New Orleans Welcomes IPW with Zydeco, Paddle Wheelers and Beads

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A former paddle wheel ship captain shares stories about the river aboard the Natchez in New Orleans.

A former paddle wheel ship captain shares stories about the river aboard the Natchez in New Orleans.

I arrived in New Orleans last night and it did not take long to feel very much at home. I settled into my somewhat ‘rustic’ AirBNB, located in a poor part of the city, and my next stop was the fabulous and legendary Broussard’s Restaurant. Here, in a delightful back garden, a party was beginning.

My hosts were the friendly people from Destination DC, who will be hosting next year’s IPW show. With some tasty appetizers and some schmoozing with travel bloggers from Toronto and Australia, it all began.

Sweet Crude, a Zydeco band, rocked the Orpheum at the opening brunch.

Sweet Crude, a Zydeco band, rocked the Orpheum at the opening brunch.

We dined on shrimp and grits and later, strolled down crowded Bourbon Street to a big party in a club that was filled only with people from the show.

It’s always fun having the place and the bar to ourselves—no need to pay a big tab,  and no one but fellow travel peeps to hang out with. I met a friendly woman named Tara up on the balcony looking down at the crowded street, she told me about working for the Seminole Tribe, who own the Hard Rock Hotel chain.

We tossed some beads down and the women standing next to me took particular delight in the men who pulled up their shirts to earn their beads. No women did the same, it remained PG rated last night.

Tara, who works in sales for Hard Rock hotels, up on the balcony.

Tara, who works in sales for Hard Rock hotels, up on the balcony.

I watched an expert DJ spin a little turntable while she played digital music, she somehow affected the sound even though no vinyl was playing. The music grew louder and dancing ensued. I looked down at my phone and saw nine percent and knew it was time to Uber my way back to the tiny house where I was lodging.

This morning I woke up feeling good and joined a throng at a big welcoming brunch at the Orpheum Theater. There was a fantastic and authentic zydeco band playing called Sweet Crude, and then the Preservation Hall Jazz All Stars took a turn.

We toured all four floors of the magnificent theater, at one area there were people offering a Tabasco sauce tasting–take a tiny bite of the hot peppers behind the acclaimed sauce and get a spoon to wear around your neck.

Broussards is one of the best restaurants in New Orleans. Here we are in the back garden.

Broussards is one of the best restaurants in New Orleans. Here we are in the back garden.

At 11, we boarded a bus and then embarked on a steamboat river cruise aboard the Natchez, a stern-drive paddlewheeler where one of the original captains spoke about how the English ships brought all the stones used in construction in the holds of their ships.

“There are no stones from Baton Rouge down, the only stones you see are the ones that came in those ships, and we paid dearly for them. In Boston they used to throw them overboard.”

The beautiful Orpheum theater had treats, drinks and fun on four levels during the IPW opening brunch.

The beautiful Orpheum theater had treats, drinks and fun on four levels during the IPW opening brunch.

The muddy river has all sorts of interesting diversions—huge military transport ships, docked and used to house people during Hurricane Katrina, I was told by a Port of NOLA employee who lived there for four months in 2005.

We were told that New Orleans is an up and comer for cruise ships, more than one million passengers will visit the port in 2016, more and more cruise lines are adding the Crescent City to their rosters and a new terminal will be built where decrepit docks now sit empty.

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Max Hartshorne
Max Hartshorne has been the editor of the GoNOMAD.com travel website since 2002. Over the past decade, he has had the privilege of working with writers and publishing travel articles about nearly every country in the world. He has also been a consistent world traveler, writing hundreds of his own travel stories and posting daily blogs from the 10 or more yearly international trips he takes around the world.

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