Alive and kicking - Fri 27th Feb, 10:30am

by tosca on Saturday, February 28, 2009

Just a quick post - I'm fine =) Yes, there was a shooting on Mardi Gras and no I was nowhere near it. In fact, I didn't even hear about it until I switched the late night news. About freaked out EEP! It was up in the Garden District or Uptown. Then, just yesterday, there was an attempted kidnapping. A young man was taken from Jefferson Parish (I went through there yesterday) and was taken to a home in Algiers Point (where I was just the other day), or perhaps it was the other way around. Once again, I did not hear about until I switched on the late night news. There was also a sexual attack in Audubon Park and, once again, I was nowhere near there and am fine. Umm, the late night news seems to be where I hear everything.

MAHONY: Yo, there will be NO wake. I repeat - NO WAKE hah :-)

The ads here in America crack me up, big time. There are so many Medical Alert restaurants, there's also numerous dating ads (e-Harmony is one I can remember) and, believe it or not, Online Booty Call. I kid you not! When I get some time I'll post some links to the adverts. They're an experience and a half.

It's roughly 10:30am and in half an hour Stanley, the driver that Banana Courtyard uses (and he's SO nice and gives you heaps of info on the local spots and people of interest), will drop me off at the Amtrak station here in New Orleans. And then, about 10:00pm I will pull in to Memphis where I'll be for the next four days. So, the next time you hear from me I'll be bloggin' it up in Memphis!

Post Katrina City Tour & A Banksy - Thurs Feb 26, 4:15pm

by tosca on Friday, February 27, 2009

Today is my last full day here in New Orleans. Tomorrow I catch the train to Memphis, where I will be for 3-4 days, and then am back here again at the Banana Courtyard. I had initially planned to take a post-Katrina tour and then backed off of the idea, if only because some part of me felt it bad about making a tourist opportunity out of someone else's pain. The last 10 days have been an internal push-me-pull-you about the whole issue, then, yesterday I thought I would do it and ask how I can help. I'm not a hammer and nails kinda gal (my family are VERY aware of this and love me anyways) and was kinda fearful about what the suggestions might be as to how I can be of assistance. I'm glad to say the answer is well within my capability!

We visited various parts of New Orleans - the affluent to the not-so-affluent, the least hit (if there is such a term for a city recovering post-hurricane) and the worst hit. The images - which I've loaded into a different Flickr set, are startling, humbling, painful and heartbreaking. You have people like Brad Pitt/Steve Bing and Harry Connick Jr./Dave Matthews and Branford Marsalis and various other faith groups have given more than their money - they've given their time and their expertise in networking to help people recover. We visited Pitt (who, the operator assured us, sends his children to the local french immersion public school and lives at 451 Governor Nicholls Street and can eat in restaurants without getting hassled by people and is treated normally by locals) and Bing's 'Make It Right' suburb (is that the term for it?) with the very unusual looking homes. We also visited the Musician's Village - and the colours are amazing. If also unusual looking. I also got to see Fats Domino's home and his recording studio (situated side by side) and wow. Check out the pics to see what I mean - some of them don't have titles but that's because I probably couldn't remember exactly why I snapped it, and some of them don't have titles simply because a picture is worth a thousand words and my blabbering away would be redundant.

My head is crowded with facts, figures, statistics, images, thoughts: things like how the 17th Street Canal levee breach measured 750ft. Can you imagine that? And how people on one side of the levee had up to 14ft of water - their homes and possessions wiped out, and how people just on the other side of the levee - separated literally by a bridge and water - were untouched by flooding. How do you explain it? You can't. Really, you just can't, except to say that New Orleans is an unusual place - it's not flat at all. Some parts of it are quite low and I swear, you can literally cross the road and be higher again and keep moving and be even higher again. I suck at explaining it so maybe I should quit while I'm ahead.

We passed through St. Bernard Parish which has to be the worst hit part of all - not ONE part of this parish was untouched by water. Some parts hit as high as 28ft. I passed through, in the relative safety of a vehicle, separate from the devastation/restoration - desperately moved by the plight of the people rebuilding lives and homes but, at the end of the day, removed from it all. I can go home - this IS home. The tour guide says the best way anybody NOT from here can help is to be a tourist. Shop here - buy from here. Everytime you open your wallet your sales tax goes some way towards rebuilding the city - and that, I can definitely do!

There are a lot of photo opportunities that I let slip by for two glaringly obvious reasons (obvious at least to me): 1) I hate the thought of capitalising on anybody's misfortune and 2) the van was moving too fast. Would I have capitalised otherwise? I'd like to think not, but I can't be wholly sure. To end on an upbeat note, I saw a Banksy piece today! Just not far from where I'm staying. The tour van pulled up and I looked out the window - and about had a heartattack! So there I am gasping and gaping and stumble out of the van (yelling goodbye to the operator and to the other passengers) whilst desperately fumbling for the camera. My first Banksy =)

Mardi Gras is now officially over, Wed 25th Feb, 2:30pm

by tosca on Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ack - mardi gras is over and done with for another year. I took a quick walk down and then up Bourbon Street and couldn't breathe - faaaar too packed with people. So decided to give the midnight closing a miss. The heat! And the mess - although to look at it today you wouldn't know that last night there'd been the rowdiest party in the world going on.

