Our best laid plans were thwarted by a delay in Sydney but eventually we four girls on tour met up to enjoy the start of our holiday together! Cheryl and I arriving first at our Airbnb which was smaller than expected and so quirky but perfectly positioned just behind Bourbon Street, with a courtyard that was perfect for an end of the day wine and a quick snack before our evening exploits. As it turned out we were rarely there as we were out to explore as much as we could!
Cheryl and I explored once we had settled ourselves in. Whilst Bourbon Street is open all hours for drinking most restaurants close their kitchens at 10pm, much to our surprise, but then again it is all about the drinking in Bourbon Street! Bourbon Street was buzzing, music, of every genre, blasting out of the many bars which line the street, people wandering from bar to bar with drinks in hand, neon lights from one end to the other, getting tackier towards the business district where there are more strip joints than music bars. When our fellow travellers finally arrived we headed out to the only place with a kitchen still open and enjoyed a typically American burger at Yo Mama’s. Fortunately we had taken Michael and Emma’s advice and only ordered 2 entrees (mains). It remains a mystery to me why main courses are called entrees in the US and entrees, as we know them, are called appetisers! Too tired after all our travelling to enjoy Bourbon Street, the music and the cocktails we retired.
The sun was already blazing down by the time we got going on Tuesday. We wandered down to Jackson Square, booking ourselves onto the Natchez Steam Boat afternoon jazz cruise. We went on a guided walk of the French Quarter to get ourselves oriented and to hear some of the history of this fascinating city. The French Quarter is the “nose bleed” area of New Orleans, being a giddy 12 feet above sea level! Architecturally the buildings are so interesting, with shotgun and double shotguns houses and bigger houses with secret garden courtyards. A shotgun home is a modest single storey house with the hall going from the front door right through to the back and the rooms running into each other, so when all the doors are open you can fire a shotgun straight through the house! Yours, for a million dollars in the French quarter! The wrought iron work and the balconies are simply beautiful.
Onto the Natchez and a lazy afternoon cruise down the Mississippi, such a wide brown river, the third longest river in the world. The running commentary ceased only when the jazz band started to play! They were great and I know we would have been on the dance floor had Michael been with us! The Natchez was one of six steam powered stern wheelers plying the Mississippi, launched in 1975, of which there are only two remaining. Going into the steam room seeing the engine in action gave us a sense of times gone by, so hot, steamy and smelly though nothing like it must have been when engines were powered by coal.
Onto Frenchman Street in the evening, the true home of jazz now according to most people in New Orleans. The bands that had played up and down the street in the summer when Michael and Emma were there were nowhere to be seen, perhaps a combination of being Tuesday and no longer the summer. We had cocktails and went to Alfonsos for Italian with a hint of creole. Downstairs there was a one man jazz band we enjoyed and then danced to the next band, tried our luck at a few different bars on the way home, leaving as quickly as we could from the bar where we were the only people in the audience the performer didn’t know!
We went on the hip hop bus tour, as it became known because that’s what Cheryl called it after a glass or two! First bus of the day, more history and onto the Garden District on the American side of New Orleans, which was originally part of the Livaudals Plantation. Here the houses are much more grand, double storeyed, with high ceilings, Doric and Corinthian columned and set back from the road with their gardens on display, such a different feel to the French Quarter where the front doors open directly onto the street and the gardens are hidden from view. The modest houses in which the slaves lived are set back from the main houses and have the kitchens on the ground floor to save the big house should the kitchen set alight. Our guide said the slaves who lived in the city had a much better life than the slaves in the plantations. The fact that there were slaves is unimaginable to me and as for how they lived, simply terrible. We saw John Goodman’s house and that of Sandra Bullock, who adopted a little boy from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the house where Benjamin Button was filmed. We wandered through the Lafayette cemetery where numerous horror movies have been filmed, it is quite maudlin and sadly neglected. None of us was keen to do the ghost tour, too spooky in the city where voodoo still flourishes!
Lunch at the Commanders Palace had been recommended to us! Thank you Shelagh, though I think the 25c martinis were my undoing! We had a fabulous lunch, tastes of the south with a Creole Crab Cobb Salad and Pecan Coated Crispy Catfish, followed by a very unusual take on bread and butter pudding, a soufflé version, light and fluffy and delicious, with Whisky sauce!
We wove our way to the hip hop bus heading to Bourbon Street, Cheryl and I finished for the day. Judy and Helen, however, were in fighting form and went out to party further, arriving back in the wee small hours with tales of great jazz at Preservation Hall, great cocktails at Pat O’Briens, amongst other places, and meeting an astronaut who is hoping to be on the first flight to Mars in 2017! Rather alarming to think that it may be a one way journey if the technology to bring them home isn’t developed in the next ten years whilst they set up a colony on Mars in that time. He was rather dashing and Judy and Helen hope he won’t be stranded there!
Another day, another adventure but that’s enough for now! We are on our way to Nashville, boot scooting an’all! Looking forward to line dancing!