New Orleans...Land of Po' Boys and Jazz
The first big trip Chase and I took together was to New Orleans, nearly a year after our wedding. A sort of late honeymoon. We'd decided that we would spend the next year or so, taking smaller trips around the U.S. while paying off our little Yosemite nuptials. The dream vacation we were supposed to take to Europe would have been this month, and as I sit here, feeling a bit sorry for myself over the loss of our long anticipated adventure, I'm reminiscing about the places we have been. So here's to New Orleans, let's go back in time.
We traveled to the land of po' boys and jazz music, at the start of the "off season" in June, trading some prime weather for killer hotel deals. We've since become connoisseurs of off-season travel, garnering some pretty odd looks when we went to New England during a snow storm. I'll save that for another blog.
Chase and I are mainly interested in good food so let's start there. After dropping our things at the hotel, we set off to find what we could eat in the French Quarter.
BEINGETS AND CALAS CAKES
We indulged in beignets at the famous Cafe Du Monde, which was just a few dangerous blocks from where we were staying. Overall, I enjoyed the dense and chewy texture of these, but since they are quite the touristy hub, each time we went, they had been sitting for a bit. If you want fresh, piping hot beignets as they are meant to be eaten, you'll be more satisfied with Cafe Beignet, which can now be found where the Old Coffee Pot restaurant was. I'm so glad we had the opportunity to eat at The Old Coffee Pot. We went twice for breakfast; Calas cakes with grits and crawfish omelets. Calas cakes on their own are a bit dry... sort of a less sweet, cookie ball made of rice with a bit of cinnamon spice. Mixed with buttery grits though, they are out of this world. The Old Coffee Pot had been there for over 100 years, it's such a shame it lost its appeal to the younger generations but I'm happy to see the structure remains, with much of its original integrity intact.
BREAKFAST AT BRENNAN'S
You can't go to New Orleans and not have breakfast at Brennan's. Well, I suppose you can, but you're not coming with me. Brennan's is the birthplace of banana's foster, where they'll flambé the dessert right at your table. This was by far my favorite meal and since Brennan's is still highly instagram-able I don't think they'll be going anywhere any time soon. Did you hear that? That was a big sigh of relief from 10,000 basic white girls who have yet to take photos of themselves pretending to eat. The interior is reminiscent of if Wes Anderson had directed The Golden Girls. Sort of hipster, Miami chic. While, the atmosphere alone is drool worthy, the food is something special. We had the most incredible, perfectly executed french omelette, and eggs sardou. Highly recommend both. You'll notice we never order separate things. Chase and I always decide on two dishes we'd both like to try and split them. If you aren't doing this, you aren't using your relationship to its full advantage.
THE SEARCH FOR THE PO' BOY
In an effort not to bash any businesses and just get straight to the point, I'll just give you the advice we got from a local: Go to Guy's on Magazine street. We made two attempts before Guy's, and after some pretty bland, dry sandwiches, we conceded that maybe po' boys weren't our thing. Maybe they were one of those things that had become a little over hyped. This is why you always ask a local. Think about it, if you were to list your favorite places in your own town, they would likely not be the places that come up on a google search. Unless, you're a touristy bitch in your own town, and if so, live your life...but don't give recommendations.
WHERE TO STAY
In hindsite, we are much more "just outside the city" people. The French quarter was full of life and people, and for our first time to the city, it was good. But I'd definitely stay in the Garden district next time. Just a short trolly ride into the square and oh so romantic with giant moss covered trees and houses that look like they belong on the same street as Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. I will have a house in NOLA someday. On Exposition Blvd. With the Audubon Park as our front yard. If you want a recommendation for the quarter though, we stayed at the French Market Inn and it was beautiful and super affordable.
WHAT TO DO
We loved just walking around the French Quarter, listening to live music, and being in Jackson Square.
For good, local nightlife and SO MUCH MUSIC, head over to Frenchmen Street at night. We found a fun little outdoor craft market where we bought some pop art prints from the artist.
The WW2 Museum is just a trolly ride away from the city and was one of the most moving, and well executed museums we've experience. This is an all day thing. I'd definitely set aside at least 3 hours to get through the museum itself.
Our alligator tour was so fun. Skip the horribly loud air boats and let a local take you out! I found a tour out of Jean Lafitte on a pontoon boat and it was just so cool. I think there were no more than 12 of us and the captain.
Audoubon Park and Zoo. On our last day, we went to the zoo, walking along Exposition Blvd, through the park from St. Charles Ave to get there. It was gloomy and lovely.
Ghost tours in the square. I LOVE horror. I love Stephen King, and horror movies, and anything supernatural. So although a little campy at times, and certainly VERY touristy, I'd reccomend doing at least one ghost tour. You'll learn so much about the city's history, and it's jut a fun thing to do at night. I was fascinated with the vampire folklore surrounding New Orleans. Did you know people actually believe in them? I didn't. If you're board, look up Jacques Saint Germain....it's nuts.
As I sit here, on my living room floor, on day 70 of a stay at home order, taking this trip to New Orleans again has filled my soul and brought some hope. I hope it does for you as well. This pandemic will pass. We will be with family and friends. We will eat good food. We will travel. Until then, I'm praying for New Orleans, praying for the world, washing my hands, and staying inside.