Finally have got some pics posted - after a fashion. I find people's holiday pics much like wedding pics. They mean absolutely nothing except to the person who took 'em. So if I have a 101 shots of the Bourbon Street sign it's because I honestly had to keep pinching myself to double-check that I really was here/there. So, understand them or not, like them or hate them, here are my pics on Flickr! Or you can view them as a slideshow!

The reason for all of the images of the sidewalks here is because I was told that they were not made for sober people LOL That would be the truth of it. I enquired about it, with one of the tour guides, and she said most of the time it's because tree roots grow under the sidewalks so why uproot the tree? I asked if the city of New Orleans gets sued for injuries arising from the sidewalks and she said, basically, 'Is it our fault all y'all don't look where you're going?' LOL So there ya go =)

Feel free to leave comments on the photos or whatever. Am thinking of doing the Post Katrina City Tour tomorrow, and am doing the Preservation Hall tonight :-)

Mardi Gras is here! - Tues 24th Feb, 4:45pm

by tosca on Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nobody parties like the New Orleanians - they throw down! Or as one young girl told me today as we were catchin' beads, 'Nobody front like N'Awlins!' And she's right. Slept in late (no leisurely breakfast with the local B&B guests this morning) and raced through getting ready to head to Bourbon Street. Which is even MORE of a zoo today than it's ever been in the last 7 days of my stay here. I can hardly begin to describe what I've seen..but I'ma try :-)

What I Have Seen: boobs and arse - and that was before I even GOT to Bourbon Street LOL Some car slammed on their brakes as I was crossing Esplanade Ave (just around the corner) and 2 women and a man jump out, one (almost) in a bustier and hotpants, one in angel wings and a bustier and fishnet tights oh and bikini bottoms (let's not forget those, right?) and he was in a skirt and fishnet tights and a padded bra. Then I get TO Bourbon Street and there's costumes left, right and centre. Men in drag (and the most sensational costumes I have ever seen in my life), a bunch of ppl lined up facing a wall while everyone took pictures of their butts (I shit you not), people on stilts, people with fake boobs, people with real boobs, people with fake butts, people with real butts, a man striding past wearing a t-shirt that reads 'I LOVE MY PENIS' and he has on a thong LOL Then there was the guy at the bottom of Bourbon Street who flashed me while hoochie dancing to 'When the Saints go marching in.' I was admiring his teal blue cocktail dress when he started winding and grinding to the brass band that was playing and next thing WHOA full frontal and I was blinded. One man passed out at my feet - I'd like to say it was my charisma but he was three sheets to the wind. He bumped in to me, smiled (blissfully unaware) and said, 'I'd like to show you a good time - work with me, it'll only take a minute.' What a sweet talker LOL Then he keeled over and passed out LMAO So I waved a police officer over, who promptly said, 'Ma'am...what'd you do?' Huh - so he had to radio for EMS and they hauled the guy away to a tent to re-hydrate him. I'm still not sure that'll help him. His head's gonna hurt tomorrow :-) I saw an elderly woman all dressed up beautifully...with curlers in her hair LOL It was precious! Absolutely precious.

Speaking of EMS, they have tents set up all around the city to see to people's injuries. I kid you not but the main cause of injuries during Mardi Gras (other than the obvious drinking too much and passing out - as the t-shirt says 'I got Bourbon faced on Shit Street' and it's the truth) is directly related to beads! I ain't kidding - people get smacked by beads around the head, in the face, on other parts of the body. It sounds kinda funny but it bloody well hurts LOL Now as a result, I'm gun shy everytime I see a bag of beads come flying near me LOL I spend more time ducking them than catching them - although I do have about 120 beaded necklaces, now, so YAY ME. Will have some for family, friends and me =)

Spent all day at the parades - Zulu and Rex and wow. The mess at the end - mess aside though, it's great fun. The marching bands, the cheerleaders (omg I've seen a lifetime's worth of spandex, sequins, leggings, pantyhose, bustiers, flags, trombones, lame, boots with tassles to last me a lifetime). I'm sunburnt! Stood in the freakin' hot sun for ages to watch the parades go past. Picked a good couple to stand next to - she didn't want any throws (loot they chuck at you from the floats, e.g. stuffed toys, empty cups, beaded necklaces, bracelets, etc.) but for some reason she kept getting hit in the head with stuff so she'd give it all to me :-) Thank you, strange lady! Each parade is preceded by a tonne of police cars (Mobile Command vehicle, Incident Vehicle, 3 or 4 police cars, 3 or 4 Mardi Gras World pickups and sometimes even 1 or 2 tractors (in case a float breaks down, as one did the other day) - so nothing is left to chance.

Midnight tonight signals the official end of Mardi Gras so I'm going to head down about 11:15pm to get some shots of the New Orleans Mounted Police and then, when they start closing Bourbon Street down, head off to midnight mass with everyone else (drunk and sober alike). One local has said to be very careful as the police get quite pushy in an effort to shut everything down. Oh, and before you ask, this is a Catholic festival which is why it ends in mass!

Good lord, my feet are tired and my head hurts (not to mention that my nose is red as a lobster and so are my arms) but it's a good hurt. Gonna rest up for a bit until 10:30pm and then get ready to go out all over again heh :-) I heard a comment earlier today from an elderly couple, who said that they found the day costumes rather humdrum LOL They did advocate my coming back if I want my eyebrows singed and hey, what's a little eyebrows between friends, right? Right!

