What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
It is a toss-up between me eating a scorpion and some of the “characters” I saw on Bourbon Street.
Describe a typical day:
Start the morning off in the French Quarter at Café du Monde to try their famous beignets and coffee. Walk over to the St. Louis Cathedral – the oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States. Take a stroll through the French Market. Check out the Voo Doo Museum. Get some Cajun shrimp and grits for lunch. Drive through the inner city to see the destruction still visible from Hurricane Katrina. Go to the oldest bar in the United States, Jean Lafittes Blacksmith Shop, which dates back to 1772. Go to the Napoleon House, a bar that was intended to be the residence for Napoleon Bonaparte in a local plan to bring Napoleon to Louisiana after his exile. Get a dinner of fried oysters, gumbo and lobster. Go to Lucy’s and eat a scorpion. Party on Bourbon Street.
Describe an interesting conversation you had with a local:
I was talking to an older guy and he exemplified the passion that many people in New Orleans have for their city. It never came across as arrogant, just confident happiness in the fact that they feel that they have the best culture, food, music, history, football team and nightlife in the country.
What do you like about where you are? Dislike?
I liked how the culture in New Oreleans is perhaps more dynamic than any other city in the United States. Its Creole and Greek revival architecture, iconic jazz and blues musicians, spicy Cajun food, diverse demographics, legendary nightlife, rich history and strong French influence makes it a fascinating place to visit.
One could easily miss this if only visiting the French Quarter and other popular neighborhoods, but it was a somber experience to see the parts of the city that were destroyed and have still not been fixed or rebuilt since 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina. These areas were generally the lower income sections of the city and certain parts looked like a ghost town with overgrown weeds the size of houses.
Describe a challenge you faced:
Only minutes after my arrival, a flash flood warning came into effect and the torrential downpour began. I was only there for a few days, so I didn’t want to have it ruin my trip. Determined not to let that thwart our plans, my friends and I decided to embrace the rain. We ran through the city, ate some great food and went out on Bourbon Street all while completely soaking wet and leaving a trail of water everywhere we went. This made for some great times, especially when one of our friends completely wiped out in a restaurant from slipping on his own puddle of water.
What new lesson did you learn?
I was amazed how many of the locals had no desire to live anywhere else. Having lived in some very transient and international U.S. cities (San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC) and having traveled a lot, this was such a foreign concept to me. However, I realized how some people just perfectly fit with some cities. It is as if they found their destination soul mate. It doesn’t mean it is perfect, but like a good mate, it is perfect for them. At the exact moment that I was thinking about this, I coincidently read the following quote by Ian McNulty: “People don’t live in New Orleans because it is easy. They live here because they are incapable of living anywhere else in the just same way.” Does everyone have a destination soul mate or do most people simply settle where life sent them (or never stop searching for those that are vagabonding)?
I will be travelling back and forth between Washington DC, Chicago, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee for a few months and then I plan on travelling throughout East and Southeast Asia.