20.05.2015 - 24.05.2015
Back to civilisation… sort of. I'm not sure New Orleans, or at least the French Quarter, can be considered 'civilised'.
We arrived in the muggy heat of late evening and went straight to the oldest bar in New Orleans: LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street. There was a heavy downpour and the rain steamed from the pavements. At a break in the storm, we left the pub and explored the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street. There was live jazz and blues floating out of every doorway, which made a nice change after the cheesy pop that seemed to be the norm in Nicaragua. On Elysian Fields, Matt tried not to be too annoyed at my dramatically shouting 'Stella! Stella for star!' on every corner.
By the time we landed in New Orleans we were into the third week of our trip, and it was around then that it stopped feeling like a holiday and became 'travelling'. As such, we had to start thinking about doing some chores, such as laundry and stocking up on toiletries. Ah, the glamour. We took our laundry to Suds dem Duds and waited for it whilst drinking mint juleps in Napoleon House, an old, dark drinking den. (We later discovered that it features in the film JFK – see the next blog post on Texas.)
The Quarter made Soho look conservative. Bars such as Huge Ass Beers sold 'go-cups' of beer and lurid daiquiris, and the bars and clubs start blaring out music early in the morning until, well, I don't think the party ever stops. There was a 1930s bar next-door to a heavy metal bar, dainty women in nylon stockings and finger waves chatting merrily on the street to leather-clad bikers.
In between the important tasks of laundry and boozing, we found time to sit in Washington Square (technically still boozing, with our frozen neon daiquiris and huge ass beers. You know, when in Rome…). In the park I read a $50 fifth edition copy of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, which I'd 'accidentally' bought earlier from Dauphine Street Books, a wonderful second-hand bookstore with narrow aisles and books to the ceiling. Although the book is set in the 1960s, the essence of the French Quarter is the same today, and there are definitely still plenty of Ignatius J. Reillys wandering around.
Of course, we also ate a lot. In the space of a few days we managed to cram in local dishes such as jambalaya, gumbo, po-boys, crawfish étouffée and blackened redfish, from places such as K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen, Johnny's Po-boys, Coop's Place and Mr B's Bistro, where I had the best barbecue shrimp. There was a smoky scent of cajun in the air that we just couldn't resist.
Our eating frenzy culminated in a particularly hearty brunch at the Ruby Slipper café on our last day. As well as eggs, cheesy grits, pulled pork, muffins and gallons of hollandaise, we decided a hair of the dog was necessary. I had a couple of bacon bloody marys, which each had at least three rashers of Canadian bacon in them, along with green beans and olives. This resulted in a dizzy spell and a need to lie down immediately. Matt wasn't feeling any better after his bottomless mimosas.
Luckily, our AirBnB accommodation, a quaint Creole cottage on the border of the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny, wasn't far away.
It was a fleeting visit, and New Orleans is definitely on our list of places we'd like to visit again. Next time we might even make it out of the French Quarter.