This Is Not America !

Meeting our third musketeer Kat @ Jackalope bar in Austin, Texas.

Meeting our third musketeer Kat @ Jackalope bar in Austin, Texas.

After more than 2 weeks with Chris, a third musketeer joined us in Austin to cruise to the city of New Orleans.  She was from London but left home a few weeks ago to travel around the world for about 5 1/2 months.  Kat, short for Katryn, met us in The Jackalope Bar in 6th Street for a drink and off we were the next day to the amazing city of NOLA, as locals say…

The French Quarter

The French Quarter

New Orleans is maybe an American city as a matter of geography & politics but to understand the place properly, it’s important to realize that in terms of character & personality, it’s more than just American and much more than just a city. In many ways New Orleans is an island with the river curving around it on one side & Lake Pontchartrain and its marshes on another.  It tends to have a style of is own, including its own dialect & even the  ‘Creole’ language.  I really felt as if I was transported back in time!  In some ways, New Orleans might even be considered to be the northern-most isle of the Caribbean, a crescent-shaped piece of territory that seems as though it were pushed from the sea into the womb of Louisana by some ancient hurricane.

My duty in Annette & Hamilton's house... watering the plants !

My duty in Annette & Hamilton’s house… watering the plants !

Now 2 things happened here that made my stay in New Orleans outrageously good. First of all… Annette & Hamilton, an amazing couple that I hosted a few days in Croatia back in 2011.  They came with the bad news that unfortunately they would be on a short vacation in Pennsylvania at the time I would be visiting.  Now what they decided is simply unbelievable… at least in my eyes.  They decided that I could stay in their beautiful home in the outskirts of New Orleans with my 2 travel buddies Chris & Kat. The only thing I had to do was water the plants on the porch.  I was amazed that they trusted me so much just after hosting them a few days in Croatia.  They even mailed me a full list with things to do, what concert to attend and in which club (for each and every night), the food I should taste, …  This was just unreal so I stayed a few days longer just to meet them at least for a day and thank them for this unique gesture!

Signore Vincenzo, Chris & me @ Villa Convento

Signore Vincenzo, Chris & me @ Villa Convento

Secondly… Vincenzo!  Another fantastic couchsurfer although I must say friend, that I hosted in Croatia in the summer of  2010.   Vincenzo lived in New Orleans too… even better, he lived right in the heart of the French Quarter!  And this guy had such a huge passion for his city and the way he shared it with us on his typical ‘Italian’ way, was simply ‘Magnifico’ !!  The first thing he told us was…  ”Guys, this is NOT America!  C’est la Louisiane… ”  With such amazing people surrounding me, my stay in NOLA couldn’t be other than one of my best experiences!

Street performer in French Quarter

Street performer in French Quarter

Vincenzo took us right away to the The French Quarter, an authentic piece of history complete with old-timey French architecture, antique shops, jazz & blues bars, street performers and small, colorful houses with steep gables, sloping roofs, dormer windows and graceful fanlight windows.  I could wandered here for days and discover new things around every corner every day.   Royal Street, a place combining well-preserved residences, historic hotels & shops offering a flavor of 19th century affluence was one place Vincenzo walked us to.

Fringed surreys drawn by mules near the French Market

Fringed surreys drawn by mules near the French Market

Another place was the St Louis Cathedral & Jackson Square, the heart of the old city where the spirit of the past mingles with the movie-makers of the future, surrounded by a black fence where portrait painters, caricaturists & many other sidewalk artists work and display their work.  Fringed surreys drawn by mules wearing silly hats & faded flowers were a common sight near the French Market where we wandered through the many spice-scented markets, sugar coated donuts & souvenir stands.  I couldn’t help myself to buy this beautiful statue of a saxophonist leaning against a typical ‘Bourbon Street’ lantern.  Just beautiful…

Vincenzo & me @ Spotted Cat in Frenchmen Street

Vincenzo & me @ Spotted Cat in Frenchmen Street

When the night had fallen, Vincenzo took us to Frenchmen street, a street with back-to-back funky clubs playing all kinds of music such as blues, jazz, piano, reggae & packed on most of the days.  Frenchmen street is the street where the locals hang out in famous bars such as D.B.A., The Spotted Cat, Maison & Snug Harbour.  The most famous street in NOLA is of course Bourbon Street but Vincenzo hated this part of town because it’s mainly visited by tourists & because it attacks the senses as fiercely as the liquor that shares its name.  Bourbon Street is a carnival of high-octane bars, belting music & unfortunately strip clubs as well.  I coudn’t blame Vincenzo, mio caro amico !

