Don’t let the smooth taste fool ya: New Orleans

We approached New Orleans via interstate 10 and I became immediately aware as to why Louisiana was an ideal filming location for the first season of True Detective.

The creepy trees and marshlands reminded me of something from a scooby-do episode. I was fully prepared for a swamp monster to jump out at us any second.

New Orleans 3

I knew little to nothing about New Orleans so was unsure as what to expect from our time there.

But a man in Austin, Texas, gave me an idea of what was to come.

We met him whilst checking in to our motel in Austin. His travel companion was casually leaning on the reception desk whilst he stood outside smoking a cigarette near his pick-up truck. He was swaying and stumbling around but looked like a friendly enough fella.

He came in to the reception area and immediately came over to us. We had a huge back-pack, cowboy hats and were quite clearly from out of town.

‘Where ya’ll headed?’ he asked, slurring his words. We told him of our trip across the states and mentioned New Orleans as our next destination.

‘Oh! I’m so jealous. New Orleans was my second home before Katrina hit,’

He went on to list the places we ‘MUST GO!” Bourbon Street was mentioned more than once. ‘Don’t let the smooth taste fool ya!’ He said with a huge grin on his face; wagging his finger. My reaction was typically English.

‘Oh really?’

I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. But the guy was drunk and I was trying to be polite.

We approached New Orleans and the french quarter was where we were headed. It was the area that Bourbon Street was located and our new friend looked like the type of guy who liked a good time. We took his recommendation seriously.

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French Quarter – New Orleans

The city as a whole, was a stunner. It was completely different to the other cities we had visited so far on the trip. It had a distinct style and couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than, well.. New Orleanian!

We found a quaint guesthouse, in a great location, dumped our bags and headed straight out in to the scorching sun.

We had arrived at a weekend which meant there was a market on down by the Mississippi river. It was a great place for us to start our discovery of the real New Orleans. There were  voodoo souvenir stalls, hot sauce stands; We were in our element!

We came across a shop that sold unusual voodoo ornaments, so picked a couple up as presents for back home and approached the counter. A friendly gentleman served us. ‘How’s your day going?’ he asked. We responded bubbling with excitement, ‘Great!’

‘Where’s your accent from? Alabama?’ …

I was always lead to believe that Americans don’t get sarcasm. But don’t be fooled by this common misconception.

‘No we’re from England..’ I cringe as I think back to this.

He burst out laughing. ‘No shit! I was kidding.’

Duh..

Swiftly moving on, which we were stupendously grateful for, he asked if we needed any advice on places to go. We told him our friend in Austin had mentioned Bourbon Street.

‘No, no, no, Bourbon Street is for spring breakers. Its full of strippers and trannys. You want to go to Frenchman Street.’

We thanked him for his politically correct advice and headed on our way. Still a little mortified at our sense of humour failure.

New Orleans 2

That evening, we headed out for a night on the town and decided to go to Bourbon Street first. Even if it was a bit hectic, we still wanted to see for ourselves.

The guy from the store wasn’t far off. The street was jam packed with people drinking beer out of plastic cups and shouting over balconies. Although, it didn’t have an intimidating atmosphere like I’d expected. The people were friendly, we were being invited in to bars and the music was blaring. It looked like a fantastic night out. And I could definitely see why it would be a popular spring break destination.

We decided to take a stroll to Frenchman Street to see what all the fuss was about.

We heard the live music before we had even arrived.  The jazz and blues travelled down the street so smoothly, I was half expecting a parade of cats playing instruments to walk past.

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The Aristocats – Disney

We entered the first bar called ‘The Spotted Cat,’ and that is where we fell in love with New Orleans. The atmosphere was euphoric. People were dancing and whooping and the band was in full flow. It felt like we had stepped back in time to the 1940s. The band consisted of an accordion, a french horn, a trumpet, guitar and drums.

For a quick 15 second clip, click on my instagram page: Instagram

We moved towards the bar and decided to try the infamous ‘Hurricane’ cocktail. Every drinks menu we had seen throughout the day had offered this particular cocktail. We had to give it a try!

It was without doubt, the greatest cocktail I had ever tasted. And for those of you that don’t know me, trust that I have ample experience to provide an accurate review.

We were on our third hurricane and the room began to spin. I suddenly had a flashback to Austin. Our friends grinning face flooding my brain ‘Don’t let the smooth taste fool ya!’ echoed through my mind.

‘Oh..’ I thought. ‘Now I get it.’

 

 

Travelling: Is solo a no-no?

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The Remarkables, Queenstown –  New Zealand

Today,  we are bombarded with reports of rapes, murders and back-packing horror stories in the media. Tragic accidents, thefts and people being conned. Not to mention all the movies to put us off exploring the globe. Hostel, Wolf Creek.. The Hills Have Eyes! Eek!

It’s not only enough to make you not want to leave the country, but also enough to persuade you to lock yourself in your room and never come out! It’s understandable why so many people are not comfortable with the thought of travelling solo.

But, from experience, as long as you’re sensible and keep your wits about you, solo travelling can open up a world of opportunities. Just because you leave on your own, doesn’t mean you’ll be alone for long.  You shouldn’t underestimate how many people you’ll meet on your travels and how they’ll affect your trip.

I have travelled alone and I have travelled with friends. For me, neither one was more advantageous. You don’t always need your best bud there to lean on.

