‘Way down yonder in New Orleans’ – the City of Jazz and Blues
Our Amtrak journey was over and the train trip that took 8 hours from Memphis to New Orleans was painless and pleasant. Our next stop was the Avenue Plaza Hotel on St Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans. The hotel is a time share hotel but if you can run the gauntlet of the timeshare staff, convincing you that you ‘need’ a vacation every year at the Avenue Plaza Hotel, you will really enjoy staying there. The hotel is an apart hotel, the rooms are big and well furnished, have cooking facilities and a small kitchenette for you to use, just like home from home. Well I didn’t go away to cook, but you have to eat and if you turn left outside the hotel and walk about two blocks you will come to a diner call the Trolley Car, it is very good and reasonably priced and they do serve breakfast and evening meals, so well nourished, we set off to soak in the atmosphere of New Orleans.
Our first stop was Bourbon Street – well not sure whether to be shocked or amazed – both really – it is ‘buzzing’. We took the trolley car from outside the hotel and Bourbon Street is the terminus and straight across the road is Bourbon Street or just follow the crowds. We were there at about 5.30 pm on a Friday afternoon, the street was crowded with people, drinking, laughing and throwing beads, yes, beads at one another – the beads are to keep away the ‘voodoo evil spirits’, we discovered that New Orleans is the ‘place to be’ for a hen or stag party!!! But this apart take in the atmosphere and look up at the amazing buildings and architecture of this wonderful iconic street, music pours out of almost every door for music fans of Jazz and Blues this is the place to be, turn off on St Peter’s Street and visit the Preservation Hall – if the queue isn’t too long to get in – and visit one of the best Jazz Clubs in New Orleans.
The restaurants and bars are plentiful and good, we stopped and had Gumbo – it is a sea food stew – very enjoyable and filling. Whilst finishing our meal a wedding party went past the restaurant, the bride and groom with umbrella’s aloft went past with the Jazz Band and guests following, waving white handkerchiefs in time with the music. What a wonderful sight, a typical New Orleans tradition for weddings and funerals, the Jazz Band leads the parade. New Orleans is like any big city, be careful of your bags and wallets, avoid dark alleys or roads especial at night. The Trolley Car is the most popular form of transport and the city goes in a grid system. We picked up the trolley car at the Garden District to the terminus ( or end of the line), crossed the road and caught another car down to the Casino and River area, then got another car at the side of the Aquarium that takes you to the French Quarter, it is inexpensive at 40 cents each for Seniors for each trip.
The trolley cars are well used in New Orleans and this is an easy way to see the city, also there is the Hop on Hop off bus which will take you to see all the places of interest. However, with limited time, we decided to use the trolley bus to visit the French Quarter which has a market every day, selling a vast array of items but the food court is well worth the visit. Walk down to the most iconic Jackson Square and visit St Louis Cathedral, very impressive and it is the place to ‘people watch’. The mighty Mississippi River flows along side this imposing city. We went on the paddle streamer, the Creole Queen that takes you up the River to the site of the Battle of New Orleans, where the ‘British Kept a Coming and there was not as many as there was awhile ago’ however, the Americans won this one! On the site is a monument to the fallen and an empty ‘Gone with the Wind house’ for you to view, and a large field with information posters situated for you to read about the battle of New Orleans. We enjoyed the river trip as it was away from the busy city, if you fancy a drink on board try the champagne and gin mix, it is pretty special.
Our stay was short but eventful and our last stop was to walk around the Garden Area to see the Lafayette Cemetery in a beautiful part of town. The imposing, large clap a board houses surround this area and give you a gentle reminder of days gone by when New Orleans was a large trading port with people from all around the world. The city is a melting pot of French, Spanish and Caribbean influences and is probably best known for its Mardi Gras celebrations, which takes place in January of each year.
We had danced and listened to some amazing musicians on our Music journey through America and I would do it all again tomorrow, but music is the food of love, well you certainly feel the ‘love’ on this trip, it makes you feel good, and we didn’t get the ‘Blues’!
Now for a relaxing cruise!
• Read The American Music Tour – Part 1
• Read The American Music Tour – Part 2
• Read The American Music Tour – Part 3