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New Orleans is an experience, it has a reputation to live up to and everything possible is done to ensure the reputation is maintained. It's always Mardi Gras in New Orleans!

Let The Good Times Roll

"Hey man, ten bucks says I could tell you where you got them shoes."

This scam artist is making no attempt to disguise his profession.

He's wearing flair trousers and a dazzling array of cheap jewellery and he's after easy money.

He's your stereotypical New Orleans con-man. But I've prepared for this. I will not be fooled.

"I'll tell you where I've got these shoes. Right here on my feet in Bourbon Street," I reply.

I read about that one in the Lonely Planet Guide to New Orleans

New Orleans (City Guide)

"Hey man, keep it quiet brother."

He doesn't want potential targets to overhear the response to his money-spinning question.

"Yeah you got me," he conceded as he shakes my hand. "I'll tell you this new one I got. I bet I could spell your name in eight letters."

"Oh right," I reply, not particularly caring. I just want to head to a bar, listen to some jazz and have a beer.

"Y-O-U-R-N-A-M-E. Your name, you see man? Eight letters. You shook on it, you owe me ten bucks!"

"No I didn't, you were just telling me your new scam!" I protest.

"You shook on it and my bodyguard over there saw you do so, so you'd better pay up I'd say; because he can get real mean," says the experienced scammer as he points to a man lurking in the shadows. I think it was Lennox Lewis.

You have to be on your guard twenty-four hours a day in New Orleans!

About This Louisiana City

World-renowned Cajun cooking thrives here, whilst streetcars and jazz music are more likely to be associated with New Orleans than any other place on earth.

You may even know that the world's only white alligators have been found in the swamps of Louisiana. They're on display at the Audubon Zoo and are worth a visit.

Then of course, there is the minor matter of arguably the world's most notorious festival; Mardi Gras.

I met a man from Chicago who said a visit to New Orleans was an annual event for him. I thought it was odd that he had chosen this time of year and not during Mardi Gras. He allowed himself an indulgent chuckle, raised his eyes towards me and said; 'Son, it's always Mardi Gras in New Orleans!'

Strange things happen when you take your first step onto Bourbon Street, the bustling, seedy epicentre of nightlife in the French Quarter.

You leave all your inhibitions behind and most of your morals too.

Respectable women are mysteriously overcome with naughtiness and are willing to reveal their breasts for the sake of some tacky beads.

"Hey you! You with the beer, get your tits out!" I hear someone shout.

It's a man aged about fifty shouting to a young, attractive girl walking down the street as he throws her some beads. Expecting her to give him the finger and tell the pervert exactly where he can stick his beads, I'm surprised when she shouts back, "These beads are shit. Got any better ones?"

In response, the ageing breast-thirsty bead-man launches a green necklace though the air, decorated with four leaf clovers and the Irish flag.

This garment is apparently wondrous, sought after jewellery on Bourbon Street. It may have cost four, maybe five dollars in one of the many souvenir shops that specialise mainly in beads, voodoo dolls and Cajun cookery books. It's 24-caret gold in comparison to the standard beads primarily on offer; so therefore the girl obliges, her top is lifted and off she struts.

The dignified young lady can even afford to shed previous beads boasting, "I don't need those ones anymore now I've got these!"

It is utter madness.

Similarly extraordinary behaviour will be found in any of the bars you walk into.

Music in New Orleans

The music in the French Quarter, incidentally, is not exclusively Jazz.

In fact, the presence of jazz suggested by the image of New Orleans is very much exaggerated. You're far more likely to come across a young boy tap dancing for extra cash than a saxophonist playing the blues under a streetlamp.

Jazz or not though, the music is fantastic.

Bars host live music. Whether it's rock, country, jazz or dance; every night of the week, you'll be catered for no matter what your musical preference and, as this is New Orleans, there's always a seedy twist to the music.

Even if you find yourself listening to a couple of men playing John Denver classics on the piano, as I did, you'll soon find yourself joining in with the rest of the audience in some foul-mouthed outburst as the lyrics of 'Take me Home Country Road' take on X-rated amendments.

New Orleans: Reputation To Live Up To

New Orleans is an experience, it has a reputation to live up to and everything possible is done to ensure the reputation is maintained.

Cajun cooking is encouraged everywhere, tarot-card readers flood the streets as people pour out from the clubs and the boats providing trips down the Mississippi river are still steamboats.

Savor the beauty and romance of New Orleans on a two-hour cruise from the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans only steamboat ... the Steamboat Natchez!
Steamboat Natchez

In an uniquely American way, but with a naughty French twist, New Orleans doesn't want you to leave disappointed.

I didn't leave disappointed. I left with a foul-mouth and a lack of respect for women!

The motto here is 'Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler':
Let The Good Times Roll.

By Ben Morris.

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