So New Orleans at last… I’m really pleased to be here and have been looking forward to my visit.
I have not had a reply from the AirBnB hosts as yet this morning so I ride into the centre towards the French Quarter ready to go to the house. In the end I decide to ride right into the quarter and I spot another Harley parked up so squeeze my bike in next to it. As I am just about to go and explore the owner of the other bike returns and strikes up a conversation. He is from Pensacola but a lifetime NO Saints fan so is in for the game today. His bike is a tourer and has hard luggage so I am envious and tell him so. He says he is just back from a 10,000 mile tour of the States and has been all the way up to Alaska, so the luggage was really great. He asks me how long I am going to leave my bike there, oh just a hour or so, I’m waiting to hear about some accommodation. He advises me to move it, apparently NO is one of the worst cities in the states for crime and he says if I leave it with all the luggage on then someone will steal everything. Great! He advises me to go to St Phillip street, just down to Bourbon Street, turn left and it’s about 4 blocks down. He says I will see other bikes parked outside a bar there, it’s a cop bar, (he’s an ex cop himself), so it should be safe there.
Wow, I’m actually riding down the most famous street in the French Quarter, Bourbon Street; impressed or what. Well happy :-)))
I get to the crossing with St Phillip and look down the road but cannot see any other bikes.. mmm I notice that I am in a gay area as there are loads of rainbow flags so I pull over and park up. I am outside a gay bar so I go in, there’s no one there but the bartender, a very nice boy, who indeed is a very nice boy. I order an orange juice and chat with him.. we talk about all sorts of stuff; what its like here in NO, where do the Lesbians hang out.. etc. I also ask him about parking and he confirms that if its not watched it will disappear. Oh dear and I still haven’t heard from the AirBnB people. After a while I decide to move on and ask him where I can find Starbucks, (the bar wifi isn’t working… no comment), he gives me directions, it’s back up the way I came down on Canal Street, which is just outside the French Quarter. Bourbon is one way so I have to ride over to the next street, Royal, and then up to Canal.
I soon find Starbucks and park a little way up the road from it. I make sure I can see my bike by sitting in the window. I use the wifi to check for a response on AirBnB, nothing. OK so looks like that’s not going to work out, I really need to get settled as it’s now 1.30 and I haven’t really ‘seen’ anything. Back to trusty booking.com and I find a hotel on Canal Street. It’s actually across the road from this Starbucks and on the corner of Bourbon so I think you can’t get more tourist than that! It’s quite a bit more expensive than I wanted to pay, but it has secure parking and that is an absolute must… end of story.
I ride over to the hotel and the entrance to the parking is round the block so I enter the garage and am met by a valet, (it’s valet parking only… for cars that is), he tells me to park over by the rubbish bin.. ok it’s out of sight of the street there so that’s fine.
As I’m getting myself sorted the valet comes over and asks me how long I’m staying.. 3 nights.. ok thats $30 a night, you can pay when you leave or if you will be taking the bike out and back you need to pay up front. $90, I can’t believe it.. that is so expensive. How much is a car? The same. So I am paying the same as a car and you are parking me in the rubbish bin area.. yep, and you need to give me your keys in case you don’t pay. To say I am annoyed is a real understatement… if I hadn’t already paid for the hotel and wasn’t desperate to get it all sorted I would have got back on the bike and found something outside the tourist area… what a bloody rip off!!
At least the hotel is fantastic, I am really pleased with the room… well, I was; I mean I do feel like I just moan all the time but I am just telling it like it is. I get into the room and it looks lovely, really something
and the bathroom too. As I am here for 3 nights I decide to unpack everything to give it all a good airing – the bags need it aswell.
I then think I will have a quick freshen up and off to explore the FQ…. unbelievably the bloody hot tap on the wash basin doesn’t work.. I mean there is no water coming out, at all. The cold tap works fine so I don’t know why the hot isn’t. Also, I turn off the AC because as usual the room is effing freezing, but there is still a terrible noise coming from over by the windows. I go and look and see that the building next door, some 10 feet away, has huge AC vents on the side and the noise is coming from there. The windows are original, so no double glazing to stop the noise, I don’t think I am going to be able to sleep in here.
I ring down to the front desk to report the tap and the noise, but decide to stay in the room tonight to see if it has stopped and if so I can stay.. I just can’t face having to repack and unpack again today.
So now it’s time to explore… and I warn you I have cameras!!!
Some examples of the architecture in the FQ
and the ambience…
Bourbon street is almost all bars and neon signs.. it really is a street for drinking and there are groups of people carrying drink bongs as they walk along… a big disappointment to me really. However, just one street over, on Royal it is a totally different atmosphere, more serene and definitely artsy with lots of galleries and antique shops.
and the side streets have the more quirky venues
I walk another street over and then find myself on the last street before the Mississippi river. Ahhhh there’s a steamboat, I’m definitely going to have a look at that.
Oh I want a trip on that… there are quite a few things I want to do.. a Voodoo tour, a Swamp tour and now a ride on a paddle steamer is on my list. The problem is there are so many tour offices and companies, which one to go with???
I spot a kiosk offering rides on the Natchez so I go over for some information. It is leaving at 6.30 for an evening trip, it includes a jazz band and dinner if I want it. Now as you know I don’t eat much so I’m not really bothered about dinner, also it all feels a bit of a rush as it’s now 5.40 so I think I’ll wait and see what my plans are going to be. The woman in the kiosk gives me the senior discount voucher, cos I’m an old gal now you know, so I can get $5 off when I purchase me ticket. I get a booklet with various tours from the same company and will have a proper look when I get back to my hotel.
I then take a walk along the river front and find there is a ferry that takes you across the muddy to Algiers Point, mmm that might be something else to do and the ferry is only $2.
I walk back towards Canal Street and my hotel. Then I notice Fulton Street, which sounds familiar.
I have a quick look and there seems to be some nice restaurants here.. might come back later.
I then make my way back on to canal street and as I am passing I see another tour place with a rack of leaflets and other information so I go in to collect some. The man behind the counter makes a few suggestions for different tours, particularly the swamp tour and then he mentions the voodoo tour and when I say I am interested he asks me how long I will be in NO. This tour is only on at the weekends so if I want to do it I need to do it tonight… well, ok why not. I have to be there in half an hour, but its only a 10 minute walk back down into the FQ. I rush back to my hotel to get changed as I will probably go somewhere to eat afterwards and then make my way to the Voodoo shop… ooooooooo!
I have to say the tour is excellent, I really enjoyed it. The tour guide, Christine was great.. funny and informative, I got the impression she is a devotee of the religion and did actually explode loads of myths surrounding it. If you are ever in NO I heartily recommend the Voodoo tour, make sure you get Christine to be your guide.
It’s a walking tour that lasts 1 1/2 hours, but the walk isn’t very far, and you get to see some of the original houses.
NO council have put preservation orders on these and other properties and they are all required to maintain them to a very high standard. The colours are the same as the original and must remain so every time they are redecorated. Before the order some properties in the FQ did convert their external lights from gas to electricity, but once the order was in place those who had not converted were no longer allowed to do so. It’s really brilliant to see some of the properties with the old gas lamps outside still burning.
Here are some more shots of NO at night.
After the talk I decide to get something quick to eat and return to my hotel for an early night. Hopefully I will be able to sleep, if the noise is off that is.
It isn’t… I have a look at the information leaflets I’ve collected and decide I am going to get the steamboat trip in the morning. It boards at 11 so I need to be up earlyish to go and get my ticket.
* Creole for ‘let the good times roll’