Catching an evening flight out of Seattle to Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans seemed like a great idea when I was booking my tickets in March. I had the place in my mind, the time I wanted to go (May) and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do there except arrive at our destination. It would have been midnight and that didn’t seem to faze me. I was used to being in an unfamiliar city after dark and I figured New Orleans is all about late nights music shows in dark jazz clubs so someone would definitely be arriving along with us.
I exited the doors after walking down a grand ballroom style staircase and a blast of humid air enveloped my brown arms. Breathing felt different but exactly the same as the place I grew up, very far from there, in Goa. I didn’t want to jinx it but not having to feel cold was already jumping to the top of my list of “I’m glad I came because…”. A Sharpie’d sign pointed us to the ride share area in the parking lot, we caught a Lyft with the driver playing Reggaetón videos on YouTube over his phone. Just like that, we were on our way to our home for the next few days.
While the airport was buzzing, the neighbourhood we stayed at in the Lower Garden District didn’t make a peep. We were close to a Wal-Mart, right off Tchoupitoulas. the street closest to the Mississippi river. I learnt that the name meant “people who live by the river” in Choctaw, a Native American language from the Muskogean southeast. I already regret having put those two sentences so close to each other. We found our Airbnb, which was one of those shipping container homes, one stacked on top of the other.
When I travel, I don’t like to sleep in. I get the gist of a vacation but I feel compelled to seize the day. The curtains in the room barely kept any of the light out so that mission accomplished itself without the use of a phone alarm, something my body clock is always a step ahead of.
I got out of bed, changed into day wear, filled up my water bottle and went on my walk. I still remember every first day in a country. With fresh eyes, I see the way that world works. I feel like a baby, everything is stimulating. New Orleans has no dearth of these moments. From self-induced to environmental, the place exists on a magical plane separate from the rest of the country. Its historical inhabitants know they are part of something special but it is their routine and like such, they are blasé about it. I wasn’t going to play it cool.
I took my own guided tour of the neighbourhood, walking on lop-sided footpaths and passing by shotgun and double shotgun Creole cottages decked in every colour of the rainbow. New Orleans does not do sublime. I brushed my fingers through beads hung on a wrought iron fences as I peered at the foliage in front of a double gallery home. Tropical, I thought. The coastal humidity was the balm for my homesick soul. The sun got hotter and I just became easier to love.
Stay tuned for Part II
Here are some New Orleans things I liked. I don’t plan vacations like items to check off a list so please keep that in mind. Most of the places we ate at were very close to the area we stayed in. I like keeping it that way because it lets me get to know a place up close. I like running into the same people everyday and carrying on like old pals. It seemed to feel extra special when that happened here.
Food and drinks
Molly’s Rise and Shine Whirled peas toast for President!
Slim Goodies Diner where the crawfish etouffee should go over every order of eggs. It’s SO delicious.
Atchafalaya Resturant The boudin Benedict. My first choice was the oyster benedict but *sad days* they didn’t have it.
The Rum House Carribean Tacqueria Every taco and cocktail!
Joey K’s Monday’s are for red beans and rice in Nola. This place serves it daily. Get that with a daily special and some roasted vegetables.
Gris-Gris shrimp and grits but I also loved everything else they put in front of us so have a great meal!
Cochon I wish I could eat here on the daily and definitely those wood-fired oysters with chili garlic butter and pineapple upside down cake.
Café Beignet I just liked their beignets and line compared to Café du Monde. Sorry.
Stein’s Market and Deli for their sandwiches and root beer/beer selection
Napoleon House for the Pimm’s Cup and muffuletta and great service!
Backatown Coffee in the Treme has great coffee and even better art.
La Boulangerie If I had one travel trip, it’s to always buy a good almond croissant for your morning flight the next day. This one delivered.
Parasols just an easy evening dive bar with great po boys (and some mosquitoes if you sit outside). Beer and wash it down with a shot of bourbon, as you listen to the crickets and people-watch.
T & T Seafood was right on the corner from where we lived. Small grocery stores in New Orleans serve some of the most delicious seafood and po boy’s you can find in the city. Walk in hungry, walk out happy.
Frenchmen street always has music and parties, every night.
Tipitina’s You will have plenty of venues to choose from, but this was in our neighbourhood. “Our”. Okay Edlyn.
Preservation Hall (make reservations or stand in line to get in. Lines are long but worth it)
Second line Sunday season runs from August of one year to June of the next. It stops right when it’s too hot. If you’re lucky enough to find one, join it. Don’t ask why.
Sunday drum circle at Congo Square According to the Congo Square Preservation Society, “on any given Sunday at 3pm in the vicinity of Congo Square, the sound of drums still echo and call for people to gather and connect to their ancestral memory, invent new creative expressions and organize African-American artists and communities”.
Parks and sights to see
The Garden District
Lafayette Cemetery is free to explore on your own but there are also tours if you’d like on.
The street cars are a great way to see the city. Although, they can get quite full on the main tourist tracks. Still worth it.
The art studio of French-born Nola artist Simon on Jackson Ave, right off Magazine St. You will probably see him working on his art and he’s very nice to talk to.
Audobon Butterfly Park and Insectarium was where I went on by birthday. It was SO cool. I highly recommend it.
Know Nola Tours by Malik Bartholomew