Monday 10 November:
A short day’s riding today with the aim of getting into New Orleans nice and early, but we also agreed on a lie in so that we would be refreshed for an evening’s revelry. We had breakfast in the hotel at 8am and kickstand up at 9am – that’s like the middle of the afternoon!
We worked our way out onto Route 90, and were soon driving through a landscape of lakes and bayou. There was frequently water on at least one side of the road and often both; sometimes rivers, sometimes little more than large ditches. This also meant more bridges, some of them once again impressive.
Another thing that I noticed along this stretch of the road was that, even by America’s high standards, there were an awful lot of churches of various different shades of Christianity – this really is God country.
Whether you can put it down to God or not, everyone in the south seems as friendly as the stereotype suggests. They welcome motorcyclists in a way that people don’t tend to in the UK. People often came and speak to us when we stopped, and this seemed even more evident since entering Louisiana. During our journey today we had two such encounters at different fuel stops.
At the first a guy came over with his wife to chat: it turned out he was the president of a local MC chapter and provided us with some good tips on where to go and what to do in New Orleans. The second was a large guy who wanted to come with us – I pointed out that Jane had a spare pillion seat, but he said it wouldn’t be right him being a 250lb pillion bitch. He riffed amusingly for some time, deciding all the women were in some way scary. He got that right anyway!
Within the hour we came to Morgan City, which to me sounds like the sort of place that should have superheroes and super villains. It also looks like a comic book city should look: as you pass through on the freeway you cross an extremely impressive bridge, with an equally impressive rail bridge running alongside it. Morgan City sits on the banks of the Atchafalaya River and was originally called Tiger Island, which sounds even more comic book.
I was desperate to stop and take some pictures, but we pressed on.
We briefly joining the I310, finding ourselves in a tangle of concrete flyovers and underpasses, including crossing another fantastic bridge over the Mississippi River. The overpasses turn into raised concrete causeways carrying the road across swampy forests.
The I310 joins the I10 south of Lake Pontchartrain, which is actually an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico via the Rigolets Strait. It is huge: 40 miles from west to east and 24 miles from south to north, covering 630 square miles. Its brackish water has an average depth of 12 to 14 feet.
We continue along the I10, then suddenly, bang: there we are in New Orleans. It was like passing through a portal into a different world as we were suddenly on small streets surrounded by traditional European influenced buildings.
New Orleans itself was established as a Native American portage between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain – that is the place where they had to get out and carry their boats across land. Of course it was subsequently colonised by the French and then he Spanish, accounting for the European architecture.
Despite our relatively late start, it was still only lunch time when we found our hotel, Le Richelieu. We were just a few minutes behind the rest of the Hadrian V-Twin guys, and none of the rooms were yet ready. After some chaos we were given a room in which to dump all of our bags and jackets, which were getting very warm in the glorious New Orleans sunshine.
We took a wander around looking for somewhere to eat. The restaurant recommended to us by the hotel had a 45 minute wait – on the street. We decided against that and instead headed to the French Market where we found some superb food at the stalls there – in my case I got to try the New Orleans speciality, a po’boy, which is basically just a type of soft baguette, but very good.
We returned to the hotel and found our rooms, which are very nice. It is a fine old building with tall ceilings and an old fashioned feeling of grandeur.
We ventured back out after a break to freshen up and change, meeting up in the hotel bar for a complimentary drink. The main local beer is called Abita, so I thought it would be rude not to give it a try.
We once again headed out for a wander, inevitably ending up on Bourbon Street. It was still early, so very quiet. We wandered around, avoiding the strip club end of the street.
Happy hours never seem to end in New Orleans, so we had two for one beers for us blokes and Margaritas for the ladies. A singer was giving it his all on stage, playing country/ rock covers, despite the fact that we had just doubled his audience to around twelve. He was brilliant and very entertaining, changing his style as a group of young girls arrived looking for something to dance to. It is amazing the talent that is out there, probably just scraping by a living in the bars
Food was calling, so we headed off again, ending up in Margaritavilles, a Jimmy Buffet restaurant. The food was fine, but to my mind not exceptional. It was all washed down with more beer and margaritas, but people were already beginning to flag.
We were keen to try Frenchmen Street, which is said to be what Bourbon Street was like before it became so touristy. After some hunting around we found the Spotted Cat bar, which I thought was brilliant: very authentic and basic. The free-form jazz didn’t find universal favour, however, so after a single beer (we each tried a different variety of Abita) we were off again.
We aimed to head back toward the centre, but first decided to stop off at the hotel to drop off our purchases from earlier: big mistake. This was supposed to be our big night of partying as it is the only time that we don’t need to get up early and ride tomorrow. However, we hadn’t banked on just how knackered we would all feel. Despite the early hour the women all decided that since they were back at the hotel anyway they’d call it a night. After some brief indecision Andy decided to quit too.
That again left just Paul and me to sample the night-life. We headed first to the Crescent City Brewhouse on Decatur Street, the only French Quarter micro-brewery, only to discover they were almost on last orders: as they are a restaurant they close at 10pm. With fair warning of last orders we ordered a beer each, both going for the Black Forest, which is as dark as it sounds. A short while later the barman returned to tell us the bar was closing if we wanted to order another: well, it would be rude not to, and we were keen to try the Red Stallion…
Both beers were very good, but after a while we began to feel guilty about the fact that we were the only remaining customers and they were closing the place around us, so we left and headed once more for Bourbon Street.
We ended up in the Funky Pirate Bar, one that my pre-trip research had suggested as worth a visit. Although I had enjoyed the beer so far, it was quite gassy, so I resorted to a Jack & Coke. Once again there was music paying – a very good band playing rock covers, but after a couple of songs they finished their set, so we threw a couple of dollars into the tip jar that was passed around by the extremely large drummer and headed back off to the hotel.
It was still not quite midnight, so hardly a night of drunken debauchery, but I was glad to see my bed.
Miles today: 138
Total miles: 2331