Saturday, May 17, 2014

New Orleans Trip Part 6 - Everything Else!

This is it! The last New Orleans trip post! You can access all of the others by clicking here if you need to catch up!

After almost three hours of wandering around the French Quarter, I was ready to sit down to relax for a while. I decided to hop on the St. Charles streetcar at Canal Street and ride it through the Garden District to check out some of the lovely houses that the area is famous for. I definitely recommend this when you hit that point in the day when you need a break from walking around. I'd estimate that I rode about half an hour out before turning back, which was the perfect amount of time for both sightseeing and getting a bit of rest before continuing my day.

I didn't even attempt to take photos since I knew they wouldn't come out well while moving, but here's a quick video I took of a few Garden District homes as seen from the streetcar! (That links to the video on my Instagram - it's refusing to embed in my blog post, sorry!) Hopefully that gives you an idea of what sightseeing via streetcar is like - you get a pretty solid view, but there's not much time to examine the details. If there's a place you want to get a better view of, you can always hop off at the next stop and then catch the next streetcar that comes along to continue your journey.

There were some repairs taking place on the streetcar tracks for most of the Garden District, so just a few stops from my hotel everyone had to get off and board a bus for the next fifteen minutes or so of the trip. When we hit the area where the tracks were open again, we all switched back to streetcar. Kind of a bummer for those who were specifically wanting to ride the streetcar for the sake of doing so, but we still got from point A to point B, so whatever.

I ended up getting off the streetcar at Audubon Park partially because it looked like a beautiful place to walk around for a few minutes (it was!) and partly because I was now pretty far away from my hotel and didn't want to end up so far away that I wouldn't get back until much later than I wanted to leave.

It's a lovely place to walk around, and it makes an especially nice mental break if you've been walking around the vibrant, crowded French Quarter. There are giant oaks, squirrels, jogging paths, sculptures, fountains, benches and ponds - basically everything you could ask for in a park. I wish that I'd had much longer to walk around, I'd love to come have a picnic and nice stroll through the park with someone on my next trip!

By now it was around 3:30 p.m. and I still hadn't heard from the hotel that I was hoping to stay at that night, so I decided to give in and start the long drive home. Funny enough, shortly after I caught the streetcar back towards my car I finally heard from the hotel that they were unable to accommodate my request for a room. D'oh! It was a little after 4 p.m. by the time I made it back to my car and picked up the bags that were being held at my hotel. Add in the 10 minutes or so that I lost due to getting turned around trying to get back on the highway (arrgh!) and guess where that put me? Yep, I was driving through most of the city right at rush hour. Arrgh! I could have easily spent an extra hour out exploring while traffic cleared up instead of creeping along at 10 mph for close to an hour. Oh well, I'll plan better next time! One cool thing to note - on the way out of town, I got a pretty good view of one of the giant cemeteries. I'd heard that they're huge, but they really are gigantic! I was happy that I at least got to see one from the road since my schedule didn't allow for a walking tour this time. (Judging from what I can tell from Google Maps, I think that I saw a combination of the Cypress Grove and Greenwood cemeteries.)

And thus ends my New Orleans adventure! I'll cover the trip home in another post!

Just a few random notes:
*As I mentioned a few times throughout my posts about this trip, it rained most of the time that I was exploring the French Quarter. This really isn't a bad section of town to be in while it's raining, since there's enough of an overhang from most of the building roofs to keep the worst of it off your head. It's also literally a mater of a few steps between each shop, bar, restaurant or other sight to see, so it's easy to dart from one to the next if the weather gets especially bad. I pretty much just put on my hoodie and made the best of it.

*As a female walking around alone in the daytime, I felt totally safe. However, I'm used to living in a large-ish city and being extra aware of what's going on around me, and I'm used to traveling alone. Yes, you'll be approached by people asking for spare change and gestured/called to by others wanting you to come into their business or come check out their wares. (I noticed the most spare change requests along Decatur Street, especially upriver of Jackson Square. Not sure why that was.) A simple "No, sorry." or "No, thanks." with a smile worked just fine for me in every situation. (It's obviously up to you if you hand out any money or not. I didn't since I was literally broke, but if I did I'd prefer to give my spare change to one of the street musicians or bands versus someone just plain asking for money. That's just me, though.)

*If you do plan to wander the city alone, I'd suggest doing a little research about which parts of town to avoid. (From what I read, the more central parts of the French Quarter seem to be the safest, with things getting a little shadier as you approach the borders at Esplanade and Rampart Street.) Like many cities, you'll find totally safe areas just a couple of blocks away from not-so-safe areas.

*Other than a couple of wandering drunks (in the early afternoon, of course) and one dude who walked past talking loudly to himself (I didn't mean to be a "bitchface", dude, that's just my face.) most of the people I encountered were great. Lots of smiles, a definite sense of humor to the city in general, very cool energy.

*If you're in fairly average shape, covering the entire French Quarter on foot most likely won't be a problem. I didn't make it up and down every single block of every street, but I'd say that I covered at least 70% in the approximately 3 hours I was able to spend there.

*There are SO MANY THINGS that I didn't get the chance to see and do on this trip that I really look forward to doing next time. I'm glad that I had this trip to kind of get my bearings and a general idea of what to expect, kind of New Orleans 101. I think that the little bit of experience I had will make my next trip ten times better.

Up next, the (thankfully shorter!) road trip home!

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