Friday, February 5, 2010

New Orleans 'Inside-Out'



You thought maybe I was kidding bout the Who Dat?' chips? The fleur de lis is my latest, New Orleans inspired, bead.

OK, any of you who have been paying attention know that I nearly never talk about my personal life here. But when life and beads cross paths, anything's fair game! I grew up in New Orleans a long time ago. I actually lived there for over 20 years, and in many ways still think of it as home. I have no family there, and have lost touch with friends, so I see N.O. like a regular tourist these days- staying in hotels, eating out, etc. Here are a few of my 'inside-out' tips for any of you who may feel inclined to visit.

The first, and most important issue to discuss is food and water. First is the water issue. I brought my own, and would advise that or buying it there as the best policy. Why? Well, New Orleans gets its drinking water from the muddy Mississippi River. 'Nuf said!
Before I go any further, just let me say- I hate spending money to eat out. Yes, the food in New Orleans is wonderful. But you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy it. You can hang out in the quarter, go to the big name restaurants, and spend your inheritance there. Or you can eat beignets and cafe au lait at the Cafe du Monde for breakfast, eat lunch in the CBD across Canal Street from the Quarter, and eat dinner at one of the restaurants in the River Bend area- a short streetcar ride away. And the food is great all over!

And yes, they're streetcars, not trolleys. The drivers are like local tour guides, and seem delighted with this. Many of them announce things along the route, and they're happy to answer questions. And to the ridiculous question 'do you have to have exact change?' Have you ever been on public transportation that gives you change??? Actually the streetcar drivers are so used to the tourists that they've got a couple of plans in case you forget your change. You can just go ahead and pay $5 and get a pass that's good for the rest of the day. Or, there's something I call community payment. If you get on with a five, and only want to pay one way, the next three people to enter will give their money to you rather than the driver!

While you're in the Riverbend area, be sure to visit some of the local shops on Dublin Street (like Nuance Glass, which now has a few of my things), and on Maple Street- like the Maple Street Book Store. Do you really want your souvenir of New Orleans to be made in China? There are many shops in the French Quarter, the River Bend, Magazine St. and all over town that sell wonderful local art and crafts. And there are monthly art and craft fairs in different areas of town most weekends. Get the newspaper to see the when and where of these.
If you're driving, be sure to stop at the tourist info place at the border and pick up some hotel coupons. Though many of the hotels will charge you more than the coupons say, they will still get you a bit of a discount. The place where I stayed had a coupon which included free parking- that alone is worth about $30 a day! If you can leave your car at home, do. You won't need it, or even want to drive it around the city. The streets are a mess, the traffic's bad, and you need to watch out for those pesky streetcars if you are foolish enough to try and drive on St. Charles. Driving down Royal or Bourbon streets during the times they are open is just plain foolish. The pedestrians are in the street whether it's closed off or not. Speaking of pedestrians, if you're trying to cross Canal or any of the downtown streets on foot, be careful! I'm not going to tell you how to do it, but there is an art to it, as there is to so much in the Big Easy.

OK, I'm about done, I guess. My bag of Zapp's 'Who Dat?' chips is , sadly, empty. And I can't think of any other advice right now!

2 comments:

CreekHiker said...

Laurie, I didn't know you lived there!!! I grew up in McComb and spent my summers there with my married sister and her brothers-in-law, who were my age. Ponchartrain, the zoo, the quarter... Remember the lady on Bourbon street who sat on a swing in lingerie??? She would swing out over the crowd... OH!

glassbead, isinglass design said...

Holly, wish she was still there! Oh yeah, I remember that- we used to take the relatives down to Bourbon Street as a family. The first time I went I was probably 7 years old!
Oh my poor mangled mind!