If there is one thing about New Orleans that everyone in the world could identify I think it would be Bourbon street. In all the movies you always see drunk people stumbling down the middle of a crowd full of other drunk people in the middle of Bourbon street. It is iconic.
When we decided to take this trip I was left to choose the hotel. I figured since we were planning on being touristy that Bourbon street was the place to stay. I scoured through my travel sights looking for a hotel that was a deal in price and still had the romantic charm I was looking for. I amazingly found one that fit all my criteria and excitedly booked it.
I can say the bed is comfy, it is clean, and the wi-fi is free. I can not however say that the hotel lives up to the romantic idea I had set in my head. By romantic I don't mean romance in the brown-chicken-brown-cow sort of way, but more in the idealized romantic sense of things. Lets just say the pictures on the hotels websight are not the pictures of the room we got. It is rather generic and small. Still it is all we really need, and we are happy.
After a long walk down St Charles street* during the afternoon we decided to eat dinner and walk around Bourbon street in the evening. It seemed like a good idea. I had all these images in my head about what Bourbon street would be like. It is sort of a defining point to New Orleans so I had given it a good deal of thought.
As we walked down the street I started to realize that it, like our hotel room, was not living up to the idea I hadin my head about it. I am not sure if I had romanticized it or if I was simply naieve in my thoughts, but this was not what I was expecting in the least.
First it smells. I mean it smells really bad, like the inside of a dirty wet dumpster. That is just really off putting. I have a really sensitive sense of smell, and the entire street sort of made me want to hurl.
Then there was the over abundance of strip joints. I mean I am not a prude or anything, I don't mind strip joints, but it seemed like every other door was either a brightly lit daqueri bar or a cabaret with an almost naked girl standing in the door calling out to guys in the street. Well that certainly was not what I expected.
All of the bars were completely open to the street, which reminded me a lot of Vegas. Saddly they somehow lacked the charm that all the open Vegas doors seemed to offer and gave more of the impression of an over sized frat party. The abundance of bad karaoke and Tom Petty cover bands was also not really inviting. When I think of New Orleans I think of really good jazz or even zidaco, but not bad cover bands.
I knew I sghould have expected drunk people, people yelling from balconies with beads, and a certain level of debauchery, but this sort of exceeded it. The people on the street were not helping either. If it was not large groups of older people standing in a cluster looking mortified, it was a group of drunk frat guys/business men trying to decide if they wanted to go in the stirp joint or not. Then there were the seemingly homeless dredlocked hippies and the drug dealers. I suppose I am not really a big crowd person, but it was making me over anxious. The big Easy was making me uneasy.
The husbeast kept tugging me by the hand further down the street and I just wanted to go back to the hotel and hide. I told him this wasn't what I was expecting and I could tell he knew I was not happy. I was trying really hard for him, but I was failing miserably to see the appeal of this supposedly amazing place.
Then we heard it. Seeping out of an open bar door, carrying over the chatter of the crowd, the canned electronic music in the club across the street, and the bad metal cover band a few doors down; it was the sound of jazz. Good jazz.
We stopped and peered into this tiny little pub and through the crowd we could see a jazz quartet just going to town. The place was packed which was understandable because the music was amazing. The hostess saw us lurking and pulled us in to sit and listen. There was no cover but we had to order something to stay. I got water and the husbeast got an over priced Sazarac. As the set was drawing to a close he leaned into me and said, I over paid for this Sazarac, but severely underpaid for the concert.
We ended up staying through the second set and ordering another drink. The band appears to be the house band and we intend to go back to purchase a CD. I mean it when I say they were really good.
The bar was good too. The drinks were strong and tasty, the atmosphere was nice and inviting while still being really interesting. It was a German bar which was attracting a lot of German tourists; I couldn't understand anything anyone sitting around me was saying. There was also a large crowd of patrons in their 70's and above, all wearing name tags. The band seemed to know some of them which led me to believe it was a group being bussed in from an assisted living community.
All in all this little bar at the end of Bourbon street with their amazing little house jazz band saved the night. It was everything I had been expecting and a little more. So while for the most part I consider Bourbon street to be an overcrowded smelly den of debauchery no better than a frat party, there are small jewels in there thaat make wading through the unwashed masses completely worth it.
I am off to dream of that beautiful walking bass and a piano with a mirror over head so we could watch the cigar stub chewing pianist tickle the ivories.
* We walked a little over 30 blocks trying to hunt down a bar that his fathers best friend used to own. We ended up finding it only to discover it is now a different bar. The building is still owned by the man we were looking for, but it is not his bar anymore. The women who owned the bar said they would give him the message we were there. We took the trolley the 20 blocks back to our hotel.