Part of this USA road trip adventure is to see the country, and experience various cities along the way to determine where to end up
if we return upon returning to the states after touring the UK and Europe. Austin is certainly on the short list of serious considerations. It felt like we had only scratched the surface of how sensational Austin really is, so it was with some dejection that we packed up the car and started out towards the Crescent City. Left some of my heart right there in central Texas, I did.
Since most of the hotels along the road trip journey were booked a few months in advance, as hubs and I pulled up to the Renaissance New Orleans Pere Marquette Hotel on Common Street in downtown New Orleans, we recalled the Renaissance as one of the fancier hotels we would be staying in. Arriving later in the evening after a nine-hour drive, picking up pizza from nearby Domenica and watching the new episode of Breaking Bad seemed the perfect Sunday night. The wood fired pizza was so tasty, we returned to Domenica another time while in Nola for their unbeatable half price pizza happy hour ((about $6.50 each during the happy hour)). If you are into beets like I am, you must try their roasted carrot puree base pizza with beet, toasted hazelnut, red onion, Brussels sprout and goat cheese for toppings, which I had the second time there. Such amazing flavors I’ve never before experienced on a pizza.
**Here is the spot I feel like I should add a disclaimer that Andrew and I are somewhat picky eaters, each in very different ways. Neither of us are big on seafood ((apart from fish & chips, scallops or crabcakes)) or adventurous eating, so although New Orleans is known for its incredible native dishes like boiled crawfish, étouffée, and gumbo, we were not overly eager to try all the local dishes…with the exception of little pillows of fried dough called beignets, of course, which I will explain later. I am kicking myself that I did not have any local red beans and rice, though. Especially since we were there on a Monday, which is the day the dish is traditionally enjoyed. And KING CAKE?! How did I omit hunting down some King Cake??
Venturing out to see some of the city the next morning, we walked up Bourbon Street and around the French Quarter. It was mid-day on a Monday wandering iconic Bourbon Street, so it was fairly quiet, but if I closed my eyes for just a few seconds, I could picture the parade floats slowly driving through, the colorful sea of people pouring out of the bars and leaning over balconies during Mardi Gras. What a feeling it must be to experience such an epic celebration. That day though, I would just have to imagine it. I couldn’t stop admiring the iron work of the balconies; just gorgeous.
Other activities the first day included walking through the open air French Market where I had the best crab cake of my life ((Crab Cake Passion plate from Meals From the Heart Cafe)); gawking at & photographing the notable St. Louis Cathedral; drinking my first hurricanes at Pat O’Briens; and devouring beignets from Cafe du Monde. The cathedral is picturesque and lovely, the hurricanes were tasty, but let’s discuss beignets. These nuggets are perfectly fried and topped with a mound of powdered sugar. And they are incredible. Andrew and I split a small plate of three while wondering just how much powdered sugar do they go through in a day/week/year?! According to the Cafe du Monde official website linked above, they currently have nine cafe locations, but I suggest you go for the French Market spot, which is dangerously open 24 hours a day.
The following morning I had no choice but to walk off the previous day’s indulgences to the Garden District and back. I appreciate the beauty of old southern mansions with their impeccable gardens and wanted to take a peek inside several of the homes. Should have called ahead to see if Sandra Bullock or Drew Brees were available for visitors. Instead we visited their neighbors at Lafayette Cemetery before a pit stop for air conditioning ((it was so hot and humid those few days in Nola)), cold drinks and light brunch at Still Perkin’ Coffee Shop. Their freshly baked gingerbread and perfectly spicy iced chai were most notable.
During the last day spent in New Orleans, we ventured indoors away from the burst of rain for a happy hour meal at Crossroads at House of Blues. Also walked up and down Royal Street, window-shopping in all the boutiques along the way. I did step into the Goorin Brothers hat shop and immediately became obsessed with a pricey but classy asymmetrical cloche hat. As we are on a budget and not currently employed, I have to ponder big purchases now more than ever, so I decided to hold out a while until we get to New York City and go for it if I determine I cannot live without it. Well, wouldn’t you believe just today I received an email from their mailing list, kindly informing me of a 25% off event going on now. Gahh! Think I may treat myself to the hat, and will definitely share photos on my Instagram page once it arrives.
The musical influence in New Orleans is readily apparent. I enjoyed seeing so many street performers, especially the older gentlemen playing their trumpets. These people assist in bringing such life to the city, as do the various popular musical venues. I would venture to guess you can see live music in Nola nearly any day or night out of the year. I know for a fact there are some amazing people in New Orleans and the surrounding suburbs because Andrew and I have several good friends and acquaintances that grew up here and have such a deep love for their Nola. Our time was short only staying three nights, plus we were recovering from an Austin hangover, so I have this feeling that we have so much more to see of Nola. This city has been the one where I most wished we had a local friend to show us around their favorite places, and see the flavor through the eyes of someone who knows it inside and out. That is how we will wander through Nola the next time around.
Original plans had us stopping overnight in Jacksonville, Florida or Atlanta after New Orleans. We switched it up on the fly, and instead of an overnight, we drove straight through to my sister’s home in North Carolina where we would unpack and relax for a week and a half. Next up I will post about activities and family time while in North Carolina!