My parents and I desperately seek cold water, food, and air conditioning. I feel the sweat trickle down my back as we trudge through the tourist-ridden streets of the French Quarter. My aching feet beg for relief and my neck stings from the relentless sun. I ask myself why my parents decided to come to New Orleans, of all places, in the middle of July. Still, despite the heat and a humidity level that would make Satan sweat, I can’t help but smile as I take in my surroundings and think, “We’re in Nahwlins, baby!”
The French Quarter is bustling with activity. My parents and I are amongst thousands of tourists roaming the area, peering into the many shops and restaurants that lure visitors inside with an abundance of souvenirs and t-shirts. Each storefront we pass has its own personality, boasting colorful entryways and loud advertisements. Different genres of music and the smell of various foods drift out to the passing crowds. For many people, this atmosphere would be a sensory overload, but I merely sit back and soak up the flavor of this new and diverse culture. I have not traveled as much as my parents have, so practically every store we pass piques my curiosity. They are more seasoned travelers and know to not waste time on tourist traps, but I still glance at the myriad of shirts and beads in the shops, feigning disinterest.
There are so many sights to see that I hardly know what to look at first. Even the streets themselves captivate me. Many of the buildings located in the main tourist area are simple architecturally, but they bear intricate wrought iron railings that make an otherwise dull building more appealing. Near the end of the grids of streets, we emerge from the cluster of shops and restaurants onto Jackson Square, where we discover local art, human statues, and street musicians on every corner. After meandering about and enjoying the artwork on display, we stumble upon a nice restaurant with great food and, most importantly, air conditioning. As we enjoy the tasty food and cool atmosphere, I feel worlds away from central Ohio.
We conclude our day with a trip to see the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band. I expect a medium sized auditorium and a large band, but to my surprise, we are ushered into a cramped, dimly lit room with only a few benches for seating. The front of the room, or the “stage,” has drum set, bass, piano, and a couple of chairs for the musicians. This setup is hardly what I expected, but I remain open minded and wait for the performance to commence. Normally, I would call this group a jazz combo, not a band, but these guys can really play! Perhaps the acoustics of the small room are at play, but their sound might as well be that of a 30 member jazz band.
At the end of the performance, my parents and I begin the journey back to our hotel, through the tireless crowds to the streetcars that carry us back to the Garden District. As we stroll back to our final destination for the night, I think of the day’s events and realize that despite my intrigue for all the different shops and tourist attractions, the true souvenirs are the lingering taste of the local cuisine on my tongue and the sounds of Preservation Hall still ringing in my ears. I softly hum “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” as I drift off to sleep, exhausted and thoroughly content.
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