Get your fortune told. Drink alcohol out of a plastic alligator cup. Have an exisitential crisis over live jazz. 
Experience a little thing called "Southern hospitality". 


Number of Confederate flags spotted and that somehow still exist in year 2017: 4 (approx)
Number of times cheese and grits were consumed: not enough
Number of voodoo love potions purchased: 1

One glass of Cajun spiced rum: not for the faint-hearted. The Airbnb from literal hell. Poet for hire on Frenchman Street. Swamp-tousled hair, Louisiana edition. Plantations, palm readings, po-boys. Slow mornings, long nights. That Tom Hanks-narrated documentary on World War II. Sudden rainfall. Pastel walls: the Instagram dream. Seeking refuge with cheese fries. Bus ride naps. A Snapchat from a boy that makes your heart heavy, then lips coated in confectionary fairy dust. Star-shaped sunglasses and its tragic demise. Memories of Paris, memories of Madrid. The phrase "let the good times roll" (why). 

Up until recently, my only knowledge of New Orleans came from pornographic food scenes in Chef (see here and here for similar examples). Then, five days in NOLA happened. It was not only a "I survived college!!!" celebatory trip, but the long-awaited American reunion of three girls and one fateful European spring break expedition — last seen together: Marrakesh Menara Airport in Morocco, April 2015. Instead of daydrinking in Sevilla and riding camels in the Ourika Valley, we went for the more domestic (and less-likely-to-do-damage-on-your-bank-balance) route this time around. Plus, with NOLA's distinct French/Spanish flair, you might as well pretend you're buying cheap wine at Monoprix and falling in love with the waiter at Los Artesanos 1902. Not like that happened or anything. 


DAY ONE

It's broad daylight, but something feels off on St. Phillips Street. Your Uber driver drops you off and warns you to be careful in the neighborhood at night. Across the street, a corner convenience market, painted baby blue. Men, leaning against the wall. They stare.

Your abode: an apparently historic 182-year-old Creole cottage in Treme — "the birthplace of jazz", according to the Airbnb listing. The bathroom door will have a "gentlemen" sign, sheets will be mysteriously stained and one toothbrush will be discovered tucked between the extra blankets. Luxury living.

Quickly discover that the the promised "four block walk" to the French Quarter is not equivalent to a NYC "four block walk". 6pm, approx: first catcall of the trip, right outside your door. At last!!! You were beginning to get worried.

Bourbon Street is essentially Greek Row, adult edition. As you will learn, public drinking is legal in New Orleans. Everyone carries a plastic cup — teeming with liquid magic — in the way Parisian It girls wear wicker baskets and gingham pants. The street feels mysteriously sticky under your Sam Edelman sandals. From a balcony, a group of dad-types in Vineyard Vines and Chino shorts are attempting to relive their glorious fraternity days by luring in young twenty-somethings. How incredibly tempting.

Priorities first: actually not alcohol, but bug spray. AKA sign #11 you are going through a foreign process called “growing up”. Well, that and the fact that mosquito bites are the tenth circle of hell.

Priority number two: hunting down the dinner spot. Tonight — the famed Gumbo Shop with 1.9k Yelp reviews and counting. As expected, there is a wait. Also as expected, you wait in line because you will virtually do anything a Yelp Elite member tells you to do. Hits: crawfish etouffee, chicken andouille sausage gumbo, seafood okra gumbo, warm bread pudding with whiskey sauce per the waiter’s rec — essentially, everything. Honorary mention to the innocently named Saint Peter’s Punch you definitely should not have consumed on an empty stomach.

Retreat back to your Airbnb via Uber because you would rather step on Legos than walk at night through your questionable Treme neighborhood. It is some time around 10 PM. Across the street, more men have gathered at the convenience market. Again, they stare.

Devise an award-winning, bulletproof security system by pushing two armchairs in front the door. Repeat said security system for the next five nights.

Find a pair of glittery pink star-shaped sunglasses. Take multiple “seductive” selfies with them, just because.

Overheard on the TV, from a strangely surreal ‘90s karate movie: “Why don’t I show you some mercy and make you my boy toy?


DAY TWO

It’s a 45 minute wait for Stanley — typical brunch scenario. Waste time by wandering into the tourism office and inquiring about swamp and plantation tours. Drop by the St. Louis Cathedral that you once mistakenly referred to as a “castle”. Sit in air-conditioned silence remembering recent sins.

Spotted: poster with the phrase “Laissez les bons temps rouler”. Yes, three years of high school French and one semester abroad in Paris has failed you.

At last, the table is ready! Stanley reminds you typical NYC brunch digs — marble tabletops, fresh flowers, intricate tile floors, empty glasses of the ragingly popular Bloody Mary. Your table view: Jackson Square and group of frat-type boys who are purposely ruining your Instagram shot. What to order: the Beaux Bridge Benedict — housemade boudin sausage (!!!), ham, cheese, poached eggs and hollandaise song on French bread. Heaven.

