Welcome to the tropical city of New Orleans, where it rains everyday but doesnt get any cooler. Seriously you might mistake it for the Caribbean with its palm trees and its tropical heat.
After leaving our Memphis hotel at 6am to get a city bus to the greyhound we ended up frantically flagging down a taxi when our bus didn’t turn up. 14 hours later we finally arrived in New Orleans through the dodgier looking part of the city. At night. We took a taxi to the hostel and were given a tour by a girl who had clearly had six cups of coffee to many. Maybe it was the stress and tiredness caused by the journey but the place looked a lot more grungy than the reviews suggested. And then we walked into the kitchen to discover we were sharing it with a few six legged friends! ie. Roaches! Cue eating out as often possible. After a rather uncomfortable dinner we just hit the sack, hoping things would look a bit cheerier in the morning.
Fortunately they did. We headed down to the French quarter on the streetcar and who couldn’t be consoled by the rustic charm of all those little balconied streets. More importantly we found an excellent spot for a bit of brunch (we had kind of missed breakfast) and tucked into beignets at the Cafe du Monde, where every table is ringed by a little snowy dusting of icing sugar, you cannot eat these things without making a MESS. For the uninitiated a beignet is a french style donut without the hole, served warm and heaped in icing sugar. Delish! We had a wander around Jackson Square, listened to some jazz on the streets and took a walk down to the French Market, where we decided to indulge in a little daiquiri.
We went back to the hostel and changed to go out to dinner (Does anyone get the idea that all we do out here is eat and drink? You’re probably right! I actually now weigh 20 stone and have pickled my liver – Andrew). We went to Coops Place for amazing fried chicken and jambalaya. All for cheaper than a meal at KFC. We were going to head back and have an earlyish night so we could make the most of the next day. Best laid plans eh? Instead we stumbled upon ‘handgrenades’ a drink of mysterious composition (its actually illegal to tell anyone whats in it!) One of these being enough to get you fairly tipsy meant that as we walked down the street with them (You can drink anywhere in New Orleans as long as its plastic, Party City) we were enticed into other bars. For example the one that served 32oz Hurricanes, another New Orleans classic which is essentially over a pint of neat rum. We were of course extremely sensible and didn’t drink past our limits, don’t worry mum.
The next morning – we would say more about the previous night but your guess is as good as ours – we were asleep. That afternoon we got up, grumbled about our hangovers, and hightailed it down the the riverfront so we could catch the Steamboat Natchez, the only remaining paddle steamer on the Mississippi. After being treated to a performance by the steam powered calliope, ‘the boat is singing’ says Abby, we boarded and set sail, or rather steam. We had a nice our of the harbour, followed by a cajun themed lunch – red beans and rice, jambalaya and fried fish, followed by bread pudding and all washed down with some authentic southern iced tea – and some jazz.
For the evenings entertainment we went to a Jazz bar and watched a great 9 piece band doing jazz covers of songs from the Back Street Boys, Estelle and Fat Man Scoop. Insane.
Today we started off the morning with another round of beignets, which had us all set to look around a restored 1850 antebellum house, do our souvenir shopping (they have a Tabasco brand shop – look out for your spicy gifts), and go on a Swamp Tour!
We took a two hour boat trip out on the bayous where we saw about 10 different alligators, including two about 12 feet long! The boat captain fed them hotdogs and marshmallows, who knew that alligators had a sweet tooth! (Andrews still excited 3 hours later – Abby).
Got an early flight in the morning so off to bed now, night night all.
Alligator Dundee and Steamboat Willie