SONZ & LOGAN: Before you ask no I haven't yet done a Cajun Swamp tour OR the Lower 9th tour. Two reasons mostly, a lot of the locals I've talked to are still quite sensitive about what happened as a result of Hurricane Katrina. They're not partial to tourists for the sake of tourism - if people can find another way to help out, that's even better. So, I'm still in two minds about it all. I sat, yesterday, on the steps of the levee drinking my mango daiquiri and pondering whether or not I would do a tour and still haven't made up my mind. As for the swamp tour - $95 to ride an airboat? I'm all for supporting local businesses! But I'm also a cheapskate LMAO Ok, no I'm not - I'm just not sure I want to be thrown around the bayou on a swampboat/airboat thingee. Eep! Still haven't done the plantations, either, and probably won't. Mostly 'cause I'm plum tired :-)

Happy Lundi Gras, Bebe - Mon 23 Feb, 6:15pm

by tosca on Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Everyday I'm greeted by something new and today it is either: Happy Lundi Gras, bebe (Happy Fat Monday, baby), Happy Carnival or even Happy Mardi Gras. Had breakfast with some of the guests here at the Banana Courtyard - and a fantastic bunch they are! People from Canada, England and other parts of the US. Ordinarily I either get up real early and race off to explore the Vieux Carre or sleep in real late and race off to explore the Vieux Carre. If all y'all ever get the chance to stay here with Miss Mary and Mr. Hugh do take the opportunity - you get a key so you can come and go all hours and only have to think about lunch or dinner. I've become quite well acquainted with the various food kiosks/stall holders and Esplanade Mini Mart here in the Quarter.

Met a couple of gorgeous children yesterday who should be paid to talk up the tourist attractions here in New Orleans. Dayette (lil miss 'Call me Didi, everyone else does) and her little brother David ('...but ev'rybody call him David B...') talked my ear off about how fantastic life in New Orleans is and how, even though they '...don't have much money 'cause daddy's a dishwasher and money's tight since the storm, you know (Didi's words exactly), but you should come live here. You should think about it, Miss Tosca - you will like it, I know you will.' And she's right - I know I would and, late night last thing before I drift off I seriously consider it. And then first thing in the morning I wonder who the hell I'm kidding. Pack up and move across the WORLD - ne'mind the SEA - to an unknown. Unh unh!

Spent the whole day today (ok, I lie, I spent some part of it walking up and down the Riverfront sippin' on my chosen alcoholic drink of the afternoon (yeah, I choose one for morning, one for afternoon and then one for the evening to round off my day) which was a Mango Daiquiri (mango rum & ice cream yum) sitting down at the Riverfront listening to a variety of bands. Trent Sawyer band, Ed Perkins band, another band (I forget the name of but they were GREAT) and then Big Al. A lot of the stuff that the bands sang the locals all knew and everyone was shaking and shimmying and singing along. Ooh - I now know how to line dance. Next paragraph:

MY SISTERS: yeah, you know that line dance that we always see on movies featuring African Americans? THAT ONE! Some women made me get up with them and they taught me to do it and no shit, everyone got up and did it. It's like - rhythm is in-bred in these people (and by that I mean New Orleanians) 'cause god knows I got all the rhythm of a dying catfish in a tree but today I looked good LOL Oh, and you know how we joke about hoochie mama dancing? The marching bands yesterday - some of the young girls would go bouncing past and then, all of a sudden, drop and start windin' and grindin' (they pronounced it whine-ing and grine-ing). Little Dayette who was standing next to me said, 'Ooh you go to school to learn how to dance like that!' and one guy on the other side of her said, 'Unh unh, no way, you ain't going to that school!' Then some humvee in the parade would go past and all the little kids around me would drop and start poppin' and lockin' and the women/young girls would start some serious booty shaking LOL It's fantastic. One thing I noticed for real today is if you got booty - flaunt it, if you got bust - flaunt it, if you got thighs - flaunt it. In short - if you AIN'T flaunting it why the heck not?!? It's such a precious thing, it really is. Oh, and to the young guy I stood next to at the parades yesterday thanks for helping me catch beads :-)

Have just spoken with Miss Mary to book the Madame Steamboat room here at Banana Courtyard for 3rd-5th March when I come back from Memphis, so I'll be flying out from here. I plan to chase Banksy's works around the city (assuming I can remember where I saved the dratted online map to D'OH me).

Another two parades tonight but I think I'm too damn tired to see 'em. I gotta bring the nephews here they would have SUCH A HOOT (and run me broke havin' it LOL).

Beads, beads, beads! Sunday 22 Feb, 6:15pm

by tosca on Monday, February 23, 2009

It's Sunday night here in the French Quarter and I've just come back from watching 2 parades down on Canal Street. These New Orleanians damn sure know how to throw a party. Talk about hundreds - and that's only what I saw on my side of Canal Street (was standing on the corner of Burgundy and Canal Street). Just got back to my room (here at Banana Courtyard where all y'all should stay if you come here, Miss Mary and Mr. Richard take real good care of their guests) and watched a bit on the news for when the parade came down St. Charles from uptown and whoa. Heaps more ppl up there. Am about to go back and watch Bacchus, one of the locals was telling me that Val Kilmer is the King this year of the Bacchus float. Am going for more necklaces! I've got something like 40 new beaded necklaces now. And I earned 'em all by hootin' & hollerin' and jumpin' for 'em (no flashin' involved whatsoever).

