Around 9:30 p.m., I rolled over in bed, my mouth dry and my heartburn in full force. Sarah and Joey were out cold, the room was shaded, the night was dark. The thought crossed my mind to just put my head back down and keep sleeping.
Until I thought, dude, you're in New Orleans. Wake the hell up.
I wrestled my companions out of their slumber, we got our heads on straight and got back out the door. The walk back to Bourbon Street did us well in coming back to life, and our geographical location was very safe and well-lit, unlike a handful of other sections of town.
Now, a tourist's idea of a good time in New Orleans apparently diverges greatly from that of a local. Bourbon Street is often referred to as a tourist trap, a long stretch of ill-behaved, unruly out-of-towners who are only here to behave like idiots. But if that's okay with you, which it certainly was for us, then Bourbon Street can be a lot of fun - so much so that small teams of police stayed essentially stationary at each block, carefully watching the swarms of drinkers move through the streets. If you look closely, a guy is getting handcuffed in the photo above. What a bummer.
The French Quarter in New Orleans features some gorgeous architecture, highlighted by elevated balconies on many of the buildings with great views of the street. These edifices assist greatly in the game of flashes-for-beads around Mardi Gras, but those folks weren't out tonight. I don't where you have to go or how much it costs to find your way onto one of these balconies, but we didn't care to find out. We were happy enough on foot, walking the length of the streets until we reached the end of the hubbub and then turning around to walk back.
One of our earliest stops was one of the most notable, a place called Pat O'Brien's
, where the house specialty was the Hurricane
and the price was a little exorbitant, especially after having lurched through several blocks of people selling $1 shots, 3-for-1 drink specials and, of course, "Big Ass Beers To Go." But we did take some time to sit down inside their open-air patio, where we enjoyed a light-and-fire show from the fountain next to our table and sipped away at our sweet, (strong) red drinks.
Indeed, O'Brien's was among the most hospitable place we visited all night. Just about every business whose doors were open was selling alcohol on some level, whether it was cans of beer in paper bags or chilled shots of Jagermeister. Even the gift shops seemed to see their business dominated by people looking for a drink. But as the sign would insinuate, they're not looking to make friends with you during your brief visit.
I'd be remiss to leave out a few other components of Bourbon Street. The loose rules with regard to drinking seems to have translated well for folks with even more mature priorities, too. A handful of places on the street, such as this one, offered some awfully adventurous outfits, displayed on some hilariously disproportionate mannequins.
Even further, a variety of strip clubs were dotted along Bourbon, most of which had been fairly quiet in the daylight. At this hour, each of them had scantily-clad girls standing on their doorsteps with feigned smiles, luring drunkards in from the street and shouting the accolades of their own particular place over the others. Needless to say, we abstained - but I wondered what the sign that read "Love Acts" was talking about.
This was on a Wednesday night, which was the price we paid for getting eager and coming into town a day early. The streets seemed fairly busy to me, but that's by my own standards and not New Orleans's. Bourbon Street's design is to allow as many people to be served alcohol as can be, in as timely a fashion as possible. That said, there were a lot of bars that had little or no traffic inside whatsoever - sometimes a little unnerving, but at least it provided chances to sit down and use a restroom - truly a necessity on a night like this.
The night wore on and we managed to get plenty of exercise, what with our incessant walks from one end of the street to the other. About half the drinks we purchased were from places with no visible title to their business - one guy was sitting on the ground with a keg selling beers for a dollar.
In New Orleans, the party ends at 3 a.m., an hour later than we were used to at home. But before we quite reached that threshold, a quick calculation of our B.A.C. led us to believe we should call it a night. We hopped into a cab for the short drive back, and laid our heads down for the second time. Tomorrow would be far more relaxed - more on that from Sarah very soon.