by Marlana Hurst
Contributing Writer, ’16, Art and Design
Are you the type of person who has lived in one place for your entire life, and has hardly ever been out of the country, let alone out of your state? Well, if you are anything like me, then I am going to assume that we are on the same page. If so, then when you do have the opportunity to go somewhere new, it is quite exciting, right? Even if the destination is a mere few states away in whatever direction, a sense of adventure may fall upon you. This is precisely how I felt when I was approved to spend a week of my Jan Term in New Orleans. I had heard a lot about the place, both good and bad, so I really had no idea what to expect before I arrived. So, naturally, I was anxious when we finally came to the French Quarter, after a long eight-hour drive.
Being somewhat of a history buff, I expected the famed French Quarter to be a little more…rustic—a place filled with old buildings and memories of times before this generation. But, that was not quite so. Of course, there was some history to the place, but the streets in downtown were more geared for partying. All the time. Every night. I recall it vividly: the bright lights and the busy bars, the clubs down every street, and all of the people, young and old, just trying to have a good time. It was a bit overwhelming at first, I admit, but I suppose I am just not used to that kind of scene. However, that is precisely one of the reasons I wanted to go: a new experience—something that I can add to my memory and look back on for many years to come.
After daily activities that were required for the class, we visited party streets every night (but not as partygoers, of course). We wandered the streets until our feet were sore, and I even had the pleasure of listening to a local jazz street band, playing loud and proud in front of the cathedral. Among the many small shops and eateries, there was one shop that really caught my attention as we walked by. It sold handmade Mardi Gras masks that the artist sold from only that location. This was one of many small outlets where sellers relied on tourism and used their own materials to sell self-crafted products. As such, their items are unmatched, of high quality, and, of course, expensive, as would be expected for any tourist spot.Our hotel was a small corner lot in downtown. It did not look like much on the outside—a disused building, perhaps. But on the inside, it had the lovely charm of a tiny French palace. The people were incredibly friendly and really seemed as though they wanted to be there. Our hotel room was also quite nice, and, being that we were on the very top floor, the view over the city was wonderful to wake up to. To me, it is such a great feeling to wake up and realize that you are not at home. You have escaped—for even just a few days—into something new and bright.
I was fortunate enough to have a break from class activities to visit the Audubon Zoo, only a few miles south of the Quarter. It doesn’t even compare to Zoo Atlanta or any other zoo around here. I walked in and felt as if I were walking into a tropical paradise. In front of me was a path lined with palm trees that led to a huge fountain that consisted of elephant statues spouting water in a scene of play. Every live animal on display was visible and active. The exhibits were separated into different habitats, from the African Savannahs to Louisiana’s own marshlands. If you are ever passing by, make sure that the zoo is one of your stops.
New Orleans was definitely a new experience for me. From the late night party life to my first time trying alligator meat, the trip was worth every effort I put into going. Sure, it has its downsides and faults, but doesn’t every place? I was sad that I was only able to spend a short week there, and it is certainly on my list of places I would like to return to. There were so many things I was not able to do, and I am determined to do them! I feel as if New Orleans has something for everyone, and whether you like bars and jazz clubs or coffee shops and antique stores, I recommend at least one or two visits during your life, especially if you are the adventurous type.