It’s time to move on from the idyllic white sandy beaches of Florida today, and I watch out the windows, bidding farewell to the lagoons as we head to the airport. A brilliant orange butterfly dips up and down beside us keeping pace with the car, then soars up out of sight.I’m putting in quite the air miles these days (always via Atlanta? Maybe I should just go see Atlanta??) and I touch down late afternoon in New Orleans. I’ve shifted time zones so I’ve gained an extra hour which pleases me-an extra hour of fun and debauchery in the birthplace of Jazz. Delectable.
I’m excited for NOLA, although I’ve heard mixed reviews. I’m looking forward to its rich heritage and clash of Creole, European and Anglo-American culture, but after Miami-keen to avoid anything too touristy.
First up I head to my hostel which takes a solid hour from the airport. I throw my things in the dorm, and collapse on my bed, exhausted after travelling.
Now surely this won’t do. It’s early evening, and so I head off to explore.
I go down Dumaine Street and immediately hit Parisienne shutters and ornate wrought iron balconies, where hanging baskets filled with beautiful blooms, heady with the smell of pollen grace the galleries. At street level, these façades host a mix of kooky stores, cafes and places selling ‘voodoo authentica’. It’s all very quaint and I’m looking forward to exploring them more whilst I’m here.
I walk all the way to the river under the muggy overcast sky, passing trolley car stops. I can hear the roar of throaty boat engines coupled with sweet trombone tones. I listen a while as I am approached by an old man drinking cheap beer from a paper bag.
Crossing onto Bourbon Street which is a little seedy, and everyone here is drinking in the street. I spy a middle aged woman getting her bare breasts out for guys to fondle, and it stinks of urine. A foul smelling drunk pirate yells ‘yarrr’ at me. Christ, it’s not even dark yet.
I make a swift exit, and back in the quiet of the side streets, tourists happily mill about. I pass by a horse and carriage tour and, keeping pace, learn about the fire in 1788 which caused the Spanish to rebuild a lot of the quarter.
I loop back around to Decatur Street where I’m meeting a friend of a friend for drinks and i’m happy to hang out with someone I know (sort of!).
We start at a cool cocktail bar before getting our drinks to go, and take a walk by the cathedral where ghost tours and tarot readers hang back.
We hop on a pedi bike taxi, winding haphazardly down the streets. It’s flying termite season and so they end up in my hair and down my shirt, but being fearless these days I let it slide. Covered in bugs and laced with local brew we head off to the Bywater
And walk the dark Louisiana streets.
Playing with a large flick knife as we walk, because everyone carries weapons here, and I’m lit up.
We head to a few bars and indulge in shots with the barmen, and a little gambling to boot.
I’m feeling pretty cut as we walk back past the railroad. A freight train blocks our path and being impatient, we take our beers and climb the ladder on the side, hauling our drunk asses across the metal cab before it starts moving.
Far too intoxicated, and I make my way home after a crazy good first night here in New Orleans-despite all its bad press-I think I might grow rather fond of the free spirit here.