to start
We went on a tour of the French Quarter and Cemetery
To start with, there was just way too much information to take in, all about the American history that led to the creation of New Orleans – port city, drainage, the city being like a bowl within the water level, someone that died that caused something else to happen
And then it got more into the history of New Orleans, where it was easier to follow and became more significant
As a city that you can drink outdoors, it was important to have drinks that could be made quickly, leading to drinks like the Hurricane, Hand Grenade and
Prostitution was also an issue back in the day, so rather than individual homes causing problems, they legalised prostitution on one street of New Orleans downtown – Bourbon Street – which was later shut down when power changed
But today, you can still quite clearly see those roots
The original French heritage of the city, combined later with slavery under Black Noir law led to the introduction of many African people in New Orleans, which of course, led to ‘Creole’ cooking – the combination of French methods and African spices
Leading to me being very happy, with gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish boils, and generally really spicy food
We wanted to do a ‘Voodoo’ walking tour but it was sold out every day
The old streets of the city are a little crumbly in some areas, with the paving tiles cracked and split and smashed
But the buildings are still beautiful, many with the original iron works on the outside – the more extravagant, the richer the owner – many now built out of stone, or not the original building due to different fires and floods
Bourbon Street is constantly bouncing, even at 10am the bars are getting cleaned out from the night before and people have started drinking
The tell-tale sign of the frozen street drinks, the light grenade that goes in the tall cup, are floating along the puddles in the cobbles
Other areas of the city are less crazy, and easier to admire
Frenchman Street also has a lot of bars, live music in the street and places to eat, but a little cheaper and not so many people falling around
During the day, Jackson Square and Royal Street are great:
Royal Street is closed off for pedestrians so you can happily walk along listening to bands play on every block and look in little boutiques
Jackson Square is one of the only places that artists are licensed to sell their work, so they sit around painting and selling, with the fantastic company of tarot card readers and fortune tellers, as well as bands and street performers throughout the day
After a few days we worked out the pattern of when each performer tends to head to the square
I held a baby alligator!
He was so little and smooth and cute
It wasn’t quite how I expected him to feel, I thought the skin would be tough, and I didn’t expect to be able to feel his lungs move as he breathed – that one kind of creeped me out!
The little guy had his mouth taped up, which seemed a little mean, but with so many people and small children, it wouldn’t really be safe not to
But I digress, the tour was great
Cajun Pride Tours own their own swamp and the land around it
So they take you out on a barge type boat and explain what is living in the swamp and what is common to New Orleans, how Hurricane Katrina effected it, the gator season and how much they sell for
Our guide, Captain Tom, was hilarious, he’d just go off on random tangents about where to get a bowl of Turtle Soup and the size of portion to get and how good it was
He was also really good at explaining where to get a good crawfish boil and what to look out for and the type of questions to ask – if you want a good one, you’re looking at roughly $6 per pound, although that’s quite a lot, and for that you should get quite a lot of big crawfish
He then brought out a couple of crawfish that he had caught – the female was pregnant, so he said that every season he catches some and saves them till they give birth and then sets them free again
He picked up the boy and girl crawfish and turned them upside down and started to give us a sex-ed lesson on crawfish – the boy has equipment, and the girl doesn’t, he wasn’t joking, you could quite clearly see the difference
My only complaint about the door was the disorganisation when it came to leaving – they offer a combination tour with a plantation – and they made an absolute shambles of getting people onto the right buses and weren’t all that polite about it by the end
NOLA Jazz House
This hostel was great. Not as clean as Nashville Downtown, but it seems pretty brand new and a converted warehouse.
This one was a house that has been converted, knocking down the centre walls to make it more spacious
The staff were the best bit, especially Vanessa and Jay – Vanessa checked us in early and although she couldn’t let us into our room yet, she made breakfast and gave us some tips on where to go for the day, meanwhile Jay could talk for days about absolutely anything, she also made Sunday morning mimosa’s!
I had wanted to stay at India House after a few groups of friends had gone and stayed there and loved it, but I was pleased that I stayed here – besides, they’re only about three blocks apart and a couple dollars different
They do some really tasty gumbo with chicken, andouille, shrimp (damn big shrimp), and oysters, served with rice and bread and an option to add some potato salad
The best I’ve had so far. The right spice. And hot!
Japanese food in Illinois? Yeah, I was confused too, but we headed out too late for a holiday Friday and everywhere had a long line or bad reviews
This was actually really good, we got a bunch of stuff to try, in our own little Japanese tapas
Edamame, crab dumplings, dried fried octopus, Japanese style fried chicken, and shrimp spring rolls
Good little place on Frenchman Street, with a live band
Hotel Du Monde
When in New Orleans, it has to be done. Beignets!
I tried them once in New York when some friends that went to Mardi Gras had fallen in love with them
The first tried in New Orleans, I wasn’t too sure if they matched up, but that was likely just because they were bigger
But after a couple of visits, I could live on them forever
It was crawfish boil time!
This was what I was most excited for when I arrived, and I got one.
A big tray, with 4lbs of crawfish. A little spicy, really juicy.
The only thing I wanted was some of the juice its cooked in so I could dip it back in
We still felt like we had a little space left after, so we went for some shrimp and jambalaya to share
The jambalaya was good, but I prefer my sister’s – well done Ria! Although it is probably in no way authentic
Bayou Beer Garden
This one was spiced better than Creole, but the crawfish were harder to pull apart.
But still delicious. And only $12 for 3lbs and all the trimmings – sausage, potatoes and corn.
Pretty good way to wait out a storm – eating crawfish under tarpaulin
WTF Fries – White Trash Fries
Good drunk snack!
I kept seeing reviews for this sandwich called a Muffetta and seeing a line outside Central Grocery, so I felt the need to try it
Ham, salami, cheese, olive salad, and some other stuff.
It was good, but I doubt I’d get it again
It’s a great city, full of crazy, drunk and friendly people
Having gone at a time that wasn’t Mardi Gras, I don’t think I will ever go to it, and was pretty glad that I passed up on the chance to go in February
It’s crazy enough at the best of times, never mind if there were parades popping up every two seconds
I loved it during the day, and being able to grab a drink and just wander around
But I’m not a good drinker and I get a little claustrophobic, so it maybe isn’t the best place for me
Royal Street and Jackson Square were beautiful to walk around or sit down on the edge of the pavement and watch a band and the people moving around