Was comin' back last night and stopped in at the local Esplanade Mini Mart - now ordinarily the guy there calls me Bebe, but they had a different guy on last night, younger and, I'd say, Chicano. Very friendly and engagin and, instead of Bebe, he calls me Sweet Girl, Sweet Thang and Sweetheart. Gotta luv this place :-)

I think it'd be a bit of an anticlimactic to get to Memphis - not that I'm going to put off Graceland. Was down at the French Market yesterday and finally got to try some Crawfish Etouffee, and the day before had Gumbo at NOLA and, before I go (hopefully tomorrow) I want to try a po-boy, a muffaletta and some jumbalaya. Surely it's not a trip to New Orleans if I don't!

Eep - must be time for me to head back down to Canal (about a 15 min walk from here and very safe if I walk back along N. Rampart Street - well lit, police/troopers all over) and see Bacchus and hustle for some more beads =)

Ooh, just quickly: Ernie, the historian from the tour last night, he said (and I'm still not quite sure if he was kiddin') that the reason Louisianians are so damn friendly is the whole voodoo thing. That to hedge yer bets greet everybody and smile while you do it. Even more so if the person ain't from around here. He said, so when they say, 'How you doin' today?' it's because they really want to know, how ARE you doin' today and are you gonna curse 'em LOL

Laissez les bon temps rouler, Saturday Feb 21 9:45pm

by tosca on Sunday, February 22, 2009

Well heck - the vibe out there is TOTALLY different from last night, which is even more different than the night before again :-) Just came back from doing the Spellbound Voodoo Tour (as run by Haunted History Tours out of, mostly, Rev Zombie's Voodoo Shop down on St. Peter Street). Local historian took us in and around the Vieux Carre (French Quarter, which is roughly a 6x13 block radius) and also took us to a local shop run by a very interesting woman.

Am having such a blast out here - and when I come back again (which I plan to next year for real) next year I plan to come with a farkin' good camera - you gotta see this place to believe it and, seriously people, you may not believe it even then.

Oh, I almost got knocked in the head by beads. For all y'all who thought barin' yer boobs is de rigeur here to get beads that's such a crock! People on the balcony chuck beads for any and every reason whatsoever. I was walkin' with the tour and then I hear a voice say, 'Hey, sweet thang' and then BAM. If I'd been a couple of steps further ahead I've have gotten knocked out. The guidebooks don't write about that LOL

One gentleman on the tour said he and his wife walked all up and down Bourbon and not once did he see boobies. Should've seen his face when I told him I'd seen enough to be able to describe them intimately...and then there were the male chests.

Am runnin' through money like it's water :-) But I do have souvenirs for the family. Oohh went down to the French Market and spent faaaaar too long noseying around and the band. OMG the band! Absolutely fantastic :-)

Now I'm buggared and havin' an early night - walking all around this area tires me out something chronic hah. Tomorrow is another day, right?!?

How you doin' today...? Friday 20th Feb, 4:45pm

by tosca on Saturday, February 21, 2009

I've made a point of greeting everybody I walk past and, believe you me, that's a freakin' mission and a half in a place as busy as New Orleans seems to be right now. They all seem to reply with, 'How you doin' today?' I haven't yet met a rude person. What's with that?!? Not that I want to, I just haven't. Of course, a lot of then want to strike up conversations: in shops, in a few bars I've been in, on the ferry, waiting for the ferry, walking around Algiers, at the cornerstore dairy where I've been going for my daily fix of Coke & M&Ms, standing in queues in the oddest of places. A lot of ppl seem to take my accent as a starting point for a conversation and, this being New Orleans and the peak of their tourist season, I just go with the flow. One freaky note: on the free ferry over to Algiers? They have guards who carry rifles. I shit you not - and how did I know they were real? Because one daft tourist went up and asked if he could touch the gun D'OH Did I? Hell no! I might be born in NZ but even I know a real guy when I see one, geez, and I don't wanna touch it!

Did the Vampire tour last night and omg freaked myself out totally. Bumped into (amongst others on the same tour) a really nice couple of ladies from San Antonio, Texas who're here for the same reason as me - see as much as you can see in as little time as possible. Wandered around the area with our very knowledgeable guide and freakin' A who knew this place was such a hotbed of vampiric activity? I had an idea but it's a totally different matter to hear it. And doing the tour at night...and then having to walk back to the Banana Courtyard on my own ARGH. Was jumpin' at every shadow and footstep LOL Needless to say, the police presence here is VERY strong so walking back was not a problem at all.

Got back to the B&B and stopped for a yarn with Mr. Richard (Miss Mary is still in Mississippi atm) and the 2 Canadian couples who'd also spent the day roaming, much like me. After a few glasses of wine, some hilarious chatter, I headed for bed at oohh 1am? Something like that? I came back, after the Vampire tour, through the French Quarter to unwind after all the blood and gore chit chat (seriously, that's some freaky shit, right there) and wow - it's crazy on Bourbon Street LOL That's all I can say - I've seen enough female boobs and hairy chests to be put off FOR LIFE. Funnily enough, it was the men flashing people on the balconies for beads LOL I had one guy come up and physically start counting the beaded necklaces around my neck and then say, 'Seriously? You flashed THAT many times?' I've heard NZers are pretty laidback but we've got nothing on these New Orleanians, eh. Absolutely nothing.

Slept in late - too damn tired to get up early. Was meant to head on down to the Garden District again for a Ghost Tour (yes, I'm here for the tours AND the booze - not to bare my boobs and collect beads, and besides my beads from home are prettier) but decided to cancel it and head out to NOLA for lunch instead. The next paragraph is for Markie & Jax (nephews).

