I had the best time in The Big Easy! This is the most charismatic and friendly place and I would love to go back. It was a whistle-stop tour and I feel like I hit most of the major must-do things!
I arrived late at the airport and James drove from his home in Florida to pick me up. The airport was super strange and it felt like there was absolutely no security so I was out with my bag in no time but it was still about 9:30pm. We drove into the city and James was familiar with it so that helped.
I had booked us beds at India House Hostel, which had been recommended to me by another backpacker, and it was awesome!
We dropped out stuff and went straight back out to get the streetcar to Bourbon Street. Straight into the madness that is nighttime in NOLA. We bought some huge cans at a store on the corner and walked down Bourbon Street. Mine was a can of daiquiri for less that $2! It was funny to be able to drink in the street here but not in Miami. And also James showed me a drive-thru daiquiri place!! Madness.
Bourbon Street is quite something! There were lots of people walking and lots of people on the balconies of all the bars, lots of them throwing the famous beads down to passersby in the street.
We strolled all the way down to Frenchman Street, which is slightly more authentic, has better music and is less mental. There was a street market selling lovely local art and crafts there too and the sellers were really friendly.
We went into a few different bars with incredible live jazz. The first place was possibly the best, The Spotted Cat had amazing music and there is a tiny dancefloor where there was a couple dressed up in gorgeous old fashioned outfits and they were dancing so well!!
The atmosphere in the street was incredible too, there was a big brass band playing outside and people were dancing around and partying in the street.
In the early hours we headed back to the hostel and weren’t sure whether the street car was in operation all night or not so we walked most of the way back along the streetcar lines. But sure enough we were picked up and taken the rest of the way back to India House (really convenient location).
We had an easy morning and I had my first visit to a laundromat, which I had always wanted to do. Plus, they were playing some old skool Fresh Prince on the TV so that was fun.
After that we walked through an awesome neighborhood with the coolest houses and visited the Parkway Bakery so I could try an original Po’ Boy, a sandwich that the owners fed to the “Poor boys” so they didn’t go hungry. The bread rolls are super crusty and there are lots of fillings to choose from so there is something for everyone. I had meatballs dressed (with salad and mayonnaise) and it was a great brunch.
After Parkway Bakery we took a streetcar and went into another area of the city right on the banks of the Mississippi. We stopped at Café du Monde to get fresh Beignets; sugar-coated hot doughnut things. Yummy pastry goodness that are definitely worth trying!
We walked along the Mississippi and timed it really well (despite the warm drizzle) as the iconic Natchez paddle-steamer went by.
I told James I had never been to a casino before so he took me to Harrahs which is next to the river. I guess I’m not a very good gambler, or at least not a fun one! I put $20 into a slot machine that looked awesome and I played up and down to about $17 then got back up to $20 then down to $15 and then got back up to $23.23 and cashed out!!!
It was just a practice run as I hope to be in Macau for New Year, rubbing shoulders with the big rollers.
We walked back to town in the rain, but it was still warm and nice. The areas were walked through were arty and the market was great. What went into The Pepper Palace which is apparently the planet’s number one hot shop(!) and we tried loads of the chillies and chutneys before going back outside past the hilarious resident nutcase street preacher.
We walked through an area full of cool voodoo shops and the voodoo museum; another area that needs a visit if you’re here.
Back at the hostel we did some drinking with some of the other guests until about 11pm
We decided to try our luck getting a space at a rooftop bar with a view over the city so we Ubered to the most fancy-looking hotel, Pontchartrain Hotel, and felt kinda out of place. Someone came over to call the lift for us and we popped out at this supercool bar, another great choice! The bar is called Hot Tin. The skyline was really interesting, there were two freaky towers in particular that were right in the middle of everything but they looked really out of place, with no lights on and just generally creepy-looking. James said they might even be vertical prisons like the one in Chicago.
We had some great cocktails up there with views over the city and then caught another Uber to an awesome dive bar called Snake and Jake’s.
On our walk back to the hostel we stopped at a Waffle House for a 3am hash brown and eggs snack. Another first for me, and it’s such an institution!!
Next morning we drove across the city to Tulane University so I could try to find the Bead Tree which is on the campus and is featured in quite a few movies. It took us quite a while but we found it!!! Even this long after Mardi Gras it’s still full of colourful beads and looks so cool.
We carried on round the city and went to the National World War II museum, which amazingly is in NOLA. We both got in for a cheap rate because James is in the military and they get discounts for everything!
The museum is excellent and it’s really interesting to see an American perspective on how Britain was handling the war. The commentary made it sound like we were totally bungling it rather than up against a comparatively huge army. The museum deserves a day. It’s $28 entry (or $18 with military ID) and it’s got some great exhibits.
On my last afternoon I got a trip to whole foods as a treat. I had been craving parsnips for months and had gone a little mad without them. To be fair I was a bit more mad once I found a parsnip for sale at whole foods because I was giggling to myself and walking around holding the parsnip. Anyway. It was a big deal being without parsnips for 6 months. And then I go and find one on my last day away… Anyway…
We drove down to the beach in Mississippi in the evening and stayed overnight at a hotel there. It was such a cool place with a gorgeous beach and the drive past the bayous was wicked.
My last night of backpacking on this leg of my trip was spent tucked up in bed feeling really ill and watching horror movies. It was nice to have company but I felt like death. Was a pretty bad tummy bug that I took weeks to recover from and contributed (alongside my broken finger!) to such a gap in blogging.
But here we are, at the end of my first trip to New Orleans! I hope it isn’t my last; that place rocks. And it was perfect being looked after by a local.
Through my aunt I managed to get a standby ticket from New Orleans to Heathrow via Chicago and only paid taxes. A huge weight off my mind to have affordable flights!
I’m just going to summarise three weeks in the UK. Cuddles with my fave chicken, two Team Rubicon courses, lots of family and friends visited, Download festival partied, 1,000 miles driven, two x-rays and lots of hospital appointments to get my finger sorted, numerous parsnips eaten, return flights to Dublin booked, one-way ticket to Estonia booked. Awesome!