I had bagged an absolute bargain with the mystery deal on Bookit and ended up in the Intercontifuckingnental just 2 blocks away from the French Quarter. I figured it was probably the last time I was going to get to enjoy luxurious bedding and a beautifully apointed bathroom, for quite some time. But it does feel a bit weird walking into a foyer of a 4 star hotel with a dirty backpack on. The staff were nothing but gracious.
I went out exploring straight away, wandering down Royal St with all its beautiful little galleries and gift shops.
I landed in a Gumbo restaurant, sampling the local fare: gumbo soup, creole shrimp, jambalya and rice & refried beans (which i have to say, I’m not a big fan of – and yes, I know this is going to be problematic when I get to Central America). I was served by a very handsome waiter by the name of Bennett, who had the laziest Louisiana drawl…
This was just the start of me falling in love with Nawlins boys all over the shop. These men would have to be the politest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, they clearly love women and were just raised right. I came to love the sound of their dulcet tones lingering all over my skin. Everyone calls you M’am or Miss or more often than not, Baby. I loved it.
It was a lot more humid here than in Houston. This place was sticky, and sexy, and sultry. Hot, in more ways than one.
It also struck me as being quite European. The French and Spanish influences over architecture, food and attitude was everywhere. New Orleans a heartbeat, a soul kinda feelin you won’t find elsewhere in the States. Don’t get me wrong – there’s also a terribly touristy and terrifically tacky side to all this too. Strip shows, souvenir shops selling everything from colorful shiny beads to plastic voodoo dolls.
But what got me, was Everywhere there was music. Sweet sweet music. My kinda music. Blues, jazz and old school rhythm and blues.
And a fair bit of psydeco, which really ain’t my bag, but it’s easy enough to avoid what you don’t like for what you do.
I saw bits and bobs of bands banging out tunes, all up and down Bourbon St ‘lmost every day i was in New Orleans. But the one act that sticks out the most in my mind, was an a’capella group: 5 suited and booted beautiful, big black men harmonizing their lil hearts out under a gas street light, late one night.
The Street gets going around midday and doesn’t relent until the wee hours of the morning. It’s a cacophony. Of sounds, sights, smells. And just was it was in Vegas, you got people wandering around with drinks in their hand from start to finish. It’s no dramas to buy a drink in one bar and take it into the next.
On my first day, I got caught without an umbrella in a flash hailstorm. I dashed into the nearest pub which, I later discovered, was famous for the introduction of Hurricanes, a popular cocktail right across town. Inside, it was dark as night, and people were smoking and listening to some dirty swampy blues. When I went to the restroom, i had to pass through an old venue which apparently only comes alive at night; on the stage, two beautiful old grand pianos proudly stood. I was reminded of the time I saw Christa’s dad, Dick Hughes and Leonie, the pianist from her band, dueling in the Studio.
Later that night, I met up with a guy I met via Couchsurfing, to see his band play in a dive bar on the outskirts of the Quarter, in an area called called Marigny. It was all loud experimental slash post punk slash indy rock slash slash slash. Noise. And to be fair, it was noise done well. But I got over that kind of ‘music’ in 3rd year of uni. I was knackered and bailed for bed in the witching hour.
On Wed morning, I got my hair cut by a young lass who managed to fuse countrygrl with edgy fashonista. She was all tatts and pretty red curls. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth but she knew what was what. She directed me to the cool part of town- a street peppered with cafes spilling over with locals and vintage shops filled with gorgeous things i didn’t need or couldn’t carry.
I met another couchsurfer, a visiting Swede, for a tasty seafood lunch. And then we just cruised around for a while, poking around in the shops by the riverfront.
The next day, I went back to buy a beautiful hand crafted Mardi Gras mask from a vivacious Iranian woman I’d met on my 1st day. Everywhere you could buy cheap and nasty, plastic, made in China versions. This shop was the real deal. I watched her handsome cousin make one while I was there. We made plans to catch up on my last night.
In the afternoon, I met up with the Swede to take the last working paddleboat down the Mississippi. She was an absolute beauty, working hard to make her way down a big ole dirty brown river with many stories, and a lot of history attached to it.
A body of water which constantly gives the people, who choose to live by it, such a hard time – but clearly she holds so much appeal they can’t tear themselves away. We saw some of the remains of the devastation that Katrina had wreaked.
People here are very loyal to the city and all it stands for. They have rebuilt and bounced back. Their attitude is about living in the moment, celebrating the now.
I got to go down into the engine room of the Nachez, much to the satisfaction of the tomboy in me. Old machinations fascinate me. Plus, I got a happy snap of me with the Captain!
The Swede had organized a meet up with some of the Couchsurfing locals, so I tagged along. A bar called Love Lost. I immediately got chatting to an interesting bloke at the bar whose job was a town planner, who specialized in the prevention of homicides. We discussed best ways to murder a person and the imminent demise of his relationship.
I later teamed up with some of the locals for some pool (those who know me, know I have a very small window where I can actually play pool and it’s somewhere between the fifth and eighth drink. I think I was on drink number 9 by this stage).
They had the coolest jukebox ever, all rock and roll and blues and GOOD singlalong stuff. None of this Shits of Summer 99 rubbish. They even had some ACDC. And it was something stupid like 8 songs for 2 quarters. I was in jukebox heaven!
It was still so warm even at midnight, and i wanted to walk home but the boys insisted on hailing me a cab. I slept well that night.
On Friday, my last day, I had a lazy day, just eating and sleeping and reading and writing.
I later met Sha’hlha and her handsome cousin for a few drinks which turned into a lot of drinks and then a lot of shots, and I think there might have been some karaoke and maybe a pash. With the handsome cousin, whose name I can’t even remember now. He walked me home.
And then I went back out. To get a shrimp po’boy. Note to self: tequila and prawns no more. I woke up at 7 for my flight, cursing my inability to expel nausea in the usual way. I just felt crook for the whole flight to Mexico. When will I learn.