USA: I left my heart in NOLA
Posted On: 03/04/2015
By: Scouse Bird
I fell in love with NOLA (that's what New Orleans lets you call it if it likes you) as soon as we drove in. After some hostility at a petrol, sorry gas, station on the way down where a gruff trucker looked like he was going to beat my fella up for being a gay and having a Liberace tattoo (he totally doesn't have a Liberace tattoo by the way, the trucker may have had some literacy issues... although my fella was wearing a tight t-shirt so...) it was refreshing to see immediately that New Orleans was a city of culture and diversity. It has a great vibe. I'd describe it as the New York of the South.
The famous New Orleans trolley - better looking than the 20
On the way from the Houmas House Plantation to NOLA we went looking for some of the places used in the filming of True Detective. The tree where they find the girl is on Oak Valley Plantation (private property) and required a mile walk through a field resulting in the crime of trespassing, blisters, horse fly bites, hayfever and badly needing a wee in a jumpsuit. It's cool but be warned. We drove all the way to the burnt out church only to find out it had been demolished since filming (it did say this in the directions we found but my fella just didn't read THE NEXT LINE OF TEXT which told us that. Gobshite). The fort where the weirdo tries to kill Matthew McCounaghey at the end is closed off to the public too. You can still get to Tuttle's school and Dot's Diner though. We got our info here which gives you exact map co-ordinates.
We stayed at International House - NOLA's first ever boutique hotel - and I'd thoroughly recommend it as not only is it gorgeous and the staff are wonderful but it's also in the ideal location. It's just a 2 block walk (less than 5 minutes) from The French Quarter and trust me, you do not want a hotel in the French Quarter. Unless you don't consider sleep as a human necessity of course.
The amazing lifts in International House
Lobby and bar in International House - try the apple cocktail, it's fab!
The FQ, particularly Bourbon St is party central. It reminded me of 'the strip' in Laganas, Zante or the club zone in Cancun put it that way. Oh it's totally legal to drink on the streets in NOLA btw (as long as it's not in a glass container) and people take full advantage of this. The party doesn't just happen in the bars, it's all out on the street. There's street performers, drunken tourists and people throwing shiny beads. They absolutely love beads for some reason, I don't get it but it keeps the place colourful and if there's one thing NOLA isn't short of it's colour. The French Quarter is expensive, not Chicago expensive or anything but still, anywhere that's designed for tourists will charge top dollar. There are cheaper bars a little out of town but I'll come to that later...
The French Quarter Buildings are gorgeous
Bourbon Street - I was bladdered when I took this picture. Only found it the next day. Day drinking is amazing.
As part of the hop on hop off bus tour you get a free walking tour of the gorgeous Garden District and the famous NOLA graveyards. Anne Rice made them famous in her Interview With a Vampire book and unfortunately some people cannot tell the difference between a BOOK and actual reality and believe that vampires are real and break into the cemetaries to perform satanic rituals. These graveyards have been in use for hundreds of years, families are all buried in the same plot and IT IS STILL IN USE TODAY. The tour guide actually got choked up when he was telling us that he has recently deceased family in one of the local graveyards and vandals break into the tombs and take bones and things for their "vampire rituals" - it's heartbreaking and fucking disgusting.
A typical Garden District House with cast iron moudings
One of the things we were curious about was how Hurricane Katrina still affects NOLA today and whether every part of the city was affected at the time. The houses in The Garden District all date back to the 1800's (you can find the house used in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button there) and they all looked in pretty good condition. He explained that EVERY area felt the force of Katrina but it was only the areas which were flooded which received the help to rebuild. He told the story of a friend of his who had been out of town when it struck and returned to find her $272,000 house was just a pile of rubble. Every citizen regardless of whether the area they lived in was flooded or not got $2000 help but that's it. Her house insurance turned round to her and said, "You're only getting $3000 take it or leave it" and she couldn't find an attorney to take her case. She was left with no alternative but to rent, only recently her landlord decided he was selling his porperty and she had to move out - shes now 67 and living on her daughters couch when before she owned property. Every area was affected, just in different ways.
The Benjamin Button house
We left the centrally located, ultra modern International House after two nights and went and stayed in an independent B&B in Burgundy Street in the Bywater. It's about a half an hour walk from the French Quarter just to give you a bit of perspective. The atmosphere is much more chilled and and quiet. The B&B 'Maison De MaCarty' is one of those huge mansions from the 1800's and it has a swimming pool and an 'honesty bar'. Yes you read right, it has an unattended poolside bar where you can just help yourself to drink and write down what you use - be careful though, it mentions in the hotel guide book that a voodoo priestess lives 3 doors down and has put a curse on anyone who is less than honest. One of the great things I found about this hotel is that it's gay friendly, (the owners and the chef are all gay) in The Deep South (Bible Belt and KKK country) it's nice to find cultural diversity, acceptance and forward thinking. In the hotel guide book warning against the use of candles in the room they mention 'we love flamers but not flames'. Honestly it's worth going just to read the guide book, it's hilarious.
The honesty bar
Maison De McCarty
One of the owners, Warren and the chef Curtis, took us on a night out round the Bywater area and showed us some local bars. We couldn't believe the price difference. We went from paying nearly $12 a drink in the FQ to $12 for a round for 4 people in a local bar - all within a few blocks walk of the B&B. 'Redox' was a really young hipster style bar full old pin up memorabilia so that's deffo worth a look if you go.
New Orleans was definitely my favourite place I visited on my whole American trip - I could see myself returning, hell I'd even live there if I wasn't so in love with my hometown. Until next time Nola...