When you get assigned to a city you don't know that's far from everything you do know, you need to do a little research to keep yourself entertained. While we're far from our friends and family in Miami, we no longer have to drive 8 hours due north just to leave the state of Florida. Turns out we're only three hours from New Orleans and four hours from Atlanta. So, the weekend road trip planning began...
The missus and I made our first - and definitely not last - foray into New Orleans over the weekend. That city is just one big good time on so many levels. The nightlife, the music, the history, the unique character of the place - it's all right there on display. It's simply awesome.
Now, during our 36 hours in the city, we took the time to make a few important discoveries:
- It is possible for the sight of thousands of women and men in red dresses and lingerie running all over a city to become completely routine. This is what happens when you visit New Orleans on the day of the famous Red Dress Run.
We spent our formative years on South Beach, so people going crazy and getting stupid drunk while dressed in drag and/or wearing next to nothing is frankly not at all new to us. However, living in the small, highly religious, and extremely conservative Pensacola for a year has caused those memories to fade slightly. When we arrived in the French Quarter at noon, we were saying to ourselves WTF is going on?
By 2pm, been there, seen that.
Oh, and that too.
And - OH GOD, NOT THAT!!!!
- A body-length fishnet, a Wicked Weasel thong (NSFW), and nipple tape is considered perfectly acceptable street wear at any time of the day, especially when you're a smokin' hot blond girl looking to snag a 3-for-1 beer deal.
[sorry, no image available for this one guys. ;) ]
- Holy-rolling preachers slinging crosses and Bibles really need to pick better locations than Bourbon Street on a Saturday night. Fire and brimstone don't resonate too well when your audience is smashed on hurricanes and blow jobs and looking to get some action at the neon-lit strip bar 20 feet away promising its girls are "bottomless".
- The fine art of "getting to the point" is thoroughly explored in the T-shirt stores on Bourbon street. The subtleties of such captions as "F*** YOU, YOU F***ING F***", "I Got Bourbon Faced on Shit Street", "Tell your husband I said 'Thanks!'" and "It ain't gonna lick itself" are only lost on people with the brain capacity of a box of hammers.
- A leather-clad biker couple on a Harley will readily agree to the offer of a foursome with a cross-dressing couple in red spandex wearing pool toys. As you can see, the biker girl is offering the crimson duo a ride in their sidecar.
- If you're wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, whatever goes between them is truly irrelevant. As a "6b", if you drive a cool old-timey car across Bourbon street, be prepared to get it fondled by random girls in polka dot dresses - and there's nothing you can do about it but frown for the camera.
- The music in New Orleans truly lives up to the hype. Nothing funny there - only the straight-up truth.It's just awesome. Jazz, blues, rock, metal, whatever - it's there and it's there in spades.
- Cafe Du Monde only does two things, but they do them extremely well: coffee and beignets. And they do them fast and inexpensively.
- If you're gonna be a walking ad for your sex shop, you gotta work it, not just bullshit on your cell phone. Especially if the pale tourist standing five feet away is in better shape than you are.
- Nicolas Cage lives in a swanky house.
And drives a Caddy with Beverly Hills plates.
And... was apparently home, since the lights were on in the chandelier inside.
We tried out a few places recommended both by locals and guide books. We normally eat fairly healthily, but decided to throw healthful caution to the wind. After all, we're in New Orleans, and next to music and public drunkenness, the food's one of the top reasons to come here.
- Red Fish Grill: Good food, good service. Jambalaya rocked, as did the red bean and andouille sausage dip. The menu's a little seafood-intensive for my taste - even taking the name into consideration - but worked out well.
- Cafe Du Monde: As mentioned above, the beignets and coffee were delicious. It's a total zoo, but it's fun and the dining room is outdoors. Open 24 hours, so you can get your fix anytime.
- Arnaud's Remoulade: Decent food, but horrible service. The waiter was a clod with an attitude problem. A burger turned up cold and was sent back, a personal pizza was brought that wasn't the one we'd ordered, fries were totally unsalted, and the waiter was completely unapologetic. The gumbo was good, but didn't make up for everything else.
- "I am so drunk. Stop stealing my beer."
- "Dude, do NOT trust the wizard! Wizards are BAD!"
We'll probably be heading back to New Orleans in November when it's a little cooler. The Mississippi river delta in the middle of August is just too damn hot and humid to really enjoy the walking. There's still a lot of damage from Katrina evident in some parts of the city, but the main "touristy" parts have bounced back perfectly.
I will say that it's one of the seediest cities I've been to on this side of the Atlantic. It reminded me of Madrid, Spain. Over there, the streets and plazas are full of suspicious looking people standing around like vultures, scanning for prey amongst the crowds and sometimes working in teams. They will actively follow you until they get their opportunity. New Orleans has a few sections that are like that. Bourbon Street and Royal streets themselves are usually crowded and loud, but one turn around a corner and you're suddenly on your own on an unlit street. Do not go to New Orleans without some means of protecting yourself and do not walk around by yourself at night.
That PSA aside, it's a great time and an interesting city. You'll see a lot of things here that you'll never see anywhere else. C'est bon!