Under the enchanting spell of New Orleans
Exactly 154 days ago today, we took off on the great open road, wide-eyed, with fresh white paint still fixed to our skin. Bone-tired from the back-to-back weeks spent renovating our motorhome, we relied on the built-up adrenaline collected from all of those days we spent dreaming about the imminent roadtrip ahead of us. Over time, the tiredness wore off, as did the paint sprinkled on our hands, and before we knew it, we were no longer counting down to this journey of ours, we were living it.
Looking back, I realise that this was the goal all along — to visit the places that I had fantasised about over and over in my head — to feel tired and overwhelmed, but to keep on trucking anyways — to live out all the moments that I had anticipated, as well as welcome the ones that I didn't — these were the fruits that we bore from the 15,000 miles that we had clocked up over these past six months.
Throughout it all, every now and then it felt as though our life on the road had no end, like a tarmac ribbon that could and would go on forever. Naturally, this thought would be interrupted by reality, reminding me that moments like these are fleeting, fickle in their existence. And while a part of me wishes for these moments to last forever, I know ultimately, that they neither can nor should. After all, what makes these moments special and magnificent is their very juxtaposition to everyday life.
And just as we were setting forth for our final push, ready and willing to accept the finish line, the road led us to one last magical surprise.
As we arrived in New Orleans, I couldn't help but notice the certain twinkle sprinkled around its historic streets. The very first moment I stepped foot along the French Quarter, it felt as though I had been teleported to a charming European town of yesteryear. Its warmth and allure began to work its magic, and before I could realise what was happening, I was happily under the spell of this delightful city.
To understand what makes New Orleans so unique, you have to get to know its history. In fact, the entire state of Louisiana has an incredibly unique backstory, changing hands from the French to the Spanish, then back to the French again, before finally being sold to the U.S. in 1803. Due to its mixed roots, the state did not adopt its newly found American-ness very easily, and New Orleans is a clear example of this, a city that marches to the beat of its own drum.
Brimming with stunning architecture, there are a myriad of pastel-hued shops and restaurants found at every turn within the Quarter, laced with wrought iron balconies, welcoming visitors to laze upon. Whenever we were out and about, often hours would tend to fly by, as we ate, drank, or simply people-watched the day away. And rest assured, there are many random assemblies of interesting people to indeed watch, be it curious travellers, street performers, and talented musicians. Speaking of music, it spills from almost every doorway here, played by people who clearly love what they’re doing, and what's more, New Orleans has a long and lasting love affair with jazz music, and they certainly wear this badge, loud and proud.
Initially we had intended on staying only a few days in New Orleans, however, after realising that we had arrived during Halloween week, we decided to stay a longer while. The supernatural culture of this city, lends itself to a celebration like Halloween, with its many voodoo shops, haunted tours, and fortune tellers that are scattered throughout the streets. Adding to its spooky scene, the locals also don't hold back, decorating their homes with elaborate displays, all for the revellers and trick-or-treaters to admire.
As if all of this wasn't spellbinding enough, there were countless parades and street parties taking place during our visit, and we decided to join in to experience all that they had to offer. On the night of Halloween, we lined up on the French Quarter sidewalk, alongside the eager crowds of people, all dressed up in costumes. There were witches, vampires, and other ghosts and ghouls — and us, a wizard and a hobbit thrown in amongst the mix. It was easy to tell when the parade had began, as the crowd grew excited and the music drew closer. Before long, the floats passed by, one by one, each with a different eerie theme, throwing treats and colourful beads out to the sea of people. Once the last float had drifted by, we found ourselves joining in on a street party, with a bundle of beads hanging proudly from our necks.
Parades and beads aside, the one thing I truly came to appreciate about New Orleans is its unexpected stillness. Yes, the always-happening Bourbon Street is notoriously crowded, but walk two blocks away and you'll steal yourself a quite moment, alone, left to explore antique shops or sip coffee in a cosy courtyard. In my opinion, these are the best types of cities — a place where you be accompanied by many others, or simply by your own shadow.
Leaving New Orleans behind was particularly hard, not only did I know it was a place I would come to sorely miss, it also marked the end of our travels on the road. And as we turn the page to our next adventure, the thing I'm trying to remember is that, every moment has its place, and every moment passes — we endure the difficult ones because we know they won't last forever, so we should soak up the great ones, for exactly the same reason.