Chad Myers Photograph

New Orleans, Louisiana

The first thing that comes to anyone's mind when a conversation shifts to New Orleans is the French Quarter busting at the seams with naked flesh & people wasted off various concoctions at parades & parties during the Mardi Gras celebration.  The biggest party that happens in the whole world happens right in the Southern part of Louisiana in our great country.  I'm not the greatest fan of Mardi Gras though, quite the contrary you can find all this great action any weekend during the entire year (barring poor weather of course).  I personally just prefer a scaled down version of New Orleans craziness.  If you don't mind spending tons of money & not being able to move throughout the street go to Mardi Gras; it is a great event to in which to partake.  The spring offers another event equally good, but different.  Every year some of the best jazz & blues groups descend upon the city for the New Orleans Jazz Festival.  A more mellow atmosphere with all the same things going on, the Jazz Festival offers a great time for teenagers all the way up to middle-aged folks who like to party.  In fact, New Orleans is a great place to visit for any ages.  With so much to do, it is easy to spend a week or two without running out of things to see, food to eat, or places to visit.

During the daytime, New Orleans offers the finest in shopping.  The French Quarter is dotted with various shops & boutiques offering anything from European style clothing & garments to voodoo charms & books.  You can quite simply find anything your looking for if you look hard enough.  Many great bookstores & art galleries also fill the streets giving New Orleans a very affluent feel to it.  The streets are also filled with artists of all kinds selling their wares for very reasonable prices.  It's easy to find some great piece of New Orleans culture to take back home with you as a lasting memory.  Obviously there are also many sex shops around the city.  Sex is big business in New Orleans & if you're in to something freaky your not alone in this city.  A little more low key than that is the flea market that goes on every day up by the water in the quarter.  You can spend hours looking at the jewelry & various knickknacks & bargaining with the locals.  New Orleans also sports the normal malls & shopping centers, but what fun is that.

If you get bored with shopping, take a car ride across town to the Garden District where you'll find some of the most beautiful houses in the country. New Orleans is a very cultured city filled with the remains of European, African & Spanish cultures.  The Garden District is a whole part of the city filled with nothing but Victorian houses.  I recommend parking the car & walking to truly take in all the beauty.  Very reminiscent of a time long gone it helps you get a feel for the history of the city.  The famous Vampire Chronicles writer Anne Rice has a house you can freely view in this area.

The subject of vampires brings us to the darker, seedier side to New Orleans.  You see New Orleans more than any other city in America has Voodoo roots in it that come from the slaves brought over by the Spaniards that first settled here.  From Marie Leveau to Dr. John some of the evilest voodoo practitioners of this dark art took residence in this city.  Throughout  the day & night, you can take a guided tour telling the history of voodoo in New Orleans.  You can also take a tour that explains the vampire mythology in New Orleans.  Either tour will open your eyes & knock your socks off.  Another strange thing you can view that adds to the mystery of this darker side is the above ground cemeteries.  During the early 1900's, the people of this city started burying their dead above ground because floods would come in and wash the bodies from their tombs.  There are four or five of this above ground tombs throughout the city & it almost gives you chills to view or walk through them.

When night comes along everyone who has ever heard of New Orleans knows what to do; Party!!  The French quarter is filled with bars & strip joints and great places to find food.  Many people just choose to walk the street though as beer is readily available & the cops are very lenient.  All through the night, you'll find girls flashing their breasts, bums playing guitar & singing for quarters, and some of the finest dining & music in these United States.  It is simply a great time for all.  My personal favorite bar is a place called The Funky Pirate.  The pirate is one of only two places that serve Louisiana's most potent drink, the hand grenade.  Great tasting, lime flavored & made with grain alcohol among other things, you want this drink if you are in a hurry to get blotto.  Two of these and your wasted, three and your passing out, starting a fight or throwing up.  Damn it's one great drink.  The house band in this bar is lead by blues singer Big Al Carson.  Big Al is about 400 pounds of pure loving, partying blues singer & he is good.  Him and his band play a mixture of originals & some covered favorites that get the ladies jumping & the men jamming.  There is no cover charge & the band plays for tip money so don't miss this famous drinking establishment on your next trip to the city.  I'll also share with you the best-valued eatery in the city The Country Flame.  The country flame is located on one of the side streets in the quarter so you may have to ask around for directions, but it's worth it if you are on a tight budget.  It sports a very large menu of Cuban, Mexican & Spanish food.  No it's not the highest quality, but well worth the very reasonable prices.  The inexpensive drinks make it very easy to combine two of New Orleans most recognized activities.  Since New Orleans is deep into the blues, I also recommend paying a visit to The House of Blues to see a live band or just to drink & take in the artistic atmosphere.

Of course, I have just scratched the surface of all the places to go in New Orleans.  It is one of my favorite cities in America for this reason, because you'll never get bored.  New Orleans has been hopping from the beginning of the 1900's with pirates & scoundrels, through the 40's & 50's when Jack Kerouac & Neil Cassidy visited William Burroughs on his farm out in the sticks of New Orleans on one of their immortalized road adventures.  The 60's saw another Cassidy pilgrimage as driver of Ken Kesey's merry pranksters aboard a bus called Further.  New Orleans has been a must stop for the counterculture party person for awhile now, and it still is.  If your lame then take a trip to the Carolinas or to Washington D.C., but if your out to have a good time you must stop in New Orleans.  You must visit one of Americas most cultured & entertaining cities.

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