Trip Start Jul 25, 2012
Trip End Mar 07, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Arriving in New Orleans (or N'orlens as the locals call it) was like arriving in a different country. Splayed out on the banks of the muddy Mississippi, air dripping with humidity, we were to learn that N'orlens plods along at it's own pace. Hungover from a night of partying, no one stirs until at least midday and by then it's too hot to do anything but find a cool bar and start drinking again. 

We stayed in the oldest section of the city, the French Quarter, which is a small, compact neighbourhood set on the banks of the Mississippi. The French Quarter is characterised by narrow streets lined by terraced buildings that rise two to three levels above the street. The terraces are adorned by intricate wrought iron balconies where locals sit to try and catch a breeze in the stifling heat. The French Quarter seems to attract all sorts, fortune tellers, musicians, street artists, horse & cart drivers... all vying for your tourist dollar. 

We stayed one street back from the infamous 'Bourbon Street' which by night is alive with music, strip-clubs and loud packs of drunk americans, and by day is deserted and foul smelling of vomit, urine and stale beer trapped in the heat and humidity of the narrow street.

We took a walking tour one day but made the mistake of booking a midday tour. We literally melted into the pavement! It was interesting though to hear of the history of N'orlens and to learn that the city is much like its local dish, Gumbo, a rough and random mixture of seafood, meat and vegetables. In the same way N'orlens is like a 'social gumbo', a rough and random mix of people...French, Spanish, Creoles, Cajuns, North Americans, Latin Americans, Africans and lots and lots of tourists.

Food and music and heat are the two things that come to mind when I think of New Orleans. The food is as heavy as the hot southern air and with dishes like cajun fried chicken, jumbolaya, gumbo, red beans and rice, fried catfish and po-boys on the menu we quickly realised that this was no place to lose weight! (There was definitely no Heart Foundation tick on any of the food we ate!) Ben's favourite eat was a bar called 'Coops Place'. A buzzing little bar with good tunes blasting from a stereo, sultry waitresses, sweaty chefs, and the best cajun fried chicken known to man. Mine was Cafe Du Monde. The oldest cafe in New Orleans and unashamedly touristy, but serving the best and only Beignets I'd ever tasted accompanied by some great street jazz. Open 24 hours, the only items on the menu are beignets, coffee and hot chocolate. Served steaming hot and drowned in a layer of icing sugar, the beignets were at their best when dunked in the bitter chicory coffee. I had them for breakfast and dinner and could have eaten them for lunch if Ben was not so concerned that his new wife would turn into Miss Piggy!

As with the food, there is no escaping the music in New Orleans. On the street, in the bars and restaurants and even by the mighty Mississippi, music surrounds you. Trumpet, sax, double bass, trombone and always a black man belting out a thick smooth melody. Jazz, blues, reggae, rock, pop, or any combination of the above is alive in the streets. Tipped off by a local that the best jazz was to be found outside the French Quarter, we headed to Frenchmen Street. After a couple of strong drinks (the bartenders are very generous with their pouring) it was impossible to resist the music and before long our toe-tapping turned into booty shaking and we both hit the dance floor. 

After an evening of drinking and dancing, we stumbled out on the street and, to my delight, came across a street poet equipped with a typewriter and ready to compose a poem for a small fee. After a quick chat to procure some details from us, he whipped up this beautiful poem....

And she gazes out the window as the miles roll past
on a season-spanning honeymoon that seven months will last
He guides the car through bleary dawn and hazy midnight hour
whilst she flips through yesterday's photos of some strange American flower

For weeks and weeks their feet keep moving
and in the blogosphere friends and family are approving
of these New World adventures for this fresh-faced love,
on her birthday she'll update her page from 5000 feet above

And then, south of the border where the first world fears to tread
they will take their chances on chicken buses, and sleep on questionable bed
and forget about Sydney's troubles and a globe's economy burning
until grizzly beard and beauty are homeward happily returning


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