New Orleans, New Orleans. How much fun can one city be? This was my first time to New Orleans and I have to say it was as exciting as everyone said it would be. Even the drive in had a little something different going on, replacing the normal scenery of road stretching through grasslands and forest with a stilted highway cutting through marshlands. I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I thought it was really cool. I’ve driven over plenty of bridges and crossed over big bodies of water, but this was just miles upon miles upon miles of elevated marshland runs and after spending most of the previous two days in my car seeing the same old sights, it was a welcome change of pace.
Then you finally get into New Orleans and the fun begins. I met up with two friends-of-friends who showed me around their charming neighborhood where people stop to say hello and actually get to know each other (a pretty shocking difference from other big cities). We walked to a local bar and I had a local drink that I actually liked—this doesn’t sound like a major accomplishment, but if you speak to my friends about how few drinks I like you’d understand—and then we went walking to one of the many parks and caught a beautiful sunset. Much like my pleasant experience in Oxford, Mississippi, I found New Orleans to be undeniably jovial, friendly, and, of course, blazingly gorgeous.
My expectations of cities were completely subverted in New Orleans. Like many Americans, I think of New York as the prototypical city—where everybody keeps to themselves and tries to outdo one another with money or status or knowledge or what have you while dominating the nature around them in favor of some new giant building. New Orleans carries none of that arrogance. There are people of all occupations, all predilections milling about the city streets, worried not about where they rank and what they have (or don’t have), but instead looking for the next person/restaurant/bar/club/random band marching down the street that will show them some fun and give them some good conversation. I don’t have the patience or the desire to deal with these big city power struggles, so New Orleans is the exact kind of city that I want to live in.
But, you know, New Orleans isn’t perfect. Katrina was a long time ago, but not long enough for the city to have fully recovered. There are still areas that display the horrible damage that was done and there are still sketchy regions that are best not traveled through on foot. So your options are a car or public transit. And, unfortunately, New Orleans public transit leaves a lot to be desired. There are some buses, but I didn’t see all too many while I was there. There is the St. Charles streetcar which is pretty historic and cool, but it only runs down St. Charles and doesn’t even do that all too fast. But there is another side to this. New Orleans is one of the few cities I went to where driving was actually a reasonable option. There’s parking available throughout most of the city and the streets aren’t overly crowded most of the day, so it won’t cost you twice as much in gas that it gains you in time.
The one thing that worries me about this wonderful city is that it is just so far South. I went before summer hit (around the end of May) and even then the heat was beginning to swelter and kick me around. Another two months and I can’t really imagine wanting to step outside of the air conditioning. Still, it’s a pretty awesome place to be and probably the best spring/fall location you could ever imagine.