Sometimes a business trip gets you to places that are a bit out of the ordinary. New Orleans, or NOLA, is one of those destinations. It is also called the ‘Big Easy’ and the city is known for 24/7 nightlife – crazy local brews like the Hurricane - a vibrant live-music scene – jazz of course - and spicy food that reflects its history as a melting pot of French, Spanish, African and American cultures.
There is a lot to see, explore and eat across the city but for this blog, I am focusing mostly on the French Quarter; the crown jewel of NOLA. It’s like stepping back in time with the Creole aristocrats lining the galleries of the quarter. The creole townhouse are possibly the most iconic pieces of architecture in the city. The history of the city and the preserved building just leaves you in awe. It certainly does not feel like your usual US city.
When you walk around you can just feel the history. It absorbs you, in a good way. You just want to know more and more about this great city and what it must have been like living here when the French and Spanish ruled. When you wander around, it feels like you are back in time, somewhere in France. My name would be Josephine, and yours would be Napoleon, or Louis…
From fortune tellers on the squares, jazz-artists showing of their talent at little cafes, to Voodoo priests/practitioners keeping evil spirits out. Its all here for visitors to experience. It is worth going into the little voodoo shops and get a little ‘teaching’ on what it actually means and does. Today in New Orleans it’s more a practice and wearing of charms and keeping amulets for protection, healing and not so much about bringing harm to others. I had to get one myself! Not only are they kinda cute (and a bit creepy at the same time) – they are hand-made and blessed individually by a Voodoo priest – just makes it a little special when you pick one up for you and your friend(s).
Make sure you pick the right one – the doll has to ‘speak’ to you. Get a hair or something else personal and pin it onto the doll using the white pin and all good stuff should be coming your way! Use the black pin when you have some bad juju that you want to get rid of…
Knowing that NOLA is known for its food scene, there are a couple of things you just have to try. First thing is King Cake. The king cake tradition was brought from France in 1870. It’s a mix between a coffee cake and a French pastry and covered with colored sugar (purple, green and gold – standing for Justice, Faith and Power). You will only find king cake around the time Mardi Gras is taking place so plan your trip accordingly if you are dying to try this. Oh and by the way….it was amazing!
The other ‘must eat’ is a square French-style beignet aka doughnut from Café du Monde.
The beignets are freshly made, nice and warm when they get served and covered with powdered sugar. Yum!! This French café has been in business as a French coffee shop since 1862 and can be found at exactly the same place where is was founded. The café is open 24/7 so whenever you ‘crave’ a beignet they are as fresh as ever!
Plenty of choices here! And yes, I did find healthy food as well (and ate it!). From Creole to French...its all here. I decided to explore the French fare and found Justine. Justine is a French-style brasserie, located at Chartres street. The café side opens to the street and it great for people watching and to enjoy a late afternoon glass of wine. It actually gives you a bit of a Parisian-street experience.
Depending on what you are looking for, NOLA is good for shopping as well! Don’t expect too many high-end shops like you will find in New York or Los Angeles, but the outlet shops give you good bank for your buck. But I would just browse the hundreds of little shops to pick up some creole pralines and Aunt Sally, spicy hot sauce, bring home beignet mix, a Saints souvenir, or something one of a kind from Fleurty.
When you have enough time to explore, unlike me, make sure you visit the Garden District, Lafayette Cemetery (don’t go explore these tombs alone but take a guided tour – for safety mostly). To visit the ‘burbs’ use the Atlantis audio tours app for individual guided tours (only $3 for each tour). If you are feeling romantic or just like being on the water, take a sunset cruise on one of the original Mississippi steamers. You really cannot go wrong with a visit to NOLA. You are in my heart forever!