As I spend the majority of the year travelling on board cruise ships (and writing for a living), I thought it was about time I put my experiences ashore down on paper. For my first travel blog post, I’m going to give you a snapshot of one of our most recent stops across the pond…
As the sun set in a cloudless sky, and we slowly sailed past the bright lights of New Orleans, I reflected on two days of independent exploration in the most unpretentious of American cities.
I opened my curtains the day before to the clearest blue sky, with the sun beaming down on us. I couldn’t wait to step ashore and explore this city that I knew very little about.
Berthed close to the city centre, it was a mere fifteen-minute walk to the famous French Quarter, located to the east of New Orleans. Its eclectic street musicians, quirky boutique shops and lively bars were a complete contrast to the rest of the city. I felt like I was stepping back in time, transported to an era with beautiful European inspired architecture, laced with intricate wrought iron balconies and wooden shutters.
During my walk I ambled through the streets, rounding each corner to discover something new. I weaved my way through the crowded areas of Jackson Square and Royal Street to the quieter side streets that felt relatively untouched by tourists. The air was thick with tantalising aromas, wafting through from nearby restaurants and candy stores. I was eager to try traditional New Orleans fare, and settled on the delicious Muffuletta (a sandwich filled with cold meat, cheese and olives). I also sampled the city’s native beignets, made famous by the oldest café in New Orleans – Café du Monde.
No visit to the French Quarter would be complete without a walk along Bourbon Street. Stretching thirteen blocks, this street is made up of countless bars, clubs and restaurants that draw in tourists and locals daily. In this area you can walk along the street with an alcoholic drink, legally. This is great if you just want to pop your head in to different bars along the way, sampling the wide variety of jazz, rock and karaoke music on offer.
With my exploration of the French Quarter complete, I decided to take a sightseeing tour of the city on the second day. The open top bus trip took in every major aspect of the city, including the famous Superdome, where residents congregated in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
After working our way through the Central Business and Arts areas, we arrived at the Garden District. Pretty, traditional wooden mansions lined its streets, with floor to ceiling windows and pastel coloured facades. This felt a world away from the French Quarter (and much less busy). Even Magazine Street, famed for its six miles of shopping, had a quieter, more laid back feel. A few weeks ago, this area would have taken centre stage in Mardi Gras, the city’s annual festival which takes place each February. You can still see the colourful beads hanging from the trees, where they will remain because they are rarely taken down.
I concluded my second day in this fascinating city with a walk around the main shopping district, Canal Street. With its High Street stores, shopping malls and sky-rise hotels, this is the place to go for a bit of retail therapy. I walked back to the ship along the Mississippi River, past the famous paddle steamers and the contemporary looking aquarium, back to my temporary home ready for the next adventure ashore.
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