It has been about 8 months since I visited New Orleans for the first time. One of my friends is a HUGE Keith Urban fan so we traveled to NOLA to attend a concert at the Smoothie King arena downtown.
The wonderful thing about going somewhere for the first time is that it is perfectly acceptable to be a shameless tourist. Besides the concert, we filled our weekend with all of the typical NOLA tourist activities. We took the streetcar to Bourbon Street where I’m pretty sure I dined on the best shrimp jambalaya I will ever consume in my life, and to Cafe du Monde where I sampled the best beignets I will probably ever taste. We took a bus tour of the Garden District, which was beautiful, then to the 9th Ward where we saw houses and neighborhoods that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
All of these memories linger in my mind, and now with a base of experience, I have a better idea of what I want to explore further if I go back to New Orleans; but there is another memory from the streetcar that lingers, as well, and it is a simple one.
The streetcars intrigued me. Their charming trademark appearance of wooden seats and exposed light bulbs were distinctly New Orleans. For those who don’t know the mechanics of the streetcars, they run on electricity. They don’t travel quickly, and there are frequent stops. They offer a unique experience but also require some patience. There was a variety of people thrown together on the streetcars: tourists, people going to and from work and residents just running errands.
The first night we were in New Orleans, we took the streetcar to Bourbon St. That is a story in itself. We missed our stop and would not have known except that I started talking to a female passenger who informed me that if we were going to Bourbon St, we had to get off the streetcar quickly. I told the driver and she did stop for us…two blocks out from Bourbon St. She pointed to a stretch of dark road and said, “It’s two blocks that way. Just go straight and you will walk right into it”. We hesitantly got out of the car and stepped into a city that was strange to us then walked down the dark stretch of road to Bourbon St. It didn’t help my nerves when I looked back at the woman on the streetcar and noticed a look of concern on her face. But we made it there okay and it was a lesson learned. When we left, we took a taxi back to the hotel since it was so late.
As I said, there was a diverse group of passengers on the streetcar. I remember one time during our travels when the streetcar stopped for several minutes to pick up another passenger. I glanced out the window, curious to see who was boarding. An older man in a wheelchair sat on the curb. He held a large bottle of water, a cup and a small dog on his lap. I learned that the streetcars are equipped with platforms that can be lowered to the curb for people who use wheelchairs, but there is a process to lowering the platform and it takes a few minutes. I glanced around the car which was relatively full, and noticed that even though we were full and on a delay, no-one seemed impatient. Everyone took the pause in stride. I glanced back down at the man. He poured some water into his cup and shared it with the dog on his lap. For some reason, I was filled with a sense of tenderness. For the man, for the dog and even for the passengers who patiently waited for his arrival inside the car. Shortly thereafter, he wheeled onto the lowered platform and was raised up to join us.
All in all, it was a really enjoyable trip. I was reminded by a couple of people during the weekend to “be careful” as I explored the city as a tourist, but I was very fortunate. Most of the people I encountered were friendly and patient. Even helpful. And also, in case you are wondering, Keith Urban was great in concert! If you get a chance to see him, you should go.
Have a wonderful weekend, all!