JAZZ and BEIGNETS. Does any of this ring a bell guys?
Yes!! It is NOLA time.
Well, I am a little too late for this blog, but IT IS NEVER TOO LATE to read my blog. Ha!!
With this being my first new year together with my husband, I wanted to end 2017 on a good note and welcome 2018 looking forward to all the surprises God has in store for us. The year 2017 was a great one. Getting married was probably the most unexpected for us and everyone around us too, but I’m so glad that we did.
It was a cold and dark evening when my husband returned home, and said, ‘Pack your bags, we are going to New Orleans tomorrow.’ At first I thought he was kidding, because we hadn’t booked flight tickets or hotel rooms. ‘It is a road trip.’ he said. 🙂
This travel itinerary covers Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Louisiana starting and ending in Bentonville, Arkansas. All the areas we covered were stunning. It is usually said that ‘It is the journey that is more beautiful than the destination.’ But in this case the journey and the destination were equally awesome. I am glad we decided to do this.
The morning of 29th Dec, 2017 was cold and windy. Buckled up in the car, we began the journey and our New Year celebrations listening to songs by the one and only AR Rahman. What began with the upbeat ‘Urvasi’ took us to all possible playlists.
After 6 hours of road tripping, we stopped over at Mobile, ALABAMA for the night. Before checking in, we visited this beautiful light show called the ‘Christmas Nights of Lights.’ It is a drive-thru light show synchronized to the music on your radio. It was soooooooooooooooooo prettaaayy!! If you are anywhere near Mobile, AL during Christmas or New Year, do NOT skip this. These lights are a treat. A short video for you lovelies…
The next day, we started from Mobile, AL and drove to Pensacola, FLORIDA. Now me being a beach person, I was so happy looking at the clear blue water and the mini-sharks floating. I stay in a non-coastal area, and so I die to see and spend time at the beach. It is like how a banana is to a monkey. :-D. It was after a year that we visited a beach. We had our lunch at this place called Shaggy’s near the coast. It was a good place, with the beach view. Their crab cakes were really delicious.
We now headed to our main destination – NOLA, (the affectionate name given to the marvelous place that is New Orleans, Louisiana)
NOLA is unlike any city in America. Its cultural diversity is woven into food, music, architecture and local superstitions. NOLA is not a city, but an entire culture.
It was our first time in New Orleans and it made me wonder what this beautiful city’s culture is. Was it French, Caribbean, Spanish or American? The city was established by French colonists then ceded to the Spanish Empire and finally bought by the United States. You will find its vast and complicated culture reflecting in its food, music and architecture. NOLA is famously known for its MARDI GRAS season. It is a carnival season celebrated on Fat Tuesday, a day right before the Ash Wednesday i.e. 47 days before Easter.
It was a very short trip. We had a solid day and few extra hours in the evening we reached. Wanting to make the most of our time here, our first place to attack was Katie’s, for dinner. This place had mind blowing reviews online. And so with no second thoughts we drove to this restaurant, which is more like a house. We hungry crows were craving for some fresh sea food and Katie’s satisfied us all. Everything here is so delicious, I really don’t know what to recommend! Order anything and this place will not disappoint you. Testimony to the taste is the crowd that throngs it. Be ready to wait for a minimum of 20 minutes for a table. And the wait was so worth it. The crowd could’ve been because it was New Year’s Eve, but then the festive vibe here was something else altogether!
We drove around the streets for a while to get an idea about the place and headed to our room to get some good rest. Since it was a last minute plan, we got no hotels in the city, so we had to make reservations on the outskirts at a place called Laplace which is almost 30 miles away from NOLA. The very next morning, on 31stDEC 2017, it was drizzling and it was cold. Usually people who visit NOLA roam around in summer dresses, but we had to walk around the city bundled up in winter wear from head to toe. Thankfully, we had packed smartly.
We parked our car in the French Quarters and took a stroll in the beautiful streets, seeing and admiring all the colorful houses and pretty walls in this colony. The graffiti on the walls is captivating (a personal obsession.) This area is a sightseer’s delight. It has a different feel to it. Spending time there is an experience in itself.
On the other side of the street is the famous Bourbon Street which is the heart and soul of NOLA. This 13 block strip of neon, bars, clubs and more bars is a mini Vegas I would say. With loud music thumping from every side of the road, unlimited fun is guaranteed.
