Good Times in NOLA

One of my resolutions for 2016 was to take a couple of extended weekend trips to travel to cities I’ve never visited.  First up on the list?  New Orleans, Louisiana.  I didn’t know much about the city, but I felt like it’s one of those places you need to cross off your bucket list.  After a few days in the city, it quickly captures a place in your heart.  All of the locals we spoke with (mainly Uber drivers lol) were all proud to call New Orleans home, which is always a testament to the city.  I’m not typically a history buff, but New Orleans is overflowing with history and stories.  It’s hard to not get sucked in.  We would ride the St. Charles Streetcar every morning and marvel at the gorgeous (enormous) antique homes gracing the tree-lined street.  The trees are draped in Mardi Gras beads that didn’t quite make it down to the parade crowd.  The food is amazing, there’s always music playing, and you can carry your drink on the street!  Oh, and parades just randomly break out at any time.  Seriously.  How could you not have fun here?

I wanted to get the “local” feel rather than feeling like a tourist, so I used Airbnb for the first time.  I was so happy with that choice!  The little loft was so charming and comfortable and just a short walk to the Street Car. 

Let’s be honest – one of the main reasons you visit New Orleans is to sample the amazing local cuisine.  Don’t get me wrong – Pittsburgh’s food scene is definitely thriving, but you don’t often see Bayou Frog Legs on the menu.  Our first day in the city, we had to do the tourist routine and check Bourbon Street off our list.  If you live in Pittsburgh and have not been to Bourbon Street, I compared it to Carson Street on steroids.  I am probably just getting old, but I cannot imagine being there during Mardi Gras.  We hadn’t really mapped out where we would eat and I was a bit nervous because I didn’t want to waste one of our New Orleans lunches at a place that wasn’t good.  We landed on Pier 424 and ended up being beyond pleasantly surprised.  The food was amazing – I tried fried alligator and got real hushpuppies (until that day I thought they only existed at Long John Silvers).  Beyond the food, the service was awesome.  I never remember a waiter or waitresses’ name, but Nadia was so outstanding that I still remember her name!  

Saturday morning it was a bit rainy, but absolutely everyone told us we had to go get Beignets at Café Du Monde.  Apparently Kim Kardashian ate a pound of these when she was pregnant.  Eye roll.  However, they were incredible and lifted our spirits a bit on that rainy morning.   

We were trying not to spend a crazy amount of money, but decided that we would treat ourselves to at least one fancy dinner.  We chose Emeril Lagase’s NOLA

One of our main excursions was a swamp tour with Airboat Adventures.  We saw alligators and I even fed one a marshmallow on a stick!  Also saw this cute little raccoon…though I’m not sure if he should have been out during the day…hmmm.  I also got to hold Wally, the little alligator baby.  Our guide was really knowledgeable – the whole thing was a blast!  Sorry for the different size photos - but wanted to share my alligator and raccoon pics! 

Our last day in the city we decided to do a tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1.  I highly recommend either a cemetery or ghost tour.  I am a big baby, so we opted for cemetery.  We actually found a Groupon for French Quarter Phantoms – I recommend always checking Groupon before a trip – you never know, it might save you a few dollars!  We met at the VooDoo Lounge which just happens to serve the BEST Blood Mary’s ever.  Our tour guide was awesome and I honestly felt like I learned so much!  I won’t give you a history lesson…but basically all the cemeteries in New Orleans are above ground vaults and tombs.  Up to 300 people might actually be in one tomb!  How you ask?  Apparently the bodies naturally cremate from the heat, so after a year and one day (very specific), the ashes are pushed to the back of the tomb and a new body is put in.  Crazy right?  We also saw the supposed tomb of Madame Marie Laveau, the Queen of Voodoo.  Her story was so fascinating I actually bought a book about her to learn more!

Other tourist activities included a walk to Jackson Square where we saw the Jackson Monument and St. Louis Cathedral.  Jackson Square in a historic landmark as it's the site of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the United States.

One of my favorite parts of being in New Orleans was that there was literally music on every corner.  We went to Magazine Street one night (according to the locals this is where they prefer to go rather than Bourbon).  In every bar and restaurant we passed, there was live music playing.  We even stumbled into an outdoor night art market that was so fun and unique.  Walking through the French Quarter, there are musicians everywhere.  I even bought a CD I loved one duo so much!  The pic below is one of my favorite from the trip.

Anyone else been to New Orleans?  Comment below and let me know your favorite part about this city!