New Orleans.. and all that jazz

This post has been sitting on the back burner for a while, but without further ado.. may I present New Orleans.

My favorite thing to write about is travel, probably because my favorite thing to do is travel. When my boss asked me if I wanted to go to New Orleans, it took every ounce self control to maintain my composure.

Before I knew it, I was on my way. In Toronto the customs officer asked me why I was going to New Orleans and I said that I'll be attending a "grounding and lightning" conference. He heard "grounding and enlightening".. "So it's a yoga conference, going to find your Zen"

*I burst out in laughter* yah... not quite

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the door to my hotel room and was greeted by name and jazz music. I knew I was going to like this city.

I find that most major North American cities tend to be melting pots different cultures. But New Orleans has it’s own unique and distinct flavor, music, cuisine, architecture and culture. It's most famous for being the birthplace of jazz. It’s home to great musicians such as the great Louis Armstrong. Today some of the most talented musicians make up this city, the first night I just wandered around following the music.

New Orleans or "the Big Easy" is also renown for it's cuisine. I made it my mission to try all the signature dishes including: Gumbo, Jambalaya, Po-boys, Muffulettas and Pralines. I even ate crawfish (despite the fact that I have never developed a taste for seafood… and yes, I hale from an island that was colonized for the fishery). I'm not going to say that I enjoyed the crawfish, but it wasn't entirely revolting. New Orleans cuisine is seasoned with many Cajun spices and hot sauces due to the strong Cajun influence.

If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, you must stop in "Cafe du Monde" and try their world famous cafe au lait and beignets (french dough nuts). The entire cafe is coated in icing sugar (don't wear black).

The French quarter is the historic heart of the city. The buildings are designed in Creole and Spanish style with exquisite laced balconies and shuttered windows.

All the brightly coloured houses reminded me of home. 

Copper gas lanterns illuminate the streets of the French quarter, and create an antique charm. 

I extended my stay for the weekend after the conference, and transferred to an $18/ night hostel. Everyone was mortified to learn that I was staying in a hostel. Honestly, I feel that in general people underestimate how hardcore I am. Like I can’t take care of myself or something. It’s rather frustrating, but that’s a rant for another day.

Burban St. lived up to its reputation, every night was a party. There were street performers, random marching bands and people throwing Mardi Gras beads. 

The city is absolutely coated in beads. They were growing on trees and hanging on lamp posts. They were even in the hostel shower!

There was also *this* hanging up in the shower. Ahem, this is what class looks like, people.

On Saturday I ventured outside the city to explore the swamp. I was on a mission to see an alligator. To my dismay, they were all hibernating. Alligators are cold blooded so they must conserve energy in the winter. I was, however, able to see some form of reptile: a snake! Anyways, it counts for something... right?

I found this intriguing: part of the root system from the bald cypress tree extend above the water. These are called “cypress knees” and provide structural support and oxygen to the roots.

It was neat to see the houseboats, it's hard to imagine life floating around in a swamp. This Catahoula leopard dog has a quaint little homestead.

This houseboat went down while someone was living in it. Rough day.

On my last day I visited the above ground cemetery. I've seen this kind of thing in St. Pierre and Europe, so I thought that perhaps this was due to the French influence. But apparently it’s because New Orleans is below sea level. And apparently James Bond was filmed here.

I was told afterwards that I shouldn't walk around the graveyard by myself because people get mugged all the time.. whoops.

There is a history of "voodoo" in the city and many restaurants and stores use it as a marketing concept. I was chatting to someone the other day about New Orleans and he described the city as if "Paris and the Bahamas had a kid and it was raised by a witch" - best description ever.

Just before I left, some backpackers told me that they broke into the old abandoned Six Flags theme park and climbed on the roller coasters. Darn, why didn't I think of that. Now I need to go back.