A quick heads up before you dive into this post – I took a LOT of pictures and video while in New Orleans. I like taking pictures of everything, all the time. Life is happening around me every day and I can’t help but snap away. If you are easily upset by revealing clothing, descriptive language, or crowd rowdiness, then I would suggest you skip over the photos, as you may find some a bit too colorful for your comfort.
A word to the wise – This is a very photo heavy post, and may be best viewed on a computer. You can easily check it out on a smart phone, but it may take you a while to browse through all the shots.
And finally – If you are offended by gay/lesbian/trans people, then you may not like some things you read or see in this post and on my site in general. I started this blog to share my travels with friends and family who love and accept me for who I am, as well as complete strangers who have found their way here and are following along. If you are someone who treats others with kindness and respect, regardless of who they spend their life with, then I welcome you to continue to enjoy reading about our adventures. If you are not as open-minded or feel the need to lash out at people who are a bit different than you, well then…I will give a small, polite wave goodbye and show you to the door…
Now that those fun things are out of they way, let’s talk New Orleans! It’s been a few days since we left the city and I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything we saw. In short, attending Mardi Gras was one of the wildest, most intense adventure we have experienced. While talking to other tourists we would all laugh and say “How do you explain all this to the people back home?”. I have a plan, and it goes something like this…
What we saw
People. Enormous amounts of people. From college kids to baby boomers, they all gathered along, around, and throughout Bourbon street and beyond. Some donned elaborate homemade costumes, with brightly colored ribbons/feathers/signage protruding from their outfits, while others chose a more ‘natural’ approach…wearing nothing above the waist but body paint. There were rowdy people on the balconies throwing beads to the even rowdier crowd bellow, sometimes for free and sometimes at a price (wink wink, nudge nudge).
There were people who swarmed the streets in giant groups, all chanting and singing in unison, and then there were those who walked along the route by themselves. Gazing out onto Bourbon street from above was amazing. It was like a twisting, turning sea of people, all there looking to have a good time. Once down below and within it, you definitely had to keep your wits about you to ‘swim’ around and not get swept away.
Then there were the street performers, staking out the corners or alleys of the asphalt, showing the onlookers what they were made of. Whether it was the ability to mimic a statue by standing oh so still, play a catchy jazz tune in a band, or simply impersonate the people gathered around…these folks kept the crowds all over the city entertained.
We also saw the street markets, beautiful buildings, and parks that made up the city.
Most of our time was spent in The French Quarter where there was plenty of shops and restaurants to keep you busy. Which leads me to…
What we ate
Everything. Well, that isn’t entirely true, but it feels like we came pretty close. Even though my options aren’t as vast as Fran’s, there were still plenty of traditional New Orleans fare for me to indulge in. Wherever we went, Fran always got the gumbo and said it was delicious every time. Two of our favorite places were Stanley & Royal House Oyster Bar (even though neither one of us eats oysters). For our late night hunger, we would hit up Deja Vu, a bar/diner that’s open 24/7.
What we did
For the most part, we people watched, and it was Incredible. A good amount of our time was spent at a gay bar on Bourbon Street, watching the madness unfold from a balcony. This gave us a unique perspective of the crowd, allowed us to be among ‘family’, and gave Fran the opportunity to have some fun throwing beads to people below. We also did a lot of walking around the French Quarter and spent some time in the Marigny area. We checked out some bars and got to listen to some ridiculously good music on Frenchman Street. We tried several different beers and a downed a couple of New Orleans famous mixed drink, The Hurricane.
Fran made plans ahead of time for Fat Tuesday, which is usually the busiest day around town. She booked an all you can eat/drink package at The Bombay Club which started at 11am and went on till 5pm. We got there in the early afternoon and had our fill of food & drink in no time. The great thing about the package was that you were free to come and go all day, which is exactly what we did! A little of this, a nibble on that, mingling with some people here, walking a block away to watch the crowd, rinse & repeat. We had a great time and enjoyed our Fat Tuesday at the Bombay Club immensely.
Where we stayed
Our time in New Orleans was spent in the Ponchtrain RV park located about 15 minutes from the French Quarter. It’s a fairly new park (built about a year or so after Katrina) that is pretty large with sites that can fit anything from a small pop ups, to giant big rigs. We booked a pull in site that was right along the canal. I’d like to say that the view was awesome, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case due to the ugly/abandoned warehouses across there river. But is a view that important? We were in NOLA… you could have put us IN those warehouses and we wold have been content!
The park was clean and the staff friendly. They have a camp store, pool, hot tub, restaurant, and bar all near the main building. Ponchtrain provides shuttle service to and from the French Quarter (for $5 roundtrip per person) which was very convenient and meant we didn’t drive at all during our stay. They have a pretty large off leash dog run which our pack enjoyed the heck out of. Unfortunately, due to the icky weather (it seemed to rain while we were ‘home’ quite often) I didn’t get that many pics in and around the RV park. But, I would definitely recommend this place to anyone heading to New Orleans in an RV and would suggest checking out their website for more info.
What we missed
Tours – We really wanted to take the tours, but many of them weren’t running normally due to the fact that a lot of streets were closed of for parades. We had read that it isn’t very wise to walk around the outskirts alone, so sadly we missed out on seeing many places we wanted to (the garden district, the cemeteries, etc)
Parades – Mardis Gras isn’t just for drinking and walking Bourbon street, there are parades to be seen! Unfortunately with the combo of bad weather and poor timing, we missed the fun. (We cheated and watched a few of them on the local stations) There are a LOT of parades going on for a few days leading up to Fat Tuesday, but it takes some planning to get yourself in the right spot. Because we wanted to see the rest of the city, we decided to skip the parades this time around.
The shooting – Some of you may have heard about the shooting on Bourbon street that happened Saturday night. Basically there was an altercation between a couple of guys which lead one of them to fire a gun and hit 4 people. Thankfully, all of the victims survived. This was on a night that we actually decided to leave the craziness of Bourbon behind and head over to Frenchman Street, so luckily we missed it. The next evening we both received a text within 5 minutes of each other, Fran from her mom and me from mine, asking if we were ok, what happened, and where we were. The news about the shooting was being run nationally, causing friends and family who hadn’t heard from their loved ones in a while to be pretty nervous. In the end, they caught two of the three suspects, while the third is still at large.
The nice weather – Originally, we were supposed to be in New Orleans around the middle of January, but we changed our plans because the weather was going to be pretty awful. Well, it ended up that we had some ugly weather anyway. It was cold and dreary for our stay, but it didn’t prevent us from having a good time!
Geocaching – Sadly we were so busy with everything else that we didn’t get to hunt for any caches! There are many good ones to be found through the city and we will definitely go looking for them next time around.
Despite the things we missed, our time in NOLA was pretty fantastic. From the food to the entertainment and everything in between, it was an amazing experience. We learned a lot about what will do differently next time and our looking forward to our return visit!
I thought my plan of explaining our experience in New Orleans was a good one, but as I look over this post I’m realizing how much I left out. (An insane cab ride through the packed streets, a brawl that broke out in a restaurant we were dining in, interesting people we befriended and hung out with for hours). Sometimes you just can’t cram it all in and I’m ok with that, sort of. I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination…