NEW ORLEANS IN 31 HOURS OR LESS
This post is image-heavy and text-heavy and I don't care because I just had the best two days ever. Here goes!
On Monday, I did the second craziest thing I've ever done - I bought plane tickets on a whim and went on a trip for pleasure for the first time since more than a year ago. I've always loved browsing on SkyScanner for cheap flights to different places to see if I could find an amazing deal, and there it was: New Orleans for $68.20 round trip via Spirit Airlines.
A few things you NEED to know if you fly Spirit: if any of you travel as much as I do you're well aware that Spirit kind of... sucks. While the flights are cheap (sometimes) they charge for everything else. If you're flying Spirit for a short trip, know the following. Check in online and make sure you print your boarding pass at home. There are no mobile tickets via Spirit, so they scam you and charge $2 if you need to print at the kiosk and $10 if you actually need a human to help you. During online check-in, do NOT pay to get a seat assigned. Do NOT pay for a carry-on or checked bag; instead, cram everything you own into a tiny backpack. Do not bring a purse in addition to your tiny backpack. Bring your own snacks and drinks, because Spirit even charges for water. Lastly, don't fall for the "green up" feature they ask you to donate to - the only greening up happening is your green $$$ going into their pockets. I strongly prefer Southwest when traveling for business (two free checked bags!) but Spirit is great for short trips for leisure.
On Wednesday, I did the actual craziest thing I've ever done - I hopped on a plane to New Orleans with one goal in mind: eating and drinking my way through the city. I also wanted to see Marie Laveau's tomb. I stayed with new friends and had an absolutely amazing time. I skipped all of the extra crap that Spirit was shilling and brought a small backpack with only my phone, camera, toiletries, pajamas, a change of clothes, and wallet. (I came home with a new pair of shoes and a dress with lizards on it but that's a total aside.)
Our first stop was Willie Mae's Scotch House for fried chicken. I'm allergic to capsaicin so I was really excited that they don't use cayenne in their batter like lots of restaurants, and I ordered chicken tenders with fried okra and a sweet tea. I also got to try their mac and cheese, which was absolutely killer. Despite the name, Willie Mae's is not actually a bar. It's a cash-only neighborhood staple that I never would have noticed if I didn't know exactly where I was going, because it blends right in with the houses around it. The menu is fairly small, but the portions are large (gigantic, actually) and the prices are SO CHEAP. Everything I ordered was absolutely amazing and I think my whole meal was something like twelve bucks.
We meandered our way to the French Quarter, which was probably a fifteen-minute walk. If you're doing this, make sure you know where you're going because it can get confusing. New Orleans is an old city and the roads are not laid out like a grid. The next stop was Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, another place with a somewhat misleading name. Lafitte's is actually believed to be the oldest bar in the United States, opened in 1772 - not a blacksmith. This trip to Lafitte's also marked my first time trying a New Orleans daiquiri - not a blended fruit and rum drink like you'd get at a bar anywhere in the Midwest, but a slushy drink full of more booze than I knew was scientifically possible. As soon as we sat down, it started pouring. At least we had a decent way to pass the time! If it hadn't been raining, I would have loved to take advantage of New Orleans' open container allowance. You can drink out in the open, and you can even get booze in a drive-thru legally as long as you leave the security tape on your drink until you're parked and out of the car.
As the rain let up a bit, the next place we stopped at was the world-famous Café du Monde. Another cash-only New Orleans staple since 1862, it