Luckily for me, I am blessed to have a best friend who, coincidentally, wanted to uproot and venture around the world the exact same time that I did.

solo or nono

 

In fact, I distinctly remember a phone call from her when I was at work convincing me to be brave and ‘just do it!’ So really, I have her to thank for giving me that little nudge I needed to finally grow some balls and head on out in to the big, wide world.

But if you don’t have someone to go with, and you’re contemplating going solo, here are some points as to why it’s ok to go it alone.

Other Travellers

We’re all in this together. People are a huge factor when it comes to what makes back-packing so great. You may have your trusty travel guide to hand, but these people were literally just there! They can offer advice, tell you stories and sometimes even get you a good deal on a place to stay.

Not only can you benefit from their knowledge,  you could gain a friend. Sometimes you’ll change all your plans so you can head off somewhere for a week with a new buddy. Be open to new experiences and go with the flow.

You can be selfish

You have absolutely no one to think about, but yourself. If you want to go for an early dinner, do it. If you want to lie on the beach all day, go ahead. If you want to get a bus to the other side of the country (just because you feel like it), you have no one there to run it past.

My best friend and I are like two peas in a pod. We were fortunate enough to pretty much agree on every decision we made whilst we were away. About 2 months in, we were in Melbourne and not particularly enjoying ourselves. It wasn’t for any particular reason, but I could feel how restless we were becoming. After one quick chat, we were on the phone, booking flights to Vietnam.

I always think back to that and wonder what would have happened if one of us had wanted to stay! Awkward..

Rediscover yourself

Leaving work or uni to travel, is a long road of rediscovery. At home, we are often enslaved by our responsibilities, friends and family. How often do you have time to sit and really think about who you are?

Travelling alone allows you to get back to basics and think about the good old ‘me, myself and I.’ You’ll discover dreams you never knew you had and you’ll become painfully independent. You’ll have only yourself to rely on and that builds character.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll arrive back home thinking ‘I did that all on my own. And I didn’t die. I’m unstoppable!’

There is no one in the world you have more in common with than YOU! So, go on. Take yourself on holiday. You deserve it.

Become friendlier, confident and more open-minded

It’s easy, when travelling with a friend, to just stick to yourselves and not interact with others. When you’re on your own, you are forced to meet new people. Especially if you don’t want to eat alone every night.

I always considered myself quite out-going on the surface, but underneath it all, I was actually quite shy. I used to hate even going to a shop on my own.

But now, I’d happily go out for a meal or to the cinema by myself.

Travelling on your own is a great way to drag yourself out of your shell, and quite often, out of your comfort zone. And my word, does it feel great!

-M

Life Expectations

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Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

My name is Meg.

That’s me in the bottom left-hand corner. I have no idea what I’m taking a photo of as the glacier is behind me.. but I’m sure it was spectacular. This photo was taken during my tramping days. I mean tramping in the ‘travelling’ sense. Not as in homeless, begging people for money to feed an addiction. Or just to feed me in general. I have had some misfortune in my life, but nothing like that. I’ve always had a place to call home, and for that I am greatly thankful to my parents.

Anyway, I digress..

I’m not sure if anyone is even remotely interested in what I have to say. I’m not particularly pretty or clever. I have no  make-up tips or ways to make your hair shinier. I’m not political and I don’t have any real sense of what’s going on in the world. All I know is Donald Trump is bad news. And I cried a little bit that time Ed Miliband fell off a stage. Poor guy.

I’m not here to patronise or judge. Or brag about all the places I’ve been in the world. I want to help people take that scary step and find their adventure. Because that is what life should be. An adventure.

Today, we are so restricted by expectations of how we are meant to live our lives. Go to college, go to university, meet a guy/gal, get married, buy a house, have babies. Retire on a good pension that you have been paying in to since you were 21. Have grand-kids. Spend your money on them, and then die. Because that is ultimately what happens to us all. It’s not a particularly nice thought, but one day we will all end up in the ground as worm food. (Bet you’re glad you came here, right?)

It’s not all doom and gloom. What I want to say, is that everyone is in control of their own lives and their own happiness. There is no right or wrong way to live.

If you ever hear someone talk about ‘finding themselves’, that is exactly what travelling does. I don’t mean in a spiritual way (although I’m sure for some people it is), but the life lessons you learn when you are on the road and completely out of your comfort zone, is something that can’t be taught at any university in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way scrutinizing people who choose to further their education. But you will never really know your full potential, until you are in an unfamiliar country, with no one to rely on but yourself.

There will always be someone asking you if you’ve really thought it through. Are you sure you want to leave your job? It has such great career prospects! Aunt Lorraine is pregnant. Do you really want to miss your cousin being born? There are a million reasons not to leave. But be assured, it is the same for everyone. Taking the big step to leave is the bravest thing a person can do. The world is a beautiful place. Only when you’re stood at the foot of a mountain can you look at your life and truly put things in perspective. Life is so precious. And the memories you make in life, are priceless.

So, once again. Hi, I’m Meg. I’ve had a pretty hectic 27 years, but here I am. I lived to tell the tale and I look forward to sharing my experiences with you. There’s been ups and downs, but I would not change a second. Because every silly mistake I’ve made or bus I’ve missed, has led me to the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. My husband.

-M