STATE 4 - LOUISIANA
05/22/2010 - 05/23/2010 96 °F
If I were to ask you to name the biggest party cities in the US, you would most likely include the location of the largest party in the country, New Orleans. The birthplace of jazz offers plenty of ways to have a good time, and its great food, soulful music, and colorful people offer a very unique experience. For these reasons (and the infamous Bourbon Street), New Orleans was our destination for Kortney's bachelor party.
A quick background on New Orleans. Originally founded by the French (and temporally occupied by the Spanish), Louisiana was purchased by the US in 1803 in preparation for Napolean's war with the English. It was at one point the 5th largest city in the United States (up until the civil war) and is one of the largest ports in the world. The city sits below sea level and has retaining walls to hold back the waters of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. However as I mentioned before, these facts were not the drawing points for us to come to New Orleans. New Orleans is home to one of the largest Fat Tuesday parties in the world, Mardi Gras. Although we missed Fat Tuesday, we certainly came to party.
After arriving at the airport, we made our way down to the taxi stand to catch a ride into the city. After discussing various options with the dispatcher, we figured out that the cheapest (and most stylish) way to enter New Orleans was via limo.
After a quick beer run, the limo driver started the 30 minute ride into the city. When asked if we could see the Superdome (home of the New Orleans Saints) and about the possibility of doing a shotgun in front of the stadium, the limo driver responded "do you". Slightly confused by her response, we repeated the request, and she replied "do you" a little more forcefully. She then explained that it was slang for "I do me, you do you" or "do your own thing". So with her approval and a quick scan for police, we jumped out of the limo to shotgun a beer in front of the Superdome.
The limo wound through New Orleans to pull up in front our hotel. We had made it to Bourbon Street!
After dropping our stuff off in our rooms, we began making our way down Bourbon Street. The street had some pedestrians walking down the sidewalk and the occasional car, not quite the swarm of boozed-up miscreants I had envisioned (although it was only 10am). Balconies overhung the street, some overly ornate with decorated railings, others seemingly secured with century old rusted trusses and rotten wood. A saxophonist was playing some jazz for spare change. Walking the length of Bourbon Street didn't take too long as it was only about six blocks until you reached the gay district. The repeating theme on Bourbon Street was bar, restaurant, tacky tourist shop, and strip club (see the picture of Ryan taking a break in front of one).
After spending more than 30 seconds on Bourbon Street, something hits you pretty hard—a putrid stench. At first you think it may be a draft from a trash can or overfilled sewer pipe, but when the smell doesn't ever quite go away, you realize it is just Bourbon Street. Some areas are definitely worse than others, but don't ever expect "fresh air" when walking down this street. Sections of the street stay permanently wet, despite the upper 90s temperature, and who knows what diseases and bacteria are brewing in the puddles. A grime covers the sidewalk and street. It is bad enough that I wouldn't pick up dropped change that landed in the street.
We continued walking down to the waterfront of the Mississippi. The water was moving very fast as large barges and paddle boats zipped along with the current. The sun was beating down and the humidity was suffocating, but we took a stroll down the waterfront to take in the sights. We passed by some more musicians and saw a sign for a local brewery. The thought of sipping a cold beer in air conditioning was heavenly, so we left the mighty Mississippi and went back into the French Quarter.
We never actually found the brewery, but we did find something else—the casino! The casino was almost as nice as a brewery, it was air conditioned and waitresses brought you free drinks. Kortney, Willie, and I pretended to play a slot machine to continue being served. We eventually moved to a blackjack table when the rest of the group came over, and actually made a couple dollars.
Leaving richer than when we arrived, we headed back to the hotel to get showered up and ready to hit Bourbon Street at night.
Bourbon street transforms at night. The smell is still present, but the street is jam packed full of people. Cops ride up and down the street on horses that put Clydesdales to shame. Every balcony has people tossing beads, and nearly everyone has a drink in their hand. The occasional scantily girl walks by handing out free passes to one of the various strip clubs. Bars compete with each other to see who can play their music the loudest, and potential patrons are treated to a variety of musical genres while walking down the street. The bars get so packed that dancers often overflow into the street.
After taking a loop down Bourbon Street and checking out a few bars, we elbowed our way up onto one of the balconies. From above we could get a great view of the crowd below.
We sipped a couple beers and then abandoned our lofty post (we happened to be on one of the balconies supported by rust and duct tape) and continued roaming Bourbon Street. My memory starts getting a little fuzzy, and coincidentally I don't have any more pictures from our nights on Bourbon Street. Here are some remaining highlights: Kortney on a whale, Willard river dancing, a dance off in the middle of the street, shot girls forcefully dumping shots down your throat (despite you saying no repeatedly), and a late night run to Krystal Burger (which was definitely regretted later).
New Orleans was a lot of fun, but 3 days was enough of an experience for me. We ate some awesome seafood and partied in a nightlife that never seemed to stop. It was cool hearing jazz being played on the street and seeing the boats chug up the Mississippi. However, I'll leave the smell, grime, and overabundant strip clubs behind. We did spend one more day in Louisiana, driving out of the city limits and heading out to the bayou. That story, however, is another blog post.