There was something different about Bourbon Street on a Sunday morning. The throbbing crowds from the night before had vanished, replaced by green trash bins and street cleaners.
Although I had been to New Orleans before, spending a Saturday night walking around the French Quarter was exciting, if not borderline terrifying. The city had an energy, a sense of movement that flowed no matter what time of day it was.
We arrived on a Friday morning, but late enough to hit the beginning of the lunch crowd. There was no real place to park, which we soon found to be typical of the city. Instead we pulled off to the side of the road next to some other cars. It wasn’t even eleven o’clock, but the kitchen of the restaurant was busily pushing out orders of fantastic fried chicken.
There was an unspoken sense of rush in the restaurant, and in most restaurants we went to. Get your food, get out. It wasn’t to be rude, there was simply limited seating. They wanted to keep people moving. It’s not the place to dawdle and take your time. That restaurant gave us our first taste of the movement of the city. Don’t stand in doorways. Quickly take your seat. Be ready to order your food, and to pay. When you’re done, leave so someone else can take your place.
No place better exemplified the motion of the city than Cafe Du Monde. The wait staff pushes you to take a seat, then immediately gets your order. Your coffee and beignets are ready in minutes, and you are expected to pay when they bring your food. The beignets are amazing, of course, but I think some people misunderstand why they are being pushed.
Places like Cafe Du Monde push people through so that more people can be served. Sure, a great deal of it could be about making as much money as they can, but I like to think that they move so fast there so that more people can have that experience. New Orleans is mostly about the experience.
Saturday night was when I got my first real experience of Bourbon Street. We were staying in the French Quarter, and had been out later the night before, but the atmosphere at night had changed. Rather, it had grown.
The usual packed sidewalks had poured over into the streets, which were blocked off by police barricades. The neon lights illuminated the faces of the pulsating crowd. When we found our way to the street, we felt compelled to move with the group. We got caught in a wave moving down one side of the street, and before we knew it, we had already made our way down to the end of the barricades. At some point we passed two officers on horseback, smiling and surrounded by people taking pictures. Truly the strangest city.
We entered the movement again, and left ourselves get swept into a few different bars. People were pressing against us, from all sides, when we were on the street. It made me nervous enough to clutch my bag tighter, but that didn’t prevent one man from rubbing his hands all the way down my back. All the way. He was gone before I could catch a glimpse, and when I spun around to look, I briefly lost my friends. A minute later, they both returned and grabbed my hands, leading me towards the bar they had settled on while I was distracted.
Two hours later, after a few more drinks and dances with strange men, we started our journey back to our room. We were covered in sweat from the mugginess and alcohol from spilled drinks, but the excitement of the night was still there. We stepped over cups and beads in the streets as we walked, and it seemed like there were more beer puddles than rain puddles. The moist air had begun to smell like too many warm bodies, so we were relieved to make it back into the cold, clean air conditioning of the room.
I told my friend to take a good look at the streets. Take in the mess and the filth, because in the morning it would be gone. She woke me up early the next morning, eager to get outside and see the trucks spray down the street.
We walked quickly in the morning heat, turning down Toulouse to get to Bourbon Street, passing early morning workers who were throwing out trash from the previous night. We encountered very late night partiers still clutching their cups of beer, trying to find a new place to finish their drinks. We arrived on Bourbon Street just in time to see the truck spraying soapy water drive by. It had been following another street cleaning truck that seemed to be sucking up the beads from the street.
We walked a block down Bourbon, my friend amazed at the difference a few hours could make here. The street was far emptier, and immensely cleaner. The excitement from the previous night had vanished, replaced by a strange calm that would be broken as soon as the shops opened for the day. We returned to the hotel to pick up our other friend, and by the time we made our way back outside, the newly cleaned streets were bustling again.
We ended our short trip with one more walk around the Quarter, taking in the sights and sounds of the vibrant city.
I highly recommend every adult taking a trip to this colorful and exciting city. Once again, thanks for reading!