Laissez les bons temps rouler

Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
Trip End Jul 06, 2011

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Where I stayed
Couchsurfed with Rebecca Rae

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Saturday, May 7, 2011

Day 124 May 7th continued - The train was a little late in getting into the station, but I grabbed my bag and only had to wait a few minutes before my couchsurf host picked me up. She is looking after a friends dog while her friend is on a cruise. Seeing as they are on a cruise, she asked to borrow the car as well. It didn't take long till we were back at Rebecca's place, which is near the 7th Ward. I got a little tour of her place which is basically an apartment where if you keep walking you'll walk through more rooms. So, to get to the bathroom, you have to cross two lounge areas, her bedroom, my bedroom, the kitchen then the bathroom. Anyway, I also got to meet Cupcake, the little dog she is looking after. He was just big enough to wrestle with, or certainly wind up! 

Seeing as I had no plans, Rebecca was more than happy to take me out to the French Quarter and seeing as it was a Saturday night, have a few drinks! We started off in a bar called 13 and found two seats at the bar. I ordered a Po-Boy sandwich with some tator tots, absolutely delicious, especially as I did not eat since breakfast with Carrie in the morning. We stayed here for one beer then took a walk around some more of the French Quarter, passing the famous cathedral and streets lined with beautiful created buildings with amazing balconies. The next port of call was Olde Absinthe bar.......yep you guessed it, a very expensive and very tasty absinthe. I do love absinthe, the bar is very cool and instantly, I feel this wonderful sense of friendship in the city of New Orleans. Everyone talks to you, everyone is helpful and friendly.   I'm loving this city already and it's only been an hour!

I take my time with the absinthe, but we leave and Rebecca takes me to Bourbon street to walk up and down. This is 'the' street in New Orleans, well, the party street and the street that attracts tourists. There is all sorts on show, Barely Legal bar, a place that has people dry humping each other in various positions, plenty of strip clubs and more and more bars and crazy clubs. This is why I was walking down, we popped into Pat O'Briens and grabbed a couple of Hurricane drinks to drink on our walk. Another great aspect of New Orleans, drinking on the street, no need to rush your drink, just take it with you!! We walked as far as Rebecca was comfortable going before she said it gets even more rough! As we turn around, I spot a very young drunk girl walking around with a plastic barrier from some road works. Twenty seconds later a cop told her to go put it back where she found it! The atmosphere is electric, the place is wild, the bars are full and the streets are full! We walked past what we had saw earlier then stopped off at La Feet Blacksmith shop, the oldest bar in the USA. I grabbed a beer and we watched Rebecca's favourite pianist play a few tunes. Rebecca had been out a few times during the week so was feeling tired and I wasn't fussed either way so we headed back to her place. On the way we passed some street music, the guy in the orange shirt she sub letted her apartment to while she was in London last summer! The music was awesome, some guy was singing the blues and jazz was in the air. Awesome experience and the crowd around them swelled!  

Now I'm supposed to be couchsurfing, but I got a whole bed all to myself!! Perfect!

Miles walked 1.7
Temp 30C

Day 125 May 8th - After a great night sleep, Rebecca drives us out to the Bywater area to have breakfast at a place called Elizabeth's! The place was packed, it sounds like a fancy place but it was a normal house with a restaurant at the bottom. I go for some pork chops with poached eggs and grits. Rebecca has a very spicy bloody mary and has some fish stick things. We sit there for a good couple of hours, chatting, getting our coffee refilled and enjoying the delicious food!

We left the Bywater area and Rebecca drove me to the lower 9th Ward, this is where the Levy broke and all homes were either swept away or destroyed during hurricane Katrina. It is a humbling experience. We drive past old foundations, where a home was, but now all that is left are some stone steps and maybe some other stone foundation. It is a sad tale. This was a community, a neighbourhood, memories, history, all destroyed in the blink of an eye. There is a new project being undertaken in the area, with support from Brad Pitt. The project is called 'Make it right' and they building new houses to restore the area but for example, building them with solar panels and energy efficient technology. The new houses are all of different designs, raised above the ground and will hopefully restore the once vibrant area. The 9th ward is also the area where you may have seen footage on TV on people clinging to their house roof in order to be rescued and escape the flood. 

We left this area and drove across town towards the Lower Garden District. On the way we stop at a railroad crossing, Rebecca spins the car around, drives down two different streets and finds a section of the railroad where the barrier has yet to drop! The Lower Garden District is the fancy area of New Orleans, we drive past the house of Anne Rice, the author of Interview with a Vampire. Most of these grand houses are also connected to a small building where the servants or slaves would live. 

