When you ask travellers which city they love most and why, more often than not, its NOT for the reasons you would expect. Most times, it’s relative to (i) the food, (ii) the shopping, (iii) the attractions. But how many times is the answer “the people”.
I myself am totally guilty of this. There are numerous cities I’ve travelled to, and each one has something in particular (good or bad) that stands out in my mind.
- Las Vegas – the shows
- New York City – the hustle
- Chicago – the lakefront
- Savannah – the food
- Boston – the attitude
- Stratford – the theatre
- Niagara Falls – (believe it or not) the wine
• New Orleans – the people
Things have changed a little (VERY LITTLE) over the years of my visiting New Orleans. This “People of NOLA” mural used to welcome you to the city at the end of the old Louis Armstrong Airport just before you left the building. It was a prelude of what was waiting for you outside those doors … besides the humidity.
Today, a new airport (so new, it just opened Nov 6, 2019) welcomes millions of travelers to the city. You are no longer entering the city through an airport built (and stuck) in the 1960’s with the closed-in terminals. The new multi-billion dollar facility is full of life – open, vibrant. You almost don’t have to leave the airport to know you’ve been in New Orleans anymore.
Several city-acclaimed chef’s have brought their talents to the airport. No longer are travellers stuck with just quick-boxxed meals and a burger-joint, leaving dour tastes in their mouths as they leave the city. Now, those leaving can catch one last honest-to-goodness Nawlins-styled meal before boarding their flights, including a wine and appetizer cafe (Vino Volo), not one – but 2 Lucky Dog Hot-Dog stands, a Thai-fusion restaurant (Morpho), and several other specialty places to wait out your time before boarding the plane. And the best thing is … they ALL have carry-on/out available to take with you if in a rush (or simply want more but are out of time).
… “what’s your hurry?”
“all good things come to those who leave their impatience at home” — a cabbie told me this on one of my first visits to the city, and foolish as it may sound, I actually tell myself that everytime I land there now. It’s like my mantra just before those terminal door open to the taxi stand.
Things are slower in the south — give into it.
Like any major tourist city you travel to, you’re going to want to hit as many of the attractions as you can (just like the millions of other visitors to the city are doing).
No matter which city we travel to, one of the first things we’ll do is grab a daily ticket for the HOP ON / HOP OFF bus tour, which gives you access to all the main areas/attractions of the city. Take the entire tour WITHOUT getting off, then repeat and get off at the locations you think will be of interest to you. You have the pass for the day, so take advantage of it. Typically, busses are on a 15 minute cycle, so you can judge your time per area accordingly.
Since you’re taking your time, but still want to see everything, I highly suggest getting a street-car pass available in 1-30 day passes. There are two street-car lines in New Orleans, and BOTH will get you to places most other people don’t consider, simply because a cab is too expensive. The red-line (Canal Street) and the green-line (Garden District). Be warned, the red car is air-conditioned, green is not (but that just ads to the charm of the ride).
… “oh my” — the food
Stop thinking “fried chicken”. That’s a poor association when you think of “southern foods”, especially for New Orleans. Another bad assumption is BBQ Ribs (they’re not as plentiful as one would associate them to the south as you’d think).
NEW ORLEANS restaurants pride themselves on family recipes that have been passed down over the centuries. What may sound totally disgusting … once you’ve given in and tried it — you’ll be asking for “more please”. We’ve discovered that once you find a restaurant you like, you go back (again and again sometimes) to try the next thing that looked good on their menu.
… step away from the tourists
While at times it may be hard to admit, on your first visit to ANY city, you ARE A TOURIST. But this doesn’t mean you have to BE with the tourists. Before heading on your vacation, make sure to do your research. With google and other web-search engines, there is no reason you have to go travelling blind anymore.
One of the things I truly love about New Orleans is the vibrance. You ‘feel’ you’re part of the city, even when you’re not. You can be sitting under a massive Oak tree that has been standing there for hundreds of years reading your i-pad while having a WONDERFUL Bloody Mary and listening to jazz droning through the distance. You’re there … just outside (literally) a little.
STEP OUTSIDE what “they” want you to see. Go exploring – but again, research. New Orleans has so many “local” neighbourhoods to visit. You don’t HAVE to spend all your time on Bourban Street (what New Orleans is famed for, besides flooding) to hear some good jazz, taste some decent food, and shop in some bizarre stores.
- Frenchman Street
- the Garden District
- the Arts / Warehouse District
- Magazine / Decatur Streets
The tourist departments of these cities want you to go where THEY WANT YOU TO GO and see what they think they have become famous for .. the crowds, the loud music, the drinking, and the (some times god-awful) afterhours smells. Treat your vacation/get-away as an adventure. Break out of the routine.
BUT WE WENT (GO) BACK, AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN
… the people
… have always brought us back to New Orleans. And over time have had us bring other people with us to experience this wonderful place.
New Orleans is all about DIVERSITY and ACCEPTANCE. What is totally off the wall “at home” is openly displayed and (I honestly think not just accepted but .. ) expected. Yes, people still look and frown, but you know what ??? You’re there. You’re a part of it — of it all.
And that’s what makes visiting / vacationing in New Orleans all about. ■