The Rhythm of my Heart & Soul took it easy in BIG Easy!

New Orleans

Nola is one of the few nicknames for New Orleans, but in my heart and soul, this place will always be the birthplace of Jazz music.  New Orleans is a city with distinct diversity – from its exquisite cuisines to the tourists coming from all over the world.  New Orleans has been one of the must see cities in my bucket list.

Aboard on US 3225, I finally arrived in New Orleans from DC at 10.22 am on Wednesday 15 December.  It was 16ºC and apparently the fall season of the city as evident by the trees’ brilliant colors of purple, brown, and orange.

Like most airports, shuttle services are available. Tickets can be purchased at the airport for $38 for a two-way trip. By buying a return shuttle ticket, you will save $2.

French Quarter was my first point of entry;  the place is just a stone away from my hotel, the Courtyard Marriott Downtown. The hotel prides its newly renovated lobby.  It is 20 minutes by shuttle from the airport. Aside from the touristy & bustling Bourbon Street, other streets nearby have a lot more to offer.  A walk through Decatur Street is more interesting and vibrant especially towards the lower end as you hit the Jackson Square.


If you plan to explore more of the city, you have the option of taking a horse carriage ride and end the day trip with an afternoon delight treat at the Café Du Monde to enjoy some live music over a cup of tea and a couple of scrumptious donuts.  After my tea treat, I realized there’s more to explore in the city so I decided to have a stroll towards the recently renovated French Market and do some grocery shopping for healthier food selections and a variety of fresh produce.  For $7.95 I got myself a nice organic chicken with mixed green salad.

On my way back, I went via Royal Street which links over Canal Street then onto St Charles Ave where my hotel is located.  Royal Street presents an array of beautiful antique shops, several restaurants/cafes and of course the historic and beautiful Hotel Monteleone.  Canal Street separates the American side and French Quarter.

Thursday, 16 December, is another gorgeous warm day. I started my day with a brunch at Mike Serio’s PO-Boys and Deli, located just across the hotel where I stayed. Here, I tried ‘Muffaletta’ (a sandwich made with Italian meats, cheeses and special olive salad).  New Orleans is the home for this delectable sandwich.  And if you are a sports fanatic, this deli is the place to go as it features a variety of sports memorabilia.  Do not expect a fabulous service, though, it is a deli after all.

The Front desk was kind enough to arrange my tour of the city with the Lousiana Swamp Tour Company for $44. The tour provides you with a 3-hour full insight of the history of the old and new New Orleans. Our excellent tour guide, took us on a grand tour via a comfortable air conditioned Mini-bus.

Being the only person seated in front, I had the freedom to move from one side to another to take some great snap shots whilst the minibus trudged along and as I follow the tour guide’s numerous introductory descriptions of; ‘to your right… to your left…’ Driving through the business district, I saw the numbers of hotels, hospitals, stores, and buildings still closed and/or have not been rebuilt post Katrina.  The tour through the Garden District illustrates the brighter side of the city of New Orleans where you see homes of some famous Hollywood celebrities like Sandra Bullock, Nicholas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, etc. There are also the distinctive houses that have been used in the movies, and beautiful mansions housed by few famous historians.  And to top it all, I was so amazed to see the historic Garden District Victorian mansions and huge homes and driveways.
St Louis Cemetery, one of 40 cemeteries, was one of the interesting sights we visited. It took us 15-minutes to explore the place.  The tombs were primarily built with high columns and angels on top.  Then slowly, we drove towards the City Park where we stopped for a 20-minute drink and snack break at Parkview Café.  The break gave me an opportunity to walk around the park garden and see the magnificent oak trees.  The park is popular all year-round as it hosts great selections of activities, like ‘Storyland’ for kids and family.
The options are endless!

I am so proud of how the people of New Orleans recovered from the Katrina disaster in 2005.  In five years, they have slowly rebuilt the city.  But going through the Lower 9th Ward, the area where Hurricane Katrina swept thousands of lives away and destroyed billions worth of properties, I can still feel the pain and suffering that the city residents have experienced.  We can go back and see the past, but we can’t change it.  However, we can certainly change the future and make it right this time around.  Brad Pitt’s project “Make it Right” is the present survival kit that allowed hope to shine once more in the hearts of the lower 9th ward resident’s.  Slowly but surely, New Orleans will recover and live again.

We then headed towards French Quarter on our way back to the hotel.  It was already dusking and the moonlight slowly transforms the city of New Orleans to another form of beauty and charm.  French Quarter reminds me of Havana as I observe the colors, balconies, and side streets, and yes St Kilda in Melbourne for the diversity of people, and you’d really want to come here for the relaxed atmosphere and perfect for the laid-back vibe it exudes
If you want to hear the history and culture of New Orleans, doing the guided tour is your ticket.

The true heart and soul of the city still lingers on, despite what Katrina has brought to the city, as the jazz and blues music fills and travels the city air.  Until now, the New Orleans music scene remains vibrant and lively and this is a testament to the resilient spirit of its people.

Following the cousins get together in DC, the intention of taking it easy was fulfilled in BIG easy!

From the other side of the world, here’s a wish for a fantastic, BIG but EASY 2011!

© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.

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