New Orleans… the Paris of the South! Food, music, history, culture – you’ll find all of these things in New Orleans in spades. The fact that Sandra Bullock has recently moved here should be enough to make any red blooded male want to move to New Orleans… let alone just visit.
I happened to arrive (coincidentally) on the very last day of the French Quarter Festival. Not to be confused with New Orleans’ annual Mardi Gras this festival is confined to the French Quarter.
After I had dropped my bags off at my hotel, thanks to the transfer from New Orleans station by Limousine Livery (an executive limo company), I headed to where it all happens in New Orleans… or so I had been told.
All the things you have probably heard about Bourbon Street are probably true… bars, souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, restaurants (you get the picture). I found a good stretch of Bourbon Street blocked off by any number of street bands playing music on the street and in the bars. What a kick-back way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Every doorway I walked past had a different sound, a different vibe and a different smell coming out of it. It was an attack on the senses, an assault from left, right and centre field all at the same time. The best way is to just walk in, sit at the bar and watch the world go by.
As with many major cities around the world the best way to orientate yourself is to do a city tour. Gray Line has their main departure point on Toulouse Street (next to where the riverboats depart from on the Mississippi River). A half day tour with the informative guides should be enough for you to get your bearings and walk. It is New Orleans and it is flat.
Why not make a whole day of it and catch another of Gray Line’s tours to Oak Alley Plantation (around an hour’s drive away). Movie buffs will recall it as one of the locations for the 1993 film, starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt… Interview with a Vampire as well as the more recently released Midnight Bayou (2008).
The grandeur and serenity of this majestic mansion will have you clicking your camera again and again as each corner throws another “perfect” holiday snap opportunity your way. To see how life “in the old South” used to be – for people from both sides of the fence - is humbling and inspiring all at the same time.
My accommodation back in New Orleans had me staying in the French Quarter which, for me anyway, was a must. A place close to the action, the transportation and the touristy things to do as well!
Maison Dupuy is a quaint little boutique style hotel only 2 blocks from Bourbon Street. And, when I say ‘block’, I mean normal blocks… not your average half mile long American block. The property retains the ambiance of chic French, thus aligning itself to the area of New Orleans it is in. Their corner bar is the perfect place to wash away the dust and dirt of another good days exploring.
Food, food, food! Where do I start? With its diverse influences over the centuries New Orleans really is the proverbial melting pot for anything culinary. Two of the best places I found were within walking distance from my hotel… Palm Court Jazz Café and Arnaud’s. Both high quality, with superb service, and entertainment to knock your socks off. I can see why people fall in love with New Orleans.
New Orleans… it’s part of the US but at the same time it isn’t. It has all the hallmarks of the US but with a French twist and Creole swing. Tourism is huge here and accounts for over 40% of the local economy. Sure, it’s taken a while to get its feet back on the ground after 2005 but back on its feet it most certainly is.
Do what I did… walk the streets, sit in a local bar, chat to the locals and listen to their stories. You’ll find yourself engrossed in what they have to say.
I only spent a couple of days here unfortunately but, at the risk of sounding cliché, like so many endings to any number of travel articles… I will be going back, of that there is no doubt.