|One can often see more of New Orleans in the blink of an eye or casual glance than in all of the photographs, television exposes or movies every shown.|
Hidden in plain view, bundling out of flower pots or cool, shaded courtyard gardens behind little wrought iron doors with tiny windows in the middle of them, she is a city of living metaphor, and as such, must be handled with care.
In this city, neither Cliche’ nor Metaphor will honor what they seem in life nor what you would wish of them in death. There is so much here to see, hear, taste and feel. But one must allow the Lady to serve. While necessity may be the Mother of Invention, and camouflage the Art of Survival, New Orleans is a Sashay of Masques.
Even knocked flat on her ass after our Exquisite Corps left her for dead, this lovely city has them all beat for culture and surprise. Did I say "she"? "Her"? Oh yes, I definitely speak of Her, a Scorpio Woman at that!
Respect her thusly, check expectations at the door...
--and bring comfortable walking shoes.
Due in large part to the city's layout, her placement along several curves of the Mississippi river, New Orleans is shaped like several half-wheels, with streets splayed and crashing together at complex yet interesting intersections, like twisted spokes and broken axles. Yet as one travels away from the river they spread to the edges of the other wheels, merging into equally strange angles.
I know of only a few square neighborhoods, the Quarters being the more famous--though even within its tight confines of only 13 by 7 blocks people still manage to lose their place. But then again, that is why many come to this city, to lose their place and perchance find a new one. It is a great city for reinvention, redirection and restoration. The three "Rs".
With no straight or parallel lines, and no level sidewalks,
New Orleans is not a square city at all.
She is a complex, curvaceous and clever beauty.
This is of course one of the things I love about her.
So, amongst the many methods of orientation one should leave at home when visiting here is any normal sense of direction. This is a truly sensual city, but "direction" is not one of them. Don't get stuck on "normal". Leave normal at home, with your car keys if you can. Just forget them both. I have often met completely sober visitors, normal people, absolutely at a loss as to where they parked their cars--in the middle of the day!
If one can afford to drive here (HA!) then park the damn thing. This is just not a very good town for cars. One does not get away with "making the block" here. Try that and you will get lost every time--even on foot! No. It is best to use the public transit, bikes, or cabs, so you can look about while traveling around from courtyard gardens to cemeteries to art galleries and artists markets to music venues, or entire "music streets" like Frenchman Street where there are at least six or seven really great local live music bars in just the first couple of blocks. And of course restaurants.
Cliche as it may sound, one of my favorite ways still to see the city, or just get around, is on any of the street cars. We do not call them "Trolleys". It was a Street Car Named Desire.
The St Charles line runs from downtown all the way through the Garden District and Uptown, then turns at the river on Carrolton Avenue for about another mile or so. Then pay again and ride back the other direction. Depending on traffic, the ride might last two or three hours for the whole trip. When catching one downtown, it is always good wait to get on the 2nd one since there are usually two in a row as they tend to get pretty full (with tourists:) You will want to snag a window seat on the right side for both directions. I prefer the very back if possible, where the conductor sits when going the other direction. There is only one seat (the conductor's) but more windows, a wider view, and usually more room. If with a companion or group, all take window seats. Don't screw around with visiting each other, lest you make the city jealous. (Y'all can do each other in private back at the hotel or bar or wherever:) Look out the windows. Open the windows. Do not lean out the windows to take the last picture of your life. Shut up and listen. Get your cameras ready, since a good picture will jump out of nowhere here and it will most likely be one of the prettiest and/or the funniest (and tragic) things you will ever see in any other city.
At any point along the trip one may want to disembark for drinks or food or just to walk around. I highly recommend doing this. Get lost in the Garden District and just catch the next car every 15 or 20 minutes. Walk a few blocks towards the river to Magazine Street, where loads of galleries and shops are lined up like beat-up trunks full of treasure from a Ghost Liner. My favorite shop on Magazine these days is Dirty Coast.
My favorite restaurant on that street amongst many favorites is Joey Ks. One may also be able to get a transfer rather than paying full price again. Ask the conductor. They will tell you anything and most of it will be true. Make sure to ask too if going to somewhere specific like Commanders Palace or someplace off the line. They will holler as you draw nigh.
There is also the Canal Street Car line and another which runs along the river to the bottom of Esplanade Avenue, the downstream border of the French Quarters.
That latter one, I think called "Riverside?", does not seem to be as regular as the other two. The Canal line is wonderful as it runs all the way to City Park, which is worth a trip all its own.
It is one of the largest city parks in the nation and is riddled with bayous and lakes. The city museum is there, as well as a huge sculpture garden.
New Orleanians LOVE this park and you can feel it in the air as very much a "heart" of the city, among her many, many, many sweet hearts.
I have several friends there who happen to be huge old trees. There are also several great local eateries around the park too. Again, ask the street car conductor for advise. From there I believe one can take a bus straight down Esplanade Avenue back to Rampart Street at the edge of the Quarters---just in time for cocktails at the Bombay Club!
~Editilla Notellas~ I wrote this a LONG time ago as the first and only attempt at submitted-by-request content, in this case for a travel rag.