The Big Sleazy
Whereas Orlando is the most boring city in America (and possibly the whole world), New Orleans is certainly the most overrated, a rather seedy place with a dark underbelly of crime and corruption. It's yet another dirty US metropolis not that welcoming to families, a 'city break' here more likely to be your left fibula by the mugger than a safe long weekend of fun and frolics! The fact that graveyards are the most popular tourist attraction here away from Bourbon Street is all you need know about the place.
I went there before Hurricane Katrina gave it the full wash and tumble dry and if I'm honest its exactly what the city needed, the crime rate collapsing soon after the storm as thousands of poor American males from gang ridden ghettos were dispersed around America as part of the evacuation to try and bring down the cities damaging crime wave, especially towards those tourists, at that time the Big Easy being regularly named as Americas most dangerous city. If you do chose to visit here then listen to local advice on where not to go as you can be just two blocks away from disaster, as I nearly found out. Sadly there are a lot of bad areas in the Big Sleazy and the safe zones are well spread out, a bit of the Johannesburg about it. Its also one of five big American cities to start to see a population collapse, 27% less people living there than before Katrina, now matching Detroit as a failing city.
My visit was well before Katrina and it was more of a passing through thing on my cross America adventure than a holiday. I stayed for three days and that was more than enough, the somewhat tacky Bourbon Street and the Mississippi Riverside the main tourist's areas. The French Quarter is certainly different with all its Cajun flavours, languages and voodoo shops but the whole thing feels forced and not a reflection of the cities real soul, which is rhythm and blues music.
The tourists flock to Bourbon Street (why we are all here) and wander down the street with a white plastic cup full of booze trying to look happy and entertained, grubby jazz and blues buskers everywhere to embellish that seedy feel or pull a blade on you if you drift off the strip. The big night-time venue is the 'House of Blues', where the music and ambience is much better, but the punters looking and feeling like a Vegas crowd, obese Americans in XXXL shorts bouncing around strangely dressed Germans from belly to belly, big men guzzling big beer and talking loudly with great enthusiasm. It is not like those sexy Bacardi adverts that were shot at this venue that's for sure!
Most people go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in early spring to party and the city also holds the biggest gay parade outside of New York and San Francisco on top of that, the city appearing to be very tolerant to those alternative lifestyles. But it's a place that always makes you feel uneasy at night and one you want to get out of fast as it fails to grab you as it should. I remember arriving in the city at one in the morning and just one wrong turn on the map and it felt like we were going to meet Huggy Bear. Picture the scene of rusty old Lincoln Continentals and pimps on every corner selling God knows what. Driving a shiny hire car into a place like this was like being a chocolate cake on Russell Grants plate. We were lucky to get out of there in one piece. I think Jeremy Clarkson and the boys had similar issues when they went there on Top Gear.
The old houses with their familiar iron verandas and white wooden pillars from all those old American movies are nice to visit or glimpse from the air-conditioned car but still no real iconic building there, apart from the infamous school where the first black children mixed with whites in the Deep South back in the 1960s to start breaking down the racial barriers. An airboat ride on the bayous to see the caiman and wildlife is fun and the old trams that rattle there way around the suburbs are also worth your time but apart from that the city is just big, unfriendly and boring. I'm sure I missed some great things to do but the way it was sign-posted and sectioned for tourists I don't think it really wants people here other than the adult party goers. I remember killing time by trying to visit the Superdome, the home of the cities gridiron team, only to be told by a surely security guy that it would cost $10 for a guided tour. The New Orleans Saints, of course, would go on to win the Super Bowl not 10 months after the city was decimated by Katrina.
The most entertaining thing about New Orleans for me was the journey out, Lake Pontchartrain, a huge fresh water expanse to the north of the city offering the world's longest continuous road bridge at 24 miles if you want to leave the city that way. It's well worth the four buck toll. When you get half-way across you cant see land either direction. It's weird. Make sure you wear your seat belt though as the cops wait at that half-way to ambush tourists to handout tickets for all manner infringements not needed for driving a dead straight-line. The New Orleans Sherriff that pulled us was ready to shoot us for such a heinous crime of not wearing a belt!
It was a very American vanity engineering project and only saves you about twenty minutes on your journey from driving around the side of the lake. Some 45,000 cars a year use it at $4 a head so a real earner, its original $24 million dollar cost back in 1969 fully recouped, the only purpose of the bridge for me. It was this lake that was designed to collect flood water in case of a level 4-5 category storm threatened to flood New Orleans but, rather ironically, Katrina's eye passed right over the top of Lake Pontchartrian at its most intense and so the storms low pressure centre lifting the water level by 8ft, dumping it over the levees and flooding 80% of the city. China, the new America, have just beaten the bridge record with the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge, coming in at 26.4 miles, this a span style construction that does pass over land so not officially covering as much water as the above. In fact I'm sure the Far East will break all of America's biggest and boldest construction records by 2020.
