The birthplace of jazz, home of Mardi Gras and possibly one of the most unique cities I’ve visited (so far!)…my first visit to ‘The Deep South’.
Tuesday 10th October 2017
A short flight of only two hours took me to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International. Trust me, rightly so, this guy is a big deal in this part of the county! It was positively melting down here and the heat didn’t half hit you as you got off the plane (is there any better feeling?) at a truly tropical 31C.
A rather expensive shuttle bus seemed to be one of the only ways to get to the hostel, but it was then at least then door to door service I guess. First hostel experience coming right up!
I arrived at Hostel Auberge Nola at around 10.00pm and what are the chances that the person checking you in is from West Lothian!? He did say I was the first person to ever check in and ask where the nearest swimming pool was. I’m guessing this is not standard New Orleans behaviour…but, recovery training… needs must!
Rules- check, maps- check, tour- check, all done and dusted and ready to settle in to my abode for the next few days.
Wednesday 11th October 2017
So check this for an international breakfast table…2 Aussies, 2 Canadians, a South African, a Kiwi and a Scot! There was a nice feeling in the Hostel and everyone seemed so friendly and genuinely interested in where you had been and what you had planned for your days here.
I was visiting the Garden District today; grand mansions, gorgeous gardens and buildings and lots of little boutique style shops and cafés, so lots to explore. Seemingly, a lot of people choose not to visit many other parts of the city other than the French Quarter, but really if you don’t, you are missing out. With the hostel being just one block from St Charles Avenue, one of the main streets where the Street Car runs, and Magazine Street just another couple of blocks further down, it was the perfect location, and although it involved a lot of walking, you could pretty much get around everywhere by foot if you wanted.
Lafayette Cemetery up first. It wasn’t so much a tourist attraction as such, just quite interesting to see. Since New Orleans is is actually below sea level, the tombs and headstones are built raised above the ground, instead of the way we would do a burial underground back home. They apparently realised years ago that when they were digging the graves, it wasn’t long before they hit water and the bodies just floated away eventually. So now, in the raised tombs, when more space is needed for family members, they simply remove you from your coffin and pop you in to a wee bag instead to make space for the newbies…just some more useless, but important trivia information for pub quizzes that I feel I should pass on.
The properties are very grand and quite a lot of celebrities are said to own property in this district, including Sasha Firece herself. I did manage to spot Beyoncé’s pad though I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed. The single ladies doorbell was quite somethings though, and she does make a pretty decent cup of tea!
I think for each day I was in New Orleans I walked between 8-10 miles so it definitely wasn’t an issue to keep the legs moving post-marathon.
Training wise, recovery swim of 30 minutes on the cards and the staff at the hostel had told me about a nice hotel nearby with a rooftop pool that you could apparently blag your way in to as a guest, few questions asked. I mean would you ever at home? But needs must…poor backpacker now and all that!
Thursday 12th October 2017
Today… The French Quarter! I was pretty excited for this, as when I think New Orleans, this is what I probably had in mind. The oldest neighbourhood in the city, live music galore and at risk of sounding old, the most stunning little multi-coloured buildings and balconies.
On route, I managed to find the infamous Bourbon Street, party zone of NOLA.
Jackson Square and St Louis Cathedral did not disappoint, especially against the backdrop of beautiful blue skies… yes, sorry, more sunshine!
I spent a little time there and then just across the road was Café Du Monde, originally established in the 1800s and right in the middle of the French Market. It is opened 24 hours, and only closed on Christmas day and when there is an occasional hurricane. Staying true to its roots, it only sells coffee and Beignets which are delicious little French donuts, served warm and covered in icing sugar, a ‘must do’ in New Orleans. All this whilst serenaded to “It’s a Wonderful World” on the saxophone… how lucky am I?
Another recovery swim on the training plan today… and in this heat I was grateful! Then a little walk along the Mississippi on the way back to the hostel.
Friday 13th October 2017
More of the French Quarter today in the form of The French Market and Frenchman Street…too many Frenchs!
I hadn’t tried too much in the way of typical Southern cuisine yet so I definitely wanted to fit that in. Frenchman Street was really cool. A few people had suggested here is waaay better than Bourbon Street. I did think so too. A little less busy and where most of the live music seems to happen. All of the bars are free to go in so if you like the sound of something you can just wander in and have a listen. The afternoons seemed to go by in a flash!…some of the best live music I’ve heard.
A little wander around the market and time to have some tasty southern cooking in the form of jambalaya…yummy! Then on the way back to the hostel, I went for a wander around Louis Armstrong Park.
Training wise, a final recovery swim of 30 minutes, back in the runners tomorrow! Woohoo!
Later in the evening I went out for a while with some of the people from the hostel for a few drinks which was also really good fun.
Saturday 14th October 2017
Wawh! Today was hot! And last full day in New Orleans already.
Trying to embrace the ‘go with the flow’ requirements to backpacking, I had tried to keep a lot of the time I had between Chicago and New York free, the plan being to just wait and see where I fancied when it was time to move on. I’m really quite laid back, but for somebody who also likes to be organised this was actually quite stressful! Ha…..I’m sure I’ll get better at it. I had spent an hour or so yesterday sorting myself out and booking accommodation. Next stop, Georgia via the Greyhound bus! I took a walk along the street to find the bus station and pick up my tickets. It only took about 20 minutes to walk there so not too far to go tomorrow.
Coffee stop and then back to the hostel to get the runners on. I took the Street Car down to Audubon Park. It’s only $3 for a 24 hour pass on the Street Car and you can hop on and off as many times as you like.
The Park was stunning. Your typical park features I guess; grass, lots of, but it had a lovely little ponds with bridges all through the middle which made it lovely to sit and enjoy the views post-run. Easy 40 minutes on the plan for today, recovery being the main focus, first one post-Chicago so just trying to get the legs moving! Wow! Was it hot….and this was later in the day. And humid, oh so humid! I was melting (no complaints though, beats wind and rain aaaannny day!) My legs actually felt ok once I got going. It was just over a mile around the park, so a few laps needed to get my 40 minutes done, about 4 miles. It was nice to sit by the pond afterwards….stretches, yes I looked like a plonker, but needs must!
I stuck around to watch the sunset and caught the Street car back up to St Charles’ Avenue. Southern Creole cooking on the menu for tonight’s tea in the form of crawfish etouffée, red beans and rice and my second helping of jambalaya! Sooo much food!
Back to the hostel and time to get ready for the early departure aboard the Midnight train to Georgia…I wish!……I mean Greyhound bus to Atlanta!
Sunday 15th October 2017
5.15am alarm set for run number one of the day. Splitting up the run due to being stuck on the bus for most of the day. So 40 minutes first thing and another 40 minutes later on. St Charles’ Avenue the location of choice for today, where most people seem to choose to run along the Street Car tracks, seeing as there are no roads to cross so you don’t get stuck at the side of the kerb every five minutes.
Even this early in the morning, still dark, it was already 26C and 93% humidity…sweaty was an understatement!
Still job done…time for a new state!