New Orleans is Home
May 09, 2024
ByDonovan Evans


Breaking News – City House Hostel Guests Don’t Want to Leave!

Use code CITYHOUSE10 for 10% off your booking when booked via our website! Offer valid until July 31st 2024.

For most of us, New Orleans is a ‘faraway land’ – an idea rather than a tangible place; a proposition so stimulating in theory alone that it lights up the amygdala of anyone who has caught a glimpse of this other world in passing TikTok reel’s, or across cozy dinner tables; When those who were once lucky enough to feel the beating heart of Southern U.S.A. for themselves reminisce about their once in a lifetime voyage. They relay memories that don’t yet belong to you, as thoughts of cobblestone laneways and cast-iron railings covered in trumpet yielding crawfish and cigar boasting hedonism fill your imagination.

Before you can wonder anymore, the wanderlust grows overbearing, and you book a plane ticket straight across the continent, plunking yourself into The Big Easy on a moment’s notice, refusing to become the guy or gal who says later in life, “New Orleans? Yeah, I never made it down there. Always wanted too, though…”

At least that’s what I did.

I landed at the Louis Armstrong airport in Kenner (a smaller, adjacent town), giddy before the Airbus even touched the ground. A short ride into the city, across mostly battered risen roads that met the torsos of abandoned skyscrapers had me wondering: Where was the spunk and funk that I was promised from friends and families lore? As if timing were to answer my own silly question, I rounded the corner and found myself staring down the massive French Quarter, unable to find it’s beginning or it’s end, as if it extended forever past the barred horizon and claimed the Mississippi River as its own.

The Uber driver rounded us off Canal and onto Burgundy Street. I found myself staring at City House New Orleans – a place I had heard just enough about to know it was the place to stay. As I unloaded my lonesome backpack out of the trunk, the driver stopped me. He said:

“Before you go, son, remember – nothing’s ever “it” in New Orleans. Nothin’ here’s as it seems. You’ll break your neck doin’ double takes. Have fun, and don’t close your eyes till you can’t keep them eyes open no more.”

He drove off before I could respond. I took his poetic quip too literally. The buildings, I thought to myself. Of course, I won’t be able to look away from structures older than The United States herself; Buildings that had survived mother nature’s most intense test (The tenacity of New Orleans after Katrina will amaze you)… and the food, if I wasn’t careful, I’d be staring down at Jambalaya and Muffaletta’s the entire time. I’d miss everything else!

It turns out, the things that really call your senses in New Orleans aren’t so simple. Don’t get me wrong: the architecture was exceptional (whether you’re atheist or Protestant, step in St. Patrick’s Church on Camp Street and simply look up) –and the cuisine was unparalleled in both its rich flavors and its multicultural influence (do not skip the Zesty Creole restaurant on Canal Street when you visit). But this irresistible aura my Uber driver alluded to, the same one that had kept my father talking about New Orleans forty years after he had last stepped foot there, began to present itself to me before I even had the time to wish for it.

It began as it always does, in the common room of the hostel. The shared space of City House was by far the most aesthetically pleasing I had ever seen, with a cleanliness quota to match. I met aspiring artists on the sprawling couch who played music far too good for young men who claimed they weren’t yet known. The younger one argued that it’s a matter of persistence, that if there’s anywhere a musician can finally fill his plate, it’s New Orleans. He pleaded his case, gripping his acoustic like he needs the most convincing of his statement out of anyone. The jaded guitarist warned the young lad he better learn to sing to his own soul, because, as he said, “where there’s more to eat, everyone just wants seconds.”

Meanwhile, a gentle housekeeper explained the history of Red Bean to a curious Canadian woman who peered over his steaming pot, utilizing the biggest hostel kitchen you will ever see. He told her the dish was a Monday tradition, a day to slow down and let the beans simmer from dawn to dusk while the tedious task of old-fashioned laundry was tended to. As the sun teased its setting, a vat of Red Bean and rice would be served to the whole family. The woman reminisced for a past she didn’t know and remarked that she wished life were still oh so simple. I agreed with her, I thought to myself, as our chef consoled us with one simple sentence – “The Big Easy is as close as you can get, in this crazy modern world, to washing trousers and slow-cooking stew on a Monday afternoon.”

