My couchsurfing host bailed on me the day before I was arriving, so I had to find a last-minute bed somewhere in the middle of summer, in New Orleans. Luckily for me, I found the City House Hostel (CHH), which was one block from Bourbon street and only cost a little over $200 for a full week. What better way to check out such a famous city than with fellow enthusiastic travelers?
N’arlins, as the locals pronounce it, is a city with an immense amount of history; cobblestone streets still prevalent, swing dancing still alive and well, and hometown eateries its mainstay. My first night I found the closest Italian restaurant to the hostel, I was way too hungry to try something I probably wouldn’t like.
I ended up at a very elegant hotel restaurant. Domenica was definitely more expensive than I would normally choose, but I figured, I’m in N’arlins and what is money for, if not to be spent? And honestly, it was worth the money. They provide a great wine list and deliciously authentic Italian. The rest of the week, I left the fancy Italian places behind and explored the small holes-in-the-wall, several of the hundreds of fried chicken places, for example.
The first night’s event (CHH held one every night, provided there were enough people interested) was a tour of Frenchmen street. Frenchmen is the real New Orleans, small bars and clubs full of amazing dancers and live jazz music. Bourbon street, well that’s only interesting if there’s a parade, unless of course you like zigzagging around pee and puke.
My favorite place, maybe the whole time I was there, was Dragon’s Den. A small dive bar, where every Monday they have a live jazz band and legitimate swing dancers on the second floor. The amount of life and energy in this small upstairs venue is astounding, I stood and watched for what must have been two or more hours. I was dragged onto the floor by someone attempting to teach me the moves, but he soon realized how uncoordinated I was and that was the end of that.
The next day I spent simply walking around the vast and diverse city. First was the free tour to see an overall view of the French quarter, exploring the likes of the Museum of Death, the small bookstore in Faulkner’s former home, and the Pharmacy Museum. From there, I circled back to a few spots to buy some trinkets (what I mean is the bookstore, I went back to the bookstore) and then went searching for an outfit for the Pride Parade on Saturday.
The rest of the week I spent daily at museums and window-shopping in the art district. I think the art district was my favorite district, what with the small boutiques and greatly priced thrift stores, not to mention the best places for brunch.
Nightly was spent with some newfound friends from the hostel, drinking far too much but making great memories: walking about a half hour away to find the best fried chicken in the city, only to find out reservations are required, and walking all the way backs; stuffing five people into a smart car; adventuring to a pool/bar/restaurant; dancing until 2 AM; watching the Pride Parade with some great girls from Florida and not buying my own drink the whole night. New Orleans is a city of friendship, a city of complete and total acceptance, where every day is Pride, every day a celebration. Other cities should strive to be a little more like them.
I left New Orleans bursting with life, bursting with energy, and ready to take on Jackson Mississippi.