I was excited to reach New Orleans for multiple reasons; It’s New Orleans, it was my first time in a hostel and I had a list of recommended places to visit from my father and people that I’ve encountered that are from Nola.
As I pulled into town, my first stop was to check into theIndia House Hostel which is located on Canal and South Lopez Street. It was a series of houses that were purchased shortly after Katrina and converted into a hostel. The atmosphere was fantastically eclectic and welcoming. After check-in, I joined other travelers in the common area located outside. Other guests were already playing drinking games and pre-gaming for a night on the town. As we got to know one another, we started planning our adventure for the evening. “We should go down to Frenchmen Street again” said one of the travelers. When I asked what Frenchmen Street was all about, I was told that it is more of a local music scene and more relaxed than Bourbon Street. They were speaking my language.
To give some perspective on New Orleans, Canal Street is a main vein that is perpendicular with Bourbon Street. To get to Frenchmen Street from the hostel, you can take the cable car down to Bourbon Street and walk down past the residential part until you hit Kerlerec Street. Make a right, then a left on Royal Street and you’ll run into Frenchmen Street.
The first night out, we had a cocktail of nationalities. There was an Aussie, two Israelis, an Irishman, a Hollander and three Americans (including myself). I was pleasantly surprised in the amount of camaraderie we all shared almost immediately. From the second we stepped onto the cable car, through each bar we visited and to the point we returned home, everyone was looking out for one another making sure we knew if people wanted to go to another bar or their thoughts on the current one. It was an amazing experience.
The next morning, the two Israelis, Ran and Eric, and I planned to go on a swamp tour that had a shuttle that picked people up from the hostel. I had a few hours before the next shuttle came, so I decided to grab an early lunch at a restaurant my dad recommended called Mother’s. I ordered the Turkey Ferdi with “debris”, which is the New Orleans word for all the roast beef that falls into the gravy while baking in the oven. It was a great start to my day and set an awesome base for the tour to come.
When the shuttle arrived at the hostel, about nine of us actually got in and were eager to see some gators. The shuttle took us to a larger bus in the French Quarter where the swamp tour’s city headquarters was located. On the shuttle to and from the hostel, I sat next to an Irishman named Vinny who I got to know over the combined hour and a half drive. He was on a trip similar to mine, but was traveling by train instead of car. The swamp tour itself was bittersweet and I still can’t tell if I agree with the whole operation or not. On one hand, I enjoyed the scenery, history and comedy provided by the tour guide and on the other I disliked the way they fed the gators in order to bring them near the boat. The gators were becoming domesticated and that’s when you end up with gators in peoples yards looking for a yummy dog to gobble up. Either way, it was nice to learn a little about the history of the swamp and it’s people.
That night, I was wanting to find some delicious New Orleans style food so Ran, Eric and I used another suggestion from the list of places to go and went to a place called Cafe Maspero. We decided to order family style and split a bowl of gumbo, a bowl of french onion soup and three types of Po Boys (crawfish, shrimp and roast beef). The best dish was hands down gumbo.
We returned to the hostel to meet back up with Vinny and a few others for another night on the town. This time it was Vinny, Ran, Eric, the Aussie and a Frenchman we had met the night before. I talked to the Frenchman, Frederick, on the ride down the Bourbon Street while on the street car. He had never been to New Orleans and decided to celebrate his 40th birthday there, meeting people from the hostel along the way. As I walked down Bourbon Street, a conversation started between myself and the Aussie, James, as he began telling me about Australia and how they recently had, in his opinion, an awful political shift. He blamed it on the fact that it’s required to vote in Australia and if a citizen neglects to, they must pay a fine. That was an interesting tidbit of information I was unaware of, but pleased to learn as it made me think of how America promotes voting, but gives us a choice to. We made our way to the usual spots on Frenchmen Street, calledThe Spotted Cat and d.b.a, to listen to some good ol’ dirty Nola jazz. I decided to call it an “early” night and headed back to the hostel at about midnight to prepare for my trip the next day.
The next morning, before leaving town, I stopped by the famous Cafe Du Monde for their delicious beignets and coffee before making my way to Houston, Texas, of course saving one of the beignets for my CouchSurfinghost.
Turkey Ferdi w/ Debris from Mother’s Restaurant
Swamp Tour by Cajun Encounters
Shrimp, Crawfish and Roast Beef Po Boys at Cafe Maspero
Tyler Goelz will be writing about his experiences in each city and posting them periodically. For a full listing of the cities he visited, check out this link: http://www.tylergoelz.com/trip/2013/america/