I still remember how shocked I felt when I learned of the horrific news of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, leaving behind almost 108 billion in damages…
Before leaving our small Midwest town and flying to New Orleans, Louisiana, I can admit that I had some concerns on how the atmosphere would be like once landed.
All I can express after 10 days of full immersion in a city well known for its amazing food, live Jazz music, and fun, is that New Orleans won my heart and soul. As an artist, NOLA is one of the top towns to freely express yourself.
A quick amazing truth about this incredible city is that every single local reserves for you a smile and a Good Morning. It’s humbling how welcoming they are.
The curiosity brought me in the heart of the downtown and out into the suburbs. After walking every kind of sidewalk, I personally evaluate New Orleans as a 4.5/5 stars in terms of safety. Honestly the high temperatures of mid-June are more serious than the public safety. The scariest episode was when a local tried to guess where I bought my Birkenstock sandals (with a purpose to make me smile and get some coins in his cup).
After long walks in neighborhoods like The French Quarter, Garden District, Treme-Lafitte, and Faubourg Marigny, I returned back North with a huge luggage full of memories that I will always remember and be eager to share with others.
There are multiple ways to relate your vacation and try to suggest your experience to your friends. The way I would like to build the narration of my NOLA adventure is by using 5 main points: Transportation, Accommodation, Food, Entertainment, Tips.
Before you even have the idea of going to NOLA, I would highly suggest you to consider buying your flight ticket at least 5 months in advance. Flying to NOLA at times can be really expensive, especially for those who love “in-budget” trips. Once you’ve landed, don’t forget to claim your luggage. The spirit of New Orleans wins your attention and you might forget something at the airport. You don’t want to pay another $36 dollars for the cab ride from downtown to the Airport.
First of all they can tell you straight away the quote for your anticipated ride. Second, you will save a lot of money in transportation. Don’t make the same mistake I did. I tried to use the cheaper way of moving my 3 heavy and huge luggage bags from one Airbnb to another by using the local and infamous “Streetcar”.
Bad choice! Frustrating to say the least!
That’s right, for only $3 you can have a great deal with an unlimited Day pass on the streetcar. We quickly learned that it’s better for sightseeing, not for moving stuff.
Trust me, an Uber will be much less hassle. It takes you at least 5 days before you will become familiar with the Streetcar…not to mention all of the connections and different lines depending on the neighborhood you’re headed to.
Don’t be scared if you find yourself on a road called TCHOUPITOULAS. Don’t try to pronounce it. Ask a local and he will save you 10 minutes. New Orleans has strong French and Spanish influences that have continued on with the locals and you might find out incredible historical facts.
In the first point, I mentioned how you should book your flight ticket with a considerable advance notice. When you have to deal with the accommodation issues, I kinda’ feel like you should book your hotel even before your flight ticket. The “in-budget” travelers know best what I’m talking about. New Orleans has really incredible hotels and, seriously, you can even find and close good deals if you are smart enough.
What to do?
Well, 6 month before your trip, use every single tool you have to find good deals. Believe me that a $180 per night hotel is a great deal. Rooms are typically charged up to $400 dollars…especially if there are conferences in that time period, and you don’t want to spend that kind of money right? You can do so many things with the money you saved by booking in advance.
But hey, there’s always somebody who will mess with their vacation preparation. The person typing these words made the same mistake. In that case don’t feel frustrated; there’s a solution to everything. If you’re not afraid of meeting a rat sometimes, then you are more than welcome to save some money by using Airbnb in the French Quarter, and maybe you will be lucky enough to live in a Shotgun House*, like we did.
Anyway, Airbnb can help you save money, but be aware that you might meet sometimes some rats or some bugs. The fact that you might find rats is because New Orleans has been there for a long time and they wash the streets every single morning. We all know that when we clean some places, these animals need to find other places where to live. Don’t be scared, they won’t attack you.
Now that you landed in Nola and found your accommodation, let me explain how to keep the starvation under control. I’m kidding, that’s going to be something really easy for you to manage especially if you know how to use a mobile app like Yelp or Trip Advisor. A huge tip I could give to you, based on my limited experience, is not to worry if you’re not a big fan of seafood. There are so many other options. You might wanna try their incredible Muffulettas sandwich. They are super large, fat and round sandwiches. Don’t be greedy and don’t let the starvation lead you. Remember that you actually can share a Muffuletta sandwich with your friend or lover and still be full after. It don’ madda ** if you’re starving, order just one and cut it in half. Big Easy (NOLA’s nickname, but I caution you from using it in town if you want to be treated as you wish) will offer you many other solutions if you don’t mind exploring the town a little bit more. If your body allows you to walk under the Southern sun and reach the VIEUX CARRE (French Quarter)’s French Market, don’t forget to try the Alligator dishes. They are even better than pork. If you can believe it?!
