new orleans: walking in the heat and rain

Started out early, after breakfast of bagels at the hotel café. Took the streetcar to French Market, it was quite early, around 9.30am but the heat was already stifling and I was dripping. The market wasn’t very interesting, mostly stalls selling t-shirts, beads, masks and souvenirs. The Ursuline convent nearby wasn’t opened yet, so I had to be satisfied with taking pictures through the gate.

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A short walk took us to Jackson Square with the grand St Louis Cathedral holding court at one end. The inside was beautiful too, although we only spent a few minutes there. If mm were here, she would have wanted to stay for the mass at noon.

The famous Café du Monde was full of people, the queue weaved all the way around the front and side of the building. We decided against joining the queue. Walked a little bit along the riverfront and took pictures of the paddleboat Natchez, a tourist attraction. Most things in New Orleans seem to be tourist attractions.

It was around 11am and we were hot, sweaty and tired. Went inside Jax Brewery mall for a soft drink and to sit for a bit in air-conditioning. The brewery mall was uninspiring, consisting of galleries, tacky shops selling souvenirs and a foot reflexology place.

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Onwards to Royal and Bourbon Streets in the French Quarter. This is probably the most famous area in New Orleans. The architecture is amazing, houses with iron balconies and french windows. Interesting shops on Royal Street. Bourbon Street was kinda dingy and boring, the bars were either not open, in the process of opening or taking deliveries. The street looked like a seedy back alley taking deliveries with the number of lorries there. Perhaps we were there too early in the day.

Lunch was at ruby slipper café where we had eggs cochon—braised pork debris on buttermilk biscuit with poached egg topping. Very big portion, quite salty but still tasty. When we came out of the café it started to drizzle, then rain, then pour. We didn’t have umbrellas and the streets offered very little shelter so we decided to bite the bullet and run back to the hotel. Needless to say we were like drowned chicken when we returned to our room.

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Took a rest, changed clothes and packed up the dirty clothes for our afternoon outing first to the garden district then to do laundry. Normally we would have taken the St Charles streetcar, but it wasn’t working due to construction. The replacement bus travelled the same route, but was less charming. It was also very crowded. We got off at the garden district and headed towards Lafayette cemetery. It’s a small cemetery, and I had read in guidebooks to be careful when visiting cemeteries in case of muggers. Luckily there were other tourists there so we felt safe. New Orleans cemeteries are unusual in that burials are above ground so instead of headstones, there are crypts. The ones at the Lafayette cemetery were old, but some were still in use. We saw several crypts where family members who died from the 1800s to 2014 rested together.

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The houses in the garden district were definitely luxurious. Some were large plantation style houses with wraparound balconies. What I liked were on some houses, there were fans even on the balcony. Saw at an estate agent’s window that houses were in the US$1m region, which is expensive for the US, but not compared with London or Tokyo or HK. The same price as a tiny one bedroom flat gets a 4, 5 or even 6-bedroom house here.

Next destination was on another bus, to a bar called Igor’s buddha belly bar. It’s a neighbourhood dive bar that I wouldn’t want to visit too late at night. At 4pm-ish there were 2-3 other people there. The main purpose wasn’t to visit the bar, or to play pool at the tables, it was to do laundry. Yes, there were laundry facilities at the bar: 4 washing machines, 4 dryers, albeit having seen better days. Did the work though, so we were happy.

Dinner was at the food court next to the hotel. I opted for beignets, since we skipped café du monde earlier. I also got one of those big gulps of daiquiris: a flavour with mardi gras in the name and bourbon as one of the ingredients. The beignets were better than expected. I thought they’d be full of grease, but they had a nice savoury taste, once I shook all the icing sugar off. It’s actually a lot like 牛脷酥 which is served with congee. The daiquiri I can take it or leave it.

All in all, an interesting day. Very hot and very humid. Then rained heavily. Not ideal weather for walking, but that was what we did. A’s stepcounter app claimed 10km but we think it’s closer to 5-6km. We also bought a day pass for $3 which we fully utilised, between taking the streetcar and buses. I didn’t make it back to Bourbon Street at night to experience the atmosphere, hopefully I get the chance another night this week.