Hey Friends & Fam! How is everyone doing?! I am psyched about this post. Just writing the name of this travel location makes me giddy- New Orleans has been on my bucket list for ages, and to have actually step foot there is still hard for me to believe!
This all came about when I decided to try to use some vacation time since I have hit my one year mark (we are allotted one vacation per year). DJ won’t be able to do a full vacation until probably this winter, so I figured even if I didn’t do anything or go anywhere I could at least have two weeks without work, right?! Well when I told Rach my dates, she coincidentally had this time off too as her last week of recovery from a knee surgery. It could not have worked out more perfectly! Even though Rach was still on her crutches she was a TROOPER. She did not miss a beat, and didn’t let them stop her. We agreed it would be nothing but reading in the sun and relaxation (I mean you’re either healing up at home or lounging on a boat- so why not choose the one with more sun?!).
DJ had to work on Easter & this is a super busy time of year for him, so he encouraged me to go and soak up this time. (No worries, I ordered him Freshly so he didn’t starve 😉 ).
Anyways, we decided on a Carnival cruise that went out of New Orleans on Saturday the 31st of March!
We planned & planned, packed & packed, and then met early on March 30th in in NOLA to get the vacay started! That morning, I woke up at about 3:45 riddled with adrenaline and couldn’t fall back asleep before my 8:45 am flight. I decided to go for a run. Once at the airport I grabbed Peet’s (duuuuuh) and ate a protein bar while I waited.
Time for the flight! I binge listened to the podcast “Unexplained” while I dozed on and off.
And before I knew it I had arrived in NOLA! My Lyft driver from the airport was sweet and knowledgeable. I noticed that everyone was authentically kind & helpful. It appears Southern Hospitality is still going strong! She drove me past a couple old cemeteries (their mausoleums are HUGE) and through the French Quarters as I snapped shots along the way.
When I walked into The Sheraton on Canal Street (where we were staying that evening) I was greeted by lively music in the lobby & people bustling around in the most cheerful manner. It felt as though I had stepped right into a party. I grabbed some of the complimentary cucumber water and waited to check into my room. Once taking the old fashioned elevators up to the twelfth floor, I was finally in a NOLA hotel room. I had to pinch myself. I am in New Orleans. For years I have wanted to go to New Orleans for the culture, history, boss beignets and shrimp & grits. I couldn’t believe I was actually there.
I looked down after opening the shutter windows to a view that was both fantastic, although could probably be terrifying for someone afraid of heights (hence the shutters). I highly recommend staying in this hotel. We were able to get a night stay for a reasonable price and it’s conveniently located to everything you could want to see in New Orleans!
I changed out of my grubby travel wear & freshened up after the long flight. Time to Explore! (Rach’s flight still wouldn’t touch down for a bit).
I decided to make the first stop Garden District!
I adored the local architecture with balconies lining the alternately pastel pigmented shops and homes.
These houses! I just love the wrought iron and hanging baskets at every turn.
I perused the shops on Magazine street. I was fascinated by the mix of mysticism, antique shops, and enticing bakeries that lined the way.
NOLA, you are bizarre, I’ve gotta say! But a fun bizarre…..and I guess at times just a bizarre bizarre! 😉
Around 7:00 pm, Rach texted me saying she was at the hotel! It was perfect timing. Since it was getting dark I didn’t want to spend much more time alone in the Garden District. I went back to the hotel and wanted to cry when I actually saw Rach standing there in front of me! It had been 18 months since I’ve been with my best friend y’all. TOOOO LOOONG.
We got ready & organized our room while having totally non-linear conversations (because after a day of travel you have stories to share about the characters you met along the way and also have been storing up “oh I need to tell her when I see her” stories).
We then hit the town! We stepped out greeted by a beautiful sunset.
We walked around the French Quarter, taking in wafting scents of cooking Creole cuisine, the fascinating people & costumes, a sundry of shops (including Halloween shops in March- what… well I guess explains the costumes?!).
Of course, we had to see the famed St. Louis Cathedral. It was interesting… there were religious groups preaching next to psychics with their crystal balls adjacent to street performers. Probably more entertainment right here than anywhere in the quarter!
We kept walking on to Bourbon street! It wasn’t as rowdy as I expected, but it was certainly crowded. I was somewhat concerned about safety after doing a ton of research. We were extra cautious, but overall, I felt extremely safe in the main high traffic areas. The Uber driver back from the Garden District drilled into us not to go into any weird side alleys or anything that looked remotely sketchy.
Do Pirates count as sketchy?
We jumped into a Lyft to go to Arnaud’s!
This restaurant was promised to be one of the most authentic New Orleans restaurants.
