New Orleans

September 02, 2014

New Orleans is an amazing city. Colourful, warm, full of contrasts. I love the music, the liveliness, the architecture, the food, and well yes, the beer-to-go. Now, I'm usually more of a dry, unoaked white wine kind of girl (you know, nothing too specific), but there is something pretty great about a pool side beer and walking down the street with a plastic cup. Don't ask me why. This long weekend, a few weeks ago, was the perfect balance of catching up with old friends and making new ones, of lounging by the poolside and exploring the city, of partying and sleeping in.

There were 9 of us, staying in the French quarter, in different hotels. We all travelled to NOLA to celebrate two amazing friends turning... I mean looking 25 and as hot as ever. I had been to New Orleans before, briefly for a conference, and always said I would be back in a heartbeat. When my friends started planning this trip, I knew there was nowhere I'd rather be than there with them. But to be perfectly honest, I was maybe a little less than trilled to go in August, which is low tourist season due to the heat, the humidity, and the storms. I was picturing reliving the heat of this (otherwise absolutely amazing) place, which I also somehow chose to visit in August. As it turned out, New Orleans was hot but not unbearable. It was at times humid, but it didn't rain much until the last day, and never for very long. It was the perfect pool weather, and even if we had just stayed in the hotel catching up, I would have had a blast.

Of all the hotels our group scattered in, our favourite was Hotel Provincial, quint and charming, with 2 awesome pools. It was where we gathered during the day, where I was saved from starvation by some fried catfish heavenness, where I had a much deserved heart-to-heart with my besties. It's where, on our last night, after dining out, we spent the evening in bed, watching movies and eating chips, like we were still in our early twenties, and nothing had ever changed.

Food was amazing. Never short of choices, fresh fish and seafood, even a surprising number of vegetarian options. For a fancy dinner out, Mr B's Bistro offered a classy ambiance, and delicious creole food. I distinctly remember the food being amazing, and the wine even more, which may have later clouded my judgement. A must go. To recover the next day, Dat Dog was an amazing experience. Colourful, the kind of establishment, specializing in gourmet hotdogs with more than one veggie option, that would be a hit in Seattle. Just saying, in case they want to expand. Please.  It was divine. They have 3 locations in New Orleans, so you really don't have any excuse to miss it. A great lunch option worth the detour is Café Carmo, with amazing sandwiches, located in Lafayette square historic district. Now, for all the Café du Monde haters out there (yes, believe it or not, there are some), who will say it's too touristy, I only have this to say: 3 delicious beignets, i.e. fried balls of dough covered with powdered sugar, and a tasty café au lait, for $5. I'm not sure how you like to do breakfast, but this totally does it for me. It was everything I wished for, everything I remembered, and I can't wait to go back.

It is not surprising that New Orleans is such a major nightlife/party destination. Bourbon Street is quite the experience. It might be a good idea to pre-drink a little before going, to ease into it, and you'll be thankful that they wash the streets every night, especially in the heat. It's bustling, it's wild, and refreshing to hear something else than the Top 40. We loved Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, for the great patio space and the live piano music. One afternoon, we wandered to Frenchmen Street, and were attracted to a patio with not only awesome live music and extremely talented musicians, but also 2 for $5 mimosas. It was a good afternoon.

There was a lot of eating and drinking that weekend, but we also did explore New Orleans a little bit. We spent a lot of time in the French Quarter, wandering the streets, admiring the beautiful, colourful, at times slightly crooked buildings, the flowers and the wrought iron. My friends patiently waited for me as something caught my eye and I dragged behind taking pictures.

We went on a great swamp tour with Cajun Encounters, seeing tons of gaters. Also some raccoons, although we wondered why they kept calling them out, since well... they're everywhere and not that interesting. We booked an early tour, assuming that the animals would be more hungry and come out more. I'm not sure whether or not this was true, but it was well worth the early morning. Turns out, they seem to get their fair share of marshmallows and hot dog sausages in a day, which seems a bit concerning for their diet... I'm not too sure how I feel about it, but at least they still live in the wild, and apparently fight and eat each other. I guess that's what gaters do. A little bit after we got there and booked our boat, a large group of frat boys, who perhaps never went to bed, jumped out of the bus, each one holding multiple beers. We later crossed them on the water, most of them passed out on their seat, missing all the fun. We liked our boat better.

Alex and I had one last day in New Orleans, since our flights left last, and so we hopped on the street car and headed to the Garden District. I have great memories of looking at the giant mansions and at the beautiful gardens. Unfortunately, it started pouring as soon as we left Lafayette Cemetery #1, so we headed back towards the hotel, and called it quits. We sadly parted ways.

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