We finish the drive by returning to Rebecca's house and picking up the dog to take him to Lake Pontchartrain.  The dog appreciates the trip out and it gives me an opportunity to see more of New Orleans and not just the famous French Quarter. The day is very hot, into the mid 30s, the dog enjoys jumping into the Lake, with my new formed resistance to the sun, I am OK for a while without sun block, but man was it hot! Strangers walk up to us, stop and chat briefly, it literally is the friendliest place I have ever visited in my life. Rebecca did not seem afraid of anyone that approached her, just said, 'hey baby, hey sweetie, what's hanging?' and a small conversation would ensue. 

We return back to her apartment and I completely forget that we were going to see a parade today. We head out, as the parade is about to start, before we do I get to chat to my brother Dave on the phone. It's great to chat to him briefly and he gives me some good news about the Man Utd v Chelsea game. I don't think I have spoken to him since the Rio airport departure lounge. In some ways in seems like yesterday but in many ways it feels a long time ago. It was great to chat to him! 

The parade will stop at the 7th Ward Porch Cultural Centre so we walk in the direction of that building to wait for the parade. On the way, seeing as it was a hot day, we pick up a large frozen daiquiri. Seeing as it was frozen, it took a long time to finish off. The 7th ward is a black neighbourhood, an area where Rebecca wouldn't have me walk alone, but with her, everyone assumes she has always lived in New Orleans and she literally talks to everyone we pass, whether they are sitting on their front porch, hanging on a street corner or trying to sell you perfume, she is pleasant and friendly to all of them, quite amazing! We find the Porch Cultural Centre and there is no sign of the 2nd Line parade. It usually starts late anyway, plus what is the rush?? Seeing as it was mothers day, every female was given a 'Happy Mothers Day baby' by anyone and everyone!

We sit there for two hours waiting for this parade to stop outside the cultural centre, rehydrate then continue on. Some people opened the centre, I helped them move some cases of water and one of the people there knew some history about the Isle of Wight, ie Charles I imprisoned in Carisbrooke castle. Literally the first person I have met travelling who not only knows the Isle of Wight but some history too!! Another guy turns up with a little baby called Mia. Rebecca used to work for this guy and things didn't quite end so well so he was making the atmosphere a bit weird but his little baby made the atmosphere more fun. A cop car pulls up and gives us a ten minute warning.

Ten minutes later, the parade draws nearer and stops outside the centre. What an atmosphere! I cannot begin to explain the vibe on the street, the sense of friendship, sense of celebration and sense of joy. The parade stopped for 20 minutes, some guy was selling alcohol from the back of his truck, some guy was selling hot dogs and we were giving out bottles of water.

The interaction with the parade was fun and exciting. Eventually, once most of the water was given out, Rebecca and I just watched the amusing events unfold. Guys with sweat pouring out of them, women with make up dripping down their face and of course, the fun and interesting costumes not to mention some pretty funky music. I'm so glad I got to see this parade and be involved as well. What an experience!! So much better than just hanging out in the French Quarter looking for things to do.

We head back to Rebecca's and then she mentions something about some free food on Sundays at Harry Krishna's in town. Sure! Free food! of course! We drive on over and there is a line of people walking away from the large jazz festival that was going on in New Orleans this weekend. It just so happened that this line was passing by the free food from Harry Krishna's. I join the line and wait very patiently. The food is awesome, some vegetable curry, some rice, some sauce, salad and a dessert thing, which I did eat. We grab a couple of plastic chairs and watch as there is Indian music and Indian dance. The first song they played was so relaxing, so thought provoking, so perfect! I sit there and try not drift off and lose myself, of course there is food on my lap, so that keeps me in check!

Yes, I even went back for seconds. Some complained to me that the curry was too spicy, well, it was perfect for a ginger British man! Two of Rebecca's friends came to join us and we sit there for another hour or so enjoying the free entertainment infront of us.

We decide to leave and head over to Kajuns bar for some Karaoke! Oh dear, I think I left my singing voice at home, but the place has free wifi so I could work out my plans for Jackson and there was a large TV showing the new HBO show Treme. If you haven't had the chance to watch it, please do. It follows life in New Orleans after Katrina. There are some familiar faces from The Wire, Bunk, Lester and Preboluski are all in the show. We sit near some people who keep trying to spot where the filmed locations are and if they recognise any places or any extras. A great show, hopefully it'll be on in the UK when I return.

Once the show finishes, Karaoke kicks off!! There are a few lame slow songs and Rebecca is 5th in line. I just can't believe what she picked. Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger (the theme tune used on Peep Show for opening and closing credits!!) A great song choice and it livens the place up!!

Rebecca sings another song, we finish our beers and seeing as tomorrow is Monday, we head back to hers and I have an early bus as well.

What an experience in New Orleans. I'm so thrilled about not conforming to tourist traps and spending my two days with Rebecca and the usual and wonderful events that go on in New Orleans. I love the city!

Temp 32C
Miles walked 2.5

Day 126 May 9th - Rebecca made me some breakfast, a quick chat, some playtime with Cupcake and it was time to go. She dropped me off at the Greyhound bus station and sadly, I leave New Orleans!
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