There are places and experiences that we have that change us forever. They teach us life lessons that we don’t necessarily understand in the moment(s), but understand years later. 11 years ago I was in New Orleans, the city was gray and brown, in rubble from Katrina that had passed soon before, families were homeless and houses torn down as if a part of a Hollywood movie. Reflecting back then I remember feeling deeply saddened, but with no real way to relate to what it would be like or how that would feel. Fast forwarding to today, now into adulthood, having traveled to know a sense of relate ability I can understand the true meaning of relationships, family and community. Of which, I never truly understood before. Having now revisited the city I see it’s true strength, love and hope that the city possesses. A true hidden gem, and not only because of the life that Bourban Street brought me in my stay (hehe).
It’s places like New Orleans, that are humbling reminders of the true importance of relationships and the value of time that we should invest more in, with the people that we surround ourselves with; both known and unknown. Because in any instance our love for materialistic things can be gone and forgotten, and all we could have is each other.
This trip I was accompanied by both Matt and Jamal. My travel buddies for life, and two people of which who have always stood by my side and understood my point of views, and have always respected my way of doing things; which believe it or not is a hard thing to do, I come with definite opinions. Although, I would like to add, that as much as I am opinionated, I am equally open-minded. Besides the point…
I’ve always told myself in adulthood I would go back to New Orleans to rekindle the feelings from when I went last, to re-establish purpose and direction and to see how far a city can come. And, I will say I was impressed with how far they have come. The city of New Orleans stood like a mini-Chicago, modernized with many tourist things to do, roads repaved and people with great hope for its growth. Still, it held reality of what happened on the outskirts, with street signs 12 feet high with water marks where water once stood for months, with the roads uneven due to the water damage that inevitably lifted and sank parts of the city, houses that have been put on stilts (similar to what I’ve seen in Galveston, Texas) to protect homes from future hurricanes, floods and water and a reformed levy system that is said to protect the city from future “Katrina’s.” I vividly remember an Uber ride with a man who fled when Katrina was headed toward New Orleans, and when commenting on how impressed I was with how far the city has come in 11 years responded, “yeah we are fighters here in New Orleans, we don’t let things like that break us, we fight. But, you think we’ve come a long way but that’s in the tourist parts.The truth is you leave the downtown area and the city looks like where it was 11 years ago like the hurricane had just come through.” Perspective. Is. Everything.
This hidden gem was immersed with things to do, of which Matt, Jamal and I just about tackled everything we could in the time we had, with the monkey wrench that almost every place closed at 5pm and to find most museums and tourist attractions are closed Mondays.Details on what we did is in the itinerary section!
Lesson of this trip: Our views of the world may change, our perspectives may be different, but we all relate when it matters. A city like New Orleans leaves you touched, it is easy to see through the kindness of their people, the soulfulness of their food and their passion in their music that the city is like no other. If we choose to we may be able to find within ourselves a heart that can grow to see compassion and genuine interest and hope in people. It is within our openness and candored nature that we can find that we can relate to a lot more people- which I have found fanscinating in my travels.
Highlight: One of the highlights in the trip, not included in the iterinary, was being a part of a street magic performance. This guy, “Prince”, was able to put a black “x” on my hand with my palms shut. Every now and again, I look at the palm of my hand and smile at the thought of being 25 and having seen magic.
Saturday (11/19) DTW- MSY, retrieved the rental car with Alamo (great customer service, nice car upgrade at no cost, and reasonable price $100 for 4 days), checked into the Groupon Hotel- Madison St. Charles Hotel and Suites (This was a VERY convenient location, far away from the city to get a quiet good nights rest, and away from the haunted areas. Downfall was the elevator had a strong odor of urine. But… there are always stairs. My lazy ass plugged the nose for the second floor every time), made our way to the PowerPass main office (414 Canal, also a great place to park. $25 dollars for 24 hours), bought a New Orleans Native Tour for $45 dollars that started an hour after we purchased, did the tour around the city with the bus driver (Christophe Philippon) who gave excellent narrative on the history of the city, details on Katrina and took us to a few landmarks, post tour explored Bourbon Street, ate at Pat O’Brian’s and drank the night away. Fun fact: New Orleans is one of the few places you can purchase drinks in one venue, and take into another. This made the night a bit more affordable and a hell of a lot more enjoyable; so we could emmerse oursevles in the Jazz, rock and club music of many places without feeling obliged to purchase from them. Also worth noting for those who never have been to a dueling piano bar… this is your city to experience it. As for the beads… it must be more of a Mardi Gras type of thing… they sold the damn things everywhere, but trust me no boobs.
Sunday (11/20) Purchased the Powerpass for New Orleans (an “inexpensive” way to visit many attractions at a discounted fare. The Powerpass on Groupon was $125 for 2 days, which includes access into 20 places in New Orleans). After, went to the Kern Studios Mardi Gras World. Here you could tour the industrial building to get a good idea on how Mardi Gras and other parade floats are made, view the inventory and get a toured history lesson on float making. Fun Fact: This particular warehouse makes all the cows seen in front of the Chic Fil’A’s in the country- I knew I’d love this place. After, we went on The Ultimate Swamp Tour Adventure. Now, this is one of this is one of the highlights… we were able to learn about what the swamp has meant for New Orleans, fun facts about survival tips, was able to hold a mini-aligigator and then see a 7-foot one in the water. Our brave tour guide, also on the show Swamp People, attempted to get a hold of the 7-footer, thankfully the mini one on the boat was enough for my entertainment. Also quickly done was the Old US Mint and the Louisiana History Museum. We ended the night with a Haunted History Walking Tour through the French Quarter. This was by far the highlight of the trip… not necessarily because ghost stories always are fun to hear, but because it was a good way to learn about the cities history, with locals and other traveling tourists, while getting the exercise and ability to see the buildings/homes/churches, etc. as the stories were being told; this goes a LOT further than reading them online.
Monday (11/21) Monday in New Orleans is dead. Meaning, a lot of the museums and businesses close, so there was a lot of improv ideas and planning, but we made it work. We started off at breakfast at Surrey’s Cafe & Juice Bar (good!), made way to the San Franscisco Plantation House (quite impressive, a quick 40 minute tour, and about an hour drive from the city), aboarded the PaddleWheeler Creole Queen Cruise to get a history tour of the Battle of New Orleans, the Louisiana Purchase, Katrina, and many more. Afterward, we ate at Oceana Grill, was recommended to go to Frenchman Street that is well-known for great jazz live music but we skipped for another night on Bourban Street.