Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer in NOLA

Many thanks to Nora from Waking Through the Rain for writing today's guest post while off on her own adventure. Nora is one of the most sincere and genuine bloggers out there.

While Mandy is off enjoying four days of country music, I'll be finishing up a work trip in New Orleans. This is my second time here in the last 16 months and while the effects of Katrina are still visible in parts of the city (many of the houses along the I-10 swamp are half in the water, porches are collapsed, houses and other buildings are still abandoned or in the process of being refurbished), the spirit of New Orleans is very much alive.

Take a walk in Jackson Square, just a block away from the Mississippi River, and you'll find dozens of street vendors: Palm Readers sitting under pink feathered tents; Psychics in camp chairs charging only $10 for a question; a man with a giant tuba wrapped around his sun-drenched shirt; several artists selling their wares for reasonable (and not so reasonable) prices; tap dancers, horse carriage rides and much, much more. The colors are vibrant and you can almost ignore the oppressive heat that makes it hard to breath and negates any shower/deodorant/perfume attempt you may have made. Walk into any bar to cool down and they'll be happy to give you your drink in a "to-go," cup so you can continue to meander up and down cobble-stoned alleys, past Faulkner's Book Store, past a bar that serves Absinthe (yes, it's legal!), all while sipping on the infamous New Orlean's Hurricane.

If you want the Hurrican experience, head to Pat O'Brien's, home of the original and best Hurrican in the City. For $11 you'll get a "tourist" glass full of Cruzan Rum and hurricane mix. And a really, really great buzz that will give you just enough courage to follow a Haunted Ghost Tour Guide around the French Quarter for two hours, ignoring the sweat, the fact that your feet hurt and that yes, you are indeed terrified out of your mind.

Every where you look in New Orleans there's a book store, antique store, Mardi Gras bead store, Voodoo Shop and of course, a drink stand. There are remants of glitter engrained in the brick and stone sidewalks, even stuck to sewer manholes. The city is incredibly beautiful: many porches are lined with white lights and hundreds of flowers; the colors of the houses are unlike those in many other parts of the United States; historic landmarks dot every corner and block you walk down; and of course, most beautiful of all if you are here in the summer, the gusts of air conditioning you feel as you walk past the many shops in the French Quarter.

Bourbon Street is, of course, always a party where beads are as common as pennys, stumbling drunk men are a permanent fixutre and if you are there for more than five minutes, some girl is likely to flash her boobs even though it's not officially Mardi Gras. It's a party street and that's all there is to it.

The restaurants are like no other place that I've visited. They pack people into every nook and cranny (I suppose they have to since space is limited here), the waiters all have voices as smooth as honey, and the service is impeccable. I haven't been able to eat a lot of the food due to my stupid allergies (and of course tree nuts and seafood are big here) but it smells wonderful and looks amazing. Red beans and rice are just as delicious as I thought it would be and the French Bread is simply mouthwatering. Oh, and the chocolatier shops! Try a triple chocolate truffle. Worth every penny (one truffle is about $3).

To me, New Orleans embodies what summer is all about: impromptu music in the lovely gardens, walks along aged streets with antique stores, bookshops that make me want to spend my entire paycheck, stealing smooches from Irish in the shade, and soaking up the local culture and color. (And, taking lots of showers while in New Orleans. Lovely town, not so lovely weather.)

What's your impression of one of the cities you have visited this summer?


Kyla Roma said...

It sounds beautiful- I would love to see the southern US. One day!

rachaelgking said...

I ADORE New Orleans- but I went during Mardi Gras last year, and it was almost too crazy to really enjoy the culture of the actual city. I can't wait to go back sometime during a "normal" period!

amanda said...

new orleans is FABULOUS!

my roommate from college is from there. so i got to visit it and have a great tour guide. her family made sure i saw everything and did everything. it was lovely.

Frank said...

"many of the houses along the I-10 swamp are half in the water, porches are collapsed, houses and other buildings are still abandoned or in the process of being refurbished"

Hey, that sounds like Detroit...minus the refurbished part.