I’m not sure why, but people are often surprised when I tell them that New Orleans is in my Top 5 list of favourite cities in the world. I love New Orleans. Like I really, really love New Orleans.
Peel back the layers of plastic Mardi Gras beads, the bachelorette parties stumbling down Bourbon St., and the overpriced horse-drawn carriage rides, and what you’ll find is the coolest, most cultured, most haunted, most delicious, and most alive city in the South.
I love that there is good, live music everywhere. Everywhere. I must have been a real jazz baby in a previous life, because just being there and soaking it all in makes my heart sing. Where else in the world can you find musicians every 10 feet, all playing something different and wonderful?
I love the history of the place. Not all of it is good – far from it – but it truly makes the city what it is today.
I love the food. Oh my god, the food. But most of all I love the drinks. Sazeracs are my favourite cocktail (just saying the word is so much fun – SAZZZERAC), and they are the official drink of New Orleans.
But I can’t impress upon you just how magical it is from a blog post – you’ll have to go for yourself. And I really think you should.
Jasmine and I were looking for a quick weekend getaway, and the flights to New Orleans were looking good. It was a really last minute trip (we started planning only days before), and it turned out perfectly.
We landed on Friday night, and checked into the Marriott on Canal St. – it was a fine hotel, and a good location for what we had planned, but I wouldn’t recommend it for first time visitors spending a good amount of time in the city. New Orleans has many charming hotels (both in the French Quarter, as well as its other quaint neighbourhoods) and I would try to stay in a boutique hotel next time. But its close proximity to the French Quarter made it really easy for us to basically hop from the plane and straight into a club.
Not the kind of club you’re imagining – I’m talking about Preservation Hall. After checking in, and a quick walk to St. Peters St., Jas got us a hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s next door, and we waited in line for the 10PM set. While we waited we saw a very friendly policeman on a horse ride down the street, and order food, drive-through style, from one of the pubs across from us. We also chatted with a nice Irish lady in line behind us. New Orleans has that kind of vibe – you end up striking up a conversation with anyone and everyone.
We piled into the tiny venue, and managed to get seats along the wall. We had an incredible view of the band, including 92-year old jazz legend and piano master, Lawrence Cotton. The band played an amazing set (including The Saints 🙂 ) and we teetered back to the hotel.
The next morning we fueled up with beignets from Café Beignet in the French Quarter and headed over to Decatur St. for our bike tour.
Jasmine and I love doing bike tours (Paris, Barcelona, and London just to name a few). You cover so much ground, get a good sense of the city, and learn things from locals that you normally wouldn’t find out from Google or your Lonely Planet guidebook.
Luckily, we were the only two people who had booked a bike tour on Saturday morning so we had a private tour! Our tour guide, Jack, was awesome. He was super knowledgeable about the city’s history, and was happy to stop and take a zillion pictures for us. Half a dozen people shouted hello to him during the tour, which either means that New Orleans is a really small city or that Jack is really popular. Maybe both?
We rode around the French Quarter and the Garden District, and stopped to wander around Lafayette Cemetery.
Highlights of the bike tour:
- All of it tbh
- Catching some incredible music by Doreen Ketchens on the street (seriously listen to this, you won’t be sorry)
- Learning about the old ass trees (live oaks) and resurrection ferns
- Marveling at the beautiful homes in the Garden District, and annoying our tour guide by asking about the real estate prices and saying “That could get you a SHOEBOX in Toronto!” at least 10 times
- Learning about the dead being buried above ground, and all the families that can trace their lineage to when the city was first founded
I highly recommend the Fat Tire bike tour we did. We had such a wonderful time, and learned so much…including where to drink! Our original plan was to get sazeracs at the Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone, but Jack said we had to get sazeracs at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel, and Vieux Carrés at the Carousel Bar.
So that’s what we did.
We managed to get a standing spot at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt, and struck up a conversation with a lady and her dog. Yes, she had her long-haired Chihuahua on the bar stool next to her. Both her and her dog were regulars at the bar, and all the bartenders seemed to know them quite well. She had some great suggestions of places for us to eat (Muriel’s – get the shrimp and goat cheese crèpes, also it’s haunted, and La Petite Grocery – get the blue crab beignets), and when she found out we were from Canada she gushed about her love for Keanu Reeves.
At this point I was, pardon my French, shitfaced. But we managed to skip down the street and elbow our way onto the carousel at the Carousel Bar. I mean, all credit goes to Jas for getting us seats. She has the magic touch!
She ordered a Vieux Carré and I had a milk punch. The rest is a little fuzzy, but I know we had a faaaaabulous time. 🙂
By this time I had imbibed enough that my face felt numb, so we skipped back down the street to Acme Oyster House. I am sorry to say that I can’t honestly recommend this, because in the state I was in, anything would have tasted like heaven. Jasmine was brave enough to order a mint julep, and we shared some charbroiled oysters, a shrimp po boy, French fries, and cheesecake.
We made it back to the hotel to sleep it off. Day drinking has its benefits – I was drunk, hungover, and then ready to go by 8pm! All in an afternoon’s work.
Our next agenda item was a ghost tour of the French Quarter. This was definitely a highlight of the trip. Our tour guide, Alec (check his blog for all NOLA recommendations), was hilarious and an amazing storyteller. I couldn’t believe when the two-hour tour was over – it felt like only 15 minutes had gone by. New Orleans is haunted AF, and I’m planning to read all about it in Alec’s book recommendation – Ghost Stories of New Orleans by Jeanne deLavigne.
By this point, I don’t know how I was still standing upright, but Jasmine and I wandered over to Café du Monde to get more beignets. If I had to compare, I would say the ones at Café du Monde were better than Café Beignet – but why not get both?
We finally made it to sleep after that, and woke up for our last stop on the trip – Legs and Eggs, aka Burlesque and Brunch.
I honestly don’t know what was best about our brunch at SoBou – the burlesque, the food, or the cocktails.
Bella Blue provided the entertainment – she was stunningly beautiful! I adore burlesque, it’s one of my favourite things!
I ordered a King Cake Old Fashioned. King Cake is a great tradition, I used to celebrate it growing up in France, so I find it very sentimental! Basically, there is a toy hidden in the cake, and whoever finds the toy in their slice gets to be King for the day and everybody has to listen to them and do what they say (can you see why I like this tradition?).
My cocktail tasted delicious, and about halfway through I noticed a little toy baby hidden in my ice cube! Genius!
Jasmine ordered something wonderful that tasted like a lemon tart in a glass.
I had the best tamale and fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, and we had the best beignets on the trip – King Cake beignets! I’m not sure if they only serve this during Mardi Gras season, but it’s definitely worth getting. Heaven!
After SoBou we had to high tail it to the airport. I was so sad to be leaving, and vowed not to wait too long before visiting again.
I know this was a long post, but I hope you got a few recommendations out of it! If you’re planning on visiting, feel free to message me and ask for tips (I will be very jealous). Thanks so much as always for reading xox