Seediness, art, culture, and music.
Song Recommendation – Magic Dance – David Bowie
The first thing you notice about New Orleans is the sweltering humidity, the kind where a thick layer of sweat forms almost as soon as you step outside.
The dates I chose for my trip to New Orleans were made without any particular forethought. In an act of serendipity, it turned out that the famous Jazzfest was happening at the same time as my visit.
New Orleans is well known for its jazz scene, particularly in an area known as the French quarter.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the French quarter, it is the perfect blend of seediness, art, culture, and music. It smelt a little like garbage, but it had an unparalleled uniqueness that I had not seen in the United States.
One of those “must dos” in New Orleans is trying a beignet (pronounced Ben-yay) from a place called Cafe Du Monde. A beignet is basically a fried piece of dough that is buried in a thick layer of icing (powdered) sugar. They are strangely delicious, and I couldn’t help getting them more than once.
I spent a long time wandering around the French Quarter, on multiple days, taking in the strange artwork, the jazz bars, street performers, and the many interesting shops.
I used one of my favourite travel apps, TripAdvisor, to find a New Orleans French Quarter food tour. This forced me to try a range of interesting foods, including the classic gumbo (a type of stew, with vegetables and seafood/meat), a po’boy (a type of sandwich served in french bread), New Orleans hot sauce, and the sweet praline (a sugary pecan treat).
We started the tour at a French Quarter restaurant/bar, and walked around the district from there.
Now comes the story you have been waiting for. During this tour I was approached by a woman in her late forties (at least). It was her birthday, you could tell this by the sash she was wearing, which had Happy birthday painted on it in a glittery text. Pinned to the top of the sash was a wad of cash (apparently getting people to pin cash to your frock/clothes is something you do on your birthday in the U.S.A).
Our woman, lets call her Roxy, was slightly intoxicated. Within seconds of engaging in conversation, and finding out that I was on a food tour, and was from New Zealand, she asked for some of the beef brisket that we had just been served.
I gave her one of the spare forks, and she took some from my plate. Sure, whatever.
“Are you with your grandparents?” she said loudly, pointing to an older couple on the tour, who were probably only in their fifties.
“Uh, no” I said, embarrassed for my fellow tour participants. I looked around the tour group, hoping to catch the eye of someone who would save me.
One of Roxy’s friends came up behind her.
Roxy turned and they started a loud conversation.
“He’s from New Zealand,” said Roxy.
“He’s cute” said her friend (I’m owning this). They continued their conversation for a few minutes.
I picked at my brisket, still awkwardly trying to make eye contact with someone else on the tour.
Roxy stopped talking to her friend and turned back to me, “you should ditch these boring folks, and come ‘off-roading’ with us,” she said motioning back to her friend.
I noticed movement from the corner of my eye.
The tour guide approached with a huge grin on his face.
“Time to move,” he said ushering me out of the restaurant/bar.
When we got outside he started laughing.
“I see you made some new friends,” he said.
I shook my head in embarrassment.
I heard some laughs from around the group. I then had to endure some hilarious cracks from the rest of the group while we walked on to the next spot.
As an act of positive reinforcement I made sure to tip the tour guide well once the tour finished, thanking him for saving me.
I spent the next day checking out Jazzfest. It was busy, but fun. The music was great. I spent time in the blues tent, the gospel tent, and then at the main stage for some jazz, and then later for a performance by Aerosmith (not jazz, I know).
Another day I went to the botanical gardens, again seeking out the elusive hummingbird. Again I was unsuccessful. There was an area in the gardens with plants specifically placed to attract the birds. I can confirm that the plants did not work.
After almost two hours I had not spotted a bird, let alone a Hummingbird. I think the only success of the day was accidentally photo-bombing someones wedding pictures.
I missed going on a Louisiana swamp tour, but I was off to Miami next, so the Everglades would do.
After a few days of food, jazz, and the seediness of New Orleans I was ready to hit up Florida. It was time to head to Miami Beach.
I’m still trying to figure out what “off-roading” is.