New Orleans The Big Easy

Nola! The Big Easy!
    I had been fascinated with visiting this city for months. The food, the music, the architecture, the people, the TROLLIES! I knew I was well overdue to take a "yearly trip" somewhere, and as soon as it popped back into my mind the decision was made!


    I mean it was a no-brainer. I live in Austin, Texas so I could easily drive there within eight hours time. Straight shot across I-10E. Of course for me the trouble was navigating out of Austin.
After I rounded up a few troops to to tag-a-long, I quickly booked and Air BnB with the help of my non-procrastinating friend Abby. "Book it!" she said. So I did a couple months in advance too. I was proud of my lack of hesitation, so proud that I stood tall for a moment with my fists on both hips as the wind from my ceiling fan flowed through my hair and clothes. You know Wonder Woman style.


"Why Nola?" well apart from the previously stated I was told that I have somewhat of a Louisiana Accent,  and I wanted to see how accurate that was.  I was also interested in the scenery, being a former aspiring photographer I no longer wanted to imagine what Bourbon St, The French Quarter, and the Garden district were like, I wanted to experience it personally. My other reason was the food,  I love to eat, and I needed to satisfy my taste buds.

Arrival: I have to say, the pull up to our AirBnB was not graceful. Upon turning the corner to park in front of our temporary abode, we blew out the front passenger tire on an old tree root that had been growing from under the curb ( There's a lot of jagged curbs , raised and broken concrete on the sidewalks in New Orleans, which I assumed was damage from Hurricane Katrina, but I could be wrong). Luckily we made it to our destination safe and sound, and I had a donut so I wasn't as worried.
Cute little Table By the window
    The AirBnB was exactly as advertised. It was a blue traditional shotgun house. Of course it had been renovated but the inside layout was typical shotgun style. There was a large porch outside which connected to the attached shotgun in which the hosts and owners of the AirBnB lived in.When you walk in there's an open living and dining area, then beyond the threshold is a smaller room that the owners chose to put a sofa bed, a lounge chair, a desk, and an armoire. Through the next threshold in the short hallway was a bathroom to the right, next a spacious kitchen that had a side door which lead to the backyard. Beyond the kitchen were two bedrooms, both were about the same size, though one had a large queen bed and the other had two twin beds. The room with the two twins also had a door that lead out to the driveway. Unfortunately I did not get many photos of our AirBnB, and the hosts seem to have stop renting out at the moment, so I couldn't get a link either.
 Getting Around:

    After unpacking and deciding on rooms, it was time to pick up my mom from the airport which was  about a 25-30 minute drive depending on the  traffic. Once everyone settled in it was time for a little exploring and food. After all it was only around 5 pm so we still had a decent amount of daylight, and we were a bit hungry. Our host had given us a rundown on how to get downtown, which was a straight shot downtown by The Canal Street TROLLEY(streetcar) toward Harrahs Casino! A one way fare is $1.25 day passes are $3 and can be used to bored  both the Trolley/Streetcar and buses. So we walked gathered our monies for the ride and walked to our stop which was at the intersection of Canal and Carrollton Streets and waited no longer than 5-10 minutes for our ride. For more information on public transportation please visit http://www.norta.com/ , or you can just ask one of the friendly residents of New Orleans for the best way to get around. After we double checked with our driver that we were on the right track we proceeded slow and steadily to our destination.
First Bites:
    We got off the trolley at Dauphine and Canal Streets which was in walking distance to the French Quarter. Our first stop though, was at a Po Boy shop that I had been following on Instagram called Killer Po Boys https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/1021890768/. There are two locations, the one we went to is at 219 Dauphine St., the original is at 811 Conti Street at the back of the Erin Rose bar. The choices of Po Boys were beyond your usual shrimp or catfish. These boys were well thought out creations and I enjoyed reading the menu, though I already knew my choice before we walked in. All I wanted was the Glazed Pork Belly dressed in  Nola rum, ginger cane syrup, lime slaw and garlic aioli. It was everything I hoped it would be savory, tangy, sweet, not salty.