As he rounded off his last word, Babsie rounded the corner with a big navy carton full of ice-cold drinks. Yeah… City House does a chilled, free happy hour from 7pm to 8pm, once a day, every day. The best part would have been the free beverages, if it weren’t for the buzzing personalities of the staff and the guests they served. As Babsie served up drinks with a smile for everyone, Ray, Max and Strat chatted with the guests. They are your three talented tour guides. This evening, it was Strat’s turn on Frenchman Street (there are many avenues beyond Bourbon Street well worth your attention, but they do offer a weekly Bourbon Street tour that you should not miss). We were to immerse ourselves in some of the genres New Orleans birthed, from R&B and Jazz to gospel and my favorite, funk; not just a genre of music, so I was told, but a way of life.

We finished off happy hour and a group of about 20 gathered eagerly for the proposed adventure. As we set off, Strat chaperoned with ease as we walked and gawked at the roads and structures and distant echoes of phonographs that were far older than ourselves yet welcomed our youth openly. On that walk, it dawned on me that timeless is the word for a place like NOLA.

We chatted among ourselves, as folks from here and there discussed where they’re from, and how their cultures had influenced New Orleans. You could feel a strong sense of pride in relation to its African American, Creole, Spanish, and French roots. New Orleans remains proud of the cosmopolitan, diverse ideas that it has long pioneered for. Founded in 1718 (French New Orleans), it persevered through the War of Independence, offering up some of the most iconic soldiers of the era, such as the commander of the New Orleans Free Black Militia, Noel Carriere, who helped win America’s freedom before the Louisiana Purchase when his home was still Spanish Colonial Louisiana. Trailblazing during the industrial revolution and giving us some of the greater American soldiers and generals of both World Wars, all the while fighting tooth and nail against the prejudice ideas about melting pot’s that the U.S.A. annex brought to these lands in the 19th and 20th centuries. Even after more modern environmental disasters such as in 2005, New Orleans doesn’t give in. They went to work, developing the most robust anti-storm and drainage infrastructure in the country, making tourists and homebodies feel secure. The streets were drained and swept. The historic buildings were stabilized. They began to sing and dance and play again.

One man from there that we met as we walked told us that in fact, they never stopped. “It’s not in our nature to give up. I believe that if Armageddon came tomorrow, the last survivor would be someone in a bar in New Orleans, playing his saxophone and telling himself everything is fine.” This tenacity seeps up through the cracks of the olden roads and out of the mouths and minds of locals and visitors. It will rub off on you in the best of ways.

We found ourselves in Blue Nile, a jazz bar known for showing the best NOLA has to offer. We were treated to a performance by the bands Mainline and New Breed Brass Band, who sang long remixes of everything from Chakha Khan to The Commodores to Dua Lipa. We danced like never before, and eventually found ourselves walking down the crowded Bourbon strip after weaving curiously throughout the surrounding area. We sipped hand grenades and munched on pralines. So much fun was had, from the dance floor of Oz to the mechanical bull of Scootin’ Boot Rodeo. By the time I had reckoned the night was now morning, I was quite literally right. There is no cutoff in New Orleans. My feet felt like 3am, but the dance floor looked like midnight. It was 6am! The city does not sleep. Once you’re ready, however, expect a restful slumber for yourself after the fun if you choose to stay at City House Hostel.

If you’re wondering why a blog about my entire trip has consisted thus far of only one evening, rest assured, New Orleans did not leave any lack of stories to tell. I could write a small book about my week there. I simply wish to emulate that you can expect every day and night to be as rich and exciting as the last. A place so alive you can’t miss it with your eyes closed. The people you meet will either become the hostel friend that you pen to frequently or the lady you met once on the bus, who dropped significant wisdom nonchalant, like she was telling you where to find a CVS. Every moment will speak for itself and reveal hidden meanings. The city itself is a limb of human experience. Its sounds and sights will become backdrops to your dreams at night. It will leave a bittersweet mark on your heart like old lovers and lost friendships; Glad for the experience, wishing it never ended, unable to forget.

If you are the kind of person who is charmed and drawn to the camaraderie of hostels, then New Orleans is for you. More specifically, City House Hostel, at 129 Burgundy Street, is the flagship way to experience your own big easy story that you will be talking about in forty years.

By Donovan Evans


Use code CITYHOUSE10 for 10% off your booking when booked via our website! Offer valid until July 31st 2024.

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