In 2001 I paid a working visit to New Orleans to speak at a fast ferry conference and managed to arrange a few days of leisure before my engagement.
Bourbon Street, New Orleans
World famous Bourbon Street was a place of revelry – Larry Flynt’s girls strutted their stuff on the Hustler Club balcony, party goers carried their alcohol from bar to bar, voodoo souvenir shops traded until midnight and gumbo joints did a roaring trade.
Louis Armstrong’s first professional gig was playing cornet and piano in a speakeasy in the area, at the time the States’ only location for legal brothels, whilst in 2001 it was one of the few places in the States that allowed such debauchery as drinking in the street.
Fabulous music wafted from many of the bars along the street – such was the talent on show that you only had to close your eyes to imagine Carlos Santana, Gloria Estefan or John Lee Hooker.
I frequented many of the music bars, my favourite of which was the Funky Pirate. Cocktails such as the Hand Grenade & Shark Attack were great, but it was the music of Big Al Carson & The Blues Masters that was the real draw.
Described as 495 pounds of pure New Orleans Blues, Big Al perched himself on a stool and belted out fabulous numbers such as ‘Built For Comfort Not For Speed’ & ‘Take Your Drunken Ass Home’. A larger than life (& much bigger than Barry White!) character, he also engaged in plenty of banter with the females in the audience, describing himself as a love machine!
Catch a look at the incomparable Big Al here.
Jazz Museum, New Orleans
As well as Blues, N’awlins is of course synonymous with jazz.
I paid a visit and was delighted that I did. Many iconic instruments were on display including Armstrongs ‘one man band’ kit made from an old chest, an oil drum, tin cans, some sticks and a pole.
Any music fan will be enthralled and leave the place a whole lot wiser regarding the history of the Louisiana and US music scene – Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Domino, Dr John, Kermit Ruffins, Harry Connick jr and many others also hail from the city.
Mardi Gras Museum, New Orleans
Incredibly for me, I also greatly enjoyed another museum in New Orleans, the flamboyant Museum of the Mardi Gras. Filled with fabulous colourful ostentatious costumes and masks, the displays are amazing and well deserving of such a stage.
As well as all of the music influences and night time activities, there is loads more to do.
French Quarter, New Orleans
The French Quarter with its cotton plantation mansions & intricate wrought iron metalwork is a lovely area for a stroll. I tried to blank out the slavery connections – a scar on the US history as well as a whole host of other nations.
New Orleans Other
My final memory of the city was waiting to cross the street whilst the longest freight train that I had ever seen rumbled through. I must have waited twenty minutes for the level crossing gates to open. I only wish that I had a video record of the occasion.
The city beginning with the letter N that I would most like to visit that I haven’t yet? Novi Sad in Serbia.
How about you?
Look out for O tomorrow.