New Orleans

“Big Easy”

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

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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

And beignets!

We wanted to do a ‘Voodoo’ walking tour but it was sold out every day

Atmosphere

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

Swamp Tour

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

Food

Stanley 

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!

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Yui

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

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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

Clesi

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

Another boil!

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

Dat Dog

WTF Fries – White Trash Fries

Good drunk snack!

Central Grocery

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

N’Awrlins

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

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