NOLA is still one of my favourite places to visit. Despite what’s been thrown at her she’s still managed to come back fighting. Our plane landed in the evening into the hot and humid city. Our shared shuttle passed the Superdome into the city and finally through the French Quarter. We weren’t the last drop off this time round. After tipping the kind gentleman we entered the hotel to be welcomed by the sweetest lady behind the counter who marked all the must go to places on a map for us. Sitting in the lobby was a tall white gentleman confidently wearing cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Also he was wearing a jester hat. He proceeded to wave his long hands in front of us repeating the line ‘you never saw me here’ and left the hotel. If the next 2 nights in The Big Easy were to be as entertaining as this enigma we had just encountered then I was going to enjoy it, especially given the voodoo and supernatural history of this city.
We took the lift to the 11th floor and as soon as the doors opened we were hit with that damp humid hotel smell. We found our room and immediately put the air con on. There was an eery feeling to the room. After a quick freshen up we made our way down to Bourbon Street which ran parallel to the street we were on. I have always been told to check my morals in before heading down this famous street. After walking up and down this street I’m not so sure why. It is definately adults only at night but I don’t see how it’s so different from what you’d see in Vegas or on a night out in Kings Cross Sydney. There are strip clubs, adult shops and prostitutes every few metres, but nothing that would make me advise people to ‘check their morals in’. The bestie and I grabbed a slice of pizza and a frozen margarita to share. We walked a long way down Bourbon Street watching some couples enter the different clubs. We watched door ladies try and lure groups of guys walking past, explaining why their particular club was better than the rest. We made a u-turn back to the hotel down this famous street. I stopped to take a photo of a church which meant the bestie got a few steps ahead of me. He passed 2 clubs on either side of him when 2 ladies tried dragging him in to their respective places of employment. The look on his face was priceless and it took me a while to stop laughing.
I made my way back to the hotel room while he went exploring the night in search of Lestat. I hopped into bed and turned the tv on, 30 Days of Night was screening. I quickly changed the channel to a black and white horror film. I decided to switch the tv off and get some sleep. Then I suddenly got the intense feeling something was watching me. When you’re alone and get to this stage shadows start moving and the weird creaks start to seem louder. I checked in on the bestie who was on his way back. Once he walked into the room all scary thoughts had vanished, I was asleep within minutes. Something can be said about mind over matter here.
The morning took us back to Bourbon Street. This was a completely different place to the one we saw last night. Instead of the clubs and adult shops we had bars open for breakfast and souvenir shops belting out jazz tunes. After an omelette and coffee we decided to get wonderfully lost. Beads were still strung over lamp posts and street signs from Mardi Gras 8 months earlier. There were still houses and shops boarded up and streets that needed some repairs, a sign of the damage of Hurricane Katrina that was still evident 5 years later.
We made it to Jackson Square which hosts a museum to Hurricane Katrina. Outside there were older African American gentleman playing their jazz hearts out for the tourists. Palm readers patiently waited for the curious folk to come by and learn of their futures. We carried on our journey to find the Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi. I have it on good word that this is the last remaining paddle boat.
Once on board and heading out to the open waters we were given the history of NOLA from the slavery days right up to the hurricanes that have almost drowned this city, and the determination of it’s people to keep rebuilding. We passed the wall that was meant to protect this city. We passed the industrial side of the city and saw many ships much larger than the little steamboat we were on. As the sun began to set our captain turned around and headed back up the Mississippi to our dock.
We headed back to Jackson Square where local street food carts were serving gumbo, the local cuisine made from okra. I passed on this but instead settled for another local dish, seafood creole. I would gladly suffer the heart burn many times over to have this dish again.
It was dark by the time we started to make our way back to the hotel. We passed by a vampire shop where the owner tried to get us to go on a ghost city tour as well as Lafayette cemetery. I was having none of that although now I do regret how my sense of adventure let me down that night. From here we went into a voodoo shop. Being the somewhat superstitious African that I am I stayed away from everything. I just stood there awkwardly smiling at the lady behind the counter. The bestie was off admiring voodoo dolls and skulls and sticks. We left the shop after what seemed like an eternity and there towering over the crowd was Jester man. He must’ve remembered us from the hotel as he put his finger over his lips and whispered ‘shhh’. We never did see him again but 5 years later he is still very clear in my memory.
After what seemed like a quick rest we were up again for our final morning in the French Quarter. Our walk took us to the Blues House and into many souvenir shops. And then I heard it, what I’d been dying to hear the last 2 days. The Creole accent, a combination of American, French and Jamaican. It was beautiful. For those who don’t know what this accent sounds like you need to YouTube Rene from True Blood, prepare to be amazed at this wonderful accent. Suddenly my Louisiana trip was complete. I could now head to the airport for the last leg of the US trip satisfied that someone had asked me if I needed help in a Creole accent.