A Walk Alone in America's Most Unique City | My Family Travels
The Streets of The French Quarter
The Mighty Mississippi

Hard as I tried, I could not do it. As I closed my eyes and tried to imagine just how enormous the river really was, my brain failed to comprehend the sheer magnitude and raw size of the Mississippi. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water flowed past me every second, carrying with them over 109 species of fish and hundreds of boats loaded with cargo. With my face pressed against the 10th floor window of the Hyatt, I gawked at the river all day.

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When I had asked my dad if I could accompany him during his business trip to New Orleans, he claimed I would be bored during the trip. In all honesty, I was tired of eating my mom’s healthy recipes, and wanted to eat at the type of fine cuisines I knew my dad would be visiting. I learned on my first day that the Mississippi was so humongous that its size validated adding a couple more ‘ss’es to the name; Missississississippi? The second day, directly contradicting my father’s directives, I decided to venture out to get a closer look at the famed river, and in the process found so much more. 

I was distracted right from the moment I escaped the Hyatt. A thousand aromas assaulted me from all directions. With $10 in my pocket, I had never before been so conflicted in my life. Which of these aromas would lead to the most satisfaction as I devoured its source by the river? I decided that I must make the most rational choice, and to do so required that I scouted through many of the restaurants before I settled on one. And so I began my venture into the infamous French Quarter.

Although I initially failed to detect the unique architecture and distinctive content of the buildings, I soon realized that there was something different. Pin cushions that doubled as dolls hung from a thing string. A large crowd waited in line for their prophecies to be predicted by a thinly woman who read pressure points. This stood in stark contrast from the ToysRUs or the spas one would expect to find in my town. Even though I usually do not interest myself in ornamental affairs, I was absolutely intrigued by the content of certain antique shops. They contained furniture from 17th and 18th century France, hand-carved limestone fountains, religious artifacts of Catholicism and the Voodoo culture, Grandfather Clocks I had only seen in cartoons, and a large collection of appealing china. I marveled at these objects knowing only that such sights were far from what I could expect to see at my local Rooms To Go or Pottery Barn. Crossing streets brought about so many changes in architecture that I felt I was crossing continents. As I learned from some of the informational plaques laid out across the neighborhood, the Spanish, French, Victorian, and Caribbean styles dominated some parts reflecting the influences of those cultures in the city’s history.

I finally reached the riverbank having bought nothing, afraid that I whatever I purchased, I would miss a hundred superior objects. As I gazed into the waterway once again, the words of Mark Twain came to mind: “The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise…” Later, when I returned to the ordinary and lackluster lobby of the Hyatt, I just hoped that I carried with me some part of the extraordinary and eccentric that characterized the city of New Orleans; I prayed that I could possess some individuality in a conformist world.

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