Everything You (didn’t?)
Want to Know About N’awlins
Reprinted with permission from Andrew Flint
Arguably the most famous drinking street in the world, Bourbon Street is where it all happens. Bourbon Street is dead centre of the historic French Quarter.
Drinking in the street is permitted in Louisiana. Bit of a story here… originally you could only drink on public streets during in Mardi Gras but the US govt told them they couldn’t have a law that they turned a blind eye to annually. Louisiana is still not very “American” and none to happy with being told what to do, so instead of cracking down on Mardi Gras, they passed a law saying you could drink on the street all year round. My kind of town!
One of my favourite bars in the world is here in New Orleans. It’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and is in one of the oldest buildings in Louisiana. Lit only by candlelight, the place is a billowing over with atmosphere. A lone jazz pianist plays in the corner, also by candle. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the main action, but a great place to start up the evening’s alcohol events.
You can drink very cheaply on Bourbon Street because lots of street vendors of drinks don’t have the overhead of bar space. Even the places that have bar space often have really cheap drinks. I was at one place and they announce that 2am was happy hour – 3 beer for 2 dollars! Yikes! Did I mention Bourbon Street doesn’t really close?
There are a couple local drinks that, as far as I can tell, are designed to kill you. First up is the historic southern delight known as the Mint Julep which is basically bourbon, mint and ice. This is what Louisiana calls a lady’s drink (???) as it’s what the southern belles drink sitting out in the sun. The idea being you nursed it for an afternoon and as the sun melts the ice it becomes drinkable. If we do a plantation tour (see below) you should sample one.
The other drink is Bourbon Street special known as the Hurricane. Served in a huge glass its basically rum, passion fruit flavouring, rum, lime juice, rum, lemon-lime soda, and rum. With some added rum. And rum.
New Orleans is renowned for food. The locals eat out so often that the majority of the income for the restaurants is local money, not tourist dollars. So word of mouth counts, meaning no tourist traps, and bad restaurants don’t last. I know a lot of great restaurants in N’awlins. Don’t remember their names but I’m pretty sure I remember where there are and can find them again. The food is rich rich rich, smothered in sauce and spice and all manner of things bad for you.
Warning: diets are illegal in N’awlins. People on diets are not permitted to visit. If a tourist is suspected of being on a diet, that’s grounds for extradition. As one local told me, “Happy People Eat Butter!”
You also have to visit Café du Monde for beignet and coffee. What’s beignet? Well, its like deep fried dough piled high with icing sugar. Yum! At most places “an order” of beignet is like three of the damn things – roughly the equivalent of a half-dozen box of donuts. Did I mention the thing about dieting here?
Another thing you have to try is a Cajun PoBoy sandwich. This is like a sub, but piled high with every artery hardening material known to man; butter, mayonnaise, variety of sauces and deep fried shrimp, etc. These things are unbelievable good. I did mention the diet thing, right?
Just across the street from the French Quarter is a large Las Vegas style casino called Harrah’s Casino which has full gaming, including craps (as I know we have a few craps fans along).
One of the advantages of partying in New Orleans is that there is a lot to do during drinking breaks (I mean other than sleeping or drinking more). There is a great aquarium called the Aquarium of the Americas, a huge Virgin Megastore with an entire floor of local Jazz, Cajun and Blues. You can tour out a bit to see the historic plantations. You can take a swamp tour, but although it’s very stunning looking its the wrong season to see crocodiles.
A lot of people say that N’awlins isn’t safe, but the main areas have been safe for decades. Another good story… when Louisiana started cracking down on pick-pockets and muggers in the French Quarter they found that the increased number of police was cutting into the party atmosphere. So instead of cutting back again, they put even more police out but this time, all in plain clothes – party levels returned to normal!