MARKHIEM & JAX: Guys! Emeril has THREE restaurants in New Orleans - Delmonico's Bar & Restaurant, Emeril's and then NOLA here in the Vieux Carre (French Quarter). They only do lunch on Fridays so I rang 'em up and made a lunch reservation. Went on down and omg their food is INCREDIBLE. I did get you a copy of their menus (the dessert/coffe menu and also the entree/mains menu). I did NOT - repeat NOT - steal it. The fabulous waiter, James, quite willingly handed them over in a paper bag. So I tipped him $20. Seriously, the service there was great and the place is so busy. I had something like 3 waiters trying checking on me throughout the whole experience. One kept topping up my drinks (which I don't remember paying for actually), one kept asking if I was ok and wanted to know what the ingredients were in each dish and the third would sort of swoop by and check I had everything I needed. When I tipped them at the end two of them made a point of coming up and thanking me personally. Whoa! Do we get service like that back home? We gotta stop eating at Burger King LOL So, I have the copies of the menus, just like you wanted, legally obtained, though :-) Only one copy of each, though!

Every shop I enter? If there's a woman behind the counter she wants to know everything about me: how old am I? Why'm I travelling on my own? So I'm single and do I want to meet her son? LOL Good grief :) I took the Canal Street Ferry on over to Algiers Pointe because I wanted to go see Mardi Gras World and I ended up on the other side of the Mississippi River like I was meant to, but not at Mardi Gras World. I got caught up in the Jazz Walk of Fame and then wandered around Algiers for a bit looking at the houses. Historical and so heartbreakingly beautiful - those pictures you see of homes here in New Orleans that're slightly run down? Row up on row like that. Wandered around and took some photos - beautiful place.

Stopped at Rouses, which is a local supermarket on St. Peters to top up on shampoo & toothpaste (the essentials, eh), and a couple of New Yorkers in front of me got into a verbal tussle with a couple of locals. Talk about uncomfortable. I looked everywhere (up at the ceiling, down at the floor, sideways at the shelves) and tried not to see it going on. It had the tiniest aisles ever but I suspect for all other parts of the year it's not that bad. The lady behind the checkout counter (should've seen her nails they were FABULOUSLY covered in glittery sequins and things), when ppl complained, said to ppl, 'All y'all want an express lane? Then come back on Wednesday when Mardi Gras over and everyone else go home.' Everyone stopped complaining LOL Gotta luv the attitude!

Popped back down to Jackson Square and watched a brass band busking - this place is a musical dream. It pumps out of every bar - I've heard rock, pop, zydeco, alternative, heavy metal, jazz of various styles, both live and pre-recorded. Not just the bars play their music loud but the shops, too. There're so many of these little Mardi Gras shops they sell all the touristy type stuff (that I'm such a sucker for) beads, shot glasses, mugs, t-shirts, masks, feather boas etc. and they play their music just as loud as the bars. Bourbon Street is this fusion of crap I can't even explain it. So I won't LOL Anyways, was down at Jackson Square, near the St. Louis Cathedral, and the band was awesome. People were dancing away in the square. I want to take a carriage ride of the French Quarter but prob won't be a good time until after Tuesday when it calms down a bit.

Have stopped in at the postal shop where I've been using their internet access daily and they know me by name, now. That's kinda freaky - but great service. Am about to head back to the B&B to get changed and come back down for the New Orleans Ghost Tour. Yes, another night where I've voluntarily paid to be scared shitless, but it's ghosts! And I'm Maori, I can't resist a ghost story - that's my story and I'm sticking to it :-)

JAX: I DID get your beads but they're not covered in vomit (how I'm gonna explain that to Customs anyways who the hell knows). Was walking up Bourbon St last night with a margarita and some guy came racing up and said he'd give me the beads if I'd be in a picture with him - how can you say not to that? I didn't, and so you have beads. Anyways, the vomit thing? Is kinda hard, New Orleans is very quick with the clean up crews here. As fast as mess is made it's cleaned up again. Gawd, I'm tired and I needa get changed.

Missing home - but not enough to cut my trip short :-)

New Orleans - Day 2 (Thurs Feb 19, 2009 - 5:21pm-ish)

by tosca on Friday, February 20, 2009

Well, I'm totally shattered. I walk all around South Auckland (mostly because I didn't get my license until my late 20s bah humbug) and never really felt it but today - whoa. My feet are dead tired. Wandered on down to Bourbon Street at about 8:30am and bars were open and people were drinking. Now, whether or not they were coming down off a drunk from the night before, or getting their mood on before the start of the day who knows LOL Went to Cafe Beignet at 311 Bourbon Street for breakfast - cafe au lait and beignets. A small cafe au lait is $2.69 and it cost the same for 3 beignets. I was told they were like doughnuts with icing sugar sprinkled on but to me? They were damn fried bread LOL My mama could've been making a mint years ago LOL Yum, though =) The music playing there was fantastic.

After breakfast I played 'tourist' (me and a billion other people here roaming into those mardi gras shops that pump out zydeco or jazz and have atms - I shit you not - almost every 3rd of 4th shop has an atm) and picked up some souvenirs for the siblings/mum/dad/nephews. I'm sure I'm going to be broke before I ever get to Memphis LOL I am kidding mum/dad so don't panic!

