Not even scratching the surface: New Orleans LA

I guess I picked the wrong place for some downtime.

This town is a non-stop party. It was a party in the taxi that picked me up at the station, a party in the hostel the moment I walked in (on a Tuesday evening). A party in the streets at noon as I wandered the tourist quarters, and parties all over the listings pages of the local rag.

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If, like me, you are a tourist in New Orleans for just a couple of days, you wouldn’t necessarily notice the signs that just ten years ago, the worst hurrcane in recent US history had torn through the city, destroying homes and bringing fatal flooding in its wake. (I recommend reading former NOLA resident Angeliska’s heartfelt writing on losing her home and community.)

More than 1100 people were killed as a result of Katrina, entire neighbourhoods were completely destroyed, and the city is still being rebuilt. Driving round the non-touristy areas it’s easier to notice homes that haven’t yet been recovered, or maybe never will. Yet the central neighbourhoods are alive and kicking, bursting with tourists and treasures, food and cocktails, good times and colour and all that magical music.

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A chance encounter in a coffee shop meant that after a day of wandering in the new spring sunshine, I ended up on a tiny sailboat, cruising into the sunset over Lake Pontchetraine – a huge ‘inland sea’, fed by various rivers and a saline canal from the Gulf of Mexico. There I drank rum and ginger with local tour guides and city planners who warned of how quickly the coastal areas around NOLA would be eaten up by erosion.

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There is so much to see and do in this city, but I came to chill. On Thursday, while it thundered and rained and lighteninged, I curled up with my laptop, answered emails, read my favourite blogs and was decidedly antisocial. Despite my hangover I could feel myself finally coming back to me. Later, I ventured out in the sunshine-after-the-rain to explore nearby cemeteries and the Katrina memorial.

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I’ve only been on the road for three weeks, but in this time I’ve rarely been alone – except when on board a Greyhound (which is a whole different kind of alone.) That rainy Thursday, that wet cemetery walk, that aimless meander through a residential, non-tourist neighbourhoods, that anonymous late night coffee-shop where I sat for hours doing…nothing much, was the day I finally felt that I was actually still me…despite the changes I’m going through right now.

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This kind of transience is superficial by nature – I won’t get beneath the surface of any place I stop for three nights – but this trip isn’t about getting under ‘America’s’ skin. It’s about freedom and happenstance and tarot and connections and the kindness of strangers and simply seeing what happens.

Where exactly I am in all of this remains to be seen, but I got a little glimmer yesterday.


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One comment

  1. Leah says:

    Ah I missed this post with all of my own life’s craziness!! SO glad you got to see this city, even if only for a couple of days. It is unique and amazing!! :o)

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