Visiting the French Quarter

French Quarter

This past Saturday morning, we trekked down to the Algiers Point Ferry to cross the Mississippi River and spend some time in the French Quarter. Arriving shortly before 10 , we clamored on to the vessel that shipped us across the river. At two bucks, it was cheaper than trying to find paid parking on the other side, and took about five minutes to get from one side to the other. After, we boarded a tram to get to the more Northern part of the French Quarter so that we could spend the day making our way back South.

What we found when we arrived across the river is that the streets were predominantly empty, save for a few delivery vans and a couple shopkeepers sweeping the front entrance of their bars and souvenir stores. A few locals were also out on their patios, and a old woman keyed her way into an apartment while her dog-in-a-sweater sat in her wheeled basket.

At 10:30am, it had already turned hot and muggy. With a dense cloud cover, we walked through the streets, drenched by the sauna weather. I took 55 pictures of brightly colored walls and cast iron downspouts while Jeremiah took one or two.

Then, within an hour or so, right around the time we made it to Jean LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop – the oldest bar in the US that has been open continuously – groups of young tourists started filling the streets. The French Quarter was becoming the place I expected it to be.  


Many of the tourists were bachelorette and bachelor parties. Others were overly-tanned groups of blond women in short skirts. At one point, Jeremiah and I leaned up against a metal police barricade that wasn’t in use. Ten or fifteen minutes passed as we watched groups of tipsy college aged kids walk by. Street vendors beckoned to young groups. They didn’t approach us. Where we old enough that they knew we wouldn’t fall for the beads-for-a-pretty-lady trick?

We weren’t necessarily older than all the tourists in the French Quarter, but I felt like we lied in a strange in-between age. There were groups of old white people jamming in the streets to Jazz bands, and then there was a younger crowd of early to mid twenties. I felt like we were trending to the older crowd as we boarded our ferry at 3:30 that afternoon, long before the waves of younger tourists would be partying into the evening. I hadn’t wanted to leave the dog for more than about 8 hours, and we never even saw New Orleans at night, which is fine by me.

This age thing has become more apparent as we’ve traveled; tons of young people we run into say, “You’re my hero! I want to do that!” And the vast majority of RVers we meet are over our parents ages. I’m constantly reminded of our age, young in some eyes, older in others. It’s not something I ever spent time thinking about before moving into an RV.


During our six-hour stint in the French Quarter, we ate beignets and poboys, both on the list of things to eat in NOLA, and had a couple drinks on Bourbon Street: Jeremiah sticking with Hurricanes and myself with blond ales. I also found something that’s been on my bucket list since before we hit the road. I found a Zoltar: a wish-granting fortune telling machine.

Careful, Spoiler ahead. In the 1988 movie “Big” Tom Hanks’s character visits an unplugged Zoltar machine and wishes to be big because he was a 13-year-old kid too short to ride a rollercoaster. Tom Hanks’s character wakes up the following morning as a 35-year-old man. Magical and childlike, the movie remains one of my favorites, and I was intent on finding a Zoltar machine on our travels. I tracked down a bunch in California which we never made it to, and it slowly slipped into the less-accessed parts of my mind.

We had no intentions of going into any souvenir shops in New Orleans, but one we passed had large open doors.

“Let’s go in,” I said, turning to Jeremiah. I’m fairly sure it was the beer’s idea, since we hadn’t gone into any yet that day. That chintzy, plastic overly priced stuff just doesn’t do much for us.

“Uh, okay,” Jeremiah agreed, reluctantly.

We stepped inside. I gasped. Jeremiah pointed. The Zoltar machine stood there. When I mention that this was literally on my bucket list, I’m not exaggerating.

I put in a dollar, and Zoltar spoke to me. Jeremiah wandered off, slightly embarrassed, slightly bored. I listened to the Zoltar, and he pushed out a printed yellow card for me. I took a step back, held the card close enough to read the small writing. What had Zoltar told me? What good fortune was in my future?  

He told me I was an elephant.


I am an elephant.

Not every bucket list item has to be life-changing, and some might even be a little disappointing.  That’s okay. For that minute while I watched the oddly-colored plastic fortune teller move his mouth out-of-sync to the words he was speaking, I was a child again.

Is New Orleans ridden with Crime?

We were warned repeatedly that New Orleans has a high level of crime and to stay aware for pickpockets, etc.

I envisioned that there would be tall men lurking in shadows, holding long cigarettes and throwing voodoo glitter on us to blind us to their criminal ways as we passed them. As far as I know, nobody threw voodoo glitter on us, and we didn’t witness any crimes.*

I am doubtful that the crime in the French Quarter is any higher than any other tourist place like The Strip in Vegas or Times Square in New York. If you’re a drunk and stumbling about, then you’re likelier to get targeted by crime. You’re an easier target. Since we were neither drunk nor stumbling about, aside from my usual klutziness, we didn’t come across any of the so-called crime. I’m guessing it’s probably a lot higher at night when the streets are crowded with booze soaked twenty-two year olds and the dominant light is neon.

Would we visit again?

I’m not sure we’d ever want to go back to New Orleans, and if we did, we’d skip the French Quarter. The historical buildings are incredibly impressive, but so are many of the buildings outside that area, which explored over Friday afternoon and Sunday.

Tonight we’re having one last meal in New Orleans as Willie Mae’s, deemed the best fried chicken in the World. Then, tomorrow, we’re off to check out a bit of Mississippi.

*Note: There was some crime if you’re a fashion police.

Later thoughts: Notre-Dame de Paris

As I was finishing writing this blog, my mom texted me to ask if I had seen the news about Notre Dame. I hadn’t yet, but when I checked, my heart sank. Several months ago, Jeremiah and I spoke about visiting Paris in April. We decided not to, and here it is, April, and Notre Dame Cathedral is burning. For all those people out there who put off traveling, and who put off checking off your bucket list, stop putting it off. Your life is short. You are never promised tomorrow. And those places you want to visit? They are not promised tomorrow either.

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