A taste of the South; New orleans

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February 3rd 2016
Published: February 3rd 2016
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Aside from the unnecessary stops at awkward times of the night we are really getting into travelling by bus in the US now. Our trip from Nashville to Memphis is probably the most amusing to date. We guess if you are a long distance bus driver you have to keep yourself amused some how. Our driver was no exception. We found ourselves chuckling away as she reeled off one liners with her southern drawl throughout the whole journey. We tried to remember some and wrote down a few.

"Stop talking so loudly I don't want to listen to none of you while I'm driving'...'sir I can still hear you'..' Sir I'm not going to ask again"

"I've got beef and onions waiting for me at home. I've been driving since 10pm last night and I want to eat"

"I'm stopping for 15minutes only. Imma pay my water bill get some candy and be back in my seat. When I'm in my seat we gone. I ain't got tiiiime waiting for no-one who is late"

"If you can't tell the time don't get off the bus"

"If you don’t see your luggage...don't ask me.."

"We gonna go on a joy ride. I got places I need to go"

Please don't ever change southern America. This was the most entertaining enjoyable bus ride we had experienced. Not achievable if we would have hired a car.

It was evening when we arrived in New Orleans and we were tired after our long bus journey from Memphis. With only a short stay here, we quickly dumped our bags down at the hostel and caught the trolley straight into town.

We were in New Orleans; home of the Mardi Gras, creole cuisine & culture and infectious music. Like most cities we've visited, we seen them on tv and in films and now we were here.

Walking down Bourbon street from the main street, there were people everywhere; some watching street performers whilst others were just socialising clutching a large cup of beer. Colours, neon lights, the easily recognisable buildings with their huge sash windows. There were even people on the balconies above, some homes and others restaurants or bars. People from the homes threw necklaces beads down to passers by. We quickly scooped ourselves up some as we passed a balcony and swapped desired colours with an older couple. A few homeless people wondered around afterwards picking the spare ones up in order to sell them to unknowing tourists later on.

There were food places, street bars and live music venues. Music was in the air. We wasn't sure on where to go or what to do so just slowly strolled about 8 blocks of the 13 block strip.

After walking around and taking in the sights and stopping in a bar or two our opinions had changed. This street was rather trashy. Countless strip joints lined the streets with men shouting out various degrading descriptions of women. We could not help looking disgusted as they attempted to entice us in. Women sometimes stood outside with these guys; half naked with nothing on apart from tiny strips hiding their nether regions.

For us this was a shame, given that this street had a lovely atmosphere, the music from live blues and rock and roll bands oozed out of bars, whilst people paraded the streets with 32oz cups of beer or the yard cocktail drinks. People had came here for the music right?

We decided to go into a random bar and ordered some drinks. We really enjoyed the ensemble of music performed by a live band and a male and female duo. They played a mix of funk and blues classics with a lot of energy and had the really had the crowd going. One slight distraction was one young girl who worked here, half dressed maybe early 20s selling some type of jelly shots. The method she used to get custom was by dancing sexually and practically dry humping mainly the older groups of men here. Many of whom lapped it up as she jumped or danced on them. The crowd trying to enjoy the music were clearly not impressed, the band were not either and neither were we. We left shortly after she tried straddling P.

Feeling a little deflated but wanting to perk ourselves back up, we entered another lively bar further down the street. A blues band inside were playing a lively ensemble of Motown tracks. They had us off our seats and singing along to the music. Now this is what we came for.

Happy with our last find we took the trolley back and slept easily. The following morning we woke commenting on the lovely atmosphere, set up and facilities the hostel had. We were almost beginning to lose faith on american hostels but this place seemed to be the saviour. Sat by the pool, enjoying the intense heat, P picked up her book to read. Seems like a normal thing but its actually something we never really have the opportunity to do when travelling cities. We are always on the go. Not that we are complaining, for now.

To P's surprise the girl sat next to her turned out to be a high school friend who she had not seen for the last 10 years. It's funny as it turned out we were the only 2 people sitting directly in the sun (the rest of the hostels travellers sat in the shade). If there's ever a good tell tale sign if someone's from England just check on whether they're in the sun. Being from England we have to make up for the lack of sun when we can.

After catching up on the last 10 years we said our farewells as she was leaving plus we had a jammed packed agenda ourselves. Back on the streets of New Orleans. Where to first? We wanted to go to an area renowned for good blues music, live bands and a distinct lack of strip clubs the French quarter. We walked down Freemont during the day and as we passed the main touristy area we got lost in the beautiful architecture that surrounded us. The French colonial rustic wooden builds, each uniquely designed separately from its neighbour and painted in different pastel shades. To top them off they often had beautiful steel balconies on the upper floor, a lovely area to sit back and relax we can imagine.

Entering the French quarter we liked the calmer feel and the fact it seemed more of a local place without too many tourists milling about.

We passed 'Fat Cats' a place we had heard was a good place to go for good blues in the evening.

Passing an interesting colourful building advertising their famous hot dogs we decided we would have to have a peek in at their menu. What do you know they had a veggie hot dog. Both happy, P ordered a black bean based hot dog whilst Chris tried the aligator based hot dog. Some of the best hotdogs we've tasted...ever.

When down south we hear they are various things you must try. Soul food, Craw fish, aligator, Po'boys (bit like a sub) a mufflini (a very thick sandwich). We didn't manage to try the latter 2 but enjoyed the first 3.

The food here was well priced and so delicious. A great find. Back in the heat, the next stop on the agenda was the Mississippi. As you may already know we visited the Mississippi in the last town but we realised we hadn't done one of those "must do's" whilst in close proximity to such a might . After admiring the scenery on a bench overlooking this mighty river; watching the many cargo loaded flat boats that chugged by and the single fisherman, we went down to the river and dipped our hands in a pool of the river. Didn't feel any different to submerging a hand in the Ganges for example but it topped off the experience.

