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vbx000 New Orleans - A travel report by Veronica
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New Orleans,  United States - flag United States -  Louisiana
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vbx000's travel reports

Halloween in New Orleans

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Last October I went down to New Orleans to spend a week with my very close friend. My last night NOLA was Halloween night. I had a great semi-local guide and between the two of us made many local friends. I like to travel rugged so bare that in mind.

Downtown NOLA on the RiverWalk
Downtown NOLA on the RiverWalk
My good friend, and ex, invited me down to New Orleans as a break from life. He has been a volunteer gutting houses in NOLA for 1.5 years and went to Loyola N.O. for three years (1 yr in China). Since he is a semi-local I was given a mixed view of NOLA, we did a few typical tourist things but added the spice of local life for extra flavor. It was Voodoo fest while I was there and we landed free all access weekend wristbands. What is New Orleans without live music? Of course, Mark showed me many of the neighborhoods and areas still recovering from Katrina and a few of the houses he's worked on. NOLA is in amazing spirits considering their slow, painful recovery and have this attitude that despite the harshness of life, they are still going to smile, be warm and welcome outsiders.Here is a quick run down before we get into the meat of the report: Voodoo Fest, Oak Alley Plantation, Swamp Tour, PaintedAlive, Gumbo Shop, Cafe Du Monde, the Quarter, Halloween NOLA style and Antoine's Restaurant. When you go: FIND LIVE MUSIC, explore the Quarter aimlessly, go to a plantation tour for a mint julip, take a swamp tour if you don't mind snakes, VISIT PAINTEDALIVE on Royal Street, have gumbo and beignets (preferably after a long night of getting wasted) and don't give bourbon street too much attention. Also, tip well bc NOLA and her people thrive off tourism and its been declining since Katrina (and they need the money to rebuild) so don't be cheap!

Favourite spots:
The French Quarter
The French Quarter
They were all favorites but I loved the Voodoo Fest, the Swamp Tour, the Quarter (and our carriage ride!), and Cafe Du Monde. Voodoo fest was a huge music festival featuring a wide variety of bands from local favorites to headliners like Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I love RHCP. They are absolutely incredible live and their energy is unlike any other - especially if you are into a funky, dirty, happy feeling sound. The Swamp Tour was relaxing. We didn't get to see crocs (which we all know if my fav: see Ft. Myers report) but we saw a ton of snakes and this huge rat thing called a Natural (sp?). Which apparently you can eat. Despite our guide saying that there aren't a ton of mosq. in the swamp I was eaten alive. He said 1 person every tour always gets the brunt of insect abuse and luckily, that was me. I asked for a tip from the other passengers for being their mosq. repellent but to no avail. I love snakes, so that made the tour cool.

What's really great:
Yummy: Gumbo, Red Beans Rice and a mamosa!
Yummy: Gumbo, Red Beans Rice and a mamosa!
The French quarter was beautiful, I loved the arch. The sculpted iron, the idea of the houses tail being in the street and gardens inside the courtyards is very neat and quite smart. A boy named Corey, who was adorable, short and cute with blond dreds, did our carriage rides. We went at night and had a lovely ride, Corey is a great, energetic guide who shares a ton of information. Ask for Corey if you go, he'll give you a great ride (and he's pretty to look at). By foot, we explored pirates alley, Royal St, Bourbon street and just walked around in squares. On Royal Street, visit the art gallery called PaintedAlive. The owner, Craig Tracy, paints beautiful scenes on naked women. Its hard to explain but gorgeous. We talked to him for a good 2 hours. Now, I spent all my time with locals and volunteers so we drove through the hard-hit Katrina areas. Do this, but be humane and sensitive. It's easy to think NOLA has recovered if you stay in the quarter, but they haven't yet.

Oak Alley
Oak Alley
We went to Oak Alley plantation. Mostly because I'm from Detroit and have never seen a plantation. It was really sad actually but the positive side of the tour was the very very very strong mint julep. Sip slowly and carefully because its like 75% bourbon. Not to joke about slavery, but Mark and I decided the wives of plantation owners allowed slavery for so long because they were constantly trashed from Mint Julep drinking. And, just always mutter Yes honey. Slaves built the entire massive house out of handmade brick! They did everything from hitting the mattresses that were filled with Spanish black moss, cooking, waving huge fans for air conditioning, maintaining the property and sugar farms. It was just sad thinking about the injustice of it all and actually seeing their work. This plantation is famous because of its perfectly paired, lined front yard of massive oaks (planted in the 1700's). Parts of Interview with the Vampire were filmed at this mansion.

