Trip Start Apr 18, 2011
Trip End Dec 09, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Monday, May 9, 2011

Well I'm not really sure what just hit me! Stepping off the Amtrak train I appear to have been blindsided by a much larger, musically charged storm of jambalaya, jazz and drinking.

New Orleans, or as the southern accent dictates N'awlins, is one hell of a city. Built around a coming together of everyone- a fusion of European with African and Caribbean influences to create a diverse range of flavours, sights and sounds. It tastes good, the cajun, the creole, it works (in case you can't tell, while writing this I am extremely hungry).

It's difficult to imagine this place is even part of the US given its complete cultural disjoint with everything I've seen so far. I have accidently visited at one of the best times of the year- it's not mardi gras- but it is jazz fest, the end of the university year and Cinco de Mayo (Mexican celebration thingy) all rolled into one.

The first night I find myself at a college party/Cinco de Mayo extravaganza- it's not restricted to the bars, but instead spills out over the streets and open spaces. I cant believe how much this place differs from the rest of America- you can drink on the streets, take outside beers into other bars and restaurants, musicians play on street corners to large crowds, and it's so cheap (one bottle of domestic beer at the Westin hotel in Atlanta cost $6.50- here I can get three bottles of Corona for $6). I like it.

I get chatting to the local students and I can imagine this is a very good place to come to university. I am promptly introduced to the token English guy who is on exchange at the school (like I might know him). He unsurprisingly captains the rugby side and says that he's actually played against Sandbach in the Daily Mail Cup (...so there kind of was a chance I may have seen him before then). The fact that we're both English proves to be an entertaining topic of conversation but the dancefloor eventually beckons and I attempt to get my weekly fix of the shuffle.

There was no clearer indication of how my time in the Big Easy was going to unfold than the fact that only 2 hours in I was already involved in some sort of street party

At every conceivable point music gets played- even though I didn't actually attend the ticketed jazz fest, just being in the city was enough. I'd like to think the sporadic musical performances occur all year and are not just restricted to the in-seasons.

The 2nd day, after meeting up with Marcel and Johannes, we decide to take advantage of the low prices and carnival atmosphere through the majesty of a 60oz (3 pint) fish bowl, which for 5 dollars could be filled with either beer or cocktails. The heat and the endless sightseeing around the French Quarter ensures that the early evening siesta (along with Johannes' faulty alarm clock/ probably turned it off in his sleep) becomes an early night. One night wasted, but one day thoroughly enjoyed.

The two main tourist streets of Bourbon and Frenchman at night are like nothing I've seen before. Bourbon has the neon buzz with over hanging balconies and eager touts; literally every establishment is either a bar, night club or strip club. After witnessing the frenzy that ensues from the bead and feather boa throws I manage to (inadvertently) crash another college gathering when I arrive into a very confused balcony-based frat party (members only apparently). Once again, the English accent plays; I stay to be photographed, throw my feather boas for male flesh (unfortunately) and return back down to the debauchery. 

Frenchman Street is darker, it replaces the fizz of fluorescent tubes with soft street lighting and jazz (see video). I bump into a girl who lives in LA, after chatting for a few minutes she passes me her business card and offers a free place to stay when I'm there, whether this is drunken chat or not we will have to see. 

The daytime brings with it a chance to explore the Mississippi, this is definitely one of the natural features I wanted to visit in America. But aside from the fact its a famous river which I can now say I've been on, I have nothing overly important to report home with, its big, deep and muddy.

Other highlights include; attempted front flips, the General Lee statue (some distant relative no doubt), streetcar rides, being taken to a historic battlefield where the Brits got dominated, witnessing drunk people at every hour of every day and of course United punishing Chelsea.

As a result of the Jazz Fest I resort to having to stay at an extremely poorly reviewed hostel called The Marquette House. The reviews are quite accurate, its dirty, the staff are odd, and there is no internet or communal facilities. I have a brief scare with bed bugs but am reliably informed they are just mosquito bites. The joy of New Orleans is that it's so fun, so different that the issues with accommodation don't bother me.

It's also been a great experience to travel with people (yes I temporarily had some friends)- Marcel and Johannes for the last week and a half have ventured into the same exciting, and at times surreal, situations as I have. And its also nice to know that at least two other people in your dorm aren't insane. But inevitably we part company. I meet three Australians driving my exact route- Brilliant... but it turns out they're doing it the other way round, not so good then. I set my stride due west for Austin. The lack of internet means I know very little about the town (once again), other than its South by Southwest music festival, and I'm pretty sure I wont be stumbling into another festival this time.

I persist as a lone ranger heading toward Texas.
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joe g on

Sounds mega. More about the food, though!

Ad B on

Hello brother. I'm enjoying these posts immensely. Like someone had already posted, its like being there along with you, albeit the cut down, edited, deleted scenes version. Which only makes me want to purchase the directors cut! Speak to you soon. Message me about skype

Julian on

Hey Matt-haha I wish I was there with you on Bourbon St -sounds like you're still having a good time on the road! Keep the posts coming-all the best. Julian

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