I’ve wanted to visit New Orleans since, well forever. I had the opportunity to stop in fora few hours on a road trip about 10 years ago, but it wasn’t enough. After some discussion over brunch at a French Quarter-inspired restaurant in my San Diego neighborhood, Leeann and I decided to go. Even with all of her meticulous planning, we would’ve never guessed what we were in for. After an overwhelming first night, we settled in nicely and experienced most of what the city offers. Here are some good,bad, and sweaty highlights from our springtime trip to NOLA.
Don’t assume you’re staying at the Ritz unless you actually are. One of the biggest draws of the French Quarter is the architecture, and staying in a historic boutique hotel sounded like a dream. If you don’t mind shacking up in one of the “traditional” rooms with original creaky hardwood floors, an air conditioning unit that won’t turn off, and a view of the parking lot then this was your dream come true! However, it wasn’t all bad. The front desk staff was lovely and more than willing to help us find our footing around the city. The lobby bar was enjoyable, as were the patrons returning from their night on the town. The bartender was a true, stoic gem and taught me an important lesson about ordering whiskey in the South: Don’t. Would I stay here again? Absolutely,but only in a different room!
|The magnificent courtyard outside our room.|
|Soaking our aching feet in the saltwater pool.|
Take tours, but not too many. Leeann loves herself a tour, a haunted tour at that. And I was game for anything. The night tour is a MUST (James Franco agrees!). It was great to walk around in a large group and learn about the area on our first night in town. It was also refreshing to learn that the smell that we smelled is also noticeable by all residents, as verified by our delightful tour guide. The Garden District tour was equally, if not more enjoyable. A local celebrity, our guide was very in the know of the Garden District and its living (including famous) and nonliving residents. If I had to choose one to skip, it would be the St. Louis Cemetery tour. This was our THIRD time hearing the history of NOLA and the tour guide was not very engaging. The cemetery is off the beaten path (one more block and you’ve reached Treme!), however it really isn’t that far and if you are in a group or you take a taxi, it is safe to go without a tour. Just do your research beforehand so you don’t miss any significant burial sites. And most importantly, don’t choose your footwear based on style over comfort. We limped the entire trip. But damn, our shoes were cute.
|Lafayette Cemetery No. 1|
Venture out of the French Quarter, but learn the streetcar system before you do. Streetcars are an incredible alternative to the bus systems that we are used to. Just make sure that you either have exact change to board, or you read the directions on the ticket machine thoroughly or you will find yourself with an $18 change voucher than can only be redeemed in one place uptown that you will probably never find. That said, the Garden District is divine and easily accessible by streetcar. Our swamp & plantation tour afforded us the opportunity to see the countryside and it was unreal. It was so lush and simply breathtaking. An unusual sight for us city girls.It is well worth a trip out of the city.
|My shorts are *probably* why people thought we were a couple...|
|The swamp, complete with a sneaky alligator.|
Imbibe local beverages, just not on Bourbon Street.Bourbon Street. This is a tough one, because it is supposed to be the definitive heart of NOLA. If this is where the heart of NOLA lies, that makes the city a disenchanted, broken down mistress far beyond her glory days. This was not the NOLA we wanted. Oddly enough we only ended up there by accident. If you really want to experience the alcoholic beverages that NOLA has to offer, take a cocktail tour. Just as Leeann has a deep love for ghost tours, I have a deep love for alcohol (possibly the worst comparison ever). The city has an incredibly, yet not surprisingly rich history of alcohol and cocktail innovation. And my goodness, we could not have gotten a more classic, adorable southern lady as our tour guide. My favorite drink from the entire trip was Pimm’s Cup, although I’m still not sure what’s in it and our favorite bar (which wasn’t part of the tour) was Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. NOLA also has some great local brews that you shouldn’t be afraid to try.
|Trying an Old Fashioned for the first, and last time. It stings.|
Speaking of the locals…MOST of them are so nice! I’ve never experienced such friendly and talkative cab drivers. One waiter kept calling us, “baby girl” and “booboo” and I mean you can’t help but relish in that. But in a city whose motto is, “Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll!)” it’s not entirely fair to expect world class service from everyone.They work hard, and obviously play hard. Also, drunken older men do not equal southern gentlemen (not unless that means talk as loudly as possible and pass out in lounge chairs by the pool). And most importantly, please stop asking about Hurricane Katrina (I’m looking at YOU, elderly Canadian tourists...).
|I'm still this man's biggest fan. TWO Jesus tattoos and an inside-out shirt?|
Let's be best friends.
Be prepared for the most random things…A man dressed in a wolf (pig?) costume scaring people in front of St. Louis Cathedral. Overaggressive tour patrons recording an entire swamp tour (people still video things? Who watches them?!?). Mugsy the cat. A feisty old woman who called me “chicken” in all sincerity when I wouldn’t ask the guide how long the tour was supposed to be. And my favorite, a crazy old tea leaf reader who literally predicted what occurred in my life this past weekend.
When I go missing, chances are I’ll be fire dancing on Frenchman Street. Literally,every person we asked about nightlife directed us to Frenchman Street. A hipster paradise, it is the Mecca for incomparable local music and bars that are from another time. I was completely spellbound by a tiny and peculiar arts and crafts show that had taken over an empty lot. And this is when I fully let NOLA enter my heart. It’s where I found the NOLA I’ve always dreamed of. THIS was NOLA, y’all.
|Local arts & crafts. I die.|
|The definition of carefree.|
Many thanks to my dear friend Leeann for researching and organizing all of our outings. For putting up with my excessive souvenir shopping. And for tolerating my incessant impressions and naming of random tourists (Shout-outs to Jeff, Elaine, and my favorite…BARRY! Jesus Barry, calm it down). New York, 2013!