We touched another mighty river. Haha.

The next stop on our itinerary was the French market which was a nice indoor/outdoor area selling a variety of things, including an organic food section and many food eateries where you could sample po'boys, muffalines and soul food to you hearts content. We passed a food stall selling chicken that was flavoured with a popular flavouring and described as:

"Chicken so good you'll slap yo mama"

This made us laugh, I'm assuming the slap is a hi-5. Chris debated if there were any empty corners in his stomach to sample what must have been really good Chicken. Unfortunately he was full. Maybe another time.

We continued walking the Mississippi riverside until we got to the back of St Louis Cathedral. Our mission was to get to the Louisiana state museum which had a very intriguing living with hurricanes exhibit.

The Katrina exhibit was set up in a large dark room with sound effects of a storm, setting the scene. It retold the devastating and disturbing accounts of the Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The exhibit had us glued to its information boards and screens as soon as we began. It was extremely insightful and provided information of the events that took place in such an interactive way. We almost felt we were there. We watched the news streams before it hit and felt the dread as home footage was played. We could hear the powerful winds as homeowners documented their terror as water seeped through the front door rising in the house. We felt for them during those moments of hopelessness and desperation as they were caught in it for the following 5 days.

It was infuriating to learn that it took 5 days for people in the hospitals and the super dome to get any help. They lacked drinking water and sanitary toilet facilities as they lived in worse conditions than enclosed animals. They were continually misinformed of when the bus to pick them up was coming, with some directed to the bridge only to be confonted with gunfire as people were told to retreat.

It was hard to believe this only happened in America 11 years ago.

Before visiting we never knew the extent of the difficulties faced or how slow the response really was. It brought to mind one of Kanye West's bizzare comments that was supposed to relate to Hurricane Katrina:

"George Bus does not like Black people.

Many people of all nationalities were affected and suffered such great loss but it was not difficult to see how especially many African American areas were hit hard by this storm.

The mayor of the city spoke on the radio channels begging for the government's help, infuriated by the government's slow response to this devastation. Such an eye opener. Anyway we won't focus too much on what knowledge we gained in this museum, go for yourself. We certainly rated it.

The second half on the museum was much lighter in mood and covered the carnival? The hugely popular Mardi Gras that takes place in New Orleans each year with an array of colourful display of costumes and jewellery worn previously. Sounds like something we would enjoy going to.

Exiting the museum we were met by a youngish male brass band entertaining the crowds with their brass performances of modern day songs with a slight twist to them. Not something you hear everyday. All the bystanders however revelled in the music from young children, young adults, groups of friends family and even some homeless looking people. Its amazing how music can lift spirits and bring people together. We stood around for a bit whilst enjoying the music they performed so effortlessly trying not to get lost in the music as we two stepped to their sounds.

After a while we desired food, Chicken for Chris and craw fish/fries for P. Not before getting a plastic cup of the 'huge arse' beer cups so we could wander the streets some more, passing some other very talented brass bands, a couple of talented street dancers and some other (how do we put it) different performers dressed up, balanced or tapping away with cans attached to the bottom of their shoes.

We happily soaked in the streets atmosphere and entertainment as we strolled around with our beers. There's something great about walking the streets with a beer cup in hand in the sun and enjoying the festivities that surround you. We had to sample one of those huge arse beers, bigger than our pint portions back home. The popular 32oz drinks is 8 ounces more than a pint and we thought our pints back home were big. P enjoyed a whole
32 oz whilst P a modest 16 oz beer.

Unfortunately we were leaving this evening and could have easily enjoyed spending more time enjoying the delights of New Orleans. As midnight approached we trollied back to our hostel and to the Greyhound station in preparation for our night bus to San Antonio. Noooo. We silently pleaded to have an interrupted nights sleep without having to offload and re-board at every station.

Accommodation: INDIA HOUSE Guesthouse
Transportation: Megabus from Memphis 11hrs $81 for 2
Date: 29/09/2015

Additional photos below
Photos: 31, Displayed: 30


3rd February 2016

Craw fish and chips - yum!
I loved this blog. Two nights ago we watched an old episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations in New Orleans, and the restaurants were still only at 30-50% to what they used to be pre-Katrina... great to see that it seems to have picked up since then. I have wanted to go to New Orleans for such a long time, but I'm really hoping that the US will have seen the light and adopted the metric system by the time we visit :)
5th February 2016

Haha. I wouldn't rush if you are waiting for US to jump on board with the metric system. Still, worth a visit as it really is a compelling place. We were on a tighter schedual in the US due to an attempt to keep costs down but in hindsight wish we would have allocated more time here. Never seen the episode you mention but would love to see it before our next trip. We always find reading about a place or watching a travel documentary on a destination we are due to visit can be very rewarding. Sometimes even watching/reading it again afterwards! 😊
5th February 2016

Riding the dog
Dave and I, -- well maybe just me, has wanted to ride the Greyhound across America. Nawlins' is a town you like or you don't. It can be sensory overload and it sounds like you found the insanity that was intended to excite. Katrina was so poorly handled. Sad and stunning. Nagin, the mayor ended up in prison for 10 years stealing money from the poor people he fought to get the money for---21 counts of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering. I'm always amazed when these politicians think they won't get caught. Glad you found some music to make your heart sing.
10th February 2016

Riding the dog
Wow never knew this before. It amazes me that he was able to get into a position of power and trust. He sounds like a very manipulative character.

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