Took a walking tour of the St. Louis Cemetery Number 1 up on/near Basin Street. As I passed under the Basin Street sign (and yes, I took a photo, I know I know, I'm such a hick) I thought of the lyrics, 'Basin's the street...where the black and the white folk meet...' Were they talkin' about the cemetery? I dunno. Ooh - saw Marie Laveau's tomb and no, I did NOT mark her tomb with 3 Xs. Local story has it that if you make a wish, mark her tomb with 3 Xs and leave an offering you come back when your wish comes true and circle your Xs. There were NO Xs circled. D'OH. Throughout the whole tour, and the history was absolutely riveting, I couldn't help but compare it with the way NZers (both Maori and non-Maori) mourn their dead. One of the things our guide (Renee) told us was that nobody is allowed to film movies inside the St. Louis Cemetery anymore, and the reason for that is because of the movie Easy Rider. Dad, I know you own it and have seen it recently, but go back and watch the cemetery scene where they're trippin' on acid and sitting on the lap of the Italia lady above the tomb - I was there this afternoon and according to the guide they weren't acting being off their face - they really were LOL Due to that scene, and the feeling that it was a desecration, no more filming in there ever. Films like Interview With A Vampire etc. were filmed at Lafayette Cemetery down in the Garden District, which belongs to the City of New Orleans as a whole.

Then walked down to the Garden District area. It kinda reminds me of the Thorndon area in Wellington. All of the homes (or most of them, anyway) are mansions and they're immense. Some amazingly beautiful architecture - the likes of which are probably in NZ (except maybe the antebellum stuff lol) and I will never have noticed. I saw Anne Rice's house, which she sold when she left New Orleans and is now owned by Nicolas Cage, only it's up for sale now for something like $2M. Also saw what used to be an old church that Anne Rice purchased - if you've read her autobiography you'll know what I'm talking about. I also saw the house where the Benjamin Button film was shot. I also saw John Goodman's house and uhh believe it or not but as we were standing outside it he came on down the driveway to get the mail outta his mailbox. How weird is that?? And, can I say, how normal? This place is so rich in history - there's just no way to cover it in the short 10 days I'll be here - I have a sneaky suspicion I'll never really get outta the French Quarter/Garden District, and I'm perfectly fine with that ;) I walked back (I know, crazy, I'll never do THAT again) via Magazine Street and the place is crazy because most of the traffic has been re-routed for one of the parades tonight. I saw a lot of the bleachers being put up and people, at about 3:30pm, were already lining up in the middle of the road (there's a grass strip with trees so it's quite wide) to get their spot to see the parade when it begins. I didn't stay for that - I wanted to come back and catch up on emails.

Did wander down by the Riverfront again and decided not to pause there. I'm learning to avoid the people who hang out in doorways and open spaces with paper bags. Most revellers around here will drink out of plastic cups but then there are the ones with paper bags and hmm at home, they'd be the kinda homeless/stoned ones roaming around. Not so sure they ARE homeless/stoned here but they're certainly boozed up. Thought it would be nice to wander around Jackson Square as well but huh more paper bag/booze drinkers and nowhere to sit that I wouldn't get hassled. I've noticed that people call me sweetheart and baby girl when I'm at shop/kiosk counters. Am assuming it's generic. Did not get mistaken for a mexican today but DID get mistaken for an Australian aboriginal. The Garden District tour guide, Carla, was great - qualified historian so I had a great chat with her as we were walking around. She said initially she thought I was Hawaiian until I opened my mouth and spoke. Then she thought I was Australian aboriginal as our accents are the same (pfft *sniffs* ok). Then when I said I was Maori (had to spell it, pronounce it again) then she expressed surprise that I was so brown LOL Should've seen her face when I said this was actually quite fair in our family and that, years ago, it wasn't unusual to find us much darker. She said that because she'd heard so many people comment that it was cold she took that to mean we would all be pale LOL She said she was going to look up info about Maori when she got home. I have also learnt TONNES about the Napoleonic Code and how it pertains to Louisiana, and why the place is so unique and how come the people are so practical :-) Oh, and did you know Degas lived here? And is NOT very highly thought of! But that's a story for another time and believe you me, Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless have NOTHING on this place for family drama!!!

In about 2 and a half hours I have to be under the St. Louis Cathedral clock (but facing Jackson Square) to meet my next tour guide who's going to be taking a group of us on a Vampire tour. Yeah, I honestly paid $20 to be scared outta my freaking mind. What's worse is, I probably paid $20 bucks to pee my pants LOL Speaking of (and no I didn't, by the way), my introduction to New Orleans was via the airport on my arrival. I used the ladies bathroom (yeah, they're called bathrooms or facilities here) - uhh banos de las damas? is that right? - anyway, I had just shut the cubicle door when I heard Fats Domino singing 'Walkin' to New Orleans.' No jokes! They take their music seriously here :-) Oh god, I'm so tired - I can't belive I've gotta do this all over again tomorrow LOL I think I had about 4 hrs sleep, right. I'm staying at the Banana Courtyard (which used to be a bordello and OH if the walls could talk, eh) and it's near the I10 (a motorway, I'm guessing) and it's busy all day and all night long. Then, about 11pm, I decided to use the phonebook to see how close certain places were that I wanted to see (i.e. in the French Quarter or outside). Then got lost looking up restaurants (priorities, right?). Then got lost looking up electronic stores (yeah, I know, totally anal). About 12:50am I suddenly decided to re-organise my wallet by separting $1 bills from everything else. Turns out I had 19 of the little suckers! Then about 1:36am (I remember because I was lookin' at the damn clock at the time) I suddenly realised I should be looking for tattoo parlours under Tattooing D'OH. New Orleans doesn't have a whole heap, I'm sad to say - was going to be my own memento of this place. Ne'mind - will have to be a hangover instead :-)

