Christmas Time in Nashville and New Orleans
When we were planning our trip down south, we looked at the map and said to ourselves: "2 weeks just for Florida, that's too much. Let's swing by New Orleans on the way. Look, it's right next to each other". One of the best stupid ideas we ever had.
Because of course this country is way too big and right next on the map still means hours and hours of driving. But spending Christmas in New Orleans was just way too much fun.
Because you can technically drive West Lafayette - New Orleans in one day, but it just wouldn't be any fun, we decided to make a spit stop in Nashville to get a glimpse of the heart of Country.
The drive from Indiana to Nashville was uneventful, but very cloudy at first. To change things up, it became very rainy not long after. Things also started to get mysterious. After leaving Indiana behind and reaching Kentucky, the interstate was flanked with signs for magnificent caverns we should visit. While there were hardly any hills in sight. Apparently the people of Kentucky hide their caverns very well, and we didn't have any time to investigate.
In pouring rain we finally arrived in Nashville and decided to check out Downtown and especially the Broadway with the all Music Bars, after eating in the Flying Saucer, the place with the most amazing beer menu I've ever seen. Of course, the Broadway is the somewhat touristy front and much of the real music scene can be found elsewhere. Still, it was a lot of fun walking from bar to bar, listening to different bands and enjoying a flair very different from everything we knew. Definitively a fun stop on our route.
On the 23rd, we had a much further drive, spending all day in the car. Crossing Alabama and Mississippi, we certainly realized that we were now in the Deep South. Loads of Confederate Flags, the existence of which is always sightly disturbing to me as an outsider (and probably to many insiders too), flanked by "funny" signs and shirts about gun use and religious billboards announcing my condemnation to eternity in hell. Sweet.
Making it through that, we arrived in New Orleans to exhausted to do much. Which turned out to be a good thing, because we managed to find a small Cafe close to our hotel which served pretty amazing local food, in portions that could feed a small army. Simply delicious, and it's always great to find a place the real locals actually go to eat.
On the morning of the 24th, our exploration of Downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter started. This time of the year, it was probably less vibrant than it can be, but also much less crowded, and again we had found a place with a very unique flavour, full of music and culture. If you avoid the Bourbon Street.
Having left the clouds behind us the day before, we headed out to the swamps for a boat tour. I'm a little bit torn about the experience, because while the swamps are a magnificent place full of great animals, the alligators are fed from the boats and also they head a baby alligator on board for us to hand around and touch, which felt kind of wrong. Overall, it was a great experience nevertheless. I just love exploring nature, even if it's from a tour boat.
In the evening, we celebrated Christmas in the bars on Frenchmen Street. Or at least I celebrated, while my otherwise always lovely travel companion, having endured an overdose of Christmas music back home in Sweden, suffered in silence through reinterpretations of holiday classics.
On Christmas Day, we continued to explore New Orleans on foot. After starting off in the French Quarter again, were we visited the French Market, we made our way to the Garden District, which features very distinct, Southern architecture. Lots of beautiful homes, in many of which we just wanted to move in. The afternoon we spent in lovely Crescent Park, which offers a great view of the Mississippi and the New Orleans Skyline. We finished the day of with a Ghost Tour through the French Quarter, full of Ghost and Voodoo stories.
Visiting New Orleans was definitively a great idea. A very unique place, with its strong emphasis on its French heritage, its blend of cultures and of course its music. And the food! Well, at least the food we could get our hands on. We stood outside no fewer than three restaurants we had looked up that ended up being closed for Christmas. But we always found some great replacement. Not very Southern, but if anyone is ever down there and fancies some Italian, check out Mona Lisa in the French Quarter. Amazing!