Every now and then it’s nice to treat yourself. Leading a busy life, as most of us do, it is sometimes all too easy to prioritize everything else and neglect ourselves in the process. These days I’m all for self care and carving out time to do what makes me happy. Therefore, I recently made time to travel to New Orleans and happily explored the city’s culture, food, and art. I had so much fun on this last minute, solo trip which reminded me that it’s more than ok to live a little.
For the Culture:
When you’re in NOLA you can’t help but live it up. The city’s unorthodox beauty and endless attractions entice visitors to step outside of their bland comfort zones and into its whimsical, Cajun flavored culture which is being celebrated for its 300th year of existence. The city was founded in 1718 and has become a plethora of cultural influence ever since.
NOLA is the type of place where bars open before 12 noon, houses are as colorful as the people who own them, streetcars are everyday transportation, and alleys are more than mere spaces for garbage but instead unexpected gateways to picturesque settings. Of course, as any halfway decent travel blogger would do, I took full advantage of all of the above.
After drinking the popular Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s I strolled down the famous or infamous (depending on your experience) Bourbon Street. It took me over 30 minutes to hunt down a Bourbon engraved sidewalk which several locals falsely swore no longer existed. Eventually out of my own determination I stumbled upon the discovery at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse. The intersection is one of the few ones that still bears “Bourbon” on its cement. Hopefully this helps someone out if they’re dying to get their own version of the iconic street sign like I was.
After Mission (deemed) Impossible was tackled, I headed over to Bar Tonique on Rampart Street. It’s a cozy little bar with funky, worn-out decor and a wide variety of a little bit of everything. Lots of locals moseyed in and out during the 12-5pm happy hour and notably very few tourists. This is definitely a neighborhood type of joint.
The plethora and diversity of bars isn’t the only thing that’s unique to Nola’s culture. The homes that line the streets of the fun-loving city are full of peculiar color combos and captivating, plant-adorned balconies. I found that simply walking throughout the neighborhood to admire some of the houses served as an easy form of sightseeing.
Another unique aspect of New Orleans is the awesome, old-timey street cars that line main streets. The streetcar routes are very easy to learn and the fare prices are nominal. I purchased a 1-day Jazzy Pass which allows unlimited rides on streetcars and buses for an entire day for only $3.
In between my streetcar travels and personal walking tour I noticed something else odd about Nola. I spotted several alleyways that looked unlike any other city’s I’d ever seen. Some were extensions of backyard gardens and others were used as overflow outdoor seating at bistros. They were cute little snippets of the city’s character that I enjoyed stumbling upon.
Of course I cannot discuss New Orleans without diving into the amazing southern cuisine that people travel there for. In fact, food was my main reason for visiting. I researched well-reviewed restaurants, took suggestions from locals, and welcomed input from family and friends who had dined in NOLA before. Here’s a list of the restaurants I enjoyed:
You can get fried seafood and po’boys from just about anywhere in NOLA but several locals and 2 of my family members who recently traveled here all suggested Deanie’s was a must-go-to restaurant. The shrimp po’boy and fries did not disappoint.
CAFE DU MONDE
If you crave carbs, sugar and coffee then Cafe Du Monde is the place to be. It’s almost always crowded but the beignets and cafe au lait are worth the wait. Plus you can sometimes find street performers right outside the cafe playing some jazzy, soulful tunes. Big tourist spot but the locals frequent here as well so rest assured it’s legit.
If you are a pork lover you will love this place as the name suggests. However, even if you aren’t a big meat eater, like myself, there is one thing on the menu that is worth going for. The shrimp and eggplant dressing. Yum yum YUM. It’s an odd combo that works ever so deliciously together. I enjoyed the side dish with one of Cochon’s signature rum cocktails.
The Clover Grill* is the only 24 hour greasy grub hub on Bourbon Street serving up almost anything fried with its popular burgers. The place is about the size of my hallway closet (slight exaggeration) but I suppose that’s part of its old school charm. I ordered hash browns and a fried egg sandwich which was cooked right behind the counter within my view. My total? $7.73. Can’t beat a cheap good eatery.
*Fun fact: A scene from the movie Benjamin Button was filmed here.
THE RUBY SLIPPER
The Ruby Slipper is a cute brunch gem tucked away from the craziness of Bourbon street. A friend of mine recommended it to me and I’m so glad I got a chance to try out the Southern Breakfast and Ruby Slipper Mimosa. The Southern Breakfast consists of a good old fashioned buttery biscuit, fried green tomato, cup of grits, two eggs, and normally a side of bacon (which I subbed for a fruit bowl). Bacon lovers do not judge me. The prices are reasonable and the food is so unbelievably yummy it will make you feel like you’re somewhere over the rainbow. 🌈👠
This creole cafe was strongly suggested to me by a local I met a few days ago and once I dined here I could readily see the reason for the enthusiasm. Neyow’s has been deliciously serving up good southern, Cajun classics for years which has received the patronage of celebrities, locals, and adventurous tourists like myself. The fried oysters, stuffed shrimp, hush puppies, and Mac and cheese was cooked just right. I’m still drooling over this meal. Hop on the Canal street car and make sure you get a taste of Neyow’s.
There were so many other restaurants I wanted to try but I did not have enough time. The food in NOLA definitely warrants another trip back!
Art Thou Into Art?:
If you are appreciative of art like I am then you will enjoy admiring what New Orleans has to offer. There are so many museums, street art, and sculptures to explore. One of the things I ran out of time to explore was a cemetery tour. They’re very popular throughout the city and typically range from $20-30 to view the above ground graves. However, I found out that the Lafayette Cemetery is actually free to explore. If you have more time than I did check it out!
While sight seeing was fun, of course the best part of my trip was connecting with fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses around the city. I enjoyed the hospitality and warm welcome that the friends at the New Orleans ASL cong extended to me. I spent my last day in town preaching with some of the friends and honestly there’s no better way to end an amazing vacay.
New Orleans was easily one of the best cities I’ve visited in the U.S and I can’t wait to return. The people, culture, food, and art I encountered was truly enjoyable. This was just the type of stress free getaway I needed.
If NOLA isn’t your style, hop on a plane and visit anywhere you’ve always wanted to go. Don’t be afraid to live a little. You deserve it. 🙂
Headed to North Dakota today. Stay tuned for the next post soon. Thanks for reading!