  My mom opted for the Whiskey Grilled Cheesed, which is not a Po Boy but still delicious according to her. Abby chose The Roasted Cauliflower sandwich that also had avocado, radish , and crispy kale draped in Romesco Sauce. I'd like to mention that my friend Abby is allergic to tomato, so she double checked that there were no tomatoes in the sauce, the cashier assured us that there were no tomatoes in any of their Po Boys. I wondered why for a brief moment, but I also thought it was awesome for Abby because she could order anything she wanted from that menu!
Wandering:
    Following our quick meal we decided to wander the streets. I quickly discovered how narrow the streets are in the downtown/french quarter area. and although narrow, the streets were bustling with cars and people coming and going. I pointed down a street that looked immensely flashy and inviting, twas Iberville St. so we made our way down it, where we soon crossed the famous Bourbon Street!
Bourbon Street:


    I had no idea we would find ourselves on Bourbon Street as early as the first day but there we were! The very first thing we all noticed was the smell, which was not inviting at all but we could definitely understand why. Bourbon street is a busy stretch crowded with eateries, souvenir shops, performers, people, and BARS! I believe the result of the smell is due to those bars :). There were plenty performers as well; children making music, men break dancing, one guy balanced himself on a ladder using his body weight as a counter, artists drawing caricatures, and fortune tellers.
After walking the length of Bourbon Street, which got darker and a bit ominous, we ran into the OZ bar, which was hosting Queen Chi Chi Devayne at 10:30 pm. Abby was super excited to see one of the stars of RuPauls Drag Race. I m an avid supporter of her addiction.
    The show didn't start until 10:30 p.m., it was only 9, since we had loads of time to kill we decided to do some more exploring. This time our exploring wasn't aimless, we were headed toward the river! Turns out you can practically make a right turn onto any street from Bourbon to get to the river( in other words, I don't know what street we turned on). By the time we got close enough to the river we had a brief stroll on Decatur through the French Market. Of course most shops were closed by then so we stayed on course. Finally we were close enough to the river, but despite all our efforts it was blocked by a train. We spotted some risk takers who decided it would be a good idea to pass between and even under the sitting trains cars. We weren't geared up for life risking antics that night and decided to pass and headed back to Oz.
    Once we made it back to Oz we still had plenty of time until the show began, and though we were all very excited we couldn't fight our tiring bodies, so we skipped the show and headed back up Bourbon Street to hop on the Canal Street trolley toward our AirBnB.
First Full Day:
    After getting a new tire, and making a quick stop at the Walmart which was about a 10 minute ride, it was time to seize the day! First we caught the trolley and got off across from Harrahs Casino then walked toward the boardwalk past the Aquarium to get a glimpse at the Mississippi river. I can honestly say the Mississippi river is strictly for work. From the boardwalk we could look out to Algiers point. There's a ferry that takes you there for $2 one way http://nolaferries.com/.


 Our next stop was breakfast at Cafe Du Monde, so we continued down the boardwalk then crossed over to Decatur Street in the French Market area. Decatur Street hosts many shops including H&M, Vans, Urban Outfitters, among souvenir, and praline shops. If you need pralines head to the French Market, there's plenty. Once we reached Cafe Du Monde it was already busy for lunch time. Our breakfast of choice were their famous Beignets. Cafe Du Monde has a large seating area, but if you're only there for the beignets and want to pass through, then stop by the takeout only window where they have hot fresh beignets ready for you to grab an go! As of May 2017 you can get three in a bag for $2.73. Those babies were large piping hot and delicious.
    After our quick breakfast we found our way into a hot sauce shop, where you can try hundreds of samples of hot sauces. I'm not a big fan of hot sauces but my mom loves it. She purchased "chicken Shit". Yes that's the name of a type of hot sauce, there were plenty more with names just as unique and eye catching. There were other specialty items there as well including authentic preserved baby gator heads, feet ,and claws tailored for your key chain. I was told gator hunting brings in a lot of cash. Its a somber reality.


    Following our strut through the French Market and back up Bourbon Street where we did some haggling for shirts to bring back home, we stopped into Deanies Seafood on Iberville St for lunch. We mostly ordered side dishes which were a hefty size for the prices. My mom and I shared a platter of  fried catfish, oysters, shrimp, and fries.
At Deanie's Seafood



Abby's "I have arrived" pose
    Next we hopped on the St. Charles Trolley and headed to the Garden District! This was on my to-do list and I was very excited to see those big beautiful homes shrouded in bright flowers and other greenery. Although I have to say that I may have missed some of the more extravagant ones by way of exhaustion. We soon found ourselves on Magazine Street. a great stretch with various clothing shops, bars, antique shops, delis, restaurants and small art galleries.






    If you have a s sweet tooth Sucre is the place for you to get some beautiful desserts and ice creams. My mother who's nickname happens to be Candy was craving ice cream, so she opted for Butter Pecan. I had a small spoonful which was very delicious.
Sucre's Butter Pecan Ice cream


Next we trotted into the art gallery of local artist Terrence Osborne. His focus captures New Orleans bright and friendly culture as well as emphasis on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. He uses beautiful vibrant colors and curvy brush strokes which makes his paintings really stand out. I thought his work captured the city wonderfully and his prices were even more eye pleasing. Hes also very friendly and inviting person.