This isn't a great review of all of New Orleans, since I only spent one night there and that was mainly on the famous Bourbon Street! I've just returned from a trip to the States and I spent one night in New Orleans, and I have to say, it was the best night out I've EVER had! New Orleans is famously a party town and it definitely lived up to its stereotype. What made it even better was that their local American football team, the New Orleans Saints were experiencing an undefeated season, not having lost the first 13 games of the season, and that night they were playing at home to (almost) local rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. The town was absolutely buzzing with football fans and I was delighted to see how friendly the rivals were, having seen some rough encounters in Britain between football supporters! In New Orleans, you're allowed to drink on the streets, so that definitely helped the party atmosphere. Just like the stereotype, there were random jazz bands playing on the corners of streets, beads everywhere you looked, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Me and my friends had dinner at the famous restaurant Pat O'Briens, which was pretty family friendly, despite all the drinking that was going on - there were quite a few kids running around the open air area and it seemed pretty safe and that they were having a good time. The food there was good, but to fully experience the party atmosphere, we moved to the streets and lived it up with all the football fans, stopping by the odd karaoke bar on the way, and looking at some street performers. I loved it so much - I am already making my plans for Mardis Gras!
Laissez les bons temps rouler!-
Let the good times roll!
Located at the mouth of the Mississippi river in the southern state of Louisiana, New Orleans is like a good gumbo..... a little bit of this, a little bit of that and A LOT of Hot Stuff!
Many first time visitors are surprised by the definate European feel of the city. The architecture alone provides days of touring in itself.
The reason for this Continental flavour comes from it's close ties to France and Spain. Louisiana was claimed for French king Louis XIV in 1699 and is the only state that was once a French royal colony. Then, later, it was ruled by Spain for 100 years.It is the only U.S. city where French was the predominant language for more than one century.
New Orleans is often called the "Crescent City" because it was founded on the bend of the Mississippi River. This unusual shape causes locals and visitors to become confused occasionally, as there is no traditional "north, south, east, or west" mode of getting around. Some streets in the city begin at one end parallel, and end up perpendicular.
What to do?
Going to the French Quarter is a MUST! It can easily be toured by foot but why not try it by horse and carriage with a guided tour. A tour cost about $50.
Cemetery Walking Tour: Tour the most haunted cemetery in New Orleans - St. Louis No.1 - and visit the tomb of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau. Cost: $20/adult
Ghost/Spirit tour: When it rains in New Orleans, the locals swear a beautiful voice floats out of the mist. After you hear the story of Pere' Dagobert vs. "Bloody" O'Reilly and the "singing rain," you might hear it, too. Take your own tour and find out more of this fascinating lore. Cost: $22/adult
Shopping: The variety of shops is amazing. There are the Cajun shops, Creole shops, Voodoo shops, antique and art shops, as well as the French market with fresh fruits and vegetables, traditional crafts, jewlery, t-shirts and more! You can sometimes do some bartering. However, the prices are usually very fair.
Resturants: The food in this city is OUTSTANDING! Some good resturants are:
Cajun Bistro- Traditional Cajun Food along with live music and free Cajun dance lessons that create a lively dining experience at this Bourbon Street. Moderate prices.
Cafe Du Monde - A trip to New Orleans wouldnt beA French Quarter local of this New Orleans-founded coffee chain, CCs offers a selection specialty drinks made with Community Brand Coffee, along with assorted teas and pastries. complete without tasting the delectable beignets (hot, square donuts, covered with powdered sugar) and café au lait (Creole coffee and boiling milk) . My favourite is the iced coffee on a hot day! A large portion of beignets cost about $1.50!
Cajun Cabin- Want to try an oyster? This is the place to do a bit of shucking! A platter of fried oysters will cost you about $15.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. - Perfect place to take the kids. How many ways can you think of eating shrimp? I bet they have you beat!
OH MY! Bourbon street is DEFINATELY the place to be. However, WARNING you can see and WILL see every imaginable life style choice on these streets. This street really does Let the Good Times Roll! While there be sure to try a Hurricane at Pat O'Brian's. It is a real experience!
Jazz Clubs- The birth place of Jazz? That is what they say and if you are a fan this is the place to be.
You can go to Preservation Club which has just a small cover fee but allows to be up close and personal to a wonderful performance. There is no food or drink served and seating is limited but the music is the best!
