New Orleans, Louisiana. United States of America.
Nola, New Orleans, the Big Easy, the place goes by a number of different aliases but one thing is for sure; they aren’t shy about who they are. Loud, proud and welcoming, the whole ‘Southern Hospitality’ conversation isn’t just whispers.
For any lucky sod considering a trip down to the land of po boys and poor decisions, I would recommend with every ounce of my wicked soul you tick off the following. If you don’t, I will know. I will be vaguely disappointed and you won’t be allowed back on here. But truthfully, for once, you’d be a fool not to listen to me.
The Nola bucket list as follows;
For those of you who care for the soulful tones of the blues and jazz, this is what your
wet dreams are made of. Day or night, you’ll find live music belting out from any number of colourful cafes, dingy bars or animated street performers. It’s a must do and see for music lovers or you know, those of you just there to say you’ve seen it (just remember, a photo or it didn’t happen people). Check out the ‘Spotted Cat‘ for some real deal live music and ‘Dat Dog‘ across the road for some filthy North American culinary delights.
Time: A few hours during the day and you’ll get your French-men fix. Once the sun goes down the place really lights up with every café and bar bursting at the seams with rowdy revellers and upbeat jazz. You could easily spend an entire night here if you’re looking for an classier (only just) experience than that you’d discover on Bourbon. It’s about a half hour walk from Canal Street and I advise you take the scenic route down Royal St.
Living in a pastel coloured mansion equipped with 30 ft. palm trees and an obnoxiously sized fence to keep the peasants at bay, is a childhood dream I am yet to grow out of. So, finding my sweaty ass in the Garden District of Nola was truly a highlight. Very few places with 85% humidity and activities that involve a lot of walking can keep me interested for hours, but somehow, someway, exploring the Garden District managed the impossible. Streets upon streets of ornate mansions and sweet wooden houses in a litany of offensive and glorious colours, not to mention cobblestones. I recommend taking the $1.25c (or buy a $3 day pass on-board and make sure to bring the right change!) street cart ride down Saint Charles and hopping off when you are overpowered by the smell of disposable income and trust funds (around Washington Ave). Take a camera will ya.
Making your way to Magazine Street for a bite to eat, some air conditioning and a bit of free wifi is well worth the effort. If you find yourself sick of the rich Cajun food i’d highly recommend ‘Pho Cam Ly‘ for a killer veggie Pho and a nice sit down. The ‘Saint Claude Social Club‘ is a must see for a spot of vintage shopping and some beautifully curated jewels. On the tiring meander back to the trolley cart I’d swing by ‘Hivolt‘. A trendy spot for great coffee, baked goods and a mean green smoothie.
Time: Allocate 1-2 hours to walk around the area and 3-4 for a Magazine Street combo deal, all depending on your limited attention span. The scenic trolley ride from Canal St takes about 20-30 minutes one way. Don’t hesitate to cut a bitch to get your ass on a seat, let us eradicate that man-spreading bollocks once and for all.
Bourbon, as if the name doesn’t explain the whole premise of the street. Booze, babes and bad hygiene, in case you didn’t get it the first time. No trip to the Big Easy is complete without a short pit stop at a bar in Bourbon. Just make sure you get shitfaced and do us all proud will you? You’ll find bar upon bar here, with drinks generally cheapest in the smaller places or the charming dive bars just off Bourbon. If you’re a restless drunk, feel free to grab a bevvy to go while you ogle at the sights and urine smells of the street. The ‘Hurricane’ is a Nola specialty and potent as hell. The ‘Cat’s Meow‘ is a time to be had if your utterly gassed and in the mood to belt out a few tone deaf tunes. Just keep that shit off Snapchat, nobody wants to see that.
Time: Lucky for you booze rats out there, it’s never too early for total and utter inebriation in Nola. Set aside a night or at the bare minimum, a few hours to really get the most of Bourbon, or Bourbon to get the most of you.
Rev. Zombies Voodoo store, Madame Laverne’s or Marie Laveau’s Voodoo stores are essential stop offs for a peek inside the mysterious world of Voodoo magic. For those frightened of the practice of ‘dark’ magic, neither store sells anything that promotes harm or injury (no chance of voodoo dolling your shitty boss, sorry fellas). They also offer readings for those interested, usually starting at around $60 USD. I recommend walking around Jackson Square on a hot day and finding a reader there for around $20 USD, try hunting down a beautiful blonde lady by the name of Velvet; she was bloody brilliant. Ask your crystal ball mystic whether you can record your session, well worth a giggle afterwards in your hotel room.
