That title is going to garner me a whole lot of bad SEO in Google. Sorry folks there is no T&A and porn in this post. Well none that I took pictures of on Bourbon Street. On a Thursday night no less. Toronto are you taking notes?
My husband James and I took our first trip sans kids in about 7 years to New Orleans, otherwise known as The Big Easy. Now I don’t have a bucket list of places I need to see before I die because I’ve found in my life that sometimes the places that you think are going to rock your world when you go visit them, never live up to the expectation. And vice versa, some of the places that you least expect to blow your mind usually do.
New Orleans however proved to be a Bucket List must see in every way shape and form. I remember like everyone else, watching Hurricane Katrina hit the shores of New Orleans back in 2005 and being crushed by the images we saw on our televisions in the aftermath. Would the people come out of it ok and be able to rebuild their lives? Would the damage take away all of the history and architecture that made the City one of the most well known ones in the United States? Now I can’t speak for what life was like there before as I was never there and this post isn’t about the discussion of the aftermath, the politics or ongoing rebuilding of the City, as I know that is a very personal and emotional topic for a lot of people. This post is merely me showing how very grateful we are to have experienced a tiny bit of the magic that New Orleans, more so the French Quarter where we chose to stay, had to offer in the short time we were there.
I haven’t been so captivated by the environment in a City in North America since I went to Paris and that’s a high compliment because I have not been able to find anything on this side of the ocean to compare to Paris. Don’t send me hate mail telling me how awesome your City is – have you been to Paris? Eating a $20 baguette with fresh jam and coffee overlooking the Seine river is worth the plane ticket alone.
Now Paris is more refined, more old world. Sexy, mysterious and classy. New Orleans is kind of like the mischievous younger sibling that took off to experience the world with their backpack and wound up creating a culture for a new generation all on their own. Eccentric, irreverent and a bit more on the edge. Completely unapologetic.
We stayed the Four Seasons on Bourbon despite being warned by everyone we knew who had been there to not stay on Bourbon. I mean how loud could it really be when it’s not during Mardi Gras? Right.
PSA – it’s bloody loud.
Weeknight? What’s a weeknight? We paid extra to get the Courtyard rooms and that helped immensely. If you were in a room facing Bourbon I’m guessing there’s a high probability you were standing on a balcony offering up beads to women walking down on Bourbon or really pissed off that you weren’t getting any sleep.
I have absolutely no daytime photos of the exterior of our hotel. I wonder why…
At the hotel they promptly introduced us to this awesomeness – Abita Lemon Wheat beer. It’s not available in Canada.
I have no comment on that. I’ve already contacted them on Twitter about this.
One of the first things we did was start on the food and more beer. You don’t travel to the South without getting to experience some great Southern Cooking.
Sweet mercy who let me try the Crawfish Étouffée? So good.
And nothing like having beer served in glass goblets.
First night was rather a blur. Again, I wonder why…
FYI – this is Bourbon on a weeknight.
During the 3 day trip we decided to be proper tourists and go on a walking tour with Tree from The Racontours tour.
Tree is phenomenal and worth every good review on TripAdvisor. I am one of those people who really appreciates someone who genuinely loves their job and he does. He took us on an awesome walk about explaining the immense history of New Orleans, The French Quarter and Voodoo. He is a storyteller not a textbook historian, so if you’re going to pick a walking tour where you want a bit more creativity, this is it. He told us about the good, the bad, the ugly, the magical and spiritual side of New Orleans and really opened our eyes in seeing each building and home in the French Quarter from a much different historical perspective than just “look at the cool homes on the streets”. There is so much history hidden behind those walls that it was something I think a great deal of students would benefit from learning about as a good educational tour outside of the classroom.
The eye candy of the architecture of this City makes you feel like you’re on a movie set. It’s almost unbelievable to think it’s real, coming especially from a very day to day modern suburban life.
The cemeteries. Beautiful.
And while the French Quarter is probably best known for Bourbon Street, let me just say the moment we walked on Canal Street it’s a hell of a site to see. A Streetcar Named Desire anyone? It’s no surprise that place serves as creative inspiration for artists.
But the thing that captivated us the most out of all of it, was the ambiance. The genuine Southern Hospitality and warmth that it exudes within the French Quarter. Words can’t even begin to explain how open, happy and welcoming the locals are. Everyone says hi to each other. The customer service is way beyond what we experience here in the GTA (we find this to be overall in the Southern States as James’ Aunt and Uncle live in Atlanta and we were so floored at the difference there as well). People are genuinely proud of their jobs. The only way it can really be explained is by experiencing it on your own.
There is no one walking around thinking they’re the best thing there. Everyone treated us with such genuine polite customer service and heartfelt humour that I was like “How can we bring some of this influence back home?” It’s almost jarring to experience because it’s such a different mindset. I’ve heard the words magic and electric used to describe the French Quarter. It really fits.
My favourite line of the entire trip was when I got asked for ID at a pizza bar and the guy replied with “Gurrrl, ya’ll look good for ya age!” Sold. Whatever you’re selling I’ll buy it.
I mean make no mistake, you get the party scene and the club kids and the insanity that happens at night. You can walk around with alcohol anywhere as long as it’s in a plastic cup and they wash the streets every morning due the late night partying that happens, which I can completely see why it would maybe take down the ‘refined’ atmosphere of the Quarter that some people would like it to be. And it’s understandable that if you have a home in the Quarter the novelty of the party atmosphere can wear off pretty fast. While Bourbon St. is probably what it is most famous for, there is so much more it offers. You just have to look at it from a different point of view and take the initiative to walk further out.
Not once did we feel intimated, threatened or turned off by anything. Just remember you have to go into it knowing you’re heading to a town that is known for Mardi Gras, celebrations, good food, artists and great jazz. There were places where we saw Senior Citizens and Grandmothers walking around in groups sipping their margaritas, families with strollers walking by with children clapping at the street performers and musicians that did impromptu performances on street corners. All while being surrounded by gentlemen clubs and dancers saying Hello to all the young male tourists in town. And you’d think this would be a combination of chaos – which it is – but everyone was still able to walk side by side and take in the fun of it all. It was such an interesting dynamic to witness because you would never think having all of that in the same area but no one really bats an eye. It’s just another day.
However, for the record, I have no idea how anyone can survive a Mardi Gras weekend.
I mean this is a Thursday night on Bourbon. At 6 pm. It’s just getting warmed up.
But you get great random moments of joy like this.
We didn’t get enough time to be able to head over and explore the Garden District and eat at all the places we wanted to. So we’re definitely going back. If only for the Beignets.
I know, I know. There are recipes for them online. But really now, it’s not the same thing as eating them while walking around Decatur. Just sayin’…