Last fall, I had the pleasure of traveling to the beautiful and exciting city of New Orleans, Louisiana. At its heart, I spent over 72 hours along the French Quarter, consuming history and listening closely to proud traditions. Overwhelmed with New Orleans’ perpetual celebrations, I took my time to appreciate Creole cuisine, befriend local spirits, and observe the city’s French and Spanish architecture.
With every unfamiliar travel, I gather the most inspiration and humility through meals and rich dishes that are rooted in its home. It’s a picnic that introduces me to the city’s recipes and many customs. Cuisine is an important reflection of community – a helpful glimpse into culture.
My mornings began with Beignet bliss and a supportive cup of orange juice at Café du Monde, a local coffee stand established in 1862 located at New Orleans’ French Market. Beignets are magical, square-shaped pastries that are deep-fried to perfection and generously coated with confectioner’s sugar. Need I explain my addiction?
After breakfast, I headed into the Pharmacy Museum, an exhibit showcasing an extensive collection and educational program that preserves the history of healthcare in Louisiana. What a fascinating apothecary to learn more on circa-1823 early elixirs and superstitious cures. I will have to say; I’m relieved we’ve come so far. The trials and tribulations of medicine do not seem fun, although reading about its distant past was beyond fascinating.
Lunch was served at the lively bistro of Crescent City Brewhouse. The servers were incredibly energetic and eager to make conversation with every traveler. To begin, I, of course, had to order a Hurricane, a New Orleans’ staple cocktail with a dangerous reputation. If its notoriety wasn’t already intimidating enough, my drink was apparently mixed much stronger than usual. For some light fare, I indulged in half a dozen of the largest oysters I’ve ever witnessed, a side of crabmeat hushpuppies, and fried alligator served with white remoulade and pickled relish. By the end of this journey, I was fabulously blinded by alcohol.
As I stumbled back into the open streets at merely the start of noon, I realized my day could come to an end. It was only one damn drink and I was losing all senses. To combat the aftermath, I thought more food would be a responsible remedy. So, I slated towards Johnny’s Po-Boys, a cheery counter-service eatery more than suitable for yet another quick bite. I never knew I could experience paradise in Po-Boys until I had a mouthful of battered shrimp, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles enveloped in crispy, crusted French bread. Oh boy.
Now, with a fuller stomach, a brave soul, and lingering intoxication that left me with a daytime hangover, it was finally time to explore the paranormal monuments of New Orleans. I joined a walking tour full of curious tourists led by a guide passionate about New Orleans' most disturbing crimes, the sacred history of Voodoo, and the mysterious shadows that drift through the city. Although my hangover was strong enough to make me apathetic, the guided excursion was entertaining and informative, to say the least.
The next few days commenced with the same morning ritual of beignets, this time at Café Beignet. Alongside my morning dose of pastries, I also decided to order a plate of French styled omelets filled with crawfish, bell peppers, tomatoes, and swiss cheese with a side of grits and toast. I couldn’t help myself. Another favorite meal of mine.
Next on my itinerary was a bayou tour in Jean Lafitte National Park. Among my many fears, I am terrified of alligators. Perhaps seeing these killer reptiles in their habitats in the safety of a pontoon boat would ease my apprehension. It didn’t, but eating alligators prepared in different dishes was a bit more helpful. Nonetheless, the bayou tour was relaxing and the scenery was filled with interesting swamp life and native plans. Strangely enough, alligators love being fed marshmallows. It was adorable until I was told it is because these treats resemble prey’s eggs.
As advised by almost every city folk I came across, I spent most of my nights roaming the blocks of Bourbon Street across the 7th ward of Frenchmen Street. These vibrant neighborhoods are brimming with live jazz and enticing bars. A plethora of parties, endless strips of clubs, and more mischief. My favorites happened to be the Blacksmith Shop, Café Negril, and Oz. There are plenty more, I was unfortunately too far gone in a haze to recall them all. Forgive me.
To bid adieu, I sailed across the Mississippi River on the Steamboat Natchez. I wanted one last glimpse of New Orleans in its entirety before the weekend came to end, to say thank you for all of the companionship and generosity the city had to offer. I held no expectations prior to this visit, I decided to let NOLA take the lead and made sure to say yes to every affair handed to me.