*Side Note: I had been reading The Alchemist and they talk about the notion of the universe conspiring to help you achieve what you want which in my case is happiness and peace of mind so that's what I'm talking about up there ;)
^^^this is the face of pure happiness!^^^House of Dance & Feathers // 1317 Tupelo St, New Orleans LA 70117
If for no other reason, I highly encourage you to visit this place solely to meet and be charmed by the founder and curator, Mr. Ronald Lewis. He is happiness embodied and honestly being around him lifted my spirits in ways I can't even begin to describe! If I could just see him every morning or somehow capture that magical spirit of his in a bottle and open it when needed, I'd never have bad days. But aside from the awesomeness that is Mr. Lewis, his mission to preserve and educate the generations to come on the culture and tradition of everything carnival is in itself, amazing. I've never seen so much bedazzled, sequined, beaded and feathered items all collectively in one space and each piece painstakingly done by hand with a lot of love. If you really want to understand the heart and soul of a city like New Orleans, stop in here for a good chat and plenty of eye candy.
^^^eiree abandoned structures^^^
^^^lots of color^^^
Walking around the Lower Ninth Ward was a very surreal and eye opening experience. You'll find a mixture of runned down, decaying structures and overgrown, abandoned fields. Although it's been over ten years since hurricane Katrina, a lot of this area stands exactly as it was left after the devastating natural disaster. Dotted through out you'll also find graffiti and the odd rebuild, usually in some sort of stark colorful contrast in comparison to the ruins that surround it. It's something that really needs to be experienced in order to fully understand the deep impact that such an event had in shaping the history of the city.
Confederate Memorial Hall Museum // 929 Camp St, New Orleans LA 70130
So I'll start by saying up front, this museum might not be for everyone and that's totally ok. I for one believe that history should be learned from and the best way to do so is to try and understand, or at least explore things from both sides. Embedded deep in the roots of New Orleans' culture is race, segregation and war. The Confederate Memorial Hall Museum also happens to be Louisiana's oldest museum and houses one of the most uniquely curated collections on exhibit today. The building itself is gorgeous and if you're into history, it's certainly worth a visit.
^^^she was feeling it^^^
The Lower Garden District is basically an industrial playground with endless brick, iron gates and tons of hidden gardens tucked away in little side alleys. If you're into strolling through beautiful architecture dotted with cafes, restaurants, cute little shops and bars galore, this is the perfect spot. Enjoy getting lost!
^^^caught in the wind^^^
What can I possibly say about the French Quarter except that it might possibly be one of the prettiest places I've seen so far in the U.S. and it was love at first sight for me! Swirly iron balconies surrounding pastel and brick buildings with so much culture literally spilling out into the streets. From artists lining the roads with their eclectic art to that funky jazz oozing from practically every corner... Did I mention I had a moment with chasing bubbles and we spotted a tree covered in the quintessential beads New Orleans is so lovingly known for?! Both equally whimsical and childish and exactly what my heart had been needing. The French quarter is possibly one of the happiest places on earth, like a Disney of sorts but for a adults... in a cool way!
Bourbon Street, the infamous street where you can pop in and out of bars with your made to order alcoholic beverage in a to go cup and sip freely (and legally) without a care! Yes it's true and so of course, when in New Orleans right?! There strip is filled with your choice of bars with all the dancy tunes and live music of your little hearts desire! Follow the neon signs and possibly get a poem written about you along the way (we did!) as you make friends with all the lovely party animals out for a good night. Did I mention this is were the happiest drunks I've ever met in my life are?! Well done Bourbon street, well done.
Another well known aspect of the city that parties all day and hardly sleeps is their love for all things carnival like and parades. Apparently anyone can easily request a permit and with a fee, host their own parade! Luckily one just happened to be going down on Sunday (but they happen really frequently) and so naturally we did what you would expect, we joined it! Second lining (following behind the main parade in dance) is very popular and actually encouraged by these fun loving folk. We danced in a lost haze through the streets of New Orleans for nearly two hours before moving on and that was only the half way point of the parade! I'll be sharing some more pictures in a separate post because man oh man, the fashion was so on point it just has to be highlighted.
