Sometimes you find a place that just feels like home, like it is meant to be. I have always been drawn to the water; oceans, lakes, ponds, even streams. When I am near any body of water I feel at peace; I feel like I can breathe and think and just release whatever I am carrying on my shoulders into the current and watch it drift away. Then, my husband took me to Maine and I fell in love. More specifically, Bar Harbor and the surrounding islands. It instantly felt right and it felt like home. It’s my place, our place. It always will be and I have many plans for our retirement there someday.
But this post isn’t about Maine. This post is about New Orleans and the unforgettable trip we just took there. I left NOLA with a newfound love, a different kind of love. The music, the arts, the people, the architecture, and of course the food. So much is to be said about this city. There is so much history there and I felt it all on a deeper level. New Orleans is more than Bourbon Street. Here are some of the highlights from our trip that I will forever remember…
- The Hustle. You haven’t seen hustle until you have experienced it in NOLA. Everyone has a gimmick. Whether you are a street performer, a dog, a musician, a dancer, or just someone who gives directions, there is always a willing soul (or not so willing) that will stop and pay attention. Which leads me to the “Shoe Shiner.”
- The Shoe Shiner. There are plenty of naked men/women walking up and down Bourbon. But there is only one Shoe Shiner. Dave and I were people watching when we stumbled upon a man on one knee shining the shoe of a very wealthy looking gentleman. The Shoe Shiner’s back was to us but we could see his movements. The continuous back and forth motion of his hands over the guys shoes. He finishes, stands up, and the wealthy man handed him a $20, gave his thanks, and continued on down Bourbon. The Shoe Shiner jumped up and started whooping about making the $20 bucks. That’s when we realized the Shoe Shiner had no shoe shine material. Not even a cloth. He used his imagination and made $20 off a pretend shoe shine. That’s real shit right there.
- The Architecture. There is no city in America that has the kind of architecture that NOLA has. From creole cottages to the grand mansions on St. Charles, from the balconies of the French Quarter to the many shotgun houses that are scattered throughout the city, you feel as if you are walking through history with every new city block you explore. You can feel the historical roots and endless multicultural heritages that run deep in this city.
- The Music. I could go on for hours about the music. They say NOLA is the birthplace of Jazz. Day and night you can find live music being played. Almost every corner of the city has some type of live musician/band. Jackson Square comes alive with singers and dancers, Bourbon Street is flooded with rappers, gypsies playing the banjo, and teens making incredible beats with buckets. But my favorite is Frenchmen Street. The Jazz flows effortlessly through almost every bar and it whisks you into another time and place. For me anyway.
- The Second Line. If you aren’t familiar with The Second Line, I urge you to look into it. Basically, anyone can pay for a police escorted parade at any time of the day. You can actually have your own parade whenever you want and take the French Quarter by storm. We saw several while we were there, including a Wedding Second Line!
- The Cemeteries. This is something else I am completely obsessed with. The European-style Catholic cemeteries are to die for. Yeah, I said it. They are just so breathtaking. At the risk of sounding like a total creep, I could spend hours in those cemeteries. There is something so calming about walking among the above-ground tombs. I feel oddly at ease and the quiet allows me to become completely absorbed in all of the history I am surrounded by.
- The Art. And I am not just talking about paintings. This city oozes artists and their unique work. I have never seen so many original types of art and handmade items. There is so much talent and I have so much respect for the people that live there and setup every day. To be able to walk among so many talented people was an honor. It was inspiring.
- The Food. Of course the food was delicious. Chargrilled oysters, Barbecued Shrimp, Jambalaya, Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice… I could go on. Creole food has so much flavor. Even the food in NOLA has personality.
- The Eggnog Daiquiri. Yeah yeah yeah… I know NOLA is known for The Hurricane drank. I had one, and it was yummy. Everything else there has Everclear in it. People actually drink that shit on purpose. It’s a big no for me. While I was there I found the Eggnog Daiquiri. And it gave me life y’all. From the very first sip I was hooked. I literally couldn’t stop talking about it and on the last day I started having anxiety about leaving because how would I replicate that bad boy?! I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving it behind. I wanted to dig my claws into the bar at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Pub and set up residence. I had a dream about it last night. I cried when I woke up and realized it wasn’t my reality.
- Beignets. Café Du Monde. Need I say more?
- The Swamps. This will probably be a separate blog post all together. The Swamps are magical. I actually felt as if I was entering a kind of Neverland.
- Voodoo. Think of everything you know about Voodoo. Now toss it into the garbage. Voodoo is nothing like they portray in the movies. It is a deep rooted religion that is really misunderstood. It’s beautiful and is quite similar to Cathlosicism.
- New Orleans’s Resilience. Never have I seen a place that has so much strength and energy. This city has been through so much and they continue to come back stronger than ever. The city’s people are fighters. They have so much pride and love that you can’t help but feel it to while you are there. Again, the respect I have for NOLA and its people is fierce.
- The French Market. Basically the coolest outside market I have ever been to. Want alligator on a stick? Done. Feeling like some fresh shucked oysters? You got it. Need some fresh produce to complete dinner? They have that to. And then there are all of the vendors setup with so many amazing original pieces of work that you can’t decide which to buy because you want it all.
The Street Car, the Garden District, the Walking Tours, and the endless amounts of history that pour out of every street corner, shop, and cemetery will have you wanting more. I could go on and on about how amazing New Orleans is… But honestly, nothing I say will do it justice. If you haven’t been, I strongly encourage you to go. And explore, take chances, leave Bourbon Street behind after the first night, I promise you won’t regret it.