One of my favorite domestic trips was to New Orleans.
We went just after Mardi Gras in late March 2005, five months later, Hurricane Katrina would hit and New Orleans would never be the same.
I loved this trip for at least 5 different reasons. I will try to spell them out here;
First, Architecture. The French Quarter is filled with lovely old world balconies. Even the fact that most of them appear to not be ‘kept up’ still adds to their charm. There are not many cities in America that differ very much from the modern American norm. New Orleans is a wonderful exception to this and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Second, History. One of the big drawbacks to being American is that we just don’t have enough history under our belt. A city like Rome has Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern all on top of each other, it warms the cockles of the history buff’s heart simply to be there. Americans need to search a little more to find our little treasures. Like Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. A tavern open since the 1700’s. And it still feels that old on the inside. The French influence is everywhere.
Third, Spooky History. New Orleans is a very walk-able town. We spent hours just wandering around. Lafayette Cemetery is an above ground cemetery. Among the interred is Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. We also went on a ‘Haunted New Orleans’ walking tour that did not disappoint. A rich history of intrigue and violence.
Fourth, Food. I spent 10 years in Chicago, an eaters town that I would put up against any culinary city in the country. We were excited to see what New Orleans had to offer. I was not disappointed. From powdered sugared beignets, to Po boy sandwiches, to seafood and a distinct French influence.
We ate very well.
Lastly, Nightlife. Yes, we purposely missed Madri Gras, that does not really appeal to me. Yet Bourbon Street is alive every night. I love a walking street. Lined with bars and people strolling about, it just felt vibrant. A little dirty too, but I like that. Music coming from everywhere, just a lively, cool scene, especially for anyone who likes Jazz.
In retrospect, I am Glad I got to see New Orleans the way it was meant to be see.
Yes, you have to get there, and find a place to stay, but after that it was mostly walking around and that is mostly FREE. You can drop a good deal of money on food and drink. Hurricanes are mostly a tourist drink, but do yourself a favor and eat well. This destination is definitely partly for the food.
P.S. Funny side note. Just after my birth, my father was offered a transfer to either New Orleans or (insert Rust Belt City Here). He had always wanted to live down south, so he and my mother flew down to ‘check it out’. The realtor opens a closet and my mother has her first encounter with a giant hissing cockroach and needless to say, I grew up in that Rust Belt City 🙂
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