It's been described that New Orleans is like waking up in the Caribbean, having lunch in Paris, then relaxing in the bayou all evening. I'll be honest, when I found out I'd be venturing to Nola for a work convention, I wasn't ecstatic; but, once I did a little research of the sights and bites of this historic city, I was pleasantly surprised! Dare I say, I'd like to go back again?
Because I visited for work, there wasn't much time for personal exploring; however, I was able to take in some of the classic sights just before departing for home. A friend from high school attended University in Nola so she was a wealth of knowledge in preparing for this trip! I wasn't able to check off everything on her list but I'll include it to remember for later ;)
Ah, the French Quarter. This ought to go without saying, yet I don't think I fully prepared myself for the majesty of architecture and getting lost down hidden alleys. My greatest recommendation for the French Quarter is to plan for much longer than you expect. There are wildly talented musicians on nearly every corner throughout the day and you'll find yourself lollygagging to listen to the sounds of the street. Be sure to carry a few dollars for tip jars!
Within the French Quarter, be sure to swing by Jackson Square. There is everything for your touristy heart's desire - carriage rides, museum, and the oldest cathedral in the US! If you don't want those pesky extras in your photos, stop by Jackson Square first thing in the morning. I've found the best city exploring happens when the city is still asleep - especially if many have stayed out on Bourbon Street the night before!
Once you've had your fill of wobbly cobblestone streets and street performers (could you ever have your fill?), hop on a trolley and point yourself toward the Garden District on the St. Charles streetcar. For a whopping $1.25 or $3/day pass, you can stroll along tree-lined streets and swoon over ornate, historic homes. Conveniently, the #1 cemetery in New Orleans is in the Garden District. Seems like an odd attraction but because of the low sea level, all burials must be above ground in Nola. Walk through the old stone burials and gander at the old dates and unique names!
The last few recommendations were a little outside the French Quarter area we were staying so I didn't get the opportunity to uber to the outskirts of the city center....but maybe next time!
Maybe it's because I work in the food industry, but I find that one of the most valuable aspects when assessing a new city is the quality of coffee shops and independent restaurants. I had to plan a couple dinners for our work team when we were in town so I was able to do a fair amount of research and planning - and call it work!
Our first night we wanted to experience New Orleans for a fancier evening out on the town, albeit an experience to tap into more of the French inspiration and less of the Cajun. We had settled on Cafe Amelie with the "secret garden" patio and mouthwatering menu; but, alas, they weren't open on Mondays. Next in line for restaurant recommendations was Antione's where we settled in at a large table for 10 and were pampered by our excellent waiter - he had worked there for 40+ years! I went the adventurous route and ordered the Crabes mous Amandine (pictured above). I was affirmed in my decision when I saw that same battered soft-shell crab plastered to a wall at the airport, promoting Antione's. Besides the Oysters Rockefeller, it's the dish they’re best known for.
To top off the evening, we scurried over to the original 24-hour Cafe du Monde for hot chocolate and the most powdery beignets. On my way out of town, I was going to stop for beignets to-go, but I hadn't noted that Cafe du Monde only accepts cash. Sadly, this was discovered after waited through the endless line. Note the cash only for the future!
Early mornings were my time to explore! I hit the cobblestone streets at dawn to get a quick cup of coffee and do my Bible study before going in to work for the day. After unsuccessfully finding many coffee shop options, I made myself a regular at Revelator Coffee when in town. With a vibe very similar to our Minneapolis haunts, I found myself right at home. I had wanted to check out the cuban coffee at El Libre but wasn't able to fit it in.
As I said I wasn't too thrilled by the location of our work trip, it was mostly an apprehension of the infamous Bourbon Street - especially as we were there just a week before Mardi Gras. One evening, a colleague and I visited Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop with some work acquaintances. Lafitte's is known as the oldest bar on Bourbon Street and home to dueling pianos. I had heard of the Napoleon House as another fun option that is equally historical as it is beautiful! With an early morning flight the next day, we called the night early and I don't feel like I missed out on much. I'd take pop-up jazz street performers over the alarming sights of Bourbon Street any day ;)
All photos taken with iPhone 6+ and edited with VSCO.
Laissez les bon
Let the good times roll