The Big Easy -my kinda movie!
New Orleans Travel Blog› entry 19 of 23 › view all entries
The wheels of the bus went 'round and 'round... or so some kid told me several years ago. I'm guessing it wasn't just the one bus that had wheels that did that. My bus must have wheels that do the same, surely!
Anyway, we rode on through the day. A long day, stopping several times to pick up new passengers and to feed ourselves. The driver again warning us to order food quickly or miss the bus.
I sat just behind the driver, enjoying the countryside roll past my window. I watched people come and go and rested easy with the knowledge I wouldn't be getting through to New Orleans until the sun had set.
At some point a bloke boarded the bus and struck up a conversation with the driver for the rest of the way.
The driver would say something and the passenger would answer him with a low, slow, "Um-humm."
It was fantastic. I could have listened to it for hours. -Oh that's right, I did. Anyway, I toyed with the noise in my head and had it down pat. Trouble was I lost it the moment I stopped doing it. Even now whilst i write this I think back to it with fondness. I can get the tone right, but I just can't get the inflection or the slow speed correct (sigh). I guess I'll have to return to the States one day and find someone else that entertains me as much!
Anyway, at dinnertime the driver stopped and gave us the speech.
From there the countryside was a collection of steel bridges. They changed colour as the sun made it's way down the sky. I found myself longing to get off the bus and spend some time in the little towns connected to those bridges but I was still more interested in getting to New Orleans.
I had seen the movie "The Big Easy" back in the 80s. I owned the soundtrack and loved it.
Music was the reason I was coming to the city. Jazz has always been a huge part of my collection. I'm not really a Trad Jazz fan but I could never call myself a serious jazz fan if I didn't visit it's birthplace. I also wondered if the experience of seeing it live would change my opinion of Trad any. I knew I'd be sitting in Preservation Hall one evening over the next few nights.
The bus pulled into the station at about 11pm. The driver told me where to find the Youth Hostel and I was pleased it was just a couple of blocks walk from where we were.
I had considered booking a bed when I was still in Orlando but it had been so easy fitting into Miami Beach and Orlando that I hadn't bothered.
When I got to the New Orleans YHA I was told they were full and wouldn't have a free bed at all over the next few nights. The Youth Olympics were in town and the whole city was filled with young sports folk -oops!
The Manager was pretty helpful though and he suggested a brand new hotel that a friend of his was running. It had only just opened and he thought they would have a room for me. He made the call, secured me a room and called me a taxi.
The manager warned me the hotel was in a shady part of the city but I wasn't concerned.
When the Taxi picked me up and I gave him the address he was very worried for me. He tried to change my mind about staying the area. He didn't know of any hotel there but said it wasn't the sort of area a hotel would want to be anyway.
Again I told him not to concern himself. One thing about my occupation I have a confidence that comes with dealing with criminals on a daily basis. I didn't think twice about taking the room and knew that I was capable of looking after myself if required.
When the taxi dropped me at the door the driver said he would wait to make sure they had a room for me in case I had to find somewhere else.
I went into the reception and found a lonely bloke behind a screen. I think I was his only guest. I was there for 3 nights and I never saw anyone else come or go.
The Hotel was brand new. It still smelled of fresh paint and because they were desperately trying to get up and running the opening special meant my room was nicely priced.
I was here. I was housed. Now I just had to discover what New Orleans had to offer.
Naturally with just a few days to find that out I focused my attention on the French Quarter. The place was pumping. There were hundreds of fit youths filling the streets every night. I met a couple of guys on the street here and there but being set up in an empty hotel meant I didn't meet as many travelers as I would have liked.
I had a book of the place and picked out several places I wanted to visit.
Each morning I wandered out across Nthn Rampart St (my side being the dodgy area) I had about two blocks of bad neighbourhood to get through before I reached Rampart as the border to the badlands. Obviously I was more alert in the dark, as I returned after a night on Bourbon Street, but I never saw anyone or anything that caused me any concern.
My days were filled with food from places like Cafe du Monde, Papa Joe's, Rita's and Sammy's. Shopping at places like the French Market, Louisiana Music Factory or Record Ron's and Beckham's Bookshop.
I also visited sights such as Jackson Square, the Old US Mint and walked along the Mississippi Riverfront. In fact I explored every street in the French Quarter and marveled at it's style and feel. I could quite easily have moved there and taken up the life of a bohemian. I shudder to think about the state of the place now that Hurricane Katrina has been through. I hope it has not been washed into oblivion.
At night I found music. The night I went to Preservation Hall I started out early and took in the Voo Doo Museum next door.
Preservation Hall was great. I still enjoy Californian or Chicago jazz above the banjo twanging sounds of trad but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. The place was packed -standing room only and the old boys that belted out the tunes knew their stuff alright!
Other nights I enjoyed the great sounds of zydeco. This was the style I had come to love from "The Big Easy". the music was full of fun and the bar was shaking with the locals who were out enjoying the night.
Another night I found the saxophonist Gary brown doing his thing in a bar. I stayed there for several drinks and loved his selection of covers and his band. All in all every night in N'awlins was a thrill. I always finished the evening with a walk up and down Bourbon Street before I faced the dangers across the expanse of Northern Rampart as I made my way back to my hotel.
I flew out of New Oleans with mixed feelings; Sorry I couldn't stay longer, excited to be on my way to Jamaica.