Touring New Orleans on a bicycle? Have you tried French Quarter Bike Tours?
As with any tour group, it doesn’t take long for different personalities to shine through. Chad, our tour leader and all round great guy, is clearly at home in any crowd. He quickly had our 12 person group figured out! Bikes were adjusted, instructions of riding through the busy streets of New Orleans issued and we were on our way! One of the guys in the group became the designated round up guy – his wife proclaiming “he’s like a dog, give him a job and he’ll be happy!” All through the streets of town, our “round up guy” aka the guy at the back could be heard barking orders to keep together, stopping cars and ringing his bell. Heads all over town turned to see our group pedalling past. He reveled in his bright yellow safety vest – he was the perfect man for the job!
Our tour began on Decatur St near the French Markets. We rolled out of town, each of us getting used to our city cruiser bikes and the mellee on the streets as cars, pedestrians and pedi-bikes floated around us. Chad pointed out restaurants of interest, giving us tips on good places to go for anything your heart could desire in town. Home town proud was evident as Chad pointed out the idiosyncrices of NewOrleans from a locals perspective. Having worked in the tour industry for a number of years, his wealth of knowledge was astounding. He opened up New Orleans’ deep historical roots throughout the tour, from the architecture of the French Quarter, the French and Spanish rule and the years of slavery that proceeded where we are today, shaping the Quarter and defining the city.
The mood of the group became more sombre as he described what it was like to live through Katrina, showing us high water marks on fences and houses, and the markings of the first responders that were still evident on a few of the homes. We saw houses that had been abandoned and homes that had been restored and renovated back to their pre-Katrina glory. You could feel the effects of that devastating storm as we free wheeled over the streets, soft spots and cracks in the road rippling through the bike and vibrating through our arms in some of the rougher parts of town.
Historically, the stories of the lives of the blacks and whites played out in front of our eyes as we past through the various districts, including the Faubourg Marigny and Storyville. We saw the birthplace of Jazz in the Park at Congo Square and learned about the role of the church in the lives of the slaves.
From here, the contrasts were beyond belief as we marveled at the antebellum mansions across town in the Garden District. There is no shortage of famous people in New Orleans. We stopped outside the lovely Sandra Bullock’s home and the former home of Anne Rice where so many of her novels were written. The group was captivated as Chad told us about the customs of days gone by. It made me think about the book The Help…even though the book was not based in New Orleans, I could picture the characters living and working as the people once did in the houses that we stopped to look at.
Also included in the tour – a stop at one of New Orlean’s most famous cemeteries – Lafayette Cemetery. Have you heard of the expressions “night watchman” or “waking the dead”? Ever wonder why flowers are laid at the tombs? Chad went through the traditions, sayings and history of the cemetery, answering all our questions and pointing out the way people of the time combatted their beliefs of evil spirits and ghosts. Should you find yourself visiting this cemetery, you won’t be wrong in thinking you have seen it before. It remains a popular choice for Hollywood. While I was in town, the announcement came of yet another film scheduled to be shot within the gates of this sacred grounds. It is really quite a fascinating place. I will have to go back for a proper tour – sadly it was closed when we stopped.
Back at home, telling my friends about my recent adventures in New Orleans, I told them about my bike tour. Immediately, interest peaked (like me, many of my friends are avid cyclists) – “there’s cycling in New Orleans?” they asked! I had to explain that this was not the type of cycling they were thinking of. French Quarter Bike Tours is a tour company. We rode single gear bikes with a big basket on the front, covering 9 miles in 4 hours. Not quite the 100 mile rides that they normally do. It was a blast. I toured around on 2 wheels in a dress, saw all the sights and points of interest, and loved every minute of it! The bicycle tour is a great way to see the city – we covered more districts than would ever be possible on segway or on foot, and with such a perfect, sunny day – there was no way I was spending the afternoon on a bus!
New Orleans has a number of bicycle tour companies in town. According to Chad, there are 5, but the French Quarter Bike Tours groups are the only ones to go to the Garden District. I am sure that will change as it was a beautiful part of town to bike through and you will be missing out if you don’t go there. They also provide everyone with a helmet and bottle of water, but no sunscreen – don’t forget to cover those shoulders. Fresh out of winter – mine got a little pink. I like to call it a healthy glow!
Also good to know – while this is a new tourist venture, it is brought to you by the people who run Cajun Encounters. The family have been running tours for years. They know tourism. I never would have guessed they were in their first year had I not been peppering Chad with questions! The bike tour was polished and well put together. So, if you are looking at doing a swamp tour while in town, Cajun Encounters will offer you a discount by booking the 2 trips.
Thinking about a seeing the sites in New Orleans? Whether you want an organized tour or just to rent a bike and get around town on your own, French Quarter Bike Tours can help you out. Say hey to Chad for me – he took the tour to the next level!
Note – while I did tell Chad that I was a travel blogger, I paid for this tour in full. I had an amazing time and would gladly go again! I ran into him the next day in town outside one of the many tour agents offices. Even though he was busy delivering flyers, he stopped to have a chat and a high five….that’s just the kind of guy he is!