“You have a civic duty to go out” say billboards around New Orleans. And, as good citizens, they all obey.

I feel as if the rapture has taken and transported me up to my idea of nirvana. We have found the fountain of youth; we sleep late in the morning, relax during the days oppressing heat, eat, then dance and sing to the worlds’ best music.

I’ve been to many places in the world and thought to myself, yep I could live here, but this is totally different. This city gets a hold of you like no other. And it’s so hard to define the feeling. Which is why there are so many songs written about the place. Like any good musical, when words are not enough, one must sing.

Ten days was not long enough, so we are coming back for a few more days before the long trip home.

New Orleans is a Mecca for tourists, even the ones who are not into food, music, architecture, history or culture.

We stayed in a little boutique hotel in the French Quarter called Inn on St Annes, in a tiny little street a few blocks from the mighty Mississippi River. The most beautiful little houses painted bright colours, similar to those I’ve seen in Spain and France. This area of Louisiana was pioneered by the French, aristocracy and pirates, then the Spanish and then the influx of the tragedy that was the slave trade from Africa. Even with the horrors of Katrina, this city is still magnificent.

The tours of the plantations really bring home to you the abomination that was slavery. “Laura” plantation was a Creole property. Creole is a name given to the French speaking American born. In order to own property in New Orleans, you had to be a Catholic and speak French. That wasn’t changed until Louisiana become a state after the civil war.

“Oak Alley” plantation has the most magnificent avenue of 300 year old spreading oaks leading to the house. Yes, I tried to take a photo, although I seem to have managed to make the trees look like spindly little twigs.

Cemeteries are everywhere within the city boundaries, all above ground crypts and tightly packed together. They are so much a haven for the locals who practice Voodoo that many cemeteries can only be viewed with a certified guide. Have learnt lots about Voodoo; it is a monotheist religion meaning ‘worship of one god’. Sure, they have a few odd practices, but really, don’t they all?! So no scarier than the usual ones.

The food in New Orleans is fabulous and appalling at the same time. Loved the fried chicken, gumbo, craw fish (little yabbies) and jambalya. Grits a big fat no. Portion size a joke…..more on that later.

You would have all heard of Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. A street without the sleaze of Bangla Road Phuket, but pretty much aimed at the same market. It’s not where the locals go. but you need to see it once. But nothing prepares you for the smell!! It’s the stench of a million split beers, oohh I’ve missed the urinal and that lingering odour of a poor decision again……

Many years ago they had a festival here called ‘white linen night’, where all the ladies and gentleman donned their finest white linen and caroused Royal Street in the French Quarter to see fabulous art and be seen. Some locals thought this was a little too pretentious, so decided the following week to have a ‘dirty linen night’. So, on the 1st Saturday of August, every man, woman and his dog wears a red dress. That’s right, red dresses as far as the eye can see. Big macho, hairy, tattooed bikies, old men, young women, animals, etc all wear red dresses. It was wonderful.

I’ll send this off now and will need to write about all the music and people we have met in my next post. One big regret for me is I have never learnt to touch type, so this takes me so much longer than it should.