Faulkner House // 624 Pirates Alley, New Orleans LA 70116
This charming little bookstore is a must for any book lovers. Originally part of William Faulkner's home, it now houses some rare editions and out of print originals as well as a finely curated assortment of literature. Book signings happen here from time to time so make sure you check their website's calendar before you visit!
Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo // 739 Bourbon St, New Orleans LA 70116
Voodoo, witchery, magic... all heavily entwined in New Orleans rich culture so if you're into that sort of thing (and even if you're not) I highly encourage you to check out one of the many shops catering to this. Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo is a great one where I bought myself a love candle that would later catch my desk at home on fire but that's a whole 'nother story. We also decided to get our tarot cards read because I don't really believe in anything strongly enough nor do I disbelieve in anything strongly enough and if ever there was a time and place, well this was certainly it. When in New Orleans and all that. We actually had them read at this other shop called Hex Old World Witchery because they offered shorter, 15 minute long sessions which was about as much as I could handle. The experience was intense to say the least... My heart was pounding, my head was swimming, my pits were sweating and I kept repeating over and over in my head "don't cry, don't throw up". It was great!
>>>EAT & DRINK...
Cafe Dauphine // 5229 Dauphine St, New Orleans LA 70117
If you're hanging around and exploring the Lower Ninth Ward, stumble on into Cafe Dauphine who's low key vibes and cajun-creole fusion will not only hit the spot, but dazzle your taste buds too. Nestled amongst residential buildings and abandoned structures alike, I really loved how this place let the food do the talking and attracting of customers. We tried the fried stuffed bell peppers, the redfish florentine with garlic mashed potato and crab cakes to share. Worth all of the semi-loss wandering we did before finally finding it.
Wood Pizza Bistro & Taphouse // 404 Andrew Higgens Dr, New Orleans LA 70130
I had a rule that while in New Orleans, I would drink with purpose and not just to get drunk. New Orleans being known for it's bourbon and since I've also been trying to get into whiskey drinking, I decided those reasons would influence my drinking decisions. Here I tried amador's spirit which included amador bourbon and came highly recommended by the bartender (he knew what I was up to!) and it was perfect. Their beer selection was also very impressive if you'd prefer that and did I mention they have pizzas baking in a wooden oven in the corner? What more could you ask for?
Cochon Butcher // 930 Tchoupitoulas Higgens St, New Orleans LA 70130
Pork lovers listen up, this place is basically heaven on earth. Vegetarians need not come. It was all so tasty and we completely relied on our servers expertise (which if you're an adventurous eater I recommend you do this too) in guiding us when it came to ordering. I'm pretty sure we ended up with some sort of pig to start with, pig as the main with a side of pig and then some more pig.
Cafe Du Monde // 800 Decatur St, New Orleans LA 70116
Another staple that you simply can not leave with out having one or a twenty of is the satisfyingly fried and perfectly covered in powdered sugar beignet. You'll be licking the sugar off your fingers it's so good! Wash it down with your choice of coffee or hot chocolate while people watching like we did and relax.
Spitfire Coffee // 627 St Peter St, New Orleans LA 70116
A hidden gem that is easy to miss if you're not on the look out but easily the best coffee in town so worth the hunt. The place is small but has cool vibes with an incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff. If you like mole then you're in for a treat with their mole cortado (some of us may have ordered two). I myself am not a fan of mole but am still a self proclaimed fanatic of coffee and their latte hit all the right spots and then some.
Arnauds French 75 Bar // 813 Bienville St, New Orleans LA 70112
Do yourself a favor and start by ordering the French 75, the shrimp and andouille calas and the oysters in brochette. Talk about a party in your mouth. You'll probably be so overwhelmingly happy that conversation will just flow and you'll most likely end up ordering another round of the same exact thing. You can try to stray, but nothing else will be as good (talking from personal experience here) so why do it? If you should insist on doing so, remember I warned you. You are welcome.
And that concludes my recap on our birthday trip! We basically ate, drank and danced our way through one of the best cities that I've had the pleasure of exploring. I'm thinking we might have to make it a yearly trip because who doesn't want to dance in impromptu carnivals with strangers and drink in the streets with more strangers? The people of New Orleans had such a cheery and festive vibe about them that was so contagious, I can see why people from around the world flock over to see what it's all about. Till next time NOLA!
***Today I am thankful I let New Orleans take care of me, it really delivered!***