NOLA Night 1

Trip Start May 04, 2012
Trip End May 20, 2012

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Where I stayed
The Sweet Olive B&B

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Monday, May 14, 2012

So, we were on the road to Louisiana... I didn't know how to feel. I had waited for this day for so long and now it was finally here. Would New Orleans live up to my expectations? Would we enjoy Bourbon Street? Is it as dangerous as everyone seems to think? and most importantly, what was it going to be like after Katrina? All these questions were running through my mind as we past by road sign after road sign stating the miles to my Mecca... By first, we had to cross Lake Ponchartrain.
Lake Ponchartrain cuts through Louisiana and there is only 2 ways over it: A bridge built after Katrina weighing in at 6 miles long... or the mother of all journeys; the longest bridge in the world; 26 miles across the very middle of the lake.

Luckily Dave opted for the sensible 6 mile option.

I hate bridges, I hate edges and I hate large bodies of water... This was all three rolled into one. I sank in my seat, pointed the camera out of the window and prayed to all gods from all religions that we would make across. Of course we did but it doesn't stop me being a little melodramatic now does it? ;)

The closer we got to NOLA the more we saw the aftermath of the storm. Houses still with the marks on the outside stating how many dead inside and some houses still abandoned and only half there. It was haunting... But don't be fooled, these houses were few and far between. Katrina was nearly 7 years ago and the regeneration is highly evident but seeing it and being so close to the city got me emotional. I had waited so long for this and finally, no storm, financial restraint or life choice was stopping me; I was in New Orleans.

We drove up to the B&B and parked outside. The neighbourhood it's in isn't in the French Quarter and staying outside the French Quarter is unusual for British tourists. We'd worked ourselves up and got scared. We got into the B&B as quickly as possible and set our stuff down. We were greeted by one of the two owners, Dave. He assured us the neighbourhood is safe and perfectly normal for New Orleans. he gave us maps, told us safe and direct routes to things and made sure we were comfortable. He left us to it... We flapped.

New Orleans is like no other city in the world. The old architecture and heavily plant lined broken streets are intimidating. We decided heading over the road to the local Community Project and having a walk around the area was the way foward... We shit ourselves and came back to the B&B... Now, this may seem funny to y'all reading it but when all we've been told is how dangerous New Orelans is, it was quite understandable. 
We knew we both had to man-up and find our spines. We looked at the maps and both agreed that Frenchmen St would be a good choice to get food. Frenchmen is a smaller street on the outskirts of Faubourg Marigny and the French Quarter. We were told it's a better street to drink and eat on than Bourbon Street and much safer so it appealed to our British yellow bellies.

The walk was nice. It was the afternoon and cooling down. The streets here are beautiful, so green and lush, lined with ornate Creole coloured houses... and there are cats EVERYWHERE!

The walk took about 15 mins and although we were wary we were perfectly safe and we started to relax a little... Then it happened. We had been in NOLA 2 hours and I headed into a tattoo studio. Electric Ladyland is on Frenchmen and I had previously looked at it online for the purpose of getting my foot tattooed with the shrimp i'd had my heart set on. After 10 mins of filling out paperwork I was sat in Cameron Sweet's studio getting an ornate fleur de lys in my right wrist. $120 dollar well spent.

After the tattoo we went to a bar called the Three Muses. Live Jazz was being played, they had local ale, lobster egg rolls on the menu and everyone seemed friendly... Full of win.

We had finished eating by around 6:30pm and it was still light so took the brave decision to walk back. Dave at the B&B had said that we'd be perfectly safe to walk back before 9/10pm so we followed his advice. Walking through the neighbourhood we noticed how friendly everyone is; people don't look at the sidewalk when they walk past, they look you in the eye, smile and say "Good evening" in that beautiful Louisiana accent... Something so friendly and hospitable it's alien to us in the UK.

We got back to the B&B and made a cup of tea in the main kitchen (we'd had a traumatic experience in our eyes, we needed a brew damnit!) and met a group of friendly Canadians doing historical research. Two hours of chatting, beer and rum passed and suddenly we were joined by two older French people who only spoke French and their daughter Patricia. More chatting and talking with our hands and facial expressions to break the language barrier ensued and we were soon loved by the elderly French couple... The Old gent was particularly entertained by us and entertaining to us as he weilded his stick to show how HE would handle trouble in NOLA. Tired and overwhelmed we moved into our suite for some sleep... NOLA wasn't as scary as originally thought and we were soon feeling at home...

Sian xx
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