Quickly discover that NOLA is the hot spot destination for bachelorette parties, as demonstrated by hoards of women in matching hot pink tees, tiaras and sashes. Your favorite will be a T-shirt that reads “CHA-CHING” (followed by three dollar signs)

The best way to explore the French Quarter: ditch the map. Take a peek into the Pharmacy Museum, enjoy a live jazz performance outside Cafe Beignet. One fluffy white cat, napping by the window. Photoshoots and pastel walls.

The hidden gem of NOLA: Voodoo Authentica — your one and only destination for all things voodoo. It’s far from a tourist trap, instead tucked on the quiet Dumaine Street. Imagine stepping into Lana Del Rey’s witching chamber — candles, spell books, jars of mysterious powder substances, wooden masks, vintage medieval photos, beaded necklaces, coins and dollar bills scattered about.

The offerings are plenty: voodoo dolls, bath salts, gris gris bags, candles for peace, fortune and good hair… and your personal favorite — potion oils. As the shopkeeper explains, every potion oil is handmixed by authentic practitioners using family recipes. Each potion is blessed with a different intention, ranging from Fertility and Safe Travel to Beauty and Good Fortune. You ask the shopkeeper what the difference is between the Follow Me Boy and Love Potion No 9 potions. According to her, the former is for lust and sexual energy, while the latter is for attracting romance and self-love (naturally, you read this as attracting “true love” and therefore decide that you need to own this potion immediately). She also notes that the best-selling potion oils are Happiness and Love Potion No 9, and while the oils can be used in different ways, most simply use it as an oil perfume. A few drops on your pulse points and voila.

Romantic life status: literally buying a love potion at a voodoo store. Oh, and a candle called “The Spirit of Writing”.

At last, time for the iconic Cafe Du Monde beignets and (iced) coffee. Oh, how you still dream of those pillowy, sugar-coated blessings sent from cloud nine. Surprisingly, there is barely a wait — you swoop into the first empty table you see, still dusted in white powdery remnants from its former occupants (FYI it is cash only and while on your stroll to the ATM across the street, you will get that Snapchat from That Boy that causes you to have a certain emotional reaction)

Beignet rating: 10,000/10. Cafe Du Monde iced coffee: 10,000/10.

Oh, and the psychic. One must never forget about the psychic. She sits at Jackon Square, preying on the innocent with dreamy promises of palm readings and beyond. Post-sugar high, you and your friends decide to bite the bullet and get your fortune told. Just for fun, you thought naively.

$75 later, you find yourself:
  • Placing money into a seashell
  • Chanting your name three times
  • The psychic telling you she’s using her ‘special’ Native American tarot card deck specifically for you but not really explaining why
  • Terrible tarot card shuffling
  • Engaging in forced small talk as the psychic tells you she is in a “particularly good mood today” because her daughter got promoted as predicted, then mentions how she’s in her 60s, which no one believes because she legitimately looks 40

What you actually paid real, actual cash for:
  • The psychic claiming you will have exactly one daughter
  • The psychic claiming you will give birth through “unconventional methods” AKA most likely, in a bathtub with a doula
  • The psychic advising you to drink more smoothies to cure bad moods
  • The psychic advising you to buy more heels so you look taller
  • Th psychic advising you to buy a spiked cuff/choker so you can “tap into your kinks”
  • The psychic predicting that your future job will be in oil refineries in Alaska
  • The psychic predicting that you will meet your future husband, named Carlos OR Carl, at a salsa bar and that he will be a “bad dancer”. He will also be five years older.
Recover from The Infamous Psychic Incident at the historic Napoleon House. In 1821, the Mayor of New Orleans offered the home as a refuge for Napoleon Bonaparte, though the emperor never made it from abroad. Today, Napoleon House is a restaurant teeming with rustic decor, quiet European charm and a very good Pimm’s Cup according to your friend Amy. Oh, and the po-boy sandwiches — a must order. For the brave-hearted, the alligator po-boy. For something safe, the shrimp.

Also, debate: is alligator red or white meat?


DAY THREE

This morning, you will get your first taste of yet another underrated NOLA spot: Feelings Cafe. Everything, from the name to the mismatched retro decor (vintage Elvis posters!!!) and the bottomless mimosa brunch, is 120% your personal brand. It will be raining, so you will have to tragically swap the Marrakesh-esque outdoor patio seating for indoors instead.

The waitress is young — 23, incredibly upbeat for 11 AM, and feels your soul with sunshine. She approves of your brunch choice: a Croque Monsieur-type pastry with jam that you still dream of today. And of course, one must not forget about mimosas to drown your unemployed sorrows in.