As a seafood lover, you should not leave without trying their amazing raw or fried oysters, the Jambalaya, or the Creole. I won’t explain to you what those dishes are because I want you to be curious. The biggest advice I have for you instead, is to find time for yourself and go to Antoine’s Creole Restaurant. Your Facebook friends will definitely fill your post with comments and likes. You will be able to let them know that you just ate in the oldest restaurant in the United States with a history of 175 years.
Try what I mentioned in this third point and you will be able to say GUMBO YA-YA!
It don’ madda if you won’t be able to explain to yourself what in the world the word LAGNIAPPE means. All you have to do (don’t forget!) while in New Orleans is:
LAISSEZ LES BONS TEMPS ROULER!
If you don’t want to check the weather every hour for tornados or storms, then LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL! Doing that you allow yourself to walk along the banks of the Mississippi River or take the pretty River Cruise for a dinner/jazz night and listen to some quality music. If an $80 dinner cruise is something you consider out of your “in-budget” trips rules, then you definitely wanna check world famous streets like Frenchmen or Bourbon street.
You will be probably be happy to know that you’re walking along the same streets as the infamous annual Mardi Gras parade happens. Frenchmen Street and Bourbon Street are two very different places. If you’re a “party people” lover, then I would suggest you to go have a few (or more) drinks on Bourbon Street.
A mile long of all kinds of pubs, gentlemen clubs or jazz clubs, will definitely make you feel in the center of the world and the king of the party. Be smart though! The drinks are $10+. Cheaper drinks are very hard to find, so ask first.
After 5 days of exploring almost all places on Bourbon St. (Gentlemen clubs excluded) we moved to another Airbnb in Marigny, near Frenchmen Street. That was a radical, positive change. We were able to hear another kind of music and meet interesting people. Walking through the Frenchmen Art Market made me think how interesting and inspirational New Orleans could be for artists from allover the world. Marigny and its charming Frenchmen Street was definitely the right place to finally listen to great Jazz music.
Once the night is over for you, remember that along the Frenchmen Street you might meet interesting Street Chefs. Time to try the best street food ever (especially for the Wild Boar meat lovers) on an open BBQ flame.
The nights in New Orleans fly by and before you realize, your watch will indicate 8am. Pay attention! There is a good reason to leave the cozy bed! Wash your face, brush your teeth and run to Café Du Monde! For $6, you will have 3 of the authentic NOLA’ Beignet and a café au lait (coffee with milk).
There’s not a better way to start the day. While there, stop and take some pictures or selfies in Jackson Square or in front of the St. Louis Cathedral. You will be amazed how well they conserved their 1724 cathedral.
Buy a Fleur de Lis souvenir for your mother and then walk on Royal Street. Be aware that the old-fashion couture mixed with the modern fashion of NOLA might make you empty out your wallet. Next, consider buying a book from Beckham’s bookshop about voodoo to learn about the story of that sect and its beloved Marie Laveau. That will definitely make you book on Groupon a haunted tour in the Saint Louis Cemetery No.1.
You might be interested in seeing the creepy tomb of the Queen of Voodoo and Nicholas Cage’s future tomb. You will be shocked to witness within the cemetery, the recent artifacts of a man who is allowed to practice the voodoo there.
As an American Horror Story fan, you might be happy to hear that Coven season was filmed in NOLA. If you buy your haunted tour from Groupon, the guide will stop by that specific place and let you take some photos.
If you’re a fan of alligators and not afraid of meeting them face-to-face on an airboat tour, you should definitely book a tour in the Swamp. That will cost you an entire day. As an alternative, I would find time for a Streetcar tour in the Garden District. Enjoying a relaxing walking tour of the historic mansions was one of my favorites. Sandra Bullock owns a home there!
Looks like I’m nearing my 2000 words goal and I have to respect the title. Well the first tip is that you should read my future posts to find out where I stopped for those amazing lunches and dinners. Now that I went over 2000 words, a big advice I could give you is that you should definitely go visit the Louis Armstrong Park and read the story about the Congo Square! Another piece of advice…the water is not cheap. The cheapest way to drink water is a $4 gallon of water in a convenience shop. Or the $1 water bottles along the river from the local bike stands.
Thanks for reading it folks!
* The Shotgun Houses are typical New Orleans houses. They are row houses in which all rooms on one side are connected by a long single hallway. The good side is that you can open the front door and shoot a bullet straight through the back door, without hitting a single wall. Based on what a tour guide said (obviously lied) New Orleans an Louisiana is the first place in United States for the number of love murderers. You can come home and find out if somebody is in your bed and shot a bullet and put him down. Funny woman…
** typical NOLA expression to say “It doesn’t matter”