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Saturday, December 13, 2014

New Orleans - A Travelers Overview

New Orleans is one of those cities that people often put on their bucket list.   The way people talk, you’d think it you didn’t live a full life unless you saw it.  The truth is, New Orleans is a unique city, but it is not for everyone.

Food

Yes New Orleans is a foodies dream.  They have almost countless dining locations and range from street food to fine dining.  It also has a somewhat unique cuisine.   Shrimp, fish, and chicken dominate most menus.  If you can find a menu without a Poor Boy, Gumbo, or Jambalaya, you must be in a McDonalds.

Booze

I normally wouldn’t put this in a review, but New Orleans deserves it.  Out of all the cities I have been to, none of them drink as much as New Orleans does.  There is booze everywhere.  I’m surprised the fast food chains don’t sell it.  You will see drinking options here that make you shake your head.  There is a battle between who can offer the biggest or strongest drink.   I saw a place on Bourbon Street that said they had the strongest frozen drink.  I thought it was a joke.  After all, it was coming out of a frosty machine.  It was not a joke.  That wasn’t just a strong drink it was huge.

Now to the next level.  There are a few things you can get in New Orleans that is illegal in some states.   The first one that you can readily find in the French Quarter is Everclear.  This brutal liquor is a 190 proof moonshine.   Do not drink Everclear straight.  It tastes awful and burns like a match.   If you want to try this, look for Cherry Bombs.   A Cherry Bomb is a cherry that has been soaking in Everclear.  Even these are hard to get down.

If you want something you will actually enjoy, try Absinthe.  Absinthe is a high alcohol liquor that is contains small amounts of wormwood.   Absinthe has a liquorice flavor that comes from the Anise root.   Half of the fun of drinking this stuff is the show they put on in preparing it.  They pour the liquor, put a sugar cube on a metal filter and then run cold water over it, and into the booze.    Drinking Absinthe is a unique experience that you cannot get in many places.

The French Quarter

Okay, I am breaking Bourbon Street and the French Quarter into two different sections.  You’ll know why when I am done.

The French Quarter is a truly unique area.  The architecture is fascinating.  Between the tall windows that you can walk through, the real gaslights, and the iron banisters, it’s worth seeing.

Away from Bourbon Street you find some nice shops, decent places to eat and a fairly safe environment.  Now for Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street is a moral cesspool.  It’s a disgusting, smelly, pit of humanity.   It’s a shocking contradiction.  In one building you will find a find dining location with $30+ entrees.  Sharing a wall with that restaurant you will find a sex shop followed by a dive bar.

Bourbon Street is all about hedonism.  There are multiple “Hustler” sex clubs, dirty looking strip clubs, sex shops with wild window displays, and bars whose only goal is to get you to drink too much.  One of the dirtiest places we passed advertised “World Famous - Acts of Love – Both Men and Women.”
In a one mile span there are no fewer than one hundred bars / places to get a drink.   Drunk people (and I mean sloppy drunk, not buzzed) are a common sight.  Not even Las Vegas, in all it’s depravity, matches Bourbon Street. 

If you are a family with small children, do not visit Bourbon Street.  It is a foul place.

River Walk

If you are a family visiting New Orleans, than don’t fear, they did build a place for you.  It’s called the River Walk.  It’s less than two blocks from the French Quarter.  It runs up and down the river and offers a number of things to do. 

One of the better options for families is a river tour.  There are a couple of different ones you can pick from.  One is a historic tour of the Mississippi River that stops at site of The Battle of New Orleans.   It’s about a two and a half hour tour. 

The other cruise option is a Jazz cruise.  If you enjoy Jazz, it would be a great option.  It’s also about two and a half hours in length.


River Walk also offers shopping and some decent family dining locations.  There is also a nice sports bar if you want to catch a game.  It’s within walking distance of a number of hotels.

The Garden District

The Garden District is an area of New Orleans that is actually nice.  It was fairly safe, clean, and had a large police presence.  If you want to check out this area, the best way to get there is to take one of the cities street cars to the large city park they have.

Once you have checked out that park, there is not much more to see in the Garden District unless you have a specific destination in mind (like a museum).

The street cars are dirt cheap.  You can get a day pass for three dollars.  That's a lot cheaper than a taxi.  Another interesting thing about these cars is that some of them have been running since the 1920s.  The picture below shows one of those cars.  When you step inside of them, you know it's old.  They feel like antiques.