November 26 & 27
The hostel in New Orleans is the worst hostel I have been to but it worked well for me. At $16 a night, it’s a much better deal than sleeping on the ground in a Florida State Park.
I went for the cheapest option at the hostel: The 20-bed dorm room. That’s how they advertised it, but it was actually a string of four rooms that were all connected by doorways. I was in the fourth room so I walked through three rooms of sleeping people to get to my bed, but no one walked through my room to get anywhere. I slept like a rock every night. The hostel was almost empty. On my last night there was only one other person in the 20-bed dorm.
People hung out and drank on the patio at all hours. They were all nice, but their constant presence was tiring. I was overwhelmed by all the people after being alone for weeks, and they were always trying to get me to chip in to buy booze or drugs. I was still waking up early, and at eight a.m. it was hard to tell whether the patio crowd had been drinking all night or if they had just woken up and started drinking.
There aren’t many young people in the rural South, and there were people at the hostel who I did really enjoy getting to know. I met Victor, who made detailed pencil drawings and sold them in Jackson Square. Jeff and Austin had just moved to New Orleans and were working at an environmental nonprofit. Christian was on the last leg of a year-long trip around the world. His next stop was San Francisco, and then he was flying home to Australia. He assured me that there are much worse hostels than the Marquette House in New Orleans.
I spent my third day in New Orleans exploring some of the farther reaches of the city and some of the less touristy tourist attractions. I saw Tulane University and Audubon Park, and then I pedaled through midtown and up to Lake Pontchartrain. I spent the night walking around in the rain in Louis Armstrong Park and eating craw fish boudin from a corner store.
The 27th was my last day in New Orleans. I wanted to explore more, but first I had to wash my clothes. I took all my clothes a few blocks down the street to Igor’s 24-hour Bar, Game Room and Laundromat. In the back of the bar, next to some pool tables, four washing machines rested against a bare brick wall. I pushed my clothes into the machine and tossed in half of a bar of soap hotel soap. I started my clothes and got a cup of coffee at the bar.
I read the last pages of Confederacy of Dunces and wrote in my journal while my clothes spun around in the machine. It was 10:30 a.m. and the bar was quiet except for a couple guys playing pool and a a woman playing the slot machines. My cold was long gone, but my sense of smell hadn’t returned. I could see people smoking cigarettes but I couldn’t smell it. I did have some sense of smell though – the sour smell of the bathroom at Igor’s was strong enough to penetrate my nostrils.
Washington Square park on Frenchmen Street is lined with big oaks and is a fine place for people watching. I spent much of the afternoon reading in the park. I loved New Orleans and I had a great time spending my time idly, reading in parks, hanging out in coffee shops and bars, eating good food, looking at art, listening to music and exploring. However, I was looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing new landscapes.
I revisited some of my favorite spots in New Orleans, and then stocked up on food at the best grocery store between NOLA and Austin and got ready to leave. Now that the holiday was well over, I was the only person in my hostel room. Before going to bed, I took a long hot shower – I didn’t know it, but it was my last shower for a while. I was clean, all my clothes were freshly washed, my stuff was packed, and my tent was dry. Rain was in the forecast but I was excited to get moving again.