American Update #7 – NEW ORLEANS

Wow… what a place. I’m not sure where to start. Anybody that gets half a chance to come here should definitely go out of their way to make it happen.

This American city is definitely my favourite so far. What Atlanta lacked in a bit of life, New Orleans has by the bucketloads: shops and bars and unique places round every corner, this is somewhere special. The French/Spanish past of Louisiana has left a lasting legacy on both the look and feel of NOLA, but on the culture and mindset as well. The buildings and infrastructure have a distinct ‘European’ flavour, but with a special American twist.

We found shops with all sorts of crazy things, like a massive antiques shop with old hats, sunglasses and err… weird expensive books like this:

Bourbon Street is the craziest and probably most well known part of the city, and it’s almost impossible to explain just what it’s like here. Photos alone certainly don’t do it justice. Essentially it’s one huge long street packed with all sorts of debauchery: hand-rolled cigars; eccentric street performers; people throwing ‘mardi gras’ beads off of the balconies of bars to people below; an assortment of super strong ‘drinks to go’ that you can wander around the streets with (legally!). I wandered around in a bit of a daze for the first part; it’s so far removed from everything else I’ve experienced in the States… and anywhere in the world actually.

All of this was compounded by the timing of our visit… which was right slap bang in the middle of the weekend where there were two big sporting events going on. One of these was the college football national championship match between none other than the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University. Over here that might not seem like that big of a deal, but here it’s a derby, and so the streets were packed with fans from all sides shouting their team slogans at each other.

What was probably most amazing was that despite all of the drink and insanity, there was hardly any negative feelings between the two sides. Back home the idea of rival football fans mixing in such a way is almost unthinkable without some sort of violence.

Saying that, it was fairly easy to see that the atmosphere of the city isn’t just down to the visitors that were there, and that no matter where you go, New Orleans has a whole lot to offer.

Not everybody was impressed by the heady environment though, as you might imagine.

Caroline studied at the University of Alabama, so practically her entire school was down in New Orleans for the weekend, and we met a whole slew of cool people, and did our fair share of indulging in those acts which apparently will send us to hell (not quite sure that’s theologically accurate, I have to say).

This is Stephanie, she had an uncanny resemblance to my old pal Kirsty from back home; mannerisms and everything. It’s really weird when that happens.

…and David, who stayed with me in Glasgow at the same time as Caroline. Pretty awesome to be reunited across the pond.

and this is Natalie Beck. She’s cute.

Traveling in this wasy is a double edge sword… it lets you go places and meet the most wonderful of people, as well as coming up with all sorts of possibilities and options of what your life could be if you lived somewhere different, yet doesn’t provide any time or way for this to happen easily. It’s a curse, and not for the faint hearted. I’ve not quite worked out if that applies to me or not yet.

Following on from that, there was a nice reminder of home in the form of a man in a kilt in one of the bars we had set up residency in later on in the night. I half expected him to be American, so when he replied in a gruff Glaswegian accent that he was from Govanhill, I was more than pleased… even more so when him and his pals repeated almost exactly the same things that I had been saying earlier about Scotland, which vindicated my positions. I had tried to explain previously that Scots tend to slag each other off, and that the language and everything else is actually an endearing thing… but not all the Americans were buying it (probably just thought I was a dick to be fair!), so when this guy turned up and almost straight away said something un-repeatable to me, then said it was okay because “that’s just what we do”, it felt gooooood.

The next day we kicked off things with bloody mary cocktails and hash browns in the glorious sunshine, listening to kids playing an assortment of wind instruments outside. There’s no better way to start a day, trust me.

My love for Melissa was firmly cemented on this trip; she was my unpredictable partner in crime, and who knows, maybe we’ll be flatmates in New Orleans one day.

So that was New Orleans. I spent WAY too much money, still feel rough, and was too busy drinking to get tattooed as planned, but I had a blast. Hopefully it won’t be my last venture out there. Lots to think about.

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