Exploring The Big Easy (New Orleans)
Unlike it’s name would suggest, I didn’t find it all that easy being in the Big Easy.
Have you ever booked a trip to a place just because everyone else was talking about how good it was, so it made you want to see it too?
Well that’s what I did with New Orleans, the Big Easy.
Where did the name Big Easy come from? Apparently some gossip columnist used the term to compare New Orleans easy life to New York City (Big Apple life).
Anyway, I’d heard such wonderful reviews about the Big Easy and decided I HAD to come here. I knew it was jazz city, I knew it had great food and a vibrant culture, and was quite different to anywhere else in the states.
But that’s all I really knew.
I’d also heard stories of the darker side of New Orleans but figured I’d be pretty safe as long as I didn’t venture out of the touristy side of town.
Before coming here I booked a tour to visit the swamplands and some historic plantations so I was also looking forward to that as the history of those times has always fascinated me (not that I agree with what was done back then, but I do like to be educated about it) but aside from that I didn’t really know what else to do.
I arrived at 12pm on Thursday, my hotel room wasn’t ready yet but I had a few webcasts to be on so I sat in the lobby and caught up on those then decided to go explore a bit while I waited for my room. I was meeting my tour group the next day so the hotel was one booked by G Adventures and not as close to the city centre as I would’ve liked.
The only other thing I really knew about the Big Easy was to visit Bourbon Street and the French Quarter so that’s where I decided to go.
The ladies at the front desk said the French Quarter wasn’t really walking distance but I had time to kill so I decided to do it anyway. As soon as I started my little venture I wasn’t feeling too great about the decision, it wasn’t actually a long walk but the streets were quiet and the few people I did come by made me feel uneasy. I stuck at it though and made it to the area unscathed.
To my displeasure Bourbon Street was not at all what I expected, I suppose it serves me right for not doing my research, but I got there and was totally shocked. It was a very seedy place lined with strip clubs and bars plus the street was crawling with drunk people and it was only 2pm, they were stumbling around and yelling and it just wasn’t my kind of scene, especially not when I was a female on my own.
I was starving so I ducked into the nearest place I could find, Willie’s Chicken, which boasted to have ‘chicken so good you will slap your mama’. It was just deep fried, crispy chicken, and I’ve had far better from KFC. Being in the south I really expected better.
Feeling completely disappointed I decided to just call it a day and head back to my hotel.
Turns out if I had just walked a few more blocks I would’ve ended up at Jackson Square and the River District which was the nice area I imagined. And if I had been super prepared I could’ve seen some free jazz shows as it was a Jazz Fest weekend. I guess my Big Easy experience just wasn’t meant to be a good one. Lesson learnt – do better research before visiting big cities.
At least my room was ready when I got back to the hotel and I had a productive afternoon getting my work and washing done.
And it wasn’t all bad. I’m so happy I booked a tour for the following day because that was a great experience.
We started with a morning boat ride on the swamp, our guide was great value and gave us so much valuable information about the Creole history, alligator hunting, swamp wildlife etc. He even let me touch an alligator which, I’ve gotta admit, was a pretty cool experience.
Watch the video below….I didn’t even scream!
From swamplands to plantation life, we headed to one of the old plantations, Oak Alley, where our first point of business was lunch. I finally got to try some good old southern grub, it was good, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing back for more. Something about the flavours just didn’t sit right with me, but the bread pudding dessert was a winner!
We then got a guided tour of the Oak Alley plantation – the grounds were absolutely beautiful and the guides were great but I must admit I was slightly disappointed with this as well. Firstly because a lot of the original furniture and buildings were gone and had been replaced with replicas, secondly they totally skipped over the history of slavery and just told us about the family that lived there. If you wanted to know more about the slave history, they had replica houses built on the grounds to show the sort of housing they were kept in and they had a few informative boards and one room with all the names of the slaves that had worked on this plantation, but I don’t think it was nearly enough to truly get their story across. Another thing that struck me was how small the home actually was, the grounds were massive, but the actual home wasn’t nearly as big as I expected it to be.
The next plantation was much better if you are interested in learning about the history of the slaves, and if you want a dramatic family story as well. This one was the Laura Plantation (formerly known as the Duparc Plantation), I loved it’s Creole style, and this one was still mostly in original condition which I really liked as well. I highly recommend a visit if you have any interest in this part of history.
Once I got back to the hotel I met my tour group and then headed to my room for an early night (well actually I wanted to do more work). All in all I don’t think I had enough time in New Orleans to fully appreciate what it has to offer, but I’m also not so sure it’s a place I’ll be rushing back to. I’m sure it has a lot of charm and I can see why people would love it, but I’m still left feeling a bit uneasy about the Big Easy.
Today we’re heading on to Austin (on a 10 hour drive – the first of many long days on a bus) so I’m super excited and love that I have internet to blog while we’re on the road.
P.S. If you like what you’ve read feel free to like, comment, or share. Your time reading my post is greatly appreciated. 🙂