The first thing to say about New Orleans is that it is an amazing city with a lot of fascinating history crammed into a short 300 odd years. The second thing is that it is an expensive city, so be prepared for that if you ever go for a visit.
There are so many things to do in the city and so many tours that we didn’t know where to start. I grabbed all of the tourist info flyers that I could and we opted for a hop on hop off bus tour first, as this did us well in New York and helped us to get our bearings around the city. Once we knew where we were going the good old traditional street cars became our favourite method of transport around the city.
The tour guides in New Orleans really are top notch. All of the ones that we experienced had lived in the city all of their lives and talked you through the history with real passion and experience, they truly love their city.
We learnt a lot about Creole heritage and food, which in its simplest is the term to desrcibe the descendents of the Spanish and French. In all honesty I can’t say we were huge fans of the local cuisine, but each to their own, we still managed to cram plenty of it in – of course.
We also covered off most of the tours to be done: French Quarter saints and sinners, Voodoo and cemetery, paddle steam boat and battle of New Orleans and lastly a swamp and plantation tour.
Our favourite by far was the swamp and plantation tour with Cajun Pride, you really got your money’s worth on this trip. The swamp tour lasted around two hours and took a slow ride around a private swamp. This didn’t make the animals any less wild, it just reduced the number of tourist boats that had access. After seeing only one alligator in Miami we weren’t too sure what to expect but we were not disappointed! We must have seen 20+ alligators, plenty of raccoons and a handful of turtles as well. To top it off, the tour guide was a great, eccentric character with years of experience in the swamps hunting and killing alligators (ethically and legally), who had eaten what must be every type of animal you can find in wild New Orleans (including swamp rats)!
The plantation tour that followed was just as amazing and insightful. We visited the Laura Plantation which had access to original memoirs written by one of the ancestral residents, and so was able to provide the most historically accurate tour New Orleans. The history of slavery was respectfully explored and discussed by a passionate and knowledgeable tour guide, who left us in a sense of awe and silent wonder at how the world once..and still does deal in the horrific trade of human beings.
The history tour of Voodoo and the cemeterys was also great. The portrayal of Voodoo was factual rather than the fantastical Hollywood version and it was interesting to get a better understanding of the strong ties to Catholicism. The cemeterys are of course a must see on any visit to New Orleans with their trademark above ground burials and tombs. I would recommend the best way to see these is with some kind of a tour guide whether it be live, audio or book, as otherwise you’ll never fully understand the significance behind a lot of the traditions. Their ‘burial’ method allows for many bodies to be buried in a single tomb, interestingly there were even 60+ remains thought to be in some, not that you’d know it from the outside.
Without a doubt New Orleans has been our favourite stop so far with all of it’s fascinating history and culture and we’ve been left with plenty of fond memories to take with us.
P.s. im fairly certain that the Air BnB that we stayed in was haunted..probably the only thing to have hampered the trip given that I got no sleep with the many haunting noises and this creepy view in front of the bed every night – even in the dark – you don’t want to know what was at the top of those little stairs!