I first visited New Orleans on Halloween of 2001 or 2002 (can’t remember, if that doesn’t tell you how much fun I had, I don’t know what does).
A good friend from high school who is originally from Louisiana and was attending college at LSU, so I went to visit him and we drove over to NOLA and went to a Widespread Panic concert (remember I told you what a hippy I used to be) and then went out to Bourbon street afterwards. My friend ended up getting his car stolen that night, so we stayed the night and then the next morning visited the NOLA police department to report the car stolen.
Since it was Halloween and we were planning on driving home that same night, all we had to wear the next day were our costumes. My friend was dressed as Superman, but all his costume consisted of was blue tights and a red cape. I was wearing this ridiculous, huge, pink dress because I thought it would be really funny/cool to be “LOVE,” so I made this dress and it had the word LOVE spelled out in the front with flowers hot glued to it. Don’t even ask.
But what made me fall in love with New Orleans was that walking into the police station, in our costumes, the day after Halloween, and around down town later that day, no one even batted an eye at us. Like it was totally normal and acceptable to be walking around in costumes for no reason.
Second time I visited was in early 2008, pretty soon post-Katrina with my now husband Peter. We spent the weekend shopping, eating and listening to music and had a blast. In fact, that weekend was Easter, so we went to a local African American Baptist church because I wanted to hear some good Gospel music. We recognized the band as they walked into the church as the same band we had heard two nights before at the Maple Leaf Bar, and knew we had picked the right church to go to. I spent all weekend asking locals the best church to go to on Easter morning and they did not disappoint.
So, yeah. Me and NOLA go way back, it had my heart a long time ago. Each time is a different experience, new sights and sounds. It’s magical in its own way each time. We realized on this trip that NOLA, to us, has a lot in common with Marrakech, Morroco, and Key West, Florida. It can be overwhelming to the senses in the ways that those cities are. There is so much to look at, so many interesting people, different smells, and all kinds of sounds and music coming at you from every corner.
We stayed at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel right in the middle of the French Quarter. It was so much fun walking around the city and looking at all the pretty Christmas decorations. NOLA really does it up good for Christmas. If you are on Instagram you can look up #nolachristmas for some great picutures of Christmas time activities and decorations from around the city. And if you follow me on Instagram, Mamaandbabylove, then you got to see a lot more pictures from our trip, too!
A hop and a skip from our hotel was Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral. I had plans to go to mass on Sunday morning, but I was a bad Catholic – I just wanted to get on the road and get home to my daughter. But you don’t have to wait for Sunday and can go in pretty much anytime to look at the church.
Since we are huge fans of the HBO show Treme, the first thing we did was head straight to the Treme neighborhood and go to the Mardi Gras Indian Museum. The costumes were as stunning as I imaged and I LOVED talking to the owner. He is so passionate about preserving the culture and history of the neighborhood’s pleasure clubs and second line parades.
We were so bummed that we couldn’t stay later on Sunday and participate in a second line parade. If you are in NOLA, you must go here. The owner is old and is seriously a living national treasure. It was a honor to meet him and see the museum.
The owner gave us some Mardi Gras beads and told me the meaning of each color. Purple represents Justice. Green represents Faith. Gold represents Power.
Right across the street from the museum is St. Augustine, the country’s second oldest Catholic African American Church.
We tried to go to Lil Dizzy’s for lunch, but by the time we got there they had just closed up after the lunch rush and to take a break before the dinner crowd. We ended up going to Port of Call for lunch instead and it was really good.
We loved just walking around and looking at all the architecture in the different neighborhoods. This is a picture from the Treme neighborhood.
Each neighborhood had different kinds of ways of protecting their homes from anyone hopping over the door to get in, and all in a beautiful and visually interesting way. Some used broken glass and some used nails.
In the French Quarter the next day, we went to Cafe Amelia for lunch. And it was mouthwatering good. I had a BLT on real sourdough bread and we shared a slice of Lemon Doberge cake that was heavenly.
Cafe Amelia features local farm fresh fare and, as one local told me, “has the prettiest courtyard in the Quarter.”
Later we walked down to the river – the Miss-iss-ipp-i River that is. Did anyone else learn that little rhyme in elementary school to help you remember how to spell Mississippi?
Down by the river there is some beautiful public art.
And the Audubon Aquarium. We had plans to take Penelope with us on this trip, but Peter and I really, really needed a weekend away. If she had been with us, we would have gone to the Aquarium (Peter and I went the last time we were in NOLA and it’s cool), and the Insectarium, and probably even the zoo. We also would definitely have gone to the Carousel Gardens and Storyland. I never really noticed before how kid-friendly NOLA can be if you want it to be.
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and you literally hear live music pretty much anywhere you go. This is probably my most favorite thing about NOLA. There is something magical about the energy exchanged between people when listening to live music. We love going to the Maple Leaf Bar, whoever is playing there is always super talented. We are huge fans of Big Frieda (consider yourself forewarned – that YouTube video has lots of booty shaking and this is the most G-rated video of hers that I could find!) and Kermit Ruffins. Heard about both of them from the amazing HBO show Treme.
This is the back of St. Louis Cathedral at night which was literally two steps away from our hotel.
We checked out the St. Nicholas Day Fair, it was pretty cool!
Saturday night was my cookbook event at Zuka Baby, a natural parenting boutique on Magazine Street in the Garden District, an area you have to walk around on your visit and do some shopping. The event was so, so much fun. It’s the first thing I have done like this outside of my little town where everyone already knows me, so I was in total shock that there were a ton of women who came specifically because they were interested in what I had to say, not just because they had known me for 10 years and felt obliged to come!
I was nervous and sweating, but I get better and better at speaking to a live audience every time I do it and I really do love connecting with women this way. I feel so blessed that I get to do this for a living now. If you are a mama in NOLA or visiting, you must check out New Orleans Mom Blog for cool local information and fun things to do.
After my event, we went to dinner at Coquette, a restaurant in the Garden District that focuses on local and in-season food, based on the recommendation of one of the NOLA blog mamas and it was sublime.
All in all, our trip was a perfect NOLA experience. We slept in and stayed in our room quite a bit, and did plenty of exploring but didn’t exhaust ourselves. We wanted this to trip to be a chance for my husband and I to reconnect and hopefully stop us from secretly planning to murder one another, and also a chance to just get some sleep! And since NOLA can be overwhelming like I mentioned above, taking time to go back to your room and break up your day into sections with time to rest and recoup is definitely the way to do it so you don’t get overstimulated and stressed.
I highly recommend taking a weekend away the second you can afford it and the second you feel like your kid (or kids) would survive without you. Penelope was not thrilled about us leaving but wasn’t traumatized either; I was perfectly fine with a “neutral” couple of days for her, because we needed a break so bad.
And, of course, I highly recommend going to NOLA for your weekend away. It is a 6 hour drive from a lot of places, and a quick plane ride from even more places, so it’s a really manageable trip.
Lastly, for your viewing pleasure, some of the brick walls I was swooning over while we were walking around. They are just so beautiful and unique and display so much character. I couldn’t take enough pictures!
A big thanks to New Orleans Convention and Vistors Bureau for setting up this trip for me. Even though things were comped or given to us at a discounted rate, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Y’all know me, I tell it straight, no beating around the bush and no b.s. You can see my full policy page here for more info.