If you're interested in local New Orleans artists or art in general you should check out his work at http://terranceosborne.com/, and follow him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/terranceosborne/ .
    All of our exploring had us exhausted and hungry. So we chose to go to Juan's Flying Burrito for dinner, although I was a little bit adamant about eating any type of texmex since I live in Texas. Though I had my doubts Juans did not disappoint. Between tacos, queso & chips, burritos and a little liquor we were recharged for the journey back to the AirBnB. What a long and eventful day!
Checking out Audubon's view

Second Full Day:
    For our second full day, I didn't have much planned, but I knew I wanted two things. One was to visit one of New Orleans parks, either Audubon Park or City Park. I chose Audubon. My only goal of the park excursion was to see some weeping willows. However Audubon Park has many other attractions, including: a Zoo, Horseback riding at Cascade Stables, the Audubon Park golf course, and The Tea Room. For more info on Audubon Park please visit  http://audubonnatureinstitute.org/audubon-park.The second thing I wanted to accomplish for the day was to go to Hansens Sno-Bliz.
    But first we needed lunch! Also Hansens didn't open until 1 pm and we were early, so we decided to to get some fuel at Tals Hummus. Tals serves Mediterranean Israeli street food. It's located on the corner of Magazine and Bordeaux Streets. The inside of Tals has a very clean and fresh feel to it. Almost everything aside from the seats were white, from the tables to the counter to the walls. It was very pristine. Daily specials are Handwritten on a roll of construction paper which is hung up on the wall. There's also complementary pita bread and dips that you can help yourself to while waiting on your meal. I chose to order the Mediterranean Chicken on Pita  with fries on the side. I have to say that it was my favorite meal that I'd had in Nola. Everything was fresh, the pita was soft and warm, the hummus and tzatziki sauce complemented each other, the chicken was marinated and grilled to perfection, and the fries were homemade and delicious. It was amazing. My mom had a simple salad that looked crisp and fresh! I excitedly thanked the owner/chef for the great meal, my belly was full of happiness.

    It was finally time to make our way to Hansens for our snowballs. Hansens has been around since 1939, and is another popular spot in New Orleans for both visitors and residents. The history is that Earnest Hansen built the very machine that they use today to get that finely shaved ice. There are plenty of appeasing flavor options including strawberry, cherry, and grape. There's also your non-traditional flavors like satsuma, cream of nectar, and even chocolate. I chose Satsuma and Nectar, my mom chose Spearmint, and Abby chose Hibiscus and Lemonade. Hansens also comes up with daily specials like local Key Lime and Mint, Bananas Foster, Thai tea, and Grapefruit. Don't forget about your toppings! My favorite topping has always been marshmallow fluff no matter what flavor I get. They also have crushed pineapple, whipped cream, ice cream , and even condensed milk. Don't worry, yes there are lots of options but you'll have plenty of time to decide while waiting in line. Hansens is really popular , so I suggest getting there at least 15 to 30 minutes before they open at 1 pm., either way you wont regret it.

    After our snowballs we made the conscience decision to get off our feet and head home. Mom my however made the last minute call to stop in at the casino. Harrahs is located at the end of Canal Street, between St Peters Street and Convention Center Blvd. It's right before you hit the boardwalk at the rive, you can't miss it. We quickly grabbed some samples from the froyo place across the street and walked into Harrahs armed with ten bucks to split between the three of us. We walked around all the gambling tables, Black Jack, Russian Roulette, Poker etc., all situated in the middle of the floor as if to stop everyone and entice them to join in. Not us though! We had tunnel vision and were zooming in on the slots!
    We all took turns, handing off  our cash outs to one another. My mom wanted us to pick one machine and finish, but Abby and I would always cash out before our balance got too close to zero. My final play had us down to a dollar and some change. We left it to Abby to finish it out, so she
chose the Corgi Slot, that was actually near the doors at the front of the casino. One Spin! One spin was all it took Abby to win $362. I mean the winnings kept going up and up. It was like icing on our "vacation cake". We figured the best slot machines are near the front of the casino. You know? The ones everyone walks past.
    After our celebration, splitting the money , and taking victory pictures , we gained some newfound energy and we headed back through the french market to get some gumbo. My mom was on a mission to get some to bring back to her fiance. He had expressed how much he really wanted some delicious New Orleans gumbo. Little does he know I have a killer recipe. So the night before I had done some research for my mom and found a place called "The Gumbo Shop", located on St Peters Street. There were some contenders that we strolled pass, including the "Gumbo Pot", but I checked out the reviews and the "Shop" made the cut.
    The Gumbo Shop is a quaint restaurant with an old time feel. Buried deep beyond its threshold down a short softly lit hall revealing a courtyard dining area, that gave off a secret garden feel. There was even a small fountain attached to the red brick wall, and plant life scattered around. There was natural sunlight spilling over into the courtyard from the surround buildings. Turn to the right and you enter the old time dining area. We weren't there for long, just for the gumbo, my mom and I both opted for the seafood gumbo, but they also had chicken and andouille . I do wish we had time to check out the full menu, but our day was coming to a close. So we finally headed back to our AirBnB.