The Spotted Cat-The Spotted Cat features local, live acts every night. Listen for anything from traditional jazz and brass bands to retro bee-bop, swing and blues. This smaller bar can be crowded especially on the weekends but the best view is from the street; the bands always play in the huge bay windows at the front of the club.
New Orleans has its own Harrahs casino. It is a nice size casino with all the glamour and entertainment of a Las Vegas casino. It is well worth a stop.
Other bits and pieces:
Paddle Boat Tours: Take a trip down the river on a REAL PADDLE BOAT. The slow pace allows you to take in the views and you lounge on the deck sipping a drink. Cost: $40/adult
Walk along the River Walk and browse the designer shops along the way at Jackson Brewrey. Don't forget Jackson Square
Aquarium of the Americas: AN OUTSTANDING place and well worth a visit if you have children. Cost: $11/adult
Audobon Zoo: A really good zoo if you like that sort of thing.
There is also the Canal Street Trolley Car that is a real experience and allows you to view beautiful homes in the Garden District.
Hotels: New Orleans is filled with hotels and bed and breakfast. There are some great ones and some not so good ones. Careful research should be done if you intend to book your own rooms.
Airport: The Airport is approximately 11 miles from the Central Business District. There are many ways to get from here to there. Taxicabs, shuttle buses, and public transportation have routes that can get you to the CBD 24-hours a day.
Airport shuttles are $26 per person round trip
Airport Limousine Service is $35 for one or two people and $10.00 per additional passenger for up to 8 passengers.
Bus: $1.60 to CBD
New Orleans is a combination that can't be found any where else in the world. It is a place that a person should experience at least once in a lifetime!
**I'd like to update you all on the city of New Orleans..or what used to be the city....I went back with my daughter after the apocalypse named Katrina, to try to retrieve my daughter's belongings....What was left was death and destruction all around. The stench of death and debris was everywhere. What was once a thriving tourist city and a wonderful place to live has now turned into a grand mass of mangled homes and businesses. Boarded up windows are everywhere. Big red "X's" on doorways marking where bodies have been found dot the once brightly painted doors of the 100 year old plus homes. The iron fences are mangled and rusted, the shops on and around the famous Bourbon street are for the most part closed. Only 49,000 of the 600,000 residents have returned to what is left. Some are lucky to have running, potable water and electricity. Most are not. My daughter lost all she had and has chosen to try out California and leave the memories of New Orleans behind he, as most others have done as well. We have lost an American treasure.**
Hi everyone, I'd like to tell you about where I am going, next week for a vacation. I'm going to visit my daughter, where she lives..New Orleans, Louisiana.
My daughter lives in the center of New Orleans, known as the French Quarter. The French Quarter sits along the edge of the mississippi river and is home to the ''birth'' of modern day music here in the U.S. Dixieland Jazz. The French Quarter also houses some of the best and most well known clubs, restaurants and shops in the U.S.
It is the home of Mardi Gras. The once a year festival of merriment, music and food. It is two days(up to a week) of fun where 10's of thousands of people, jam into a small area known as Bourbon Street, to do nothing but party!
New Orleans is also where streetcars were first introduced to America, at the World's Fair of 1884. You can still take a scenic ride in a streetcar along an electric track that runs up and down St. Charles Avenue. Or if streetcars are not to your liking, you can also take a tour in a beautiful horse drawn carriage to see all the sites of the city. A city where graceful and elegant wrought iron lacelike enclosures surround the balconies of the homes.
In the center of the french Quarter sits Jackson Square, which is a parklike setting housing the magnificant St. Louis Cathedral. Right down the street, you can walk around in the Open air market,where you can buy everything from freshly roasted cajun/creole coffee beans to hand made furniture and unique regional clothing.
You can dine in outdoor cafes, expensive formal restaurants or eat traditional cajun food from the street vendors.
When you tire of the excitement of the French Quarter, you can take a tour of the beautiful Garden District,where you can see old mansions and universities surrounded by towering oak trees and beautiful, colorful and fragrant flowers. Don't forget to make you way to the Louisiana Audubon
For those of you wanting to experience a bit of the macabre, New Orleans is also known as The City of the Dead,because of all the unique burial vaults, above ground.(To escape intrusion by high water in this low lying area) And also because of the tales of VooDoo and Witchcraft of this area(which many natives still practice and believe in)
New Orleans is a city of rich history and modern marvels.
It is full of booming business, universities, skyscrapers and is also home of The Superdome(football stadium).
It is a wonderful place to visit or live.
(summer is hot & humid 80º-100º--winter is cold 25º45º, spring and fall are the best times to visit with temperature in the 65º-80º range)
make it a point to visit New Orleans, Louisiana if you ever have the opportunity. You won't be disappointed!