I left the vile pit and opened the front door to more rain, heavy driving rain. Before leaving Baton Rouge, I had a drive round the leafy campus and went to a traditional post-game brunch spot. However it was a little too popular as a queue snaked round the building. I popped over to another online recommendation, City Pork a deceptivily named vegan deli. I jest, there was a lot of ham. Taking the advice of the server I tried biscuits and gravy for the first time. Delicious. A thick gravy with lumps of mystery meat over biscuits which seem to be a bit like a scone with lots of black coffee.
The plan was to drive down to New Orléans via some back roads through the wetlands, but the amount of rain falling and flood warnings meant a change of plan. I didn’t fancy the interstate, so slowly drove down route 61.
The poor conditions meant the drive wasn’t much fun but even if it had been dry I don’t think this would have been the most scenic of routes. There were continuous shopping malls and car parks along the side of the road for most of the journey.
Before long I was in New Orléans or the Big Easy, driving past the Super Dome on my way into the French Quarter. I had a nice stay ahead at the Hyatt for three nights and was very much looking forward to no driving and spending some time in the city I’ve wanted to visit for a long time.
After a bit of time blogging and relaxing at the hotel, I thought I would explore the famous Bourbon Street on my first night. It was still pouring outside plus it being a Sunday night meant the street wasn’t heaving however there was still enough people to have a bit of atmosphere. With a particularly strong downpour I jumped in the nearest doorway, to pretty tacky bar. I asked for a beer and was given three as it was 3-4-1 hour, a surprise which meant I stayed in the bar for a bit longer than expected. That gives you an indication of the type of street it is.
I found a few more bars as I worked my way down the neon light strip and was repeatedly told I was saying New Orléans wrong. You should pronounce it New Or-linz, so now you know. I came across a famous jazz bar called Fritzels which had some awesome jazz musicians performing and sat very happy to be there, if slightly damp. They performed Enjoy Yourself (it’s later than you think) which is a song I really love.
The night continued with a trip to the oldest bar in America, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. A building that looks as though it might fall down at any moment. I also tried the local cocktail of choice, a sweet strong lime flavoured drink called a Hand grenade. Yuck.
Day two, I had planned to do a swamp tour but the continued downpour meant they were cancelled. So I planned a little stroll round the French Quarter, the most historic part of the city. Walking down Royal Street, which is filled with shops selling high-end art and antiques along with bars and restaurants. Popping in here and there for a snack or a coffee and some respite from the rain.
The food in New Orléans is a big part of trip there and along with other cities that have a historic mix of people means great food. Gumbo, po-boys, beignets, muffalettas and loads of seafood are everywhere and delicious.
The French Quarter is a very picturesque part of town with lovely old buildings. It is also one of the few places in the world that you will see elderly people wandering round with half yard plastic glasses filled with cocktails before noon on a Monday.
As I strolled I caught little parts of different conversations as I went by, a couple notable. On a parade of high-end stores, a couple of homeless people were sat in a doorway. There are a lot of homeless people there. A security guard very apologetically was moving them on “I’m real sorry, I know it’s bad weather out there but you can’t stay here” the response from the gent on the ground made me laugh out loud, “this ain’t bad weather. I delivered Chinese food in a hurricane before!”. Unfortunately I didn’t hear the security guard’s response to this. The other snippet I heard was more worrying, as two teenagers greeted each other I heard “Man you’re fast, when he pulled that gun you were just gone!”.
The second evening I was looking for more music which meant getting up to Frenchman street. What fun it was, the music was fantastic high quality rock, soul, jazz and funk in neighbouring establishment. I decided to walk back, not far really and the rain was finally subsiding. However a couple of people told me the area was a little dodgy and for a couple of blocks unlit. Halfway along the dark patch two guys came out of alley just in front of me. Straight away I tensed up and tried to walk taller, which was met with a very meek voice “oh god, please don’t fight us, which was an amusing relief for me.
Day three, it was still raining a little but not too hard. The swamp tour still didn’t look great though. I got out of the french quarter with a walk through the warehouse district, popped into the second world war museum which was surprisingly good.
Wandered down the bank of the brown and swollen Mississippi river, before hoping on a trolley cart up to Louis Armstrong Park.
My last evening was all about a band I’ve liked for the last for the last few years, Rebirth Brass Band. They play every Tuesday in music club called the Maple Leaf Bar. It was the first bar in the city to reopen after Karina. They didn’t disappoint, the place was jammed and they were great.