What’s up y’all.. (my new favorite southern phrase)
After quite a few nature trips and knee crushing hikes, this time I wanted to go party and lay myself back in a city. I deserve one after the Mt.Washington climb. After pondering over the west coast places Seattle, Oregon, Los Angeles, Las Vegas etc., we ended up picking New Orleans on grounds that a 3 day weekend would be too hectic for a west coast trip. Also west coast deserves a longer, better planned itinerary. Though not a popular decision among my other two travel mates, I was not willing to travel west now, so we headed south.
It might be an uncommon destination to chose for a long weekend. More often than not people underestimate cities as – ‘just a city’ or would rather again go to NYC which is closer. NYC can’t be same as NOLA, can it? In my experience and the way I see and enjoy a city, every city has it’s unique sheen and a pride factor. It was not a well researched plan but I was pretty sure NOLA wouldn’t disappoint me despite some discouraging feedback on the plan.
Originally (post Native Americans) being a major port city of French and Spanish settlement at different times and later bought by the United States, New Orleans must have gone through quite a lot and had all the necessary ingredients to evolve into a melting pot of art, architecture, culture, music, cuisine and life style over the past 300 years.
A visit to NOLA ain’t supposed to start anywhere but the Vieux Carré (French quarters). Even better if you stay around here.
The St. Louis cathedral one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States having gone through quite a few natural and human inflicted damages and renovations is an iconic structure of the French quarters. I walked around the criss cross streets of the quarters surrounding the cathedral, just stood at a corner overlooking the few hundred year old two story buildings, touched them to see if it helps and traveled back in time. Found a voodoo shop and peered at the books on voodoo spells.
My breakfast was all burnt by that time. Took a break for a po boy, a plate of fried alligator and a couple beers. Now that I’m too full to walk I found a young harp musician around the corner. I should rather say his music found me first and led me to him. It was a sunny southern summer afternoon. He was sweating profusely, but still looked surprisingly fresh and energetic. I took a seat by the walkway and let his subtle pulls and twists of the strings drag me away to a faraway land.
Moved on to the other corner of the cathedral for some crazy fast beat jazz and dance moves by some free spirited souls high on weed. I walked to the third corner and got to hear some self-declared representatives of God and protectors of humanity trying to lure away the homosexuals with the threat of an impending hell and the homosexuals retorting with public displays of love in an attempt to poop the Godmen’s party. Walking past the seers who promised to foresee my future thanks to their thirty years of experience, I went for a stroll in the Mississippi water front, came back to the Jackson square garden to rest my aching legs, amazed once again by the view of cathedral from the garden and decided I would walk back to my hotel room, take a nap for the rest of the day and wait for the darkness. Little did I know it’s going to be a long night.
When I started on the trip one of my friend insisted I better be in Bourbon street when it gets dark. I wasn’t really sure what is it that I’m looking forward to until I was there.
It isn’t that difficult a street to spot. Flashing lights of yellow, green, blue and red, mobs of people walking around visibly high with no destination in mind, sounds of mixed music and excited crowd. That’s the place. I was welcomed by a strange stench I couldn’t make sense of at first. It must be the smell of alcohol or probably tobacco or may be the burning weed or the baking food. Perhaps I should just call it the smell of celebration of life.
When the European navigators find a new settlement I’m pretty sure the first thing they bring in their ships must be barrels of beer and the first shelter they build must be a bar and restaurant before even fending off the irate natives.
Pubs and bars lined up on one side as far your eyes can see boasting off their award winning secret recipes of Bloody Marys and Hurricanes, some of the best live performances of soul stirring Jazz and Blues and raging Rock and dance floors to tap your excited feet and go crazy like there’s no tomorrow. Restaurants lined up on the other side serving grilled chicken, fried alligators, classic pizzas by slice, southern sea food platter, traditional jumbalaya and gumbo and what not. They were intermingled with cabarets and gentlemen clubs claiming to exhibit some of the most attractive southern American women naked. I walked a few blocks further and was taken aback by waves of men in their underwear waving multicolored striped flag, some showing off their six packs, others content with their beer bellies, kissing and fondling each other, celebrating homosexuality. (If I was too descriptive and you can’t unsee what I just made you visualize, accept my apologies).
Realized I’ve had enough and called it a day at 3 AM after a late night thin crust pizza and choco lava crunch cakes from Dominoes.