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My New Love :: NOLA

By Nick H-J

This post is a bit late… I attribute this to the fact that it has taken some soul searching for me to be able to admit the following statement.  Those of you who know how fervently I love Durham will be shocked to hear this, but there is a new love in my life when it comes to American cities… New Orleans.

I’m not sure if it is the beautiful architecture that surrounds you there or the irresistible laid back attitude that first lured me in.  I can not deny, however, that now, after spending a week there, I have a less than secret desire to steal away from Durham in the night and elope with New Orleans.  This was my first trip to ‘NOLA’, as it is sometimes written.  I can only imagine what it was like before Katrina.  The houses and buildings are incredible.  On nearly every corner there are ornate architectural details that most cities are lucky to have on ten percent of their buildings.  I must admit it may have been that the area we were staying (Esplanade between City Park and The French Quarter), was unusually laden with character.  Our friends, Grant and Erin, showed us a great time.  We walked all over the place looking at the sights.  We sat for hours on the front porch playing music and sipping bourbon.  We went out to the Jean Lafitte National Wildlife Preserve and hiked out into the swamp.  We walked through City Park, which is mind numbingly huge.  City Park lost over 2,000 live oaks in Katrina and is still the largest collection of old growth live oaks in the world.  We were run off as we tried to bring Domino into the sculpture garden by the museum, so we peered in through the fence and were quite impressed with the garden.  The park not only has a museum, it includes; a track (complete with stands), tennis and b-ball courts, ball fields, and amusement park, picknik areas, forest, field, ponds… it’s huge.

The streets of New Orleans are shaded by beautiful, overhanging live oaks covered in Spanish moss and the people are as friendly as you could ask for.  There are people fishing in the Bayous. (Louisiana-ese for creek/river), and ponds in the parks and sipping beers.  You are free to walk around with your beer or liquor (as long as its not in glass).  It seems that the people there have decided that there are some important things in life, and puritanism doesn’t make their list.

In terms of things to do, there are more than twice as many interesting things going on during any day than even a super hero could keep up with (though Grant’s 70-something year old neighbor Chris comes close to doing it all).  Leaving Grant’s house and not seeing something like a food/music/pirate/whatever festival would be like you leaving your house through the front door and not seeing your front yard.  I love this place.  Grant took me out to a little bar called Mimi’s in the Marigny (located at 2601 Royal St) that is a typical neighborhood corner bar. We saw Gal Holiday who was stunningly talented.  She just set up with her band — drums, guitar, upright base and a fiddle/banjo player — and put on an outstanding old time/rack-a-billy-esk show.  We hung out with Curly (her fiddler) a bit afterwards since Grant knows him.  What makes this incredible is that was a Wednesday night, and not an unusual one.  There was lots of good music including a weekly picking circle we played in at The Hi-Ho Lounge and much, much more.  You can hardly set out any night of the week to see some good music and come up short.

We walked around the French Quarter and saw the river and the levies. It was as I expected – quite touristy, but fun in a ‘once in a  while’ kind of way.  More than anything though, what I loved about New Orleans was that you would really have to be set on being miserable to not enjoy life there.  Maybe it has something to do with living in a place that isn’t assured it’s safety from the surrounding water, or maybe it’s the perfect mix of left over French jua de vive and american down-to-earth-ness. Whatever it is, it stole my heart.  This is a place I will be back to, for sure, sooner rather than later.

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One Comment

  1. I wish I got to see you while you were here. Come back, stay awhile longer, and I’ll be glad to show you around some more.

    Ted informed me about your journey and this site, and both my wife and I are supremely envious. Be safe out there, and have a great time.

    1. Josh Eaton on April 22nd, 2009 at 6:29 am

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