While I am what most people would consider extremely well-traveled as far as the US is concerned, there are a few very important places and cities that I've never visited. Up until this last weekend, one of those cities was New Orleans, Louisiana. That was a bit of a tragedy, because as much as I love roots music and soul food, you'd think that I would have been there, at least for a brief visit, a long time ago.
Luckily, that tragedy has been corrected, and now I am able to give you my official review of New Orleans.
One thing that nobody tells you about New Orleans is that it is a fairly logically laid out city that's extremely walk-able and has very affordable public transportation. No joke, you can get a day pass for their trolley and bus network for only $3. That's less than the cost of a gallon of gas, and you can go pretty much anywhere in the city that you'd like. Sometimes the trolleys don't work so well though, and the bus was super late one time, so I'm taking a point off for that.
The old buildings are also gorgeous, especially in the Garden District. Even the library is gorgeous. Have you ever wanted to wander around the property that a library is on just so you could take pictures of it? In New Orleans, you would. Some of the prettiest buildings aren't well maintained though, which is sad. Another point off for that.
Also, our hotel lobby had a mural with fake balconies that had fake people on them. It was weird and awesome.
Unfortunately, once you get past the fact that there are a lot of really cool things to see, you realize that New Orleans is basically a third world country. Roads? When you're in New Orleans, they apparently don't need roads. Half of them were shut down to a single lane, with giant holes either being dug or repaired. I'm not really sure. I do know, however, that if you drive anything other than a serious SUV down those streets, you'll have trouble getting around. Needless to say, there were a lot of Range Rovers to be seen. Sure, most owners probably only took them on-road, but in New Orleans, on-road and off-road are basically the same thing, and if you aren't careful, you'll end up in a car-sized sinkhole.
This gorgeous Bentley? It was there for a wedding, but I don't know how it expected not to get ruined.
Also, it's oppressively hot. Like, having to be outside in New Orleans during the day should be considered some sort of human rights violation. After all, it's not just that it's hot. It's also 95% humidity the entire day, so even if the true temperature is only 90* F, you still feel like you're in a sauna, and you start to wonder about the danger to your internal organs. You might literally get cooked alive if you stay out too long.
Finally, while we were out one night, there was a 9 person shooting only a block or two away from where we were. At least in Chicago, if you stay out of the South Side, you're probably safe from getting shot. Apparently in New Orleans, people just walk into tourist areas and start shooting other people.
Oh yes, there be gators, and I'm not talking about the illustrious graduates of the University of Florida. If you go to New Orleans, you expect to see alligators, and let me tell you, there are plenty of them. They are giant and enormous and apparently love marshmallows.
I now know that I look like a marshmallow too, because one of them tried to eat me. Like, legitimately tried to take a bite out of my face. I am now absolutely terrified of the water in Louisiana, and I refuse to swim anywhere in the state. Even pools might not be safe from the ridiculous dinosaur-monsters that prowl their state.
On the one hand, I didn't see any ghosts. On the other hand, I saw a sign that advertised a house as being both for sale and not haunted. If realtors have to deal with hauntings on enough of a regular basis that they place signs on un-haunted houses to identify them as such, haunting buildings in New Orleans must be pretty good business for a ghost.
Soul Food: 9/10
Apparently New Orleans is known for its Italian food too, but you can't fool me. I know they'll fry everything if you go to the right place. How do I know that? I ordered a seafood platter and received every type of seafood imaginable, all fried the same color. It was delicious, but it caused great GI distress later in the day. Maybe I should have taken more points off for the subsequent GI distress, but if you're eating a plate of fried seafood, you probably know what you're getting yourself into.
Ultimately, your New Orleans experience comes down to what you want out of it. You could stay in a very expensive hotel, only eat the best food at the best restaurants, take air conditioned taxis everywhere, and spend more in a week than most NOLA residents make in a year. On the other hand, if you're frugal, you can still get a great experience for a surprisingly low amount of money. Sure, you might get shot on Bourbon Street, but you can also get two jello shots on Bourbon Street for $5. I call that a toss up.
Really though, part of what makes trips worthwhile is how memorable they are. Sure, the entire city can be described as "sticky," but you'll certainly remember your trip to New Orleans (assuming you don't get lost in the swamp and eaten by a gator).