Exploring NOLA

Jazz has always been a huge part of my life.  My father is a jazz musician, Christmas isn’t the same without hearing Ella’s voice singing my favorite carols, and my undergraduate honors thesis was entitled “Jazz and the American Independent Spirit.” After doing all of my research and seeing pictures from my parents’ visits to the city, I knew I needed to visit New Orleans. So I found some friends who also wanted to go, and we booked our trip!

(June 10 2010) Day 1. Flying out from Boston, Landing in New Orleans.

Bourbon St at nightThis trip took place right in the middle of a busy season at work and I had limited vacation days, so I arrived in New Orleans later than everyone else, around 10:30 p.m. My three friends were already out enjoying the three-for-one drink specials, so I checked into our hotel – which was right on Royal St, directly outside the French Quarter – and met them at a nearby bar on Bourbon Street. This was my first glance at the famous New Orleans nightlife. It was a weeknight, so the streets weren’t too crazy – nothing like what we would experience later on in our trip!

(June 11 2010) Day 2. New Orleans.

Jackson SquareOur first full day was spent wandering around the French Quarter, orienting ourselves with the city. We also made it to Jackson Square and got a glimpse of the Mississippi River. All four of us immediately fell in love with New Orleans. The buildings, the colors, the music, the history, the food, the drinks, the people; everything and everyone was welcoming and beautiful.

After spending hours on our feet we grew tired and decided to head back to the hotel to take the first of what would become our daily mid-day naps. 

St Louis CathedralAfter we woke up we ate some dinner and got ready for our 10 p.m. ghost tour. It was a cool way to start our visit because we learned a lot about the city in general, as well as about its mythology. We made stops at such places as the St Louis Cathedral and the building that Nicholas Cage had bought, as well as the oldest bar in NOLA. Although we didn’t see any ghosts ourselves, it was a fun experience.

We then hit Bourbon Street, which was a lot more active than the previous night. We were amazed by how many people fit on the streets, how many beads were thrown, and what people were willing to do to secure those beads. We also saw a great number of bachelorette parties passing us by.

(June 12 2010) Day 3. New Orleans.

New Orleans Street BandWe got lunch the next day at Cafe Amelie, which was set in a lush garden. The weather was perfect, and the food was delicious (and reasonably priced). Afterwards, we did some more wandering. We ran into a Cajun music festival and sat around listening to a couple of bands. We then wanted to take a ride on the trolley that went around town, but after waiting for half an hour or so without seeing any trolleys we gave up on that idea. We placated ourselves by ordering some café au laits and beignets at Café du Monde. Definitely could have been worse.

After our afternoon nap we spent the night on Bourbon Street again, enjoying some live rock music, 3 for 1 drink specials, and Huge Ass Beers. No, really – that’s what they were called!

(June 13 2010) Day 4. New Orleans.

Day four was another day spent wandering around the city. This time we ventured a little more outside of the French quarter, near the casinos (although we didn’t go in to gamble), St Patrick’s Cathedral, and the more downtown-ish area. We even found Julia street! We also visited the voodoo museum, which was interesting and fun, especially after going on the ghost tour.

New Orleans JazzWe knew that this night was going to be a low-key and early one (aka no Bourbon street shenanigans) because we had an early morning pick up appointment for our swamp tour excursion. So after dinner we decided to visit Fritzel’s Jazz Bar to hear some live music. We arrived early and got fantastic seats. The show was awesome and everything I hoped for. Fun and comfortable, I could have sat there drinking my cocktail and listening to the musicians forever.

(June 14 2010) Day 5. New Orleans.

NOLA Swamp TourWe were picked up in the morning at 8 a.m. for the swamp tour hosted by Cajun Encounters. The day began with a bus ride through the outskirts of the city, where we got some first-hand views of the post-Katrina devastation. In the French Quarter it is easy to forget how horrible the storm was and how it destroyed the better part of the city. This detour was a good reminder of the reality of the situation, and of how much work is still needed.

We then arrived at the main event, where we boarded a boat and rode into the swampland. We saw a lot of fantastic wildlife including crayfish, turtles, birds, and a whole lot of alligators. Our guide was really awesome and fearless of the gators. He fed them marshmallows and lured them over to the side of our boat (a little too close for my comfort at times). It was fascinating, exciting, and frightening all at the same time.

Pirate's AlleyAfter being dropped back off at our hotel we did some shopping. We bough hot sauce and other trinkets to remember our trip by. At one point it began to pour, so we took retreat inside Pirate’s Alley Cafe – which also happens to be the only place you’ll see a church, government building, and bar in such close proximity. After dinner we spent our final night in NOLA bar hopping. We went to a couple of places with live music, this time hearing some blues as well as jazz.

(June 15 2010) Day 6. Flying out from New Orleans, Heading Home.

St Louis Cemetery No 1Our flight wasn’t super early, so we decided to go for one last walk around the French Quarter before heading to the airport. This time we ended up visiting St Louis Cemetery No 1. We don’t have cemeteries like this in New England where all of the graves are below ground, so we were fascinated by all of the crypts, sculptures, and winding walkways and how beautiful the freshly painted white structures were. Yet the less updated ones also had a decaying beauty to them. We also saw Madame Laveau’s tomb and noticed all of the gifts left by previous visitors (we had learned about her while touring the voodoo museum).

And then it was time to say our goodbye to New Orleans and fly home to Boston. All four of us fell in love with city and want to make another visit in the future. In fact, Lauren even contemplated the idea of moving there!

New Orleans


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