New Orleans. The place I was most looking forward to on the southern part of the trip.
It was only a couple of hours’ drive from Lafayette so we arrived at the hotel in the early afternoon. Very nice hotel on Canal Street on the edge of the French Quarter. After grabbing some late lunch in a shopping mall, some of us went on the Honey Island Swamp tour, about 40 minutes outside of New Orleans.
We saw alligators pretty much straight away. They come right up close to the boat, and I have to say they were pretty terrifying.
The ‘swamp’ itself reminded me of the Noosa Everglades in Australia.
After that we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a big night out on Bourbon Street. First up though we went for dinner. New Orleans (which I’m going to call Nola from here on) has loads of great food with creole and Cajun influences. I had a sampler which included 3 of the dishes that Nola is famous for – jambalaya, crawfish etouffee and gumbo.
The gumbo (bottom left) was my least favourite.
After dinner we hit Bourbon Street. Every bar has live music playing. We hit a few of them over the course of the evening, and I managed to spend a lot of money on drinks. Not a cheap place to go drinking at all!!
It was a pretty late night so the next day was something of a delayed start…eventually I got going and walked down Canal Street to the river. It was extremely humid while we were there and it was pretty hot work walking around. I walked along the river front to the French Market, where I spent a while looking at the stalls and listening to the jazz that was being played in the cafes and on the street.
There was a massive thunderstorm whilst I was in the French Market so I took the opportunity to shelter and have some lunch (gator bites) while listening to some jazz. A pretty nice way to enjoy lunch!
The thunderstorm didn’t really pass so I braved the weather to walk towards Jackson Square and the Cathedral.
I walked through the French Quarter, which has some amazing architecture:
I also went to the Museum of Death which was fairly grim to be honest!
We had a quieter evening on the second evening. We went for dinner with the camping group and then some of us went to Preservation Hall for a jazz concert. They do hourly shows in the evening, and it was amazing, authentic jazz. No mikes, no amps, just a bunch of guys with their voices and instruments. A lady we met at the hostel in Austin recommended it to us and it was well worth it.
The next day was a mammoth driving day to Memphis – around 400 miles. The highlight of which was the lunchtime stop at Whole Foods! I was in my element. It was so nice to get some healthy food after eating a serious amount of fried food in the south. Serious diet required in July to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress!!
We arrived in Memphis in the late afternoon to find the humidity even worse than Nola. It was actually quite hard to breathe when you first step into it, and it was extremely hard work to walk for more than 10 minutes.
We went to Blues City Cafe for dinner where I had BBQ ribs which just fell off the bone – possibly the best ribs I’ve ever had.
We sampled some more live music on Beale Street.
The next day was a jam-packed day. It started bright and early with the England v Wales football match – I did note that all my Welsh friends were suspiciously quiet on Facebook after that 😜. We then headed off for a tour of the Sun Studio, where Elvis (among a host of others) was discovered:
It was inspiring to be in a place were so many of music’s greats were discovered.
We then went to Graceland. I’m not a huge Elvis fan but I felt that I couldn’t come to Memphis and not see it. I enjoyed it more than I expected. It’s actually quite understated, and the self guided tour is really good. I hadn’t realised he was buried there either so it made for a poignant end of the tour.
Then we headed back to downtown and some of us went to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken place for lunch. The humidity by this point was unbearable and we were all grateful to be inside for a while. The short walk from there to the National Civil Rights Museum in the Lorraine Motel (the place where Martin Luther King was assassinated) was hot and sticky. The museum itself was excellent and contained a lot of information on civil rights in America. It is difficult to believe that this is recent history.
We rounded the day off by heading to the Peabody Hotel to watch the daily duck parade. These ducks come out of their rooms at 11am, come down the lift into the lobby and spend all day in the fountains in the lobby. And then at 5pm they walk back along the red carpet to the lift and go back to their rooms. Probably the weirdest thing I’ve seen in the states and I’ve been to Wall Drug.
The humidity really dehydrated me and I felt unwell in the evening so I stayed in the air-conditioned room in the evening while the others went for dinner.
The next day was onto the final stop on our live music tour – country music capital, Nashville!!
On the way into Nashville we stopped off at a lookout for a view of the city skyline.
We also stopped off at the Parthenon – an exact replica of the one in Greece. Don’t really know why it’s here, maybe I now need to go to Greece to see the real thing and compare!
We arrived at the hostel in Nashville by mid afternoon. It was thankfully not as humid here as it had been for the past few days and I think we were all grateful for that. I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame, which had loads of information in it. I also went to the Johnny Cash Museum which was really good.
In the evening we went to the Wild Horse Saloon for dinner and line dancing. I came to Nashville on my previous Trek America trip in 2006 and pretty much the only thing I remember clearly from that trip was coming to this bar to do some line dancing. Still lots of fun!!
We also went to the Honky Tonk Central Bar and a couple of other places. Again, everywhere had live music, mainly country this time, and as it was Friday night it was very busy. Nashville seems very popular with hen do’s and we saw lots of them whilst we were there.
We saw lots of live music over these 5 days, and while most of it isn’t music I’d generally listen to, I really enjoyed seeing so much live music.