Putting Your Own Mask On First.........
Allie and I do a girls trip every year during her break, Charleston was the last one. So in August we got together to discuss places for this year and we settled on New Orleans!
I follow my own advice folks, plan hotels and a rough itinerary of things that are must see’s for you in that city, and look up flights so you can keep your eyes on prices. This is exactly what we did! We got together again in October to book the hotel, look at flights and start to follow New Orleans on Instagram. (That is the best way to find out about activities and restaurants and cool photo ops and something I start to do a couple weeks before I travel to a new destination.)
Allie and I spoke a week before and we both realized we were actually overwhelmed with ideas of restaurants. We quickly learned New Orleans is one of those cities that every body loves and tells you there is great food and music everywhere, but no one really every can pinpoint where to go. So something we decided is we would wing it and just ask the locals once we got there.
I arrived Friday morning, almost 24 hours before Allie. New Orleans was brisk but still better weather than back home and I was in vacation mode. My yearly trip with Allie is something I look forward to for months, and it was finally here!
I checked into the Q and C, which was one of the cutest boutique hotels I’ve been to so far, and started on my adventure. As I walked to Canal to find a restaurant to eat at, I realized that the overwhelming feeling of needing to pick where to eat wasn’t subsiding. There are about 3-6 restaurants on every block! I finally ducked into the Palace Cafe has hunger took over and I ordered one of the best Bloody Marys I’ve ever had and an amazing shrimp dish. (I don’t drink Bloody Marys very often, but it was before noon and I was in New Orleans!) after I finished I just walked up and down the streets looking for cool shops and good eats to share with Allie once she got here. I then got to famous Bourbon street. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, but it was in the middle of the day. Yes there was music but it was all different genres and if you walked down the center of the street it felt like a major sensory overload. To me it felt like a cross between Times Square, Las Vegas and Nashville. New Orleans is open container and booze is pretty cheap, sometimes cheaper than the water.
I did happy hour at the hotel, highly recommend The French75 with Hand cut fries for $7 considering just the drink is normally $10. I then took my drink to-go once it got a little darker and attempted Bourbon Street again. At night the corniness of Bourbon wears away and it transforms into a different place. People are on balconies, the music seems to jive and the booze is definitely flowing. There is something for everyone on Bourbon street, jazz, rock, country, 80s, you name it, they have it! I wandered into a bar that was dueling pianos. Pretty dead at one point until the influx of bachelor and bachelorette parties ebb and flow down the street. I ordered something called a Voodoo Daquiri that takes like dimetap, one of the pleasent medicines when I was a child because it was artificial grape. I sucked one down quick and asked for another, I slowly realized why I had just joined the craziness of Bourbon Street. I broke one of my own rules, never get too drunk when you are traveling by yourself, it’s just asking for trouble. I somehow made it back to my hotel as Allie told me her plane was about to board. Surely I would hear Allie come into the room……….yea I was under a spell no noise would break……
The next morning Allie and I recounted the night before, between my adventures and her horrible flights we were looking forward to starting our vacation.
We walked down Bourbon street and ducked into a great candy shop called Leah’s. We tasted all kinds of different sweets and were able to ship some home to our loved ones. We then were able to walk down to the French market and picked up some great Mardi Gras headpieces to wear for the parade that night! We continued to walk down the street and made a pit stop at the famous Cafe Du Monde for beignets and café au lait! My first bite of the crispy yet fluffy donut type dessert was heavenly. Their coffee is also famous for its addition of chicory. I enjoyed it, but I also have heard of many that think it’s too bitter. Travel tip: If you don’t want to weight an hour or more for beignets and coffee, go in the middle of the night, or during a weekday. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Additionally, Cafe du Monde is cash only.
After beignets we continued to walk along the water and the bank of the Mississippi River. We eventually made our way back to Bourbon street for dinner and to get a cool spot for the parade. Yes, a parade! We quickly learned that New Orleans will find any reason to have a parade, and boy are they fun!
We had previously booked a ghost tour for that night so we left in the middle of the parade to learn about all things spooky in New Orleans. We had done a ghost tour in Charleston, but it wasn’t that scary. This one, seemed a little bit more true and theeefore had more of an element of “things that go bump in the night”. We had Erin as our guide and we had a lovely time. Definitely recommend if you are into that sort of thing.
