For corresponding photos, click here.
There’s one main, famous, area of NOLA that I was yet to explore – the Garden District. Enter today’s mission.
The Garden District is famed for it’s mansions, in beautiful architectural styles, and leafy streets. It sits West of the CBD and surprised me how far away from where I am, you have to go under the highway to get there which is a bit scary on a bike – but I decided that a bike was the way to do it. If it were cooler, I’d have got a cable car then walked. Also running along the area, is Magazine Street, which is miles long, but the parts around the Garden District are full of shops and eateries. So it was a good way to spend a Saturday.
I headed out on my bike – through the French Quarter, across Canal Street, through downtown, Warehouse district, the Arts District (an area I may return to) under the highway, then continued up Magazine for a few kms until I got to the area.
As ever, I’d done a lil research on best food in the area, and an ice cream / sandwich shops called Fat Boy Pantry was recommended, just past the over pass, on Magazine Street. It a pretty hip, contemporary place, and felt like a nice take on the traditional. Fat Boy was cool – very hip – toasted sandwiches, fries, great iced coffee. Very quiet and nice decor. A lovely start to the day.
Beyond there I headed further up Magazine, and came to a little junction with some interesting little shops that I paused to explore. Firstly, I’m terrible at noting shop names, so apologies for not having these. But first we had a local indie record shop, which had a great selection of LP’s, local pressings but also great merchandise like pins, t shirts and zines. Next door was a store hand crafting the most lovely backpacks, bags and other items, all made from recycled fabrics and materials sourced from with the US. I got chatting to the store owner and she was lovely and telling me about how creativity and opportunities for start-ups and independence has been able to to thrive in NOLA since Katrina. A sentiment that we’re very much seeing in Christchurch, and was cool to chat and hear about this. Then finally, I stumbled across the road to heaven aka the one of the best clothing and accessory boutiques I’ve ever been into. Everything was exactly my style – bright, bold, with an arty / folky edge – jewellery, bags, hats. Vintage clothing, all in amazing bright colours. Perfumes. It was fabulous and I left with my wallet a fair bit lighter, but picked up some amazing earrings, and a couple of pieces of vintage clothing that I’m really happy with and know will be glad for when I get home.
From there I headed into the heart of the Garden District – the many slow cruising cars, and walking tour groups, down the otherwise sleepy streets, an indication I was in the right place. The area truly is stunning – every house unique, but consistent with it’s wrought iron, pillars and grand steps. The streets all tree lined, shaded and beautiful. Most painted in white, or pale pink – much more subdued than the cottages of around where I’m staying and the French Quarter. All almost like grand houses from Wes Anderson films. Each garden is lush and immaculate. If you like architecture, and dreaming of fantasy home ownership. I saw John Goodman’s house – well I didn’t know it was his until afterwards when I was reading up about the area – and pleased to say I met and said hi to his dogs who came running out into the garden. So there we go. But really I spent time just aimlessly peddling / walking around, the main area full of all the key houses is quite compact. There was also the Lafayette cemetery which I’d have liked to have gone into but alas, it closes quite early and I missed it.
A big thunderstorm was brewing, with thunder cracking overhead and spot of rain in the air, so I headed up a few blocks to Magazine Street where I knew I’d be able to find somewhere to take shelter should the storm hit. And lucky I did, as it was a mazzive rain storm that lasted longer than usual. Thankfully I’d already found shelter in a pretty good pub called the Bulldog, which is famed locally for it’s craft and tap beer selections. It was packed with everyone having the same idea – but it was pretty easy to wait out the worst of the storm for an hour or so over a couple of pints of new and interesting beer.
Sadly I thought the rain was over, so headed back out to keep exploring / make my way back – only for it to consistently keep raining pretty hard. On my bike I got pretty wet pretty quick, and really, given the state of me, my only option was to trudge my way home across town, which wasn’t the best experience in the rain, flash floods in the streets and heavy traffic. It felt like a very long journey, and probably took the best part of an hour.
But I made it back, via a quick early dinner at St Roch market, and I think definitely earned my cycling merit badge yesterday!
A shower, jazz nap and change of outfit and I was ready to Uber back out for a night of Jazz – my last Saturday night here meant I had to make the most of it. My firstly stop was a well spoken on, known to locals, dive bar/ restaurant called Buffa’s. They have a little back room and in there was an adorable band who I’d describe as a South American tinged Vampire Weekend meets Belle and Sebastian. There were two amazing women in the band, one was on vocals and played trombone and the other played both piano and trumpet. I 100% fell in love with them and love seeing women play the brass in this male dominated area.
From there it was a nice stroll of a few blocks over to Frenchman for a couple of quick sets in other bars I was passing, some great street corner rap, then onto Blue Nile for the band I set out to see – the Marigny Street Brass Band. It was free entry, and the atmosphere was incredible, The music so fresh and alive, and just the best kind of brass experience. They even had their guest vocalist – the chief – come out in full Mardi Gras attire, like some kind of James Brown incarnate. It was just an amazing, joy giving, show and I’m so happy I caught them.
From there, onto the Spotted cat for the last set and drink of the night – being a Saturday the street and bars were packed, and the air electric, every one dancing and in good spirits. It’s touristy, and there’s the usual hens parties etc. but unlike Bourbon St , the emphasis is on the music and everyone is in good spirits.
And just like that it was 3am, feeling like 10pm.