Ok, I'm sure I've bored everyone stupid and cross-eyed by this point. If my feet are up to it I'll probably post again tomorrow night but uhh perhaps not. You can feel, no shit, the what's the word? Vibe! You can feel the vibe changing. It's so different here on Bourbon Street compared to last night. There's an expectant sort of feeling in the air - the revellers are out but apparently this is quite mild compared to how it'll be from tomorrow on. One of the guides told me to be on Bourbon Street at midnight on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) itself. Apparently the police (and there is a STRONG police presence here during the festivities) line up on horses and, at bang on midnight, when the St. Louis Cathedral clock starts ringing, everyone is rounded up off the street. You can go into the bars or what have you, but not be out in the street. Most people, drunk an all, head down to midnight mass - which I guess is where I'll head, too. I'm expecting it to be quite a sight :-)

MARKHIEM & JAXIN: I saw Emeril's Demonico Bar and Restaurant and thought of you both :-) One of the guides I spoke with said that they very probably will gladly hand over a copy of their menu.

Have bought a crap load of postcards so they'll be on their way soonish (once I find where a damn postal service office is). Au revoir!

The Big Easy - New Orleans :-)

by tosca on Thursday, February 19, 2009

Well, we're not in Kansas anymore! OMG what can I say? Contrary to what I've heard from travellers, Americans are actually really REALLY friendly! But I suppose sitting next to them on a plane for 11 hrs has that Stockholm Syndrome kinda feeling to it. Oh and at the baggage claim at LAX, after having come through Customs, I bumped into an old neighbourhood friend. In fact, he lives about 5 mins walk away. Funny story, I bumped into his older brother in Dunedin while I was bumming around a few years back. So - go Takanini :-)

All's I saw of Dallas, I'm sad to say, was the damn airport lounge. Ooh, I did get to take the Skylink - which is this fantastic tram thing up in the sky and it goes WHOOSH. I had no idea where the hell I was going so just followed the signs (and Paul Brown, if you're reading this, that whole retail layout that you tell me about - NZ could learn a thing or two from the signs at American airports) and ended up somewhere on an upper level catching a tram. Struck up a conversation with a lovely family waiting and the father was nice enough to respond when I said, 'Uhh...what the heck is this?' I did NOT, I repeat, did NOT, get to meet a cowboy in the Dallas airport who said, 'Howdy, ma'am' while tipping his hat to me AND wearing cowboy boots, a cowboy hat and big belt buckle :-) Maybe next time.

People keep mistaking me for being Mexican - which is nice. Have had a few at the airports (LAX and Dallas and New Orleans) ask me for directions in Spanish. Hah! They look a bit blank when I start speaking. Everywhere I've gone today people keep telling my accent is beautiful. Oh, and a few have said they liked my beads and want to know where they can get some. The sad truth of it is - I bought all of my plastic beaded necklaces from New Zealand with me on this trip. YES I know I can buy beads here for about $2 but I don't want THOSE ones - I want my own. Admittedly, I had to leave behind some shoes to do it - so I only have 2 pair for a 3 week trip. I'm sure I can buy jandals, geez.

Oh AND I got my palm read and sat for a tarot card reading here on Bourbon Street (which is where I'm updating my blog from atm) - Hey, it's New Orleans - if you can't ever get it done here then where CAN you get it done?? Scarily enough the guy was spot on, right down to my dad having diabetes and a whole host of other stuff (which I'll tell my sisters/mum about when I get back home and no doubt they'll agree with him). One thing he told me, in between calling me 'Bebe', was that I have only ever had one serious relationship and it wasn't worth the time of day, and that in about 9 months I was going to meet a NZer (which probably means a hori boy from Te Kuiti knowing my luck LOL) and, within 3 yrs of meeting him, get married. The order of children would be son, daughter, son. I was not impressed with the marriage/kids thing LOL And when I told him so he simply said, 'Bebe, I tell you but it doesn't have to be that way.' So there! Oh god, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this place. Although I am tired and a tad bit hungry after roaming the French Quarter all day. And who knew you could get drunk on $11?

The weather here is about the same back home - 17 degrees (although the day I left it was 30 at home) only a tad bit more humid. I am literally within about 3 mins walking distance of Bourbon Street which is a deceptive place when you enter it from the top like I did. It looks like nothing on earth I've ever seen before, although apparently that's normal for New Orleans LOL Walked all over the Vieux Carre - and was lucky enough to hear a jazz brass band busking down by Jackson Square. I also visited the Aquarium of the Americas and saw the whitest alligator ever, as well as an anaconda. I also went to the iMax theatre next to the Aquarium and watched 'Hurricane on the Bayou' which was a fascinating look at how come Hurricane Katrina tore parts of Louisiana apart. According to Tab Benoit (Cajun musician and conservationist) the levees are a both a godsend and a curse. They stop the natural soil from rebuilding the wetlands, and that leads to the trees not growing back - and the trees are vital in slowing down or lessening the force of a hurricane. I'm not a meteorologist so most of it went whoosh over my head but what I did get was fantastic.