Chris & Kat in the Garden District

Chris & Kat in the Garden District

It’s appealing to stay your entire stay in the French Quarter and we could have stayed there for weeks, but New Orleans had more to offer and so we drove to the Garden District, famous for its nineteenth century homes & gardens.  New Orleans was one of the wealthiest cities back in the 1800’s.  Prosperous merchants built elegant, fanciful homes in this area, upriver from the French Quarter aka ‘Le Vieux Carre’.   With the excavations in Pompeii & Greece, the enthusiasm for classic antiquity began to grow and led to the Greek Revival architectural style with Corinthian colums, key motifs, etc.  But other styles were also in evidence such as the  Italian Renaissance, the Victorian Age with Gothic arched windows, …

Teasing our taste buds @ Deanie's

Teasing our taste buds @ Deanie’s

New Orleans had a lot to offer in terms of food and Vincenzo recommended us several places for specific dishes…  We enjoyed some ‘Gumbo’ and ‘Jambalaya Supreme’ (that’s with rabbit) at Coop’s Place on Decatur, some ‘Po Boy’ at Booty’s, some huge seafood plate at Deanies seafood in the CBO and my personal favorite ‘Boudin blanc & noir’ at Cafe Degas in Esplanade.  Chris, Kat & I are real foodies and New-Orleans was therefor the place to be to tease our taste buds..

The crazy Red Dress Run

The crazy Red Dress Run

Sarah, a girl from Tennessee that would host us in her beautiful home in Memphis after our stay here in New-Orleans, was worried about the fact that she would maybe not be back on time home because she planned to spend the weekend in New Orleans  When she heard we were in New Orleans too, it worked out just perfectly!  Sarah would meet us there and we would drive back together to Memphis.  Unfortunately she couldn’t find a host in New Orleans so I asked Vincenzo and he immediately agreed to take Sarah in.  That friday, August 10th, was also the ‘Red Dress Run’, an annual event organized by the New Orleans Hash House Harriers for which benefits goes to local non-profits.  Men & women filled the streets of the French Quarter & Marigny, after which everyone was expected to drink till get drunk…

Kat, Chris, Vincenzo, Sarah & me fooling around in Cafe Du Monde

Kat, Chris, Vincenzo, Sarah & me fooling around in Cafe Du Monde

We participated in the craziness and got a large Hurricane, the famous homy cocktail of the ‘Port of Call’ pub in Esplanade.  Later that evening, Sarah arrived in New Orleans and joined us with Vincenzo to explore Nola’s nightlife once more in Frenchmen Street.  We all ended at ‘Cafe du Monde’ in Decatur after a long night for their world renowned ‘beignets’ (au sucre en poudre)  Don’t need to add that the craziness went on by blowing off the powdered sugar glace of the beignets into everyone faces…

Breakfast with Annette, Hamilton & little Seelah

Breakfast with Annette, Hamilton & little Seelah

On our last night in New Orleans, our hosts Annette & Hamilton were back from their short trip in Pennsylvania and it was so nice to see them again.  We thanked them for their trust.  Their hospitality seem to have no boundaries when they started cooking a huge breakfast for all of us.  It was also the first time that I met their baby girl Seelah.  Annette & Hamilton had done a world trip back in 2010 before starting a family.  They were so cute together and their baby girl is just adorable!  Hamilton told us that there would be a great artist playing that evening at Snug Harbour in Frenchmen Street.

Herlin Riley & his band @ Snug Harbour in Frenchmen Street

Herlin Riley & his band @ Snug Harbour in Frenchmen Street

Chris, Kat & I joined Hamilton and this was the best money I ever spent for a concert.  Amazing musicians who gave us a fantastic time… Main artist was the tremendously famous percussionist/singer Herlin Riley with his band Derek Douget on the saxophone, Kyle Roussell on the piano & Roland Guerin on the bass.

A bitter sweet farewell...

A bitter sweet farewell…

Those few days in New Orleans were in my opinion one of the most unique experiences on this road trip so far…  Unique city with a very apart architecture, great history, fantastic music, delicious food, amazing atmosphere but above all wonderful people!  It was hard to leave but the show must go on and so after saying goodbye to all our dear friends, we hit the road again up north to Tennessee.  Our plan was to drive with Sarah straight to Memphis but Annette told us that on sundays her parents threw huge parties in their Mississippi country ranch with local artists, tasty BBQ food, …  No way we would miss such an opportunity to experience real Mississippi country life!  Kat couldn’t resist either and decided to join us for 2 more days.  So off we were to the Hollowell’s family in Waterford, Mississippi !

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Comments
2 Responses to “This Is Not America !”
  1. jillscherb7 says:

    I see New Orleans was a highlight! Wonderful that you were trusted to house and plant sit for the people you’d hosted before. I hope that made up, in small part, for the weird distrust in my own household which I certainly did not share! ; ) I loved all your New Orleans pics, since I’d just been through there twice in April. I see you really enjoyed this town, so unique with its French, Cajun, Spanish, African mixtures and the color that adds to life!

  2. jillscherb7 says:

    The music, the food, the French Quarter, the street scenery and architecture, and even some local neighborhood culture–you experienced it all! I really enjoy how you weave in details about the places you visit along with your own perceptions and experiences. Great blog!!! You should consider yourself officially a writer now, if you don’t already!!! ; )

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