New Orleans is Cartagena, Colombia on US soil. At least that’s how it felt. The colors, the narrow streets, the architecture, the street performers and artists. I fear I will receive scorn from both parties for these statements, but the two are very similar. It stands to reason, of course, they are both coastal Caribbean cities with a fusion of cultural influences.
It might be a misrepresentation of Cartagena, however. As Cartagena is a much more beautiful city than NOLA. But NOLA has the music! We sat for an hour at Café Du Monde enjoying our beignets and listening to a bang-a-rang saxophonist. We strolled along the Mississippi River and watched the old-time river boats come in and out of port. The sheer size of the Mississippi is magnanimous. I know there are wider rivers, but it’s the largest I’ve ever laid eyes on in person and it is a sight to behold.
Some advice for New Orleans if you should ever take a trip there. Find a reputable Cajun restaurant for the best taste of the city. We did not. And, sadly, we were disappointed by our creole catfish and po’boy. The coffee and pastries mostly made up for it. Don’t try to drive there. If you are driving, find a hotel with parking (it will be worth any additional cost). If you’re flying, then don’t waste your money renting a car. Get a cab to the hotel and be done with it. And don’t ever think you’ve seen it all. The city is so much larger than it first appears. The streets are narrow and seemingly unending.
We spent our one and only night in the city at Hotel Royal and it was worth the slightly higher price than we’d typically like to pay for a hotel. The room was lovely with a fireplace and the bathtub had jets. Need I say more? We wandered along Bourbon Street both during the day and in the evening. It was like exploring two entirely different streets. In the evening it was swarming with pedestrians, most with drinks in their hands including “Big Ass Beers” which seemed like a trademark of the street.
The shops were filled with skeletons. Skeletons playing the piano, dressed up in costumes, even some walking the streets. I mentioned smells too, right? Well, suffice it to say that your nose will be assaulted with the scents. Some savory and some less so. All just a mélange of the city that has shaped a culture entirely its own. In this country that prides itself on being a melting pot, this city stands alone as a proud beacon of culture and creativity.