The next day we headed off to the Mississippi again and we took a paddleboat cruise, the Creole Queen. It was a beautiful day and to be honest the food on the boat was pretty good. It stops at some historic battlefield, but Allie and I just enjoyed the nice weather and beautiful trees. On the way back they spoke about the story of Katrina that was unexpectedly sad. I didn’t expect to be crying, but that’s exactly what I did. It was a completely different story than what was depicted on the news up north. After the cruise we stumbled upon Dragos.
Please take note: this was one of my FAVORITE restaurants in New Orleans. A friend from LA had actually recommended it, and boy was I glad he did. He had suggested sitting at the bar near the grill. I like the heat and to be by food, but I can imagine in the summer it’s not the preferred seat because it definitely gets hot. Try the charbroiled oysters, they are so good that I had 1 dozen to myself and probably could have eaten 3 dozen more.
We then went out to Frenchman street and were able to get into a burlesque show. I had never been to a burlesque show, but this one was a treat! The crowd was an eclectic mix of midwestern farm boys, city folk and people that was just having a good time. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. All I’m going to say is that Poseidon Davenport was one of my favorite acts. I would recommend going, and buy some raffle tickets for a great surprise at the end.
We wandered the streets of Frenchman, which in my opinion was better than Bourbon Street. We stumbled on a band playing the the rain and no one seemed to care that they were getting wet. There were people dancing to the great jazz in the middle of the street, in the rain. It was magical and it was a once in a lifetime to be part of that energy.
Over the next few days our adventures were filled with awesome excursions. We did a swamp tour with Lafittes Swamp Tours, we did the small airboat, and if you sit in front it’s like you are the only ones on the water. Pro tip: if you go anytime in the winter, alligators are hibernating, and it’s also brutally cold. Thankfully they lent us jackets to wear while we were on the boat. They also lend you ear protection which I highly recommend wearing. We luckily got to see one gator, but the experience was well worth it alone. Not only are you on the bayou, but Captain Randy taught us a lot about the history of the area and the environment. 5 stars!
We also did a plantation tour and we had Midge as our guide. We did the Whitney plantation which was well worth the trip, but be warned it’s not like your ordinary plantation tour that shows you a pretty house. This one is filled with real history, but it was a humbling and great experience. We also went to Oak Alley in which Allie and I just headed to the awesome restaurant there. We had done a plantation in Charleston, and we just did the Whitney. We were hungry and it was raining, and honestly it was probably the best meal of the trip.
We also ate more beignets, a lot more beignets. Café Beignet has my vote. Alton Brown struck gold again. In both Allie and my opinion, these were better than Café du Monde.
Our last night we actually met some great people and wound up going to a really cool spot called Lafittes blacksmith Shop. In the back we spent probably 2 hours making requests from the piano man and drunkenly singing with everyone in the bar. This was was New Orleans was all about!
There were a lot of hits and misses in New Orleans, so here is a quick summary.
-Beignets, this is a New Orleans staple.
-Eat as much seafood as you can! It’s amazing!
-Frenchman street - it’s a better version of Bourbon street. You will get to experience live music everywhere, most of it being jazz.
-Airboat tour- it’s something you probably won’t be able to do anywhere else. Bonus if you get to go in the summer when you probably will see a ton of gators. Highly recommend Lafitte’s. Check out my Instagram for the tag and follow them as well.
-Walk wherever as as much as you can. There are hidden gems everywhere in New Orleans and you never know when you are going to stumble on one.
Things you can probably skip:
-The long lines at Cafe Du Monde. Try in the middle of the night, or Café Beignet.
-Restaurants on Bourbon Street. There are a lot of other great restaurants off the beaten path. Eating on Bourbon street is like eating at the McDonald’s in Time Square. Plus the food is just thrown at you because they are trying to open tables quicker.
So some of you might be wondering what the title of this blog means. Does it have anything to do with Mardi Gras?
“Put your own mask on first.”
Jack and I tell each other this everytime we can tell the other person is compromising part of themself for the benefit of others. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t help others, and you shouldn’t be generous. It’s to remind you that you can’t give what you don’t have, and that doesn’t always mean literal money or physical objects. It also means energy, and most importantly love.
Next time you are on a plane, pay attention to the part of the safety video where it tells you to put your own mask on before helping others. This is literally because if you don’t help yourself first, you won’t be able to help others because you will be out of oxygen. It’s ok to be selfish at the right place and the right time.
All that being said….. be a little selfish. Book that trip you have wanted to go on. Don’t wait, life waits for no one.
Ok, New Orleans.
Beignet, done that!