U.S. south 4: Crazy New Orleans

To like New Orleans, you have to be a little crazy. I think the whole city is kind of crazy – they call it The big easy.

Walking through the center and suddenly the police has to stop all the traffic, ’cause some random parade of silly costumes and party animals decided to take the streets. As they passed by the traffic is open again and everything is back to normal – just like that. A parade of who knows what.

New orleans, French quarter
Looks peaceful but wait for the night to kick in

NOLA night life

At the evening, the happening really starts – it’s like a never ending party wherever you look. A brass band comes from somewhere, marching through the street, playing some cheerful music and picking everyone with it. You just join the dancing squad and go wherever they go. The crowd is getting bigger and everyone is dancing … again, a parade of who knows what. And you are suddenly a part of it  and it feels like you just got adopted by the city.

The atmosphere is fantastic – the nights in NOLA are just one big party. They close the traffic on whole Bourbon street early in the evening, just so the party troopers can march from one joint to another. All the bars have live music and there is a special tradition of throwing beads necklaces from the top balconies of every joint. And the party mass flowing the Bourbon street down below has to catch them. I read somewhere that a woman is suppose to show her cleavage to get a necklace, but now days they just throw them all around (otherwise I can’t explain how my husband got one and I didn’t – his cleavage could definitely not be the reason).

New orleans, Bourbon street
The nights are busy here

French quarter and the Mississippi river

After such hard work during the NOLA nights, you have to take it easy during the days. There is a lot of sight seeing to be done but don’t exaggerate – remember, you are tired, hungover and need to be well rested for another night of Bourbon street madness.

The French quarter is the highlight of the city. The architecture here is quite unique – low buildings with french balconies, all of different colors. I felt like I was in the Caribbean somewhere.

New orleans
French quarter architecture

Nola has a rich history of voodoo activity and you can check out the Voodoo museum, but it’s pretty basic. Just a few small rooms of voodoo dolls and witchcraft accessories. You can take a walk by the Mississippi river where the famous long distance swimmer Martin Strel from Slovenia (yap, my homeland!) finished his swimming through the Mississippi river. He jumped into the river in northern Minnesota and did a few swings (like for about 2300 miles) and crawled back out (68 days later) in New Orleans. His energy allegedly comes from rich greasy food and sour Slovenian wine. (He swam the entire length of the Amazon river and the Danube as well – a lot of wine went down that drain.)

New orleans, Voodoo museum
Even a voodoo doll caught a necklace
New orleans
The mighty Mississippi river

You won’t be hungry in NOLA

The Mississippi riverwalk is nice and it takes you directly to a shopping mall, where you can cool of a bit (july is not a good time to be in Louisiana). Right by the river is the famous Cafe du monde where people stand in long lines to get coffee and a special pastry Beignets.

There’s lots of opportunities to try the local cuisine like gumbo or jambalaya. And of course, lots of crawfish and shrimp dishes – not my favorite so I can’t say much about it. My absolute favorite though, was a a desert – a praline made from pecan nuts. We bought a little extra for our friends back home, but our bash didn’t even last us to the Mississippi border.

Outside the city

There are many opportunities to see the swamps east and west of the city. Airboat tours at the Honey island are suppose to be the best.

We drove in the direction of Baton Rouge where the road between the two cities is called the plantation alley. Some of the old plantation houses are turned into museums and they offer a unique picture of the not so distant past. We stopped at the Oak alley plantation where the entrance fee was quite high, but we got a tour guidance from a true southern dame all dressed up in an old time fashion crinoline. She walked us through the main mansion and explained every room or slave torturing device speaking in a barely understandable southern accent. I felt like I was in a TV series North and south, playing a visitor form Europe who doesn’t really understand their language.

You can see the main house and the slave cottages and of course the main attraction of this estate – the spectacular line of huge ancient oaks in the garden. Every photographer’s wet dreams.

New orleans, plantation
The old oaks at the Oak alley plantation

The Cypress swamp (Natchez)

The best looking swamp (the most photogenic one) was definitely The Cypress swamp in Natchez trace parkway. The whole route through Natchez was pretty scenic and very peaceful – not much traffic.

The swamp was peaceful also.. until the mosquitoes noticed some fresh blood wondering around. They didn’t even notice us for the first 15 minutes, so we had enough time to admire the wonderful trees growing out of green soup-like water. Shrek would like this place – it’s perfect for solitary ogres …and mosquitoes. Eventually we had to run out of there if we didn’t want to be the main course on their feast.

Natchez
The Cypress swamp

 

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