I stepped in and immediately thought, Yep, this is the Big Easy!. The red and white stripes, jazz band playing the background, and elegant old fashioned decor met every NOLA expectation.
Arnaud’s has a deep history like everything in the city. We loved the ambiance, the friendliness of everyone, and the live band made us relaxed and at ease immediately.
I started with a dirty martini that seemed to fit the scene. It was one of the best I’ve had- not too strong and not too salty!
Rach tried one of their specialty drinks- The Contessa! It was sooo goood!
So, debate here- is turtle part of a pescatarian diet? I don’t know! Haha, but I had to try the turtle soup which is a staple of New Orleans cuisine. It was just okay to me, but if you are a chili lover & a meat eater, you would love it… even though this photo probably does the opposite of making it look appetizing, ha!
Since Rachel arrived I hadn’t stopped talking about shrimp & grits (particularly the dish I had seen at Pat O Brien’s, our next stop). We decided to go light here for dinner so Rach and I split the amazing pompano duarte with sauteed fillet topped with gulf shrimp & tomatoes, seasoned with garlic, fresh herbs & chili peppers. Yum! It was delish- but I will say, my baby SF does have some fish dishes that could rival this.
We then we weaved through the quarters to the next spot- Pat O Brien’s!—recommended by Rachel’s cousin. My grandma also said this is one of her favorite places in New Orleans to go, especially around St. Paddy’s day.
The courtyard is the prototypical scene for some R & R on a Friday night in NOLA. There were laid back tunes playing and multi colored lights exuding festive vibes. They immediately welcome each guest with Pat O’s mardi gras beads- the only mardi gras beads either of us would be heading home with, lol!
We were told we had to try their Hurricanes, considered one of the staple drinks in the quarters. I had looked up Pat O’s before hand, so I knew they were massive! I told Rach there was no way I was able to even finish half of one and asked if she wanted to split. She said, “It’s one drink, how big can they be?!!”. We both ordered one and as they set them down she looked at me with the widest eyes. Needless to say, we barely put a dent in them, but the few sips we had were delicious!
And *cue dramatic music*…. the ultimate reason I wanted to go to Pat O’s….. their shrimp and grits!!!!
It lived up to the hype and the weeks of yearning for the ultimate shrimp & grits experience. Ugh, I can nearly taste them looking back at this picture. If I had to make a suggestion- I would say skip the fine dining and just go straight to Pat O’s.
We jumped into a little unassuming place next to Pat O’s playing some good ole’ upbeat 90s tunes. We danced for a bit before heading back to the hotel!
We went to bed at a decent hour to get sleep for the next day. The morning of March 31st I woke up bright and early and hit the gym. I considered running outside, but since I’m not always positive where to run and which roads are safe, I just played it safe and ran in the Sheraton gym. I squeezed in about 8 miles, then was ready for some breakfast!
I decided to walk to the Riverwalk on the GORGEOUS morning and grab some beignets and coffee from Cafe Du Monde for me & Rach (they are famous for their beignets!).
I even spotted our Cruise Ship on the way!!
We weren’t the biggest fans of them, sadly… I think the ones I had in Fort Worth were better. They are basically like donuts in flavor and have soft interior/crispier exteriors. I will say their coffee was PHENOMENAL. I would easily go there every day just for a cup of jo’.
After getting ready for the day, we decided to grab some grub at their famous Brunch spot, Atchafalaya! We weren’t able to make reservations, but the wait wasn’t as bad as we expected- only about 45 minutes!
Atchafalaya is in the Garden District, so we were able to see cute little homes while we waited.
I just adore her yellow hat, can you picture any better outfit for brunching on a Saturday in the South?!
They have a fun little frying pan you can actually sit in too, how creative!
One of their reasons their brunch is so popular is their epic make your own Bloody Mary bar. I have never made my own bloody, so Rachel helped me big time. I accidentally poured the tabasco instead of letting drips in, so it was spicy spicy, but in my opinion, the spicier the better!
Rach had their refreshing grapefruit mimosa!
We weren’t starving, and had no place to store leftovers, so we decided to go pretty easy on brunch. Rach tried their AWESOME potatoes and fruit, and I had their butternut squash salad with a side of poached eggs. It all hit the spot and dat cheese (triple cream) was some of the greatest cheese I have ever tried!!! It was tremendous.
The rest of the trip may require about three more posts. Next time we go to NOLA, we’d like to do a cemetery tour & see Frenchmen street. If you are planning a trip, we were told NOW is the time to go. The weather was just perfect, and it doesn’t have the crazy traffic of their holidays seasons. Have you ever been to New Orleans?! Have any favorite restaurants/spots/memories to share? Stay tuned for some cruisin’, sunshine, & Cozumel!