We've pretty much spent most of our time around the French Quarter. Yeah, yeah touristy ish, but hey I'm pumping money into the city?
Today we will see something that I don't think I'd be able to see anywhere else, something they actually, openly sell tours of: plantations.
On deck some time in the next few days will be a tour of the Lower 9th Ward. Luck/God permitting, a bike tour.
The first night we were here we didn't know where to go or what to do. We got off the 88 Bus, which we'd waited a good hour for, after taking the E2 bus from the Louis Armstrong Airport in Metairie, which is about 10-15 miles West of New Orleans. The 88 Bus flashed "Lower 9th Ward" as its destination. A local pointed out where we would get off: right before a bridge, incidentally, that contains a sharrow.
This is the St. Claude neighborhood. Just about 8 blocks or so away from the Mississippi River.
I am staying in a house that I found through Airbnb that sits just right before the bridge that separates me from the Lower 9th Ward, the section of the city that has been said suffered the most devestation after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The main host of my house hasn't been around, but has probably thought of everything, providing us with a room, bed, privacy (or so we think), our own bathroom, maps, toiletries, and most importantly, fairly-cheap but fairly functional BIKES (with locks).
View NOLA in a larger map
The area we are staying in is really unique. One way streets, neighborhood bars, restaurants, creative spaces, a mix of clearly re-modeled homes, vacant, condemned lots with graffiti on them, or simply old ass houses. Gun to my head, if I absolutely had to make some kind of LA reference it feels like Silver Lake when I first got there as a 5 year old in 1989, way before we knew what hipsters were.
One walk across a Poland St. with as much light as a film development room and boarded up, or deteriorating structures and little people, "had the makings of a scary movie" said the significant other.
We decided no on Church's Chicken because shiet, we could've gotten THAT in LA. We asked around, then we discovered that local eateries were closed other than Church's Chicken, and a liquor store. The liquor store had take out food, but there wasn't any left. At about 9:30 PM We had to retire our search, our bellies empty since we'd left my mother's house at 6:30 AM PT.
A lot of waiting + hungry in a place known for its food + no food places open in walking distance - reliable vehicle - knowledge of place = disappointing first night.
We decided that to get the most out of the trip, we would need to get out and about earlier. So we struck out early the next day, and have been on a tear from Louis Armstrong Park to the eateries of Magazine St.
First impressions of New Orleans: a lot of good sitting there with a lot of bad. The locals were very open and easy to talk to. Everyone's trying to help, whether it was people simply extending courtesy, recommending food, or yes even talking about buying properties in the NOLA.
Haven't been here that long but I feel like I've experienced a lot of what I wanted to experience being here (don't care that much about mardi gras). Here are a few of my first impressions, mostly about the different infrastructures, utility and some social:
- I had in mind before the trip that New Orleans was an opportunity for privatization. Make public schools into charter schools, cut out public transportation. The locals I took to en route to the house, complained about how long the bus took. One lady told us about how after Katrina, everyone got cars. This got me thinking about all the taxis I saw crowded at the airport and how much they charged.
- There are no public water fountains, not at Louis Armstrong Park, at least nowhere we've seen it
- You do not know when to walk across the street because there are no signals whatsoever signaling for you to walk or not walk.
- You will see utility posts that look like they are about to fall over; I just assume that it's about to fall because of Katrina, and remains unfixed because of the slow growth.
- Surprised at the bike-friendliness of the NOLA --- sharrows and bike lanes. Share "dat" lane. The signs are on the utility posts as if they are , particularly on Magazine St.
- Tourism in the French quarter is alive and well. Sad to say, but that's where mostly anyone who is not black will usually be staying, unless of course they went through Airbnb and chose to room with creative types.
- Everyone has a Hurricane Katrina story and for the most part are willing to share it with you. From the man who moved from LA to New Orleans for the cheaper property to the native Louisiana repairman who was paralyzed as a result of the floods. Stay tuned for more!