On the road... to New Orleans
By Dave Schwartz
Photos by Dave Schwartz
Welcome to The Big Easy! New Orleans, Louisiana has earned the title "The Big Easy" and is known as, among other things, one of the biggest party towns in the world. And perhaps one of the largest draws in New Orleans is the French Quarter, a small district in the downtown area that dates back to the 1760s. Many who visit the French Quarter discover its mysterious ability to transform average, everyday people into outgoing party animals! They also find themselves stepping back in time 200 years to an era filled with bars and bordellos; walking down streets where almost anything can happen and most weekends it does!
But don't be fooled, there is a dichotomy to the French Quarter. At night, this area can be a raunchy good time, but it must also be discovered during the day. Not only is this a tourist destination, it is a living, thriving community. The streets are filled with history and the sidewalks lined with out of the way courtyards and gardens, some of them accessible to the public. A multitude of shops compete for the tourist dollar and there is something to be discovered around every corner.
The primary reason for our trip was to attend the New Orleans Saints/Green Bay Packers football game. But since we arrived on a Friday, we had plenty of time before the big game. We went out to the French Quarter our first night, in fact, every night we were in New Orleans. It had been several years since my last visit and it was just as wild as I remembered. Even through a light rain caused by a tropical storm off the Gulf coast, the partying never stopped. But for many, one of the first things you must do in the French Quarter is eat.
We found ourselves sitting down to a heaping plate of jambalaya before venturing out for a night on the town. Everywhere you go in the French Quarter you find music. Everything from zydeco and blues to rock and dance can be heard. The narrow streets were teaming with revelers, this weekend mostly from Wisconsin, in town to root for their team on Sunday. And, as is the tradition in New Orleans, the second floor balconies overlooking Bourbon Street were filled with people throwing beads down to the passing women, and occasionally men, hoping that they would favor them with what has become the traditional response-- a flash of their breasts. And more often than not, the women did! The spirit of Bourbon Street and a very liberal open container law certainly helped the entertainment.
Saturday morning was our first opportunity to tour the French Quarter by day. No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a stop at Café Du Monde. Established in 1862, Café Du Monde is known worldwide for their coffee, chicory and beignets. The café is so popular, that you'll often find it difficult to get a seat.
Afterward we found a couple of voodoo shops and wandered through antique stores. We walked for miles, eventually winding our way through the Farmers' Market on Decatur Street, where you can find anything from tourist trinkets to alligator filets and a vast assortment of spices and hot sauces.
Saturday night was reserved for some fine dinning. Food has long been one of the main attractions in New Orleans (the entire city, not only the French Quarter) and while there, I highly suggest you pay a visit to one of Emeril Lagasse's (the "Bam" guy) three restaurants. Emeril's Nola is in the French Quarter, Delmonko is downtown and our destination, Emeril's first restaurant, Restaurant New Orleans, is in the warehouse district. We made reservations weeks in advance and still couldn't get in earlier than 9:30 p.m. The prices ranged from $23 and went to at least $36 a plate. They offered a huge wine list and the attire was business casual, with many people wearing suits and dresses. The food was exceptional, but where Restaurant New Orleans excelled was in the presentation. The manner in which the food was served was very stylish and certainly appreciated by the upscale clientele.
Sunday we were off to the big game between the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. I had never been in the Super Dome before and, although it's no longer a state of the art facility, we found it to be exceptionally nice. But I must admit that I am a bit of a purist. For me, football was meant to be played outdoors and on grass. As usual, the Packer contingent was well represented with tailgate parties all around the stadium. The fans celebrated their anticipated victory, but the game wasn't going to end in their favor that day. Afterward, the Saints fans enjoyed dishing out some well-deserved taunts, but the teasing never got out of hand.
After the game, we headed over to Pat O'Brien's to drown our sorrows in a Hurricane (a local drink favorite) and to sing songs with the faithful New Orleans Saints fans. They were very generous in celebrating the Saints victory.
Sunday was our final night in New Orleans. And once again, we found ourselves standing in the French Quarter. All the usual entertainment was happening, but this time there was a slightly different twist. The exhibitionism in the French Quarter has become legendary, this is only because, as I suggested earlier, anything can happen. I got my example first hand.
We were standing beneath one of the balconies, when a couple walked up. The boyfriend looked up at the balcony above us and yelled, "One dollar to see her tits." As expected, the dollars came raining down and her shirt went up. This went on for several minutes, when suddenly the boyfriend saw someone on the balcony trying to get change for a ten dollar bill. He yelled up, "Is that a ten? Ten dollars and her pants come down!" The girl turned and looked at her boyfriend, started to laugh and asked, "Really?" With little hesitation, the ten came down and so did her pants. She stood there and laughed, gazing up at the balcony waiting for more tips. It wasn't long before the couple were on their way to the next balcony and more exhibitionism.
Although the flashing may seem a bit extreme, it's all in good fun. The crowds that gather to watch never seem to get out of hand. The women feel safe enough to indulge themselves and others in some harmless fun. We spoke with one of the balcony girls several hours after seeing her exhibition and she commented, "It was great! I've always wanted to do that! I had some guy I didn't even know pimping me out, it was a crack up!" For many, flashing on Bourbon Street has become a tradition.
We had a great time in New Orleans. Although I had visited the French Quarter many times, I was traveling with friends who were new to the excitement. Because of this, I was able to rediscover the history and the craziness of the region through new eyes. For that I'm thankful.
For those who have not yet ventured back into the "friendly skies," you should know that airline travel can still be a bit of a hassle, but the airlines are doing everything within their power to insure the safety of the traveler and efficiency of service. Frequent and random baggage checks and the need for picture identification is now the norm when traveling. But that is the nature of our world today and it shouldn't stop us from living our lives. See you next time, On The Road.
Find a great place to drink and eat in New Orleans by visiting www.patobriens.com/tour.html
www.cafedumonde.com/ and www.emerils.com/restaurants/
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