NOLA contedere – touring the French Quarter

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the street dividing the French Quarter from…. not the French Quarter

 

A couple of weeks ago I was sent over to New Orleans for a work thing. That statement is a lot more loaded than it first reads.

When I was a teen I read Interview with the Vampire, ate it up, became obsessed and would forever fantasize about vising the city of New Orleans. When I was 23 I had saved enough money to join my friend on his yearly Mardi Gras trip.  Two months before our departure, I found I was pregnant.  No Mardi Gras for me.

So let’s try that again now.

A couple of weeks ago I was sent over to New Orleans for a work thing.

I can’t remember ever being so excited to travel anywhere. I packed a larger suitcase, and I packed it light for all the things I knew I’d be returning home with. And yes, I missed my daughter, but this time, I felt the trip would be worth it. I’d only been waiting 20 years or so for this moment, and to add to the beauty of it, my travel and hotel were covered by my job. I felt and still feel, as if I won a lottery.

The first person I talked to there, the lady at the transportation counter in the airport, was Hispanic and once hearing my name complimented my hair in Spanish and told me her husband was Cuban. I got to the hotel at 3pm and after dropping off my suitcase in my room, immediately walked right out the door. The concierge gave me a map and some advice, stay away from Bourbon St. I’m a young woman alone and it probably would be best to stay away. Of course that’s the first place I went.

I stood in the lobby and memorized the map as best I could. I was going to hit Madame Laveau’s voodoo shop and then the Cafe Du Monde. Then I hid away the map to look less like a tourist and hit the streets. My hotel was only four blocks away from the Quarter.

I’m thankful I was wearing my boots because the ground was muddy, wet, and the whole place smelled of sewer. Mind you, I’m not complaining. It felt gritty which might be dumb of me to say, but I think it added to the atmosphere. I was able to walk around 3 of the 4 days I was there. The weather was a nice 50 degrees and I managed to hit two voodoo stores, the voodoo museum, the Mississippi River, Cafe Du Monde, Peaches record store, some used book store, Bourbon St, some store that sold an incredible variety of music t-shirts in my size, and not last but certainly my highlight – St. Louis Cemetery 1.

I could spend thousands of words on how New Orleans didn’t fall short of any of my expectations. I stood by the Mississippi River, and the fog rolled in and around me as the sun was setting and the lights in the French Quarter slowly turned on behind me. I’ve never felt less alienated by the atmosphere of anywhere I’ve traveled. There are palm trees lining the road and the vast body of water of the Gulf Of Mexico was just a short ride away. The area reminded me of SoBe; thick with tourists and bars but the music and the architecture was completely different. I didn’t think to myself “hey, I’d like to move here” because honestly, I felt as if I was at home.

The voodoo stores were filled with so many things both alien and familiar. Like a memory I remembered incorrectly. And yet they even had things more commonly found in Miami shops. My psychic reading turned into a therapy session. The walk through the cemetery was a very relaxing stroll. And while it would have been nice to have a traveling companion so I felt more comfortable to experience some of the night life; I was more than happy on my own.

The tourists were easy enough to spot and I wondered what I looked like amongst it all. I must have stuck out, but I wonder to what degree. I didn’t really look like the tourists I could spot, but I bet I the locals could tell I was a tourist. At one store I got mistaken for an employee, by tourists. At another store, I gave a local woman advice on candle meditation. I also made friends with some Canadians at the hotel. Maybe more on that later.

And so now I’m back in Miami. I’d love to return to New Orleans in the future and see more or see it all again. It feels strange that I didn’t feel that massive amount of disappointment I always feel when returning to Miami. I like to think it’s because I know I will return sooner than it took me to get there initially. There will be more New Orleans, LA (NOLA) for me down the road. And I will wake up one day soon and already be back there.

And yes, I did get some work done while I was there too.

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New Orleans 2014, a set on Flickr.

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