Voodoo Fest... Yes he is pulling someone with wires attached to piercings...
Voodoo Fest... Yes he is pulling someone with wires attached to piercings...
I stayed at Marks place, it wasn't too far from the Quarter, not too far from St. Charles street which is famous for its huge, beautiful mansions. We looked at the houses both at night and by day and they are incredibly impressive. We went uptown and hunkered down with local friends at The Bulldog (which serves amazing nachos) and walked down the street to look at uber expensive furniture galleries. We made a fool of the proprietors at the Silk Road Gallery (who specialized in Chinese 'antiques'). Good story: Day 1 in NO, we go into a tour shop to get brochures and a big white guy with white hair and a thick creole accent tells me he has an alligator. I ask him How big is your alligator? and his friend overhears and goes Girl, never ask a man how big his alligator is! The day before I left we randomly choose a swamp tour and my buddy with the alligator is our boat driver! This made our tour extra fun because the guy and I chit-chatted away and I asked about a million questions.

Halloween/Cowgirl! (I was a damn good cowgirl)
Halloween/Cowgirl! (I was a damn good cowgirl)
We went to The Bulldog uptown, Miss somethings who had $1 & $2 drink specials, an Irish pub in the quarter, a gay bar and another local pub. We did a lot of drinking. Halloween was ridiculous and crowded and overwhelming actually. Even though I was very excited about Halloween before I went to NOLA, looking back it wasn't as much fun as the day-time activities. Mark and I dressed up as a cowboy/girl combo, quite naked in fact, but the crowds were intimidating. We also spent time in a really shady area of town because a lot of the more adventurous volunteers live there. A few live above this bar, the only bar in the middle of the scary neighborhood, and we spent some time there playing pool and drinking with migrant workers who only spoke Spanish. We did our best considering Mark and I speak Chinese and English. Our friend was learning Spanish from them and helped pseudo translate. We met a lot of people and spent a lot of time hearing their stories and telling ours.

Snake! I spotted it! The driver said I had an eye for snaking spotting!
Snake! I spotted it! The driver said I had an eye for snaking spotting!
Mark and I visited a great deal of the local coffee shops, including the local chain called PJ's. I'm a coffivore so no trip is complete without a lot of coffee shop hopping. I DID have starbucks but we spread our coffee money around fairly to all the shops. We spent a lot of our nights at the pub called The Bulldog uptown. After wandering around all day we often ended up watching movies in Marks room instead of going out to the bars. I wasn't feeling very party oriented and just wanted to relax. We spent two days at the Voodoo fest, drinking and listening to music. I got covered in mud one day (boo!) and was in a very happy place listening to the groove of Red Hot Chilli Peppers. We ate at a variety of places and had amazing food. In the Quarter there is a place called Angel's and it was AMAZING portobello/artichoke sandwich. We also went to the famous Gumbo Shop on St. Peter Street. Its tourist-centric and famous for Gumbo/creole cooking. Share with friends to get full creole variety.

NOLA Swamp
NOLA Swamp
I'm dedicating this to Antoines Restaurant. A very expensive, very historical restaurant in the Quarter which as been around since 1840. The who's who of the world has eaten here, including Popes! Jason got us reservations. Families have lifetime waiters who always and only serve their appointed families. Jason's family (who is a New Orleans local) has a waiter named Chuck. Chuck also happens to be Corey's mules name (ask for Corey & Chuck). Mark and I are rugged travelers, we this was a bit out of our league but Jason held our hands and made sure we didn't commit any high class dining faux pas. (Apparently I don't chew enough times and keep my fork in my hand instead of setting it down and Mark is completely un-salvageable in regard to fine dinning etiquette). Get the puffed potatoes and the Devils coffee (which is coffee on fire with bourbon!!) and a tour. This placed invented Oysters Rockefeller. Get baked alaska, which has limited availability. Very very pricey!

Other recommendations:
Can you find the naked girl in this? Can you find the naked girl in this?
Remember, visit Painted Alive on Royal Street. You can skip the plantation tour because the guilt of knowing slaves built the beautiful house for no kind of compensation is depressing. We appreciated their magnificent work. The areas still really hurt from Katrina are heartwrenching yet hopeful. Its great to see some of the houses being rebuilt. There are X on every house and each quadrant has a diff. piece of information from the search/rescue teams. This X's can be seen on most of the houses and tell a very quick story about its experience with Katrina. They say (from Top, clockwise): # in house, # bodies in house (if dead: DOA), # of animals in house (dead/alive plus SPCA sig), and search/rescue team initials. The X's are marked at the water level point, some houses have two or three X's as the waters rose. Even ones being rebuilt still have the ghostly X's on the brick, which I'm sure haunt the residents. We walked through two houses, one that wasn't gutted and one that was.

Published on Monday March 5th, 2007

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Sun, Mar 11 2007 - 06:26 AM rating by horourke

Jusy like the Chinese reports this is fulll of awareness, fine detail and page turning incident. Very well done

Mon, Mar 05 2007 - 07:34 PM rating by mistybleu

Hi ya, a very interesting report.

Mon, Mar 05 2007 - 09:04 AM rating by marianne

very interesting report, well written and nice photos

Mon, Mar 05 2007 - 04:06 AM rating by rangutan

As usual, very original stories and pictures [4.6]. While some are still homeless after the hurricane, thanks for this generally good news and positive report. (NB: The girl with tatooded shoulders and thighs is sitting on a cactus! :-)

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