At the end of the brunch: “Would you like your mimosa to-go?

Walk off your mid-day tipsiness in Marigny — NOLA’s own version of Williamsburg, if you must. There’s killer street art and a vintage boutique called Blue Dream, complete with a red neon SATAN’S PSYCHIC sign. Obviously, you are sold. Eventually, you stumble upon an unassuming bakery/coffee shop to get your caffeine (and sweets) fix. The chocolate cake does wonders. You end up striking a conversation with the guy next to you — supposedly, he’s in a country band that has toured everywhere from Portland to your very own Brooklyn Bowl. Unfortunately, you also forget to note his name. And his band name.

On the Uber ride over to the World War II Museum, you finally learn from your driver why the museum is particularly so acclaimed in New Orleans. Not only did a previous Uber driver recommend it, but the waitress at Feelings Cafe had also given her nod of approval (she also emphasized the “cool Tom Hanks movie”). Your eleventh grade AP US History class apparently left this out, but Higgins boats — the same models used on D-Day in Normandy — were designed and tested in New Orleans during WWII. Decades later, the WWII Museum became a reality, honoring the Allied victory.

Your number one regret: not allocating enough time to properly explore the WWII Museum. It is endless, filled with extensive exhibits and interactive displays. You get emotional while in the Pacific Theater Gallery and wish that more American history classes touched upon the atrocities that happened in not only Japan, but Southeast Asia.

And about “that Tom Hanks movie” that every Yelp reviewer could not shut up about… it is, without a doubt, worth the extra admission. It’s an interactive history documentary narrated by the Supreme Tom Hanks himself, featuring a cast of Hollywood nobodies such as Kevin Bacon, Viola Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Tobey Maguire, Neil Patrick Harris and of course, Kevin Jonas. You almost fall asleep in the theater due to the A/C and leather seats, and silently punish yourself for even daring to snooze during a Tom Hanks film.

During a DIY walking tour in the Garden District, you will pass by two notable locations:
  • A pastel pink mansion where Mark Twain reportedly partied in 1886 aka The Original Fraternity House
  • A Greek Revival mansion where you will find a group of modern day frat guys, drinking beers and listening to loud music on a balcony in a guesthouse that most likely used to be the slave quarters back in the day. They notice you and your friends walking by and invite you up for a brew. Yet again, how incredibly tempting.

DAY FOUR

It’s an eternal bus ride to the Whitney Plantation, located in the parish of St. John The Baptist. You will also recently learn that Louisiana is divided into “parishes”. You think you prefer the word “county” better. Oh, and you will be listening to music via $8 earbuds from Rite Aid. 

Venturing through a former slave plantation is surreal, somber and unsettling. For starters, the Whitney is the only plantation tour that actually focuses on the slaves and their lives on the plantation — a narrative that is often overshadowed by stories of the slaveowners themselves.

Back in the city, your bus driver will point out Whole Foods and you’re not sure why but you also don’t question it.

Recuperate at Cane & Table: arguably the cutest, most Instagram-worthy bar in NOLA that you hesitate even name dropping because you want to keep it on the DL. Reasons to go: outdoor patio seating that makes you feel like you’re in old Havana, lush tropical plants and (strong) cocktails dripping in coconut rum goodness.

What trip to New Orleans is complete without waiting in line — in the rain — for a jazz show at Preservation Hall? Of course, it will be worth the wait and yes, you will fall in love with the pianist and spend the entire performance dreaming about your future life/family with him. It’s only natural.

The cycle continues: more drinks at a seedy, neon-lit bar on Bourbon Street called Tropical Isle that looks like it belongs in a Harmony Korine movie. You order the suspiciously titled Hand Grenade which claims to be New Orleans’ “most powerful drink”. And even better, you decide to order The Horny Gator for round two — a sugary confection that promises to “make you a better lover”. No word on that front yet. It will come with a plastic toy alligator that, yes, you name after your Airbnb host.


DAY FIVE

You wake up and realize you have lost your voice (thank you, Hand Grenade + Horny Gator). But nothing matters in the world anymore because you’re about to do the most ~Southern~ tourist crime ever and embark on a swamp tour. Complete with alligators. You like to pretend that you did not drive by houses with numerous Confederate flags on the way there.

Honey Island is your literal nightmare: mosquitos and humidity. But, a chance to watch your tour guide feed marshmallows to gators and speed down the bayou in adventure film-fashion is worth every bite and sweat-drenched selfie.

Toast to the last night of your NOLA getaway with dinner and drinks at Sylvian. A fried chicken sandwich will be involved. Try to ignore the fact that you will be returning to NYC in less than twenty-four hours and have a physical breakdown while carrying your luggage up six flights of stairs in the middle of May. Reality... sucks.

So long, NOLA.

And for a visual recap... 


Post a Comment

Instagram