‘Hand Grenade’ – This is some serious shit you guys!! We introduced ourselves to the Louisiana custom of getting this drink and then carrying it around with us. We tried a “hand grenade” from a bar called the Tropical Isle across the street, which comes in a tall, thin green plastic cup, perfect for carrying, walking down Bourbon Street and exploring some of the little shops and art galleries on the streets nearby. Hand grenade from the Isle’s is notoriously famous. It tastes like candy but it definitely does its job pretty well. There are bars and clubs on every side of the road, with gift and souvenir shops around selling colorful and freaky stuff like Voodoo dolls. New Orleans is also known to be the place where voodoo was introduced in the USA. These voodoo dolls were cute but the more I kept looking at them, they sort of freaked me out. There were voodoo fridge magnets, necklaces, earrings and etc. Take a sneak peek in the picture below. BWAAHHAAAAHAA!!
A walk down the Bourbon Street is like a mega outdoor party. You will see many artists performing in the middle of the street, and people dancing to it.
The French Market is in this vicinity and is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The market is like an exhibition. It has food, jewelry, clothes, souvenirs and street music. Café du monde, a very famous food destination, is very close to the market. But be aware, there is a huge rush in this café especially in the mornings.
Now coming to my favorite part – FOOD –
NOLA is famous for its Cajun and Creole cuisine. Its must try dishes are GUMBO (a stew), PO’ Boy (a sandwich), Jambalaya (meat and veggies mixed with rice) and Beignets (fritters). Beignets is a must have if you have a sweet tooth or even if you don’t. Try this in Café du monde if possible. It is equally good in other places too but the one in Café du monde is famous. We had our lunch in Café Pontalba. I enjoyed the food here. The ambience is very nice and peaceful. This place is right next to the Jackson square. You cannot miss Jackson Square located before St. Cathedral, a famous historic landmark in New Orleans. You will find many artist and performers around the square. You can get your portrait painted, have your palm read or enjoy the street performers playing music all day long.
Royal Street, in the Bourbon St. has a classic architecture with a combination of colonial French and Spanish influence. Colorful buildings with cast iron balconies adorned with flowers and green plants, colorful walls and doors. You will hear live music bursting from every corner of Bourbon Street and people tapping their feet to the beat. This place is so lively. As we visited NOLA on New Year’s Eve, the place was quite crowded but fun. A lot of fun in fact. Everybody around was dancing, singing and wishing each other happy new year. Such positive vibes!
This is Bourbon Street for you –
NOLA being the birthplace of Jazz, you cannot miss Frenchmen Street. NOLA is famous for its deep jazz heritage. We stopped at the Music Legends Park for a bite in the late evening. This place is a wonderful outdoor music and snack venue. We watched the ‘Steamboat Willie’ perform some live Jazz as we sipped in a cuppa hot chocolate and gobbled up some beignets. Oh it was a much needed relaxation after walking the whole day.
One major thing that excited me about this city was the streetcar. Firstly, they were adorable. Secondly, they couldn’t be more affordable. They are 1.25$ or you can also get a day’s pass for 3$. So we got onto one and reached the Harrah’s casino. After some fun gambling there and losing some amount of money (sigh!!) we walked back to the sparkly street of the Neon lights, the Bourbon St. to dance the night away.
Now I am not much of a party person but strolling in the party place on New Year ’s Eve calls for some loud and junglee celebration. Isn’t it? Bar hopping in the evening is the best option if you are here for a day. We had fun entering all possible clubs that evening. We danced for a song, came out and hopped into another club- something I’ve never done before. New Orleans revolves around food and booze and for good reason.
We continued walking down the street collecting some of the Mardi Gras beads. Had a good dinner at this very crowded place. I don’t remember the name though. We just entered one where we had place. Everything else was so crowded. We headed towards the Jackson Square after our meal because that is where the fireworks were going to take place. We stood there getting frozen in that freezing cold and windy weather just to watch the fireworks and it was worth it. The clock struck 12 and up went all the colors in the sky, absolutely beautiful. Sadly, I do not have any pictures because we didn’t click any. It was too cold to get our hands out of the pockets! After the fireworks, we waited not even for a single minute, we ran through the streets, got inside the car and turned the heater on. Ahh!! Finally some hot air.
And that’s a wrap. Time to head home. This trip was one helluva experience. These are all the pictures I could shoot in NOLA because the weather was too gloomy and cold to click many. But with the ones I have shared, I guess it does justice to this colorful, elegant and cool place.
Now that’s a lot I have written for a day’s experience. But I have shared every tiny bit of my experience in this cozy and happy place.
I hope this post has left you daydreaming of NOLA.