Time: Unless you’re grabbing yourself a reading, neither shop would take more than 10 minutes to look through. If you’re like me, a total cheapskate, head to Jackson Square for a $20 job and allocate no more than 20 minutes. The walk to Jackson Square from Canal takes about 20 minutes.
Café Du Monde.
Beignets, fried French donuts. Fat asses rejoice! This French delicacy is not a hard find in Nola. The OG of beignets is the famous (might’ve heard of it or you know, watched that episode of KUWTK where Kim scoffs a few) Café Du Monde. Located opposite Jackson Square, I would recommend avoiding the atrociously long line ups and rocking up right at opening time; no shame at 9am fried goods. If you had a bit to drink the night before or simply cannot be arsed getting up early on holiday, do not fret. You will find alternative beignet cafes (Café Beignet one of the best) everywhere. There are also smaller and quieter branches of Café Du Monde; try the outlet shopping mall near the Casino. If you’re filthy and only deal in cards of calories and cholesterol like me, head to the French Market and try the praline beignets. I had an aneurism, there are TRULY no words.
Time: If you’re a sprightly bird after the worm and show your face at opening time, it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to grab your cholesterol and caffine intake for the day. Due to the huge popularity and line ups, it tends not to be a place to hang about and chat so you’re better off wandering across the road to Jackson Square and having a far more relaxed yarn there. It’s a 20 minute stroll from Canal to Du Monde.
Outside of the city lies ‘Oak Alley‘, an old plantation. As you may know, plantations were grand mansions, typically outside the city, owned by rich bastards and run by slaves. The slave market was huge in Nola so for a sad snippet of history I highly recommend booking a tour to a plantation. You can find booking agents scattered anywhere and everywhere in the French Quarter and on Canal St. The tours cost roughly $50-$80 USD and include a hotel pick up and drop off. You have a number of hours to get into a house tour, look at the old slave’s quarters and of course grab a photo or five of the spectacular alley of oaks.
Time: As the easiest and most common means of getting to the plantation is on a tour, expect the best part of your day to be spent on board. Most tours start at 9am and finish at 2pm but you can, while already outside the city, add a swamp or Katrina tour. Both i recommend. A double-header tour will have you back at your hotel around 5pm or 6pm.
You’d be a real dickhead not to head to New Orleans on your next stop to the States, I really mean it. Summer (June, July and August) are the months to steer clear of if you aren’t so fond of the heat, humidity and back, crack and sack sweat. February the city transforms for Mardi Gras; a total spectacle and overwhelming experience. Bloody Awesome.
Stay anywhere in the French Quarter, Business District, on Canal or in Marginy to be closest to the action. The ‘Dauphine‘ in the French Quarter is a gem thanks to its wicked air-con, pool and free breakfast.
Places to Eat.
‘Willa Jeans‘ – a mean breakfast spread. Make sure to try the grits (kind of like savoury porridge) and the biscuits. The avo toast (such a Millennial, I know) will blow your brains out. Impressed at own willpower withholding copious smashed avo/generation Y/home ownership jokes. Holy hell.
‘Galatoires‘ – Fancy, slightly upper class restaurant serving Cajun (a mix of French, Spanish and Soul-food) delicacies. Great food but even better interior, an old school fantasy. Vegetarians and vegans beware, Cajun food is the real enemy.
‘French Market‘ – As mentioned before those dreamy beignets are found here, but dropping a line for the vegetarians and vegans among us, there is an amazing organic health food café here called ‘Meals From The Heart Cafe‘. Try the black bean tacos for good karma and incredible bowel movements. There are also the usual Louisiana fares, freshly shucked Oysters, Craw fish pies and Alligator sausages (I warned you vegans). There also happen to a huge number of stalls selling China’s finest and most authentic Nola themed souvenirs, so tea towel and magnet shoppers eat your damn hearts out.
I’ll stop now, promise. Go book a flight and have a few beers & beignets for me.