Looking back, I feel like there’s a ton of stuff we missed in New Orleans. That’s partially because it’s so big and overwhelming — there’s only so much you can take in if you’re visiting for just two days. Ideally you could visit for a day or two, withdraw for a day or two, then head back in to visit all the things you missed. Or live here for a year, like we’d like to. Whatever.
We made the mistake of driving into the French Quarter the first day. Don’t ever drive into the French Quarter! Not only are the streets confusing (try figuring out who needs to stop at each intersection) but they’re just too narrow to handle the mix of pedestrian, delivery, carriage, construction, and private vehicle traffic. Parking downtown means you’re either parking on the street for 2 hours at a go or paying at least $12/day in a garage. There are really only two good ways to get into New Orleans if you’re staying outside the city: if you’re coming from the north, park in one of the many lots in the warehouse district ($6/day); if you’re coming from the south, park in the little village of Algiers (free to $10/day) and take the free Algiers Ferry across the river to downtown.
Now that I’ve visited much of the south, I understand why people risk hurricanes, flooding, and disaster to live here. It’s like no other place, and that’s what makes it so amazing. Cities like Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans are as important to our national cultural history as cities like Boston and Washington, DC. The surrounding areas, from the white sand beaches in Florida to the mysterious bayous in Louisiana, are completely unique and wild.
I was definitely tempted by New Orleans. The French Quarter is great, reminding me of actual France, but I couldn’t handle living there. There are too many tourists on Vomit Street, I mean, Bourbon Street, tottering down the lane and leaving their HUGE ASS BEERS cups on your stoop. I’d want every night to be party night, and I couldn’t live like that. Maybe that’s why so many houses keep their shutters tightly closed — they shut out temptation and drunk visitors. It’s hard to tell which houses are occupied and which are vacation homes, hermit’s nests, or residences that haven’t been restored since Katrina. It’s even harder to tell what is natural decay in this humid, moldy atmosphere and what was inflicted by a few monster storms. What has been restored since 2005 and what was already destroyed at that point? The Garden District felt more like an area where real New Orleanians live. It’s where they go to escape the tourists, even though a few tourists still insist on infiltrating this area too.
When you’re overloaded, a great place to withdraw nearby is Bayou Segnette State Park. We’re getting spoiled by southern camping with all its amenities. This park has a nature trail-like boardwalk through the bayou to the restrooms, which had nice, hot showers and FREE laundry. I found and ate a bunch of wild blackberries. We had WiFi, electricity, and water at our campsite. All this for $1 less/night than a hike-in campground in CA.
I could see myself living in New Orleans for a year or two, but I’d pack out well in advance of any approaching hurricane or Mardi Gras parade…