Having a massive travel bug right now, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to experience some southern charm and visit New Orleans. Prior to my visit I had heard too many tales of wild stags/hens and Mardi Gras so I wanted to push the idea that the only thing New Orleans had to offer was a crazy night out. I wanted to experience for myself the history, beautiful architecture and from what I have heard some of the best restaurants around.
So fresh off the plane from Dublin and in New York only 2 days, I dropped everything and headed to NOLA. My first day, I wont lie was a bit of a let down. I woke up to a massive electrical storm that lasted 8 WHOLE hours. The weather in March can be extremely unpredictable so beware. Needless to say I took shelter for the day from the storm in the my hotel, The Roosevelt.
The next day I woke with a beat in my step and couldn’t wait to explore. I headed straight for the French Quarter area (where all the action happens!) Starting with Bourban Street, which I found entertaining to say the least (street entertainment, crazy characters, parties everywhere.) It was great to see for a short while and get a taste of strange, but in the middle of the day I quickly made my exit. Saw it, checked off the list.
I continued on exploring the vibrant french quarter, filled with 18th Century french homes with wrought iron balconies, antique stores, art galleries, craft stores. On the banks of the Mississippi river is Jackson square with the majestic St Louis Cathedral. This is a great space to people watch and sunbath and I even came across two weddings getting serenaded through the streets.
St. Louis Cathedral
I would have liked an opportunity to go the infamous Cafe du Monde to try the sugar coated doughy beignets, but my advice is to get here very early in the morning or at a random time of the day because the queues are insane. With only a few hours left in my trip I made the tough decision… next time! Instead I opted for an equally cute spot Cafe Beignet to try these beignets I had heard so much about. Sitting in the shade of palm trees in the cafe’s patio and after a bird pooing on my head, I ordered one portion of beignets, an iced lemonade and then I ordered another portion of beignets!!! Yes…yes i did. Needless to say after all that indulgence I felt very guilty but i suppose ‘The Big Easy’ is known as a city of indulgence. So Hey, Go hard on beignets or Go Home!
There are so many tours of New Orleans and the surrounding area. I decided to choose something completely different, and ventured about 35 minutes outside the city to an Airboat Swamp Tour. While it may not sound too appealing, trust me it was such a highlight of the trip. Hopping onto the airboat felt more like a roller coaster on water. The tour took us to some of the most remote and inaccessible areas of the swamp that cannot be reached by foot to see alligators in their natural habitat. Our tour guide lives and grew up in the deep south and was such a character. We even got up close and personal with a baby alligator and got to see bald eagles and their nests. Incredible! But bring sunscreen, that Louisiana sun is not forgiving and there is no shelter on the boat for the hour and half long tour.
New Orleans is a city with soul and overall exceeded my expectations (which were low). I realised that there is so much to see and do there and two days was just not enough. Its energy, music and food make it one of America’s most vibrant cities so I’ll just have to go back again!