Still unsure that being called ‘A tall Drink o’ Water’ on the plane was a good thing or not I make my way to the taxi stand, ready to experience New Orleans in all it’s Jazzy charm.
Taxi Driver: “ave yo hayd a po-boy b’for?
Me: Umm no, I don’t think we have.. what’s that?
Taxi Driver: “Daym, well dose tings are so yummy, it’ll make ya slap ya granma!”
The drivers name was Herman and I’ll remember his words for the rest of my life. Welcome to New Orleans, ‘The Big easy’. One of the most charming, magical and interesting places I have been my travels throughout the US. Music, sex, superstition and voodoo hang in the air as thick as smog mingling with the cries, shouts and laughter of drunken tourists and locals alike, as festivities permeate the French Quarter from The Mississippi all the way up to Rampart Street.
I thought I was laid back.. but this town knows how to chill.. There are no bus stops in New Orleans, if you want a bus, wait at any street corner and simply hail one down. I dig this place, like a dog looking for a bone.
Spend days wandering the charming streets of the French Quarter, marvelling at the street performers, musicians, psychics, French style balconies and giggle at the drunken idiots stumbling over the uneven curbs. Smoke a cigar, eat a few local delights and if it’s parade season, buy a mask, a silly costume and dance like no one’s watching.
The notorious Bourbon street’s reputation is infamous as a place of excess, music and booze. It basically reminded me of the red light districts in Thailand with less Thai people, a bit more Jazz and an equal number of tools wandering around from bar to bar unsuccessfully chasing their dignity. A far more authentic New Orleans experience can be found on Frenchmen St, located just outside the famous French Quarter.
Frenchmen Street attracts the odd tourist but is more frequented by the locals. Restaurants dot the street, squatting between the many music venues, bars and haunts of artists and poets who frequent the area. I’d recommend ‘The Spotted Cat Jazz Club’ to absorb some of the best local artists from around the area and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous (or drunk) there are a few tattoo parlours that accept walkins.. just saying.
The garden District offers some of the best options for accommodation, with beautiful old style southern houses dominating the street, and with a quick stroll down St Charles Ave you’ll come face to face with Tulane University, the Audubon Zoo and some of the most haunted looking houses I have ever seen! Boo.
On that note, it was New Orleans after all that helped make vampires sexy. Ann Rice’s acclaimed vampire novels found their beginnings in New Orleans with the excellent first novel: ‘Interview with a Vampire’. These fantastic tales of course have nothing to do with those soul crushing excuses for a vampire stories known as the Twilight series (creepy tales of a 1000 year old ‘pedo’ trying to get it on with a school girl.. you can’t defend it, you just can’t).
Food in New Orleans, while still good, was hyped up to a gastronomically fuelled crescendo, comparable to Jamie Oliver’s wet dream. While I did eat some great meals there, sadly nothing blew me away in the same way that food in New York did. Saying that, I would highly recommend visiting: the Domilise Sandwich Shop for a Po-boy (Southern Sub-style sandwiches) and Café Du Monde for their famous beignet donuts, which have so much icing you feel like Scarface.
New Orleans is sexy, dark and vibrant. It’s full of life, passion, music and good times. The Big Easy lives up to its name. My advice is to do it like the locals do, avoid Bourbon street at all costs, boogie on down to the jazz on Frenchmen Street, prance along in the parades (there are more parades here than North Korea), if you want a really unforgettable experience get a tattoo or 3 if you dare, unlike your memories it’ll be there in the morning.