Home of the Saints, crawfish gumbo, “The Hurricane”, Mardi Gras and the birthplace of Lil’ Wayne. I fell in love with this city over my Labor Day trip in 2018 and it has become my favorite southern city. On my 3rd trip to the bayou I wanted something more. This time with my partying days behind me (mostly) and my collection of beads firmly stashed away. I was able to see the real city in all its Southern gothic glory, without the parties, and parades, and throngs of semi-naked people. And it was everrryyything.
I flew into New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport (which is still under construction for expansion) a couple of days before Labor Day. I didn’t really have any hard plans before going. I just figured my partner and I would get there and figure it out along the way. Labor Day is right near the peak of hurricane season and even then there was a tropical disturbance brewing in the gulf. However the weather was mostly cooperative though, humid but not stifling and occasionally rainy. None of which put a damper on any of my plans.
We stayed at the Hilton St. Charles blocks from the French Quarter. It was an older place that was budget friendly enough and served it’s purpose. The best part was the hotel was attached to Luke (a restaurant wit the THE BEST oyster happy hour specials). For the most part it was post-peak tourist season so prices were pretty reasonable and the crowds were manageable with the exception of one event that was the highlight of my trip. The delightful Southern Decadence Festival holds their annual pride event in the French Quarter every Labor Day weekend. I had never heard of it before but I was thoroughly entertained. They kept things lively 🙂
Our first stop on our first day was a for a sugar fix at the famous Cafe Du Monde. It had been years since I was last here but I thought I remember the beignets being pretty good. But I don’t know something was off about those donuts. They were kinda chewy and dense. After all the build up I gave about this place, my partner was not impressed. But the coffee was good.
These looked a lot better than they tasted.
Next up it was time to shake off the plane funk and really cut loose. I was in desperate need of a hurricane to knock the responsibility out of me, and unleash my inner evil self. Any drink would do, but as luck would have it we stumbled across Pat O’Briens for my first hurricane ever. The place is cool as hell. The bar and seating are in the courtyard behind the entrance surrounded by a wrought iron fence and all this 18th century architecture. Someone was playing live music from the piano bar out back and a flaming copper fountain right in the center of it all. It was a great way to end our first night in the Big Easy.
Since my partner had never been to New Orleans and I hadn’t been in years we decided to the tourist thing and start our first full day with a city bus tour. We kicked off the trip with a city bus tour. We kinda got conned into taking a tour called “New Orleans City Tour” by the New Orleans Tour Center instead of the one we wanted. I was kinda peeved by the hustle, but I’m glad we went. It was fantastic. We made stops through the French Quarter, the historic graveyards where we learned about the epic family feuds among the dead and not-so-dead at Metairie Cemetery. We drove through the Garden District (where all the super rich and celebs stay, shout out to Peyton Manning!), and got out for breakfast at a spot called Morning Call in City Park. They had the best beignets (sorry Cafe Du Monde) our entire trip and it started me on my addicition to Irish coffee (where has this drink been all my life mmmmm). We also drove past Lake Ponchartrain (massive lake) and through some of the areas (still) damaged by Hurricane Katrina 13 years later. The entire ride lasted about 3 hours. The driver/tour guide was a New Orleans native and extremely knowledgeable. I can’t remember the driver’s name but the had the most fabulously sexy N’awlins accent. I could’ve stayed on that bus all day listening to him speak. Yowzas.
After the tour we had dinner at a place nearby called “Cafe on the Square”, the food was pretty good just not that memorable for me. But we ate here quite a bit because it was fairly close to the hotel. Since we were in walking distance from Bourbon street, no uber or streetcar needed, off we went in search of a good time. Before I go any further, I have to tell you the very best thing about New Orleans, OPEN CONTAINER LAW. This means while in the French Qtr you can take your drinks with you wherever you go. Oh yes. You will not arrested, the police will not bother you, and nobody will say anything. Thank you wonderful, magical, smart folks of New Orleans. Other cities, take note. Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled programming. The night was young, the music was popping and the uhh, fuckery, was already afoot. Before the sun even set the “bois” were out, the drinks were flowing, and folks were ready to cut loose. The streets were a sexual candyland. Bare bottoms and braless breasts where everywhere. And yours truly was able to partake of at least 4 of the seven deadly sins in this one evening alone 😉
The next day we went to check out the Audubon Aquariaum of the Americas off of Canal St. The aquarium sits right on the rivefront of the Mississippi river and is with walking distance of a big outlet mall. I geek out over all things marine related so this was right up my alley and the aquariaum did not dissapoint. It had a huge variety of animal life from different habitats and despite the long lines you could see most everything in a few hours. There were some pretty cool animals in there (including an albino alligator). These were my favorites:
If you’re really into animals and wildlife there is also an Audubon Zoo and Insectarium that I heard was pretty good. I think the Insectarium was close to the Aquarium but the Zoo was pretty far away. The stop at the aquarium concluded the “educational” portion of my trip for the day. Now I was in search of more hedonism, so back to the quarter I went.
After the museum we hung out around canal street awhile to listen to the street musicians. You could hear a lot of good performances just by hanging out on the street corner. There was always a big crowd around this group near Canal and St. Charles that rapped while playing the violin. I have no idea who they are but they killed it every night. For dinner I was on a foodie mission to seek out the Muffuletta sandwich (the best sandwich ever that I had never eaten). The sandwich is a New Orleans’ original and was created by a Sicilian store owner about 100 years ago. We lucked up and found it at the Napoleon House and my muffuletta everything I thought it would be and then some. We ended the night walking back canal street to catch “Crazy Rich Asians” (go see it!) at the mall theater. The Canal Place mall and movie was new and really swanky. It seemed made for rich folks (not me, lol). But it was strangely empty, there was like nobody there at all.