And the alchohol! OMG I shit you not - there are these neon lit bars all up and down Vieux Carre and you simply pop in and you can order a margarita, a pina colada or any other sort of cocktail or daiquiri. I asked for a large (boy was that a stupid idea) and my eyes about popped out of my head. I managed to walk all up and down Decatur with his GI-NORMOUS cup of Hurricane (for $11) in the open with police walkin' past saying, 'Hi ma'am' and not get arrested. You get in trouble if it's a bottle so it can only be a plastic cup. How civilised is that? LOL

RONGZ: you would love it here - every other man and his dog drives a truck. And I'm not talking some pissy little toyota (sorry, dad, who's a toyota freak). Oh no, ma'am, I'm talking Dodge Ram here, and a Chevy Blazer there and umpteen F150s. To prove it I've taken a shot or two of a carpark by the French Market (down near Decatur by the Woldenberg Riverfront Park) and I counted at least, AT LEAST, 15 trucks. Will post is when I can get a hold of a gosh darn usb cord (which is probably at home doh). One thing I need to do soon-ish is get a hold of an American AC adapter. My Blackberry's a goer but even she's starting to wind down a bit.

JAX: we have got to come here together - you can booze it up in the middle of the street and rock on home. Admittedly only at Mardi Gras but still! I overheard a young girl sayin' to the guy she was sittin' with, 'Y'all know I'm crazy! He shouldn't a done it - ya heard?' I also heard one of the guys with the carriage rides yellin' out to someone on a balcony, 'Where y'at, cher?'

HEMZ: trucks, mate. It's all trucks here although I've seen enough Mustangs to sink a battle ship :-)

Forgot to say, everyone here has a story about Katrina - some of it enlightening and some of it absolutely heartbreaking. The devastation we saw, back home in NZ from the safety of our homes on the other side of the world, here it's a living, breathing, everyday reminder of quickly life can change. People are quite optimistic maybe despite it, perhaps in spite of it. Wow.

To everyone (friends/family) back in NZ: Not wishing I was there and glad you're not here LOL

Naku noa na,
- catatonichataholic =)

I'm leavin' on a jet plane...

by tosca on Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Whoa - D-Day is here and I'm flying out relatively soon-ish! And it still hasn't quite sunk in yet. Prob will when I either a) puke on the passenger sitting next to me or b) lose my luggage somewhere over an ocean (pick any ocean...any ocean) or c) have to sit and cool my heels at LAX for 5 hours. The itinerary will probably be of no interest to anyone except my family - but this way they know where I am for most of my time away :-) The parade times are optimistic - while I may not be able to see every parade am damn sure gonna try! Am just realising how totally anal I am to have times listed as well LOL although by Memphis I figure I'll just play it by ear and appear where I can when I can - although Elvis is at the top of my list, as is Sun Studio and the National Civil Rights Museum =)

February 17th - February 27th : New Orleans, Louisiana
February 19th, 2009
10:00am - Cemetery History Tour, Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop
13:00pm - Garden District Tour, Pontchartrain Hotel
20:30pm - Vampire Tour, St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square

February 20th, 2009 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY RONGZ =)
12:00pm - The Joint (brunch)
3:30pm - Garden District Ghost Tour, Pontchartrain Hotel
20:00pm - New Orleans Ghost Tour, Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop

February 21st, 2009
10:45am - NOMTOC parade, Westbank
11:00am - Iris parade, Uptown
12:00pm - Tucks parade, Uptown
16:15pm - Endymion Parade, Mid-City
16:30pm - Isis parade, Metairie
19:30pm - Spellbound Voodoo Tour, Reverend Zombie's Voodoo Shop
23:55pm - Rebirth Brass Band & Papa Grows Funk, Howlin' Wolf

February 22nd, 2009
11:00am - Okeanos parade, Uptown
11:45am - Mid-City parade, Uptown
12:00pm - Thoth parade, Uptown
17:15pm - Bacchus parade, Uptown
17:30pm - Napoleon parade, Uptown
22:00pm - 3rd Annual Bacchus Blowout, Tipitina's

February 23rd, 2009
10:00am - Audubon Zoo
17:15pm - Proteus parade, Uptown
18:00pm - Orpheus parade, Uptown (Harry Connick Sr. & Harry Connick Jr.'s float)
18:30pm - Zeus parade, Metairia
22:00pm - Galactic & Big Chief Monk Boudreaux & The Golden Eagles, Tipitina's

February 24th, 2009
08:00am - Zulu parade, Uptown
10:00am - Rex parade, Uptown
12:00pm - Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
17:00pm - Vaughan's Lounge (jazz bar)

February 25th, 2009
10:00am - Audubon Insectarium
20:00pm - Preservation Hall Jazz Men (feat. Dwayne Burns), Preservation Hall

February 26th, 2009
09:30am - Cajun Swamp Tour
12:30pm - Laura, Oak Alley Plantation Tour
17:00pm - The Krazy Korner (jazz bar)
19:30pm - Maison Bourbon

February 27th - March 3rd : Memphis, Tennessee
National Civil Rights Museum
Sun Studio
Stax Museum of American Soul
Memphis Zoo
Mud Island River Park

March 3rd - March 5th
Chasing Banksy's graffiti art around New Orleans
Dinner at Emeril's New Orleans Restaurant (because my nephews are Emeril fans and they and my sister have asked me to bring home a menu - not sure how I'm going to con staff into giving me a menu sheesh).

Arrive home Saturday 7th March and back to work as usual Monday 9th March.