The Riverside Hilton is right on the Mississippi and I spent most of my afternoon wandering up and down it’s muddy banks to watch both paddle boats and people. It’s evident that New Orleans is rich in culture and steeped in history. Within walking distance of my hotel is a station where little trolleys pick up tourists and transport them to and from historical parts of town; little old fashioned trolleys like something you would see in the 1920s or perhaps earlier (think of the Rice-a-Roni trolley). I took one of these to Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.
True to most Southern U.S. states, the sun isn’t quite out in the city but somehow temperatures are amazingly hot. People are mulling around, trying to stay cool and my poor Canadian acclimatized body is sweating like crazy as I wander around the streets looking at gads of interesting stuff. Stores are full of costumes, Mardi Gras masks, trinkets and voodoo paraphernalia like good luck charms, curses, dried and shrunken heads, dried animals, and crosses. I can’t imagine what it’s like on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, it must be completely insane as people jam into the tiny little streets.
While wandering it didn’t take me long to get a good sense of where it is safe to wander and where it is not. If you stay in the boundaries of the French Quarter and in around Bourbon Street then you shouldn’t run into too many issues. However, if you start wandering into other darker areas, in amongst back alleys, and partially hidden streets then be cautious. New Orleans can be a dark and dodgy place.
The French Quarter is like eye candy. There are so many eye popping sights and unique buildings. On Bourbon Street you can find jazz pubs, little restaurants, hotels and unique shops. The French Quarter also has more than its share of little nooks and crannies where people sit, have a drink, and get out of the sun. Drinking on the streets on New Orleans is allowed and encouraged. However, if you leave an establishment your drink must be in a plastic cup and most alcohol vendors will gladly supply one as you exit their building.
After exploring the French Quarter I walked back towards the hotel along the banks of the Mississippi and watched iconic Dixieland paddle boats and their live Dixie bands playing on the top deck, interesting memorials and lots of people!