Sunday, we got a late start because of the rain. The tropical system in the gulf was getting stronger and hurricane warnings were being issued. Mildly concerning because our flight out was in 2 days but I’m no stranger to tropical storms so I continued on. If you nothing else in N.O. you must must must go to the Sunday Jazz brunch at the Court of Two Sisters. It was meant for the foodie in all of us. The brunch was stupid expensive but I would mortage my house to eat there again. The restaurant is set in a French style two-story townhouse and the Sunday meal is served buffet style with waiter service. There is a live jazz band on the 2nd floor but all of the food was on the first floor. You will find every kind of food and dessert imaginable at the buffet, gumbo, red beans & rice, jambalaya, etouffee, seafood, pasta, king cake, and traditional breakfast fare. All of it was good. Eat light the day before and come with an appetite. But don’t do what I did and skip multiple meals to make room for this one. That did no go so well for me and it caused some drama. Hence the reason for no pics of this awesome foodie spread. Damn shame too, I was looking extra cute that day and really feeling myself.
To burn off all that awesome food we decided to go check out some of the spookier parts of the city. We paid a stop at the LeLaurie Mansion just to see if “something” would happen. The LeLaurie mansion has a tragic past associated with it. There was a rumor that the lady of the home, Madame Delphine LeLaurie tortured and murdered slaves in her home. Even for that period in time people said she was insanely cruel. The tv show American Horror Story did a season about this story but I never seen the show. Some time in the early 1800s the mansion was damaged in a fire but was later repaired and is currently occupied. I’m not sure what I expected to see when I found the place, but it honestly just looked like any other modernized historical building. There was nothing particuarly spooky about it, and I walked right past it without realizing what it was. People are living there now (not sure how). See not scary at all:
Day Four Night time – How Tara got turnt up
Folks I’m not even gonna lie, this night was the night I was all the way lit. It all started with a balcony, some beads, and a drink called a Hand Grenade. After he LeLaurie house we had some time to kill before our next event and my sister (who comes here on a regular) recommended we stop at the Tropical Isle for this awesomeness. This drink was wicked good and will get you stealth drunk. It’s neon green, kinda tart, and comes in a plastic grenade with a long handle. You don’t really taste the alcohol initially and you think nothing’s happening. Then, BAM! You start doing freaky stuff you didn’t even think you were capable of. I saw things folks. I.SAW.THINGS. And even though I was not the intended audience for the sausage show, I… ummmm was an active and vocal participant. Everyone on the balcony of Tropical Isle was equally messed up and we all had a very good time. And yes the guy with the beads in the pic below took it ALL off for those beads. Faces have been hidden to protect the guilty 😉
Not one to waste a good buzz, and being that I was still in a supernatural kind of mood I signed up for the Haunted History tour, which promised to show us where all the ghouls and goblins, and blood sucking types liked to hang out. The tour was led by a teenager who did her best to herd 20 or so drunken tourists for a late night walk through the French Qtr. She did her best to make it spooky, but alas too much booze and too few ghosts did not make for a scary night. However I did get to see the Touchdown Jesus statue and visit a real life voodoo shop. That’s something, right? 🙂
Day Five – Last Day
On the very last full day of our trip, we ended up spending most of it at the National World War II museum. I hadn’t really planned on spending much time here. It was one of those things that you do to just say you did because it’s there. But coming to this museum was one of the most amazing parts of the entire trip. The museum is massive, it sits in like 4-5 buildings and you could literally spends days in there learning about military history and the WW2 American experience. The museum covered a lot of territory and split the fighting done in Europe from the battles in the Pacific in two different buildings. Throughout both buildings war planes hung from the celings, and simulated battle scenes made it feel like you were really there. There was a lot of historical artifacts, weapons, uniforms, and video to help re-creat the time leading up to WW2. It was a great experience and I think most people would get a lot out of.
After the museum we had time for one last thing before getting ready to head home. Our final adventure was on a riverboat dinner cruise floating down the Mississippi. We left on steamboat called the Natchez from a port near the Bienville St Wharf. For 2 hours we floated down the banks of the Mississippi, listening to live jazz music until it reached the outer edges of the city. When we left it was still daylight, so we could see the sugar refineries and power plants along the far end of he city. Coming back at night you could see the entire city skyline lit up. We got our last taste of New Orleans cusine on that ship.
After the cruise we had time to do one last thing. So we stopped by a placed called Spritis on Bourbon St, that was famous for 1)being haunted and 2)a blue drink called Resurrection and 3)the shot chair. The shot chair should be called the happy-ending chair. It’s a frat bro dream device come true. It involves busty girls, an open pour of rum, and a hydraluic chair. The shot chair in action is something to see. Check it out here and here on YouTube.
We checked out of the Hilton Tuesday extra early for our flight back home to the land of catcuses and brown everything. The tropical storm had gotten even closer and our flight was getting out just in time. With hours to go before our flight, I trolled the airport trying to get a fix for my newly developed Irish coffee addiction. I never found my coffee but I did learn that the Louis Armstrong International airport is also open container 🙂 What a wonderful place. Don’t ever change New Orleans. I’m coming back!