3 Days in New Orleans
For our one year anniversary, Andy and I had plans to spend a long weekend in New Orleans exploring as part of our goal to get out and see new to us cities. With some work conflicts, it never ended up happening when one year came around this past February. However, when an airline alert with cheap airfare popped up in my inbox a few months ago, I knew this was our chance to take our trip.
So where did we stay? Through lots of searching online, we found the perfect hotel just outside the French Quarter: The Q&C. The staff was some of the best I've ever experienced, offering up plenty of dining options, getting us into our room early, and even giving us streetcar passes our first day.
We were two blocks from the streetcar, and two blocks in the opposite direction was the French Quarter. The inside of the hotel was all brick walls, hard wood floors, and marble counter tops. The hotel also had a kitchen in the lobby where we had one of the best meals of our trip.
Every time someone asks me about our trip, I just tell them we ate our way through the city, which is no understatement. We had to fit in all of the local flavors: beignets, gumbo, red beans and rice, jambalaya.
Being the overachievers that we are, we tried everything and then some, starting with some beignets at Cafe Du Monde right after we checked in. This was the one spot everyone told us to stop at, but the hype wasn't worth it to us. There was a long line, we didn't know we'd have to pay cash, the table and chairs were incredibly sticky, and the coffee was the worst I've ever had. There are other beignet spots that are less popular, but just as delicious around the city.
To get our fix of the savory New Orleans staples, we headed to Acme. We had been told by a few friends and locals that this was the best place to go. While the inside can be a little overwhelming with no natural light but red lit signs like above, the food was delicious. Not being an oyster gal, we opted for sharing small plates of red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya. The jambalaya was my favorite meal of the trip. It had sausage and chicken and the creamiest rice I've ever had; I was dreaming of recreating it for my blog the entire time I was eating it. I definitely recommend making a stop here if you're ever in NOLA.
Another local favorite is District Donuts. They had so many overwhelming donut options, but Andy and I kept it simple and went with cinnamon sugar and the cinnamon roll. Let me tell you. BEST. CINNAMON. ROLL. OF. MY. LIFE. The cinnamon and sugar on it was crystallized, almost like it had been placed in the broiler after baking. It was worth the 2 miles Andy and I walked from our hotel to get there. We sat at the bar to enjoy our breakfast and watched the staff each do their own thing, whether it was frying batch after batch of donuts, making the to-go sandwich orders, or warming up the biscuits. Everything they had to offer looked delicious.
A surprise find while walking around town was Drip, an affogato shop. It you aren't familiar with affogato, it's ice cream and espresso paired together. While the coffee in this store wasn't our favorite, the ice cream was so worth it. We also loved the design of the shop, with clean style and butcher block counter tops. We're definitely more likely to stop in a restaurant if we like the design of it.
There was no shortage of delicious breakfast stops around the city. On our last morning I was craving a savory breakfast after the beignets and donuts the previous days. We'd heard that Willa Jean had out of the norm breakfast options, and after looking at the menu online I was sold. I've never been a grits fan, but turns out when you add loads of cheese and cream that I'll eat them by the spoonful. They also had tons of bakery options available.
As far as sites to see, you can't go to New Orleans without going to see the Mississippi River. There's a river walk that runs alongside of it, and if you go on a weekday, it's a nice quiet break from the craziness that is the rest of the city.
The Garden District was also one of my favorite areas. The houses were beautiful and hundreds of years old. There were plenty of local shops and restaurants to walk to and I can see myself wanting to live there if I called New Orleans home.
But, no trip to NOLA would be complete without taking in the French Quarter. We went several times during the day to see the Jackson Square and surrounding streets. We ventured to Bourbon Street one night, just to see what the craziness was like, and walking down and back was enough for us.
We also found loads of fun, individually owned shops around town. While everything was more expensive than we would normally shop (like spending $50+ on a plain t-shirt), we still enjoyed wandering through the stores to see the products from local vendors.
For the most part, the city is walk-able. We got an Uber to and from the airport, but the rest of the time we relied on the streetcars and walking - at the expense of sore feet after three days and 30 miles. We saved loads of money on not bothering with a rental car and trying to find a place to park it.
One thing we noticed was that there was no shortage of New Orleans pride around the city. Almost every store we went into had shirts, jewelry and other tokens that advertised a love for New Orleans, which is definitely something you don't see around Tampa. It made me wish that my own city took a little more pride in itself.
An odd trait of the city: while people you passed on the street would be overly friendly, saying "hi" and smiling as they passed you, the customer service in restaurants was some of the worst I've experienced. We went to multiple coffee shops and restaurants where we felt like we were annoying the staff by asking for more water or saying "no" to offered appetizers. This wasn't something I've experienced anywhere else that I've traveled.
While we were only in the city for 3 days, it seemed like enough to fit in all of the important must-see spots. With heavy rain the first two days, we weren't able to fit in any tours of the local cemeteries, which are unique in the area. Maybe next time we make it out to NOLA, but after we fit in all of these other destinations on our wish list.
1. Ever been to New Orleans?
2. Where is one city that is on your list to visit?