eventually I will finish writing about New Orleans 🙂 April is usually less nuts so fingers crossed…
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived in “the big easy”. The nickname suggested promise – and the friendly guy at Homeland Security in Vancouver had been there and thought I was in for a treat.
And he was right. The first hint was when I checked in and the guy at the front desk told me about the libertine rules on Bourbon Street. You don’t normally get to walk around with alcohol on the streets of the United States.
But New Orleans doesn’t feel like the USA. It’s not quite Europe – or Montreal – but it does have an European flavour you rarely encounter in the land of the stars and stripes. There is a relaxed attitude to life – and playful vice. There is a rapturous connection to food and drink. And there is a sense of hospitality that reminds me fondly of Europeans.
It feels more multicultural than most places I have been in the United States. I think some of it stems from the history. Much like Canada, it was a place whose potential was not obvious to 18th century Europeans, so it was tossed like a hot potato between the French and the Spanish with only the hardy and disadvantaged willing to try to make something of the place.
Fighting off the alligators in the swamps and hoping a hurricane wouldn’t wipe out your shelter couldn’t have been much fun but it did mean there was little chance of a hoity-toity Northern European culture developing. It became a place for mavericks and outsiders.
And musicians apparently 🙂 Of course a lot of great music has come from the streets – and from the oppressed trying to find a way to cope. In New Orleans you hear all kinds of music. And some of the best comes from the streets. It is a music lover’s paradise.
There is music on Bourbon Street – but also on Royal, on St Peter, at Jackson Square, in the French Market… and likely lots of places I never even got to…
One of the other big delights is food 🙂 I’ve already mentioned some of the meals – and beignets…
But there are other treats. One of the most famous is pralines. My aimless wandering brought me to Laura’s Candies, a place I can highly recommend. Lots of free praline samples – but also salt water taffy, the largest truffles I have ever seen in plenty of exotic flavours and – only in New Orleans – chocolate alligators! 🙂
The other big discovery came courtesy of my guidebook… a gelateria (La Divina Gelateria) full of strange and exotic delights… I managed to score some root beer (locally made :)) gelato and then listened to an incredible band on the street – the serendipity of the streets of the French Quarter.
And you can also play Tom Sawyer and take a real steamboat up the Mississippi. As a child I dreamed of taking a steamboat the entire length of the Mississippi. I’m
not sure if that’s even possible but a couple of hours allows one some nostalgia and a view of the city from a new perspective.
And there are also garden tours, cemetery tours, swamp tours… maybe other cities have gardens worthy of tourism but only in New Orleans would cemeteries and swamps make the grade…
I didn’t have time for any of them. I didn’t manage to find room for bread pudding. I still have to try gumbo. And fresh crawfish straight out of the Gulf… there are all kinds of reasons for another trip… the only question is when… 😉