After taking five days off up in Baton Rouge I had myself convinced that all I’d do is stop in New Orleans only long enough to take advantage of Bill’s hospitality for one night then get right back on the water. However, as soon as I climbed off the water right below the St. Louis cathedral yesterday, I realized that I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t give this town a look. So today I boarded a street car a few blocks from Bill’s house and headed back to the French Quarter to have a look around.
In a nut shell my New Orleans experience was this; I got a belly full at the Gumbo shop, a mind full at the Louisiana Museum, and an eye full on Bourbon street. And I had a great time doing it.
So often places I have visited as a tourist never quite measured up to the over imaginative mental image I may have had before I made it there. I didn‘t see Sasquach ducking behind the trees in Redwood National forest, or the sun bleached skeletons of dead oxen on the ground in Death Valley. Instead I’m faced with reality and end up discovering a place for what it really is, which really is what travel should be all about. New Orleans and the French Quarter however, delivered (almost to the smallest detail) everything I had imagined New Orleans to be. There really were jazz bands on every other street corner, the food was abundant and amazing, and on Bourbon Street you can hardly fall over and not land inside a drinking establishment of one kind or another. New Orleans is a party town, there is no doubt, but it also drips of history and architecture, and not to mention has a thousand places to get something great to eat.
While I was walking around I paused to take a photo of one of the many festively decorated balcony railings that you see lining the streets of the French Quarter. The woman that lives in the apartment that goes with the balcony caught me taking the picture and invited me up to see it from the inside. I accepted the offer and that’s how I met Georgia from Chicago who came down for Marti Gras in 75’ and never went back. With a couple of room mates and her 13 (yes thirteen) cats the apartment is barely big enough to contain her large book collection and many unique and eclectic artifacts that she has accumulated over the years. It’s not very often that you see an antelope mount adorned with beads next to a black painted silhouette mannequin wearing a lacy garter belt. Her balcony afforded a different perspective of the streets below and as we visited on her porch she relayed the story of how liberated she felt when the National Guard rolled down Royal street to restore some sort of order a week after Hurricane Katrina. Georgia was one of the few people that stayed through the storm (to be with the cats) and was lucky enough to live in an old enough part of town that she didn’t get flooded out. She shuttered when she told of the things she saw directly after the floods such as people breaking into the pharmacy just a couple doors down.
After my visit down town I rode the street cars back to Bill’s house and had a wonderful meal with him and one of his friends then spent the rest of the evening packing my bags in preparation for an early ride back to the river tomorrow morning. There is much more to see here in New Orleans but it is going to have to wait for another visit.