If it’s not on your bucket list add it now. I’ll admit that before I went to New Orleans, I was reluctant to go, and the only reason I ended up there is because my travel companion insisted on going. But I’ve never been so grateful. It was one of my favourite places in America, and I urge anyone travelling to America to head to New Orleans while you’re there.
The magic of New Orleans starts before you even reach town. We drove into town from the north and before you even reach New Orleans the highway turns into a massive bridge through the surrounding swampland, which goes on for at least half an hour. Every few seconds our car had crossed over the joins in the road and “tha-thunk” we were onto the next part, so that when we went to bed that night we were still “tha-thunking” in our beds just like when you’ve been out on a boat all day.
By the time we reached New Orleans we had been in America for about four weeks so I thought I’d become a pro at driving in America, I’d driven all across the country, dealt with Los Angeles and its famous traffic jams, been pulled over for speeding in Kansas, driven through a freak storm on Route 66 that had most people pulling over and nearly been run of the road by some crazy Canadians in Vancouver, all while driving on what for me, was the wrong side of the road. I was ready for anything America could throw at me. And then I met the drivers of New Orleans. They could really learn a thing or two about the laid back, courteous driving of the rest of the country. I was already doing about 15 miles over the speed limit as I came into town and yet everyone was speeding past me rather angrily as if I was doing 15 under! And when we tried to go out that night our GPS got very angry when we couldn’t follow her directions due to a large group of people just dancing in the middle of the street. But these things are part of what make New Orleans so special.
New Orleans has so much to offer that you really need to spend a decent amount of time here. We only had one full day and were forced to sacrifice some of the things we wanted to do because we just simply didn’t have enough time. The first day we wanted to see the famous swamps of New Orleans and had booked a trip on an airboat. We drove to the address we had been given getting there bang on time only to discover that the airboats actually left from a different location about fifteen minutes’ drive away and that we would never get there in time. But this actually turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to us. They got us booked on the next group leaving an hour and a half later and due to giving us the wrong address let us going on the “nanna boat” leaving from where we already were.
When deciding on which boat trip to do, we had initially overlooked what we called the “nanna boat” because we wanted the more exciting airboat, but the slow boat was actually amazing and I would definitely recommend doing both. This boat took us through what was now a national park, and gave us the opportunity to see abandoned sets from horror movies as well as the alligators we had so desperately hoped to see. They even had a baby on board for everyone to hold and an old turtle shell and an alligator skull that made for some great photo opportunities.
Once we got back to shore we headed off to go on our airboat ride. Whilst we had an amazing time, the other people on our boat were a bit boring and didn’t like our driver going too fast and really didn’t appreciate it when he came to a roaring halt in the middle of the river splashing water across the entire boat. His response “what are you doing on a boat, in the middle of a river, if you don’t want to get wet!?” Couldn’t have said it better myself. That guy really was amazing. He was Americas answer to Steve Erwin. At one point he jumped out of the boat to catch us a baby alligator and gave us marshmallows to feed to the bigger ones. Apparently they are attracted to white. Who knew? And being on a smaller boat meant we could go much deeper into the waterway than the bigger boat had allowed.
Next up was Oak Alley Plantation. We only had time to visit one plantation so we opted for the biggest and fanciest looking one and Oak Alley didn’t disappoint. Again it provided for some great photo opportunities and every hour there are tours that take you through the house where you can learn about the history of the plantation. Most of the original furniture and decorations remain, so you really get a sense of what life was like when the slave trade was booming and plantations were a huge industry. When you’re not touring the main house you’re free to wander around the grounds and see where everyone else was forced to life and the fields that they were forced to work.
That night we headed out to Bourbon Street to see what all the fuss is about, despite being warned by the locals that it wasn’t worth it and to check out some other bars instead. They did have a point, but it was our first time in New Orleans and we wanted to be the cheesy tourists ticking off our list of things to see and do. If you do decide to head to Bourbon Street my one word of advice is don’t take a car. We were driving around for about an hour trying to find somewhere to park, so find another way to get there if you aren’t staying nearby.
The next day we were off for Texas and didn’t have time to do anything else. I had really wanted to take a ride one of the famous paddle boats but that will just have to wait for next time.