Five Lessons Learned While Weekend-ing In New Orleans
If traveling is about the journey, then there are lessons to be learned. Weekend-ing in New Orleans was one of those practical adventures that had less to do with voodoo and more to do with the real situations of getting, living, and leaving there.
Lesson one: sometimes you have to DIY. Upon arrival at YYZ, Toronto’s International Airport, the early flight was pushed until later. You know what they say, tired heads lead to disappearing boarding tickets. After a mad scramble for a lost boarding pass, we had to pass on the plane. We decided to talk to the United Airlines representative who said she didn’t really know what to do, and that we should call our travel agency. Our travel agency was an affiliate of SkyScanner, the bargain flight search engine. Our “travel agent” re-booked our flight for 5 p.m., and was willing to charge us a mere $1,400. I refused the courteous offer and began thinking of other places that we could go for a weekend: Montreal, New York, Chicago . . . In the end, a woman from another airline said we should call United directly. “Just do it yourself, this woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” So, we did and our tickets were re-booked free of charge. We went to the airport bar to celebrate.
Lesson two: if you are flying United Airlines, beware of your stopover times. The airline may not take layovers into account, which means you should. So, there is less than an hour between flights, find another flight with an hour or more in between. That means that even if you are on one of the brand new airplanes — so new that they are too tall to connect with the gate and are delayed thirty minutes — you will still have enough time to make your next flight instead of rooming in an Econolodge in Humble, Texas.
Lesson three: when booking with AirBnB, research the heck out of your neighborhood, including the difference that a block or two would make. When booking the room in NOLA, I understood that the house was close to the French Quarter, but I didn’t understand it was on the other side of the highway in the 7th Ward. The other side was a little rougher and a bit more real than I had expected, which is amazing if that’s what you are expecting. After talking with friends and locals, each suggested that we take cabs back to our rental because, “This is the South, little honey, and the kids got guns. If they want what you have, they will shoot you.”
The advice was greatly appreciated, and after we cabbed back to the house on our last night, we found out the neighbors had been broken into. The kids from Chicago that were staying there had all their valuables stolen and the rest of their stuff just discarded in the backyard.
Lesson four: go in expecting the unexpected. It may not be Bourbon Street the whole time, or even at all. Instead, Royal Street had all the glamor and less of the gigantor daiquiris. Chartres, Decatur, and that lovely Canal Street were more than enough excitement and voodoo to last a decade.
Lesson five: laugh. You have to. It is quite humbling to allow life to take you through unexpected movements. Pat yourself on the back that you survived another adventure in all its real glory. Enjoy that you had real conversations with real people who had left post-Katrina and are slowly migrating back to re-establish their lives. Relish that French colonial architecture and the legendary southern hospitality. Don’t forget to dabble in the hot sauce, sip a coffee while dunking your doughnut in Cafe du Monde, and if you don’t go swamp crawling, at least eat a little alligator.
Toronto born and based, Brit Weaver is an avid leisurely cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog, TheBubblesAreDead.wordpress.com.