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Thursday, 8 March 2012

New Orleans: First Impressions

Jackson Square, New Orleans

I am sitting here on the train, wondering how I can even describe in words, my three days down in New Orleans. Even though I was only there for such a short time, I feel as though I could write about it forever. New Orleans was so much more than I could have ever imagined it to be.  Yet, behind the glitz of Bourbon Street, it was confronting to see how damaged New Orleans actually still is. I was not prepared for New Orleans, probably because I didn't know what to expect. It was mysterious, tacky, beautiful, sad and at times, a bit frightening.

At one end of the spectrum, you have a town filled with music, bright lights and '3 for 1' drinks. As one person said to me, New Orleans is just one big party. We came in the aftermath of Mardi Gras- so the mood was high in the central district. Girls were serenaded with beads and tempted with 'hurricanes' served in the biggest plastic cups that I have ever seen.

However, when you walked beyond the buzzing central streets, the mood changed significantly. There was a somber feel in the air and It was almost as though you had stepped in to a totally different country. Buildings were damaged and abandoned, the streets are filthy and there were hardly any people around. To be honest, it had a very depressing feel to it.  

One person from New Orleans that we met on our travels, talked to us about Hurricane Katrina.  He told us how the locals had all moved out of their homes in the central area and now resided on the outskirts of New Orleans leaving their houses in town abandoned. They were either too frightened or broke to return. He also informed us that the American government had half demolished several abandoned buildings in the central area- purely for the tourists. In New Orleans, I learnt what a 'hurrication' was. It is a hurricane induced holiday in which the government paid a person to leave New Orleans whilst their house was unhabitable. After Hurricane Katrina, sadly many residents  never returned.

Every time we stumbled upon a new neighbourhood in New Orleans, we were all blown away by just how different they all were. We visited the Garden District on our last day in New Orleans and we were shocked by the amount of wealth in this area compared to the back streets in the central areas.

A house in the Garden District. One of many of this size.

Still despite the gloom and doom, for the most part, New Orleans has not lost its high spirits. Music flows through the streets and the cafes and restaurants were filled with people emjoying themselves.

New Orleans was a reality check for me and a place that I will never forget. As I was told by an incredibly wise friend:

Take each step on this crazy journey and learn something. Travel is the best teacher for all areas of life. Enjoy every little part of the road you travel.  (Sylvie Taylor)
I can't wait to see what happens next as so far my trip has been inspiring and rewarding.

Right that's all folks for now. Photos of our night on the New Orleans town to come.... (be warned) and many more!


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