Can you fall in love with a place before you have even seen it? Can you be homesick for it after having only visited once? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes!! For me, visiting New Orleans was something I had been planning since before Hurricane Katrina swept through the city many years earlier. It was a long road to get me to this city but well worth the wait. My expectations of seeing the Big Easy for the first time were extremely high and it didn’t disappoint. It far exceeded my expectations and then some.
Is it weird that I wanted to walk away from my flight back home and stay in New Orleans indefinitely? I didn’t think I would feel this connected to one city but I did. Even with seeing a lot of the city and part of it not in the best of areas didn’t stop me from wanting to stay. It made me love the city even more because I got to see all of it; the great neighborhoods and the somewhat sketchy ones. I shouldn’t be surprised that I would love every bit of New Orleans from St. Charles Avenue, Camp Street and yes even Bourbon Street.
So now where to begin? How do I explain what I loved about this city and why I can’t wait to go back again? I think I’ll start at the first place many people think of when they think of New Orleans. You probably already know what place I am thinking of and you would be right; of course it would be the French Quarter.
I was staying with friends who lived about three miles from the French Quarter which worked out great for visiting the area. It enabled me to walk everywhere I went without needing to rent a car or ask my friends if they could drop me off during the day. I walked down Magazine Street on the first day I headed to the French Quarter. After that first day, I started walking down Camp Street whenever I wanted to walk around the French Quarter. It quickly became one of my favorite streets because it was more residential than and not as commercial as Magazine Street.
I was a bit nervous walking to the French Quarter on the first day since I have a tendency to get lost wherever I go. I know getting lost is part of the adventure so I decided to embrace it and if I got lost, so be it. Now I didn’t have the usual map to help me find my way. I had a GPS app that I had downloaded onto my phone. Best part of it was that all I had to do was download the map for Louisiana and any directions I typed in wouldn’t use up any of my data. I could use the GPS as much as I wanted because it could be used offline.
As I used the GPS on my phone, I would walk towards Camp Street which in turn would lead me to Sophie Wright Pl. and then back onto Camp Street. After that first day, it became easy to get from where I was staying to the French Quarter that I didn’t really need my GPS to get me there.
I always knew I was close to the French Quarter when I would end up on Canal Street. This happens to be the main street that connects to any of the streets you want to go to in the Quarter. When you make it this far, you will notice each street has two names; one side of the street might say Chartres since it is heading into the French Quarter and then when you cross the street to the other side, it might say Camp Street since it is heading away from it.
Speaking of Canal Street, it reminded me of O’Donnell Street in Dublin, Ireland because, like O’Donnell Street, it is the main street that branches off into these other streets that you would want to walk down.
So many impressions of stepping foot in the French Quarter for the first time; flower pots hanging from the balconies, antique shops and art galleries and musicians playing along Royal Street and Jackson Square. The musicians were one of the best parts of being in New Orleans. One of the musicians had even brought out his piano and was playing music as I walked down Royal Street. I want to know how he managed to drag out his piano onto the sidewalk. That thing had to weigh a ton. I’m sure he had lots of help with it. Maybe this is why Royal Street became my favorite street; music being performed outside and not inside a bar.
I especially loved that you could walk down the street and you might run into the guy playing the piano and then you walk further down the block and you’ll run into someone playing the guitar.
Even though Royal Street was my favorite, I couldn’t help walking down Bourbon Street. You can’t go to New Orleans and not walk down this street. As I walked along this famous street, I found out you can’t carry bottles or glass on the street but you can take your drink with you as long as it’s in a plastic cup. They even have signs posted that state this.
Did you know if you walked further down Bourbon Street that you won’t run into many people? That’s because the bars are all located in one area. It makes sense to me that you wouldn’t have them spread out; that you would want all the bars together or as close together as you can get them.
Besides the obvious streets of Royal and Bourbon, I found myself wandering to Jackson Square almost every day. You might be asking yourself what is there if you didn’t already know. Well, it happens to be where St. Louis Cathedral is located and where everyone seems to gather if they want to hear music or see the amazing artwork of some of these artists. Now I was a bit surprised that it is right in the middle of the French Quarter. Not sure where I thought the Cathedral or Jackson Square would be but not right in the middle of all the action. Now if you want to try and get there, follow the path along Royal Street and it’s off of Pere Antoine Alley and Pirates Alley that flank either side of Jackson Square.
As you might be able to tell, the French Quarter is exactly how you might have imagined it. Music filling the air along Royal Street and Jackson Square as you wind your way through the streets trying not to run into anyone. Though it tells a different story if you happen to be there on a day when it’s cold and wet outside. You feel like you are the only one there because people tend to stay inside when it’s raining and extremely cold. I didn’t let the weather stop me from enjoying the sights and sounds of this magical place. It’s a good thing my friend mentioned I might want to pack layers of clothes for this trip; one day the weather was in the 70’s, next day it was windy and cold and the day after that the weather changed again with rain. It was so cold on one of the days I was there that I couldn’t stop shaking; it was bad enough to the point that my teeth were chattering and my knees were buckling. I was grateful for all the hot chocolate I drank because it helped me to try and stay warm.
What is it about the French Quarter that you love if you’ve ever visited New Orleans? Is it the architecture that surrounds you as you walk from one block to the next?
Is it the food you know you’ll be trying while in the city?
Is it the music that flows through some of the buildings as you walk past them? Is it the musicians along Royal Street and Jackson Square that brings you to a halt; stopping and listening to the wonderful sounds of the Quarter?
Check back later for part two of Passport to New Orleans.