Ever since we started our USA road trip both Alex and I were very keen to check out New Orleans – the city of jazz, fried chicken, voodoo and Mardi Gras. We’d heard so many great stories about the southern city and its rootsy, bohemian vibe that we diverted our route from Florida to Texas to make sure we didn’t miss NOLA (as the locals nicknamed it after New Orleans, LA – Louisiana).
There’s no doubt about it – the city is quirky and unique. The mixture or French colonial architecture with clairvoyants, mobile art stalls and jazz musicians lining the streets almost makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time. A mixture of neon-lit and dingy bars are dotted all over the French Quarter bringing you back to the present day as they sell Margaritas in themed plastic drink bottles to tourists.
We found that the best thing to do was people watch and window shop as we walked the buzzing French Quarter admiring the old stone and wrought iron buildings.
We can’t deny that we didn’t enjoy our time in New Orleans – we spent three days visiting the French Markets, Louis Armstrong Park and Jazz monument and even the world’s best fried chicken (according to the media and TripAdvisor). We certainly didn’t regret coming to visit NOLA.
However, we couldn’t quite get rid of a uncomfortable feeling that followed us as we explored the city. We’ve never seen so many drunk and homeless people in one spot before – and we were shocked at how unhealthy and truly miserable they all seemed (either because of poverty, addiction or mental problems we don’t know).
And then there are the men who look well-kept and approach you on the street with that smile you can’t quite place until he starts harassing you to answer his riddle and/or give him money. If you start to talk to him… he will not let you leave. It’s not a nice feeling to be in.
Multiple locals told us to be very careful in the French Quarter especially at night time as multiple stabbings, murders and/or disappearances occur there every week.
They also warned us about a famous trick the group of ‘street-men’ use to get money out of you:
“Hi,” the street man will say with a quick gesture to your feet. “I bet I can tell you where you got your shoes!”
If you’re sucked in to responding (knowing full well he can’t guess where you bought your shoes), then unfortunately you’re in some trouble.
“$5 that I can tell you,” he’ll say. “They’re on your feet!”
The locals say that if you refuse to give them the $5 they’ll pull a knife on you.
We were so sorry to hear about these issues as the city itself is so unique and charming. The heavy atmosphere that followed us around during our stay mixed with the warnings from locals and sneaky street-men made us feel, for the very first time on our trip, uncomfortable and unsafe.