Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NOLA Is For Lovers … And You’ll Find Them Displaying Their Goods On Bourbon Street

If you like germs, you’ll love New Orleans!

I, on the other hand, am not so enthusiastic about those invisible microbes myself. I prefer for things to be not quite so sticky when I touch them, think having stall doors in the bathroom should not be optional, believe that being outdoors shouldn’t require plugging your nose, and foolishly, recklessly, I assume that I can just walk down the sidewalk without having to constantly leap over horse poo, vomit and murky water (which also rains down on you from above if you’re not looking up as well).

Nonetheless, without putting yourself into hotel quarantine far from the French Quarter, there’s just no avoiding those pesky, nasty little microorganisms in The Big Easy (a nickname that – based on no actual research on my part into the matter – I can only assume stems from the “easy” access one has to “easy” strippers, live sex shows and drunken ladies willing to do anything for beads – even when it’s nowhere near Fat Tuesday). So, of course, not having a very good immune system myself, I caught the Bubonic Plague (or some similar illness that was long since thought to be extinct in the rest of the world) during my visit (though I’m sure I could have potentially caught much worse if I had visited some of the aforementioned establishments). But, I also had fun. Probably enough fun to refrain from making a return visit to the bayou in the foreseeable future.

However, if I’m being honest in answering the question set forth by my last post (which ponders how authentic the “fake” versions of New Orleans replicated in the theme parks are in comparison to the real deal), the answer is – not very. And it’s mostly due to one specific problem with the theme park version of this city – it’s too clean. MUCH too clean. I mean, Disneyland’s New Orleans Square has the architecture right, but Disney isn’t about to let their customers walk through excrement, use toilets without running water and be left explaining to their children certain aspects of human anatomy they just discovered for the first time. And the little Cajun food stands set up during Universal’s Mardi Gras? While the flavor is comparable to what you find in NOLA, you can eat the theme park beignets without stifling your gag reflex from the stench that surrounds you.

While it is very fair to say that nothing compares to the real thing … the actual experience and immersion of it all … I also think that what makes the “fake” version so delightful is the ability to remove everything unsavory about the authentic version and focus solely on the best parts of Louisiana. And there are a great many good parts … and we enjoyed lots of them … in excess (as if there’s any other way to enjoy The Big Easy). And while I’m so very glad that I got to visit New Orleans and experience it myself, I think my liver and love handles will thank me if, now that I’m back home, I only indulge on hurricanes and fried po’ boys on occasion … when I’m enjoying faux Mardi Gras. And my immune system will thank me for kindly experiencing a slightly more cleansed and hosed off Disneyland version of the French Quarter. But, hey, New Orleans – thanks for the memories! I’ll be working to wash them out of my clothing and burn them off my waistline for at least the next month.

Here are some of my favorite bits from the trip (savory and not so much).
This green concoction I'm holding is called a Hand Grenade. The next morning I felt like it had exploded inside my head.
This is Anne Rice's house. She lives in NOLA ... so you know there's nothing seedy about the place.
Plus, they have beignets. I would post a photo of ME eating them, but all of those shots were just a blur of dough being shoved into a powder-covered face.
Believe it or not, we were actually there for a conference (GAR presented, not I). Here is proof that actual work took place.
They even sold his book in the conference bookstore. So proud!
Who knew we'd meet Mr. Peanut in The Big Easy? The wind swept up my hair, but his tophat stayed firmly in place.
We lucked out - Florida was playing in the Elite Eight while we were there and we got tickets to the game for a steal. Not so lucky was the fact that they lost to Butler in overtime.
I'm not sure why there's a bear in the arena since the New Orleans mascot is a hornet. But, then again, I'm wearing a beaded necklace featuring rubber duckies with teeny basketballs in their hands so who am I to judge?
Though we usually take a ghost tour when on vacation, this time we opted to look for vampires (did I mention that Anne Rice lives here?) and we saw this house - used in a scene in "Interview with the Vampire." Our guide was also very authentic - she was sporting some very real fangs.
After that we didn't feel compelled to drink blood, but we did stop off at an absinthe bar.
Our last day in town we tried to stick to the more reputable, historical sights, such as this church. I can only imagine the countless sins confessed within these walls.
And we even managed to sample some of the other types of "wares" offered on the streets in the French Quarter, thanks to a food festival that was in town.
Sure, bodies have been dumped and discarded in this river, but in the daylight it's as pretty as a postcard ... and I needed to lean against this railing to stay upright and fight the illness that was attacking me at this point in the trip.

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