We went back out later that evening to meet up with one of Abby's hometown friends at a hot dog joint call "Dat Dog". Located on, you guessed it, good ole Magazine Street haha! You could get any kind of brat, sausage or wiener there. They even have hand rolled ground beef that they could make into a dog and slap on a bun for ya. I got a Chicago Dog for comparison reasons, Abby chose the hand rolled hamburger, my mom got a kielbasa sausage.
Third Day:
    The third days morning was already booked at the start of the trip. One of Abby's coworkers was kind enough to ask his mother in law ( a licensed tour guide) to give us a tour of New Orleans Irish history and the Irish Channel. Her name was Colleen, and she told us that the name "Colleen" meant "girl" in Irish.
    We began our tour with a walk down Magazine Street ( I know, back again on Magazine St). Colleen gave us a bunch of cool history about the business buildings along the street. She told us about how most businesses were owned by the Germans who would rent the upstairs of their building to the Irish, but would not allow them to work there. Because of discrimination most Irish worked hard labor jobs including digging the new Basin Canal.

 We learned about Irish and German Churches, saints, philanthropists, schools, shotgun houses and architecture. It was a very informative tour and I definitely recommend it if ever you're in New Orleans.


 After the tour Colleen Abby my mom and I all went out to Parasols for lunch. Parasols doubles as a restaurant and bar., the bar and eating area are separate, but they're just on the other side of the wall down about three steps. After you order your meal if you want a drink, you have to stick your head through a window that connects to the bar, ring the bell, and tell the tender what drink you'd like. For lunch I ordered some onion rings I wasn't too hungry so I didn't need a full meal. My mom had wings and fries, and Abby had a roast beef Po Boy. Now I've never been one to rave about something so simple as onion rings, but boy were they delicious. They were fresh and hot, lightly battered but crispy, well seasoned, sweet and even a little juicy. They were everything I could ask for in an onion ring. I've been dreaming about those rings, and trying recipes to no avail. I may return just for those onion rings and Tals alone!
    After our tour we made our way back to our place. Abby checked out for the day, but I decided to take advantage of one of the many festivals that new Orleans has. The Bayou Boogaloo is a music and art festival that took place over the weekend that we were visiting. There was all kinds of art, from paintings, carved wood, handmade jewelry, etc.





 For music, the creator of the Cupid Shuffle Mr. Cupid himself was there among other artists. Cupid, a Louisiana native was honored at the Bayou Boogaloo for his creative success. Shortly after, a huge dance party erupted once he performed. He ended with his timeless hit the "Cupid Shuffle". While performing everyone in the crowd including my mom Angela  her aunt Evelyn and I, started doing the cupid shuffle, but this time we were all aiming for the world record of ten minutes. And after ten minutes of sweating our tails off we finally did. I could have gone longer but we had to stop at some point right? After the dance party Cupid kindly took photos and autographs with everyone.
    We ended the night with a walk to Freys Smoked Meat Company which was a five minute drive from our AirBnB. My goal was to get more pork belly as I was hooked from my Po Boy experience with Killer Po Boys. The belly was satisfying and tender, so I was pleased with that.
It was finally time to head back and start packing for our journey home. Moms flight was early in the morning so we got up around four to head out.
    New Orleans treated us with opens arms. Plenty of great people and great food. It was super easy to get around from one neighborhood to another on their trolley and bus system. There were many places to explore, and there's always a festivity to join in on. Our AirBnb in Midcity was very convenient and close to reastaurants, bars, and nightlife, as well as easy to navigate transportation with either the help of the amazing people there or google. Will I go back? Of course! New Orleans is just one of those cities that you couldn't stay away from. Until next time New Orleans!
 






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