Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Big Easy

Tuesday in New Orleans.

For some reason - and I don't think it's always because we're all somewhat buzzed - people talk to each other, strange to stranger, much more in New Orleans than we've experienced in other places.

Today, while having our daily Bloody Marys, we were able to provide some guidance as to the best spots for oysters to folks who had just arrived for a conference. We chatted up some store owners we knew from previous visits - yes, they are nice people anyhow, but it was just so damn wonderful to see that they are still in business! We returned to so many wonderful shops - a refill for my leather journal (originally bought here); a stop for hard to find hot sauces; and a few goodies from a local candy maker, among so many other wonderful places. All took considerable but worthwhile time as we "caught up".

And that's how it goes all the time here - if you let yourself be open to it. Travelers are relaxed and perhaps more open to talking to strangers than they would be in their "real life". Of course the natives will always talk. That's who they are - and it's a wonderful thing. I've learned so much from bartenders, servers and other service industry folks, I can't begin to list all of the knowledge and folklore I've absorbed over the years.

Also, for us, at this point, the relaxation has set in; the secure feeling of being just where we should be predominates. It is at once both settling, comforting and confusing and unsettling. When we are here, we dread having to leave.

A day spent in the French Quarter and an evening at the nationally acclaimed restaurant Cochon has only made these feelings stronger. Having cocktails at the bar waiting for our table at Cochon, we met some very interesting "foodie" natives. When we got to our table we met folks from the west coast (at the next table) who are here for the first time producing a film. The cool thing is, talking to them, we are the source of information about NOLA - and of course, Philadelphia - which they've only visited for a short time. Great fun, sharing information, our experiences on both the east and west coasts and our mutual love of New Orleans.

If you've never really been in New Orleans - and I don't mean on a cruise stop or a tourist driven visit - I mean really "been" here, you won't understand a lot of what I'm saying. We can't stress enough, if you are not a timid traveler; if you aren't a person who signs up for the group tours; if you travel to immerse yourself in other places, you cannot come to a better place than New Orleans. It is not like anywhere else in the U.S. - as a matter of fact, it feels very much like you are outside of the U.S. There is a living, breathing culture here that you should not go through your life without experiencing. And, fellow serious travelers, the price is right! There is so much to experience here and you don't need a ton of money.

This guy is one of the street performers in the Quarter - he held this pose for what seemed like forever! More fun to come tomorrow.

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