Disclaimer: This is by no means a guide to New Orleans. I hardly think a casual two days in this city is enough to make me an itinerary expert.
But this is a collection of my wanders - thoughts, photos, and a few suggestions of places I enjoyed during my stay.
I spent a brief weekend in New Orleans, the city most people assume is home when I tell them I'm from Louisiana. I'm a north Louisiana girl, which basically means that the only thing I have in common with those from the south is a shared love for King Cake.
"How would you describe New Orleans?"
I asked my friend, gracious host, and now New Orleans resident, Beth, that question on my final afternoon in the city. Because how exactly do you describe a city that is just, well, so much?
It's a city of juxtaposition, I suppose: stately antebellum homes only a short drive away from a downtown of high-rises which sit adjacent to a Quarter made up solely of 18th century Spanish and French architecture. And yet in all of this beauty is a city struggling with crime and immense poverty -- almost a modern-day example of Dickens' line, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."
While New Orleans may not be my home, I am proud to share a state with such a culturally diverse city, and I do believe it is a destination worth visiting at least once in your lifetime.
Krewe Du Brew. Found on St. Charles, this coffee shop is a perfect stop after an afternoon of strolling the avenue. Enjoy a small mocha that isn't exactly small (see photo above for evidence) for just a little more than $4.
(Another win for New Orleans? 70 degree weather in January. Again, see photo above for evidence.)
Spitfire Coffee. Spitfire is a tiny and remarkably photogenic coffee shop on St. Peter's Street in the French Quarter. Stop in before embarking on an exploration of the French Quarter to take a ridiculous amount of artsy iPhone photos and order a latte for $4.50.
The French Quarter. Home to basically 90% of what everyone knows New Orleans to be - Bourbon Street, St. Louis Cathedral, Cafe du Monde - the French Quarter is already at the top of anyone's New Orleans to-do, so this is hardly an original suggestion from me. The Quarter is particularly suited for a good wander and is especially delightful to those fond of using brightly colored walls as backdrops for somewhat failed attempts at snapping a candid photo.
The Mighty Mississipp. Ask Beth how many times I referred to the Mississippi River as "The Mighty Mississipp" and she'll probably respond that this was nearly the breaking point for our decades-old friendship. Regardless of how one may choose to refer to it, taking a stroll along the bank (especially with a mocha in hand!) is an enjoyable (and enjoyably free) way to spend some time in the French Quarter.
St. Louis Cathedral. Perhaps New Orleans' most famous landmark, this centuries-old church will - like all else in the French Quarter - make you feel as though you are not at all in Louisiana, but instead have unknowingly hopped a transatlantic flight to France.
St. Charles Avenue. The uptown section of this avenue is lined with ancient oaks dripping with bright Mardi Gras beads and grandiose old homes featuring sparkling chandeliers, high ceilings, and broad shutters framing every window that will leave you wondering what profession you must pursue to afford a home of such grandeur.
Audubon Park. Home to the zoo and paths for a walk or run, this park is located across from Tulane and Loyola University New Orleans on St. Charles Avenue.
Avenue Cafe. I enjoyed a Caprese sandwich here for dinner on my last eve and - get this! - the gluten free bread was actually good. Therefore I enthusiastically recommend this cafe for my Celiac (and non-Celiac) brethren. Sandwiches and salads were all under $10 and the coffee was reasonably priced, too, though I didn't enjoy any due to my extremely necessary 4 pm caffeine cutoff time.
El Gato Negro. The first stop after Beth picked me up at the airport was this Mexican restaurant in Lakeview (there are three locations across town) for some lunch. The red wine sangria was on point and their extensive gluten free menu made my gluten-hating-immune-system-life significantly easier. I will note that this was the most expensive meal I had while in New Orleans, coming in at $16 with tip (note: I was on a VERY LOW budget).
Sucre. Sucre brands itself as a "sweet boutique" and offers coffee, gelato, truffles, pastries and macaroons. While the menu is a bit pricey, I purchased two chocolate covered macaroons for $5.50 as a) these were my only gluten free options besides gelato and b) as noted above, I was on a VERY LOW budget. The macaroons were delicious and worth the sweet splurge.
Part of the reason I was able to afford this trip was because I found a flight on Southwest from Nashville to New Orleans for $98.06. Roundtrip. ROUNDTRIP. Thanks to the emails I receive from Southwest, I learned of their winter fare sale and was able to snag this dope deal. For other tips on how to budget for your own New Orleans adventure, check out How to Travel on a Post-Grad Budget, Part I and Part II.
"Blood Bank" // Bon Iver
Bon Iver is my buddy in many areas of life: nonsensical emotional moments, nights of insomnia, and especially writing. I listened to this song approximately 8,006 times (on repeat, mind you) while putting together this post and I'll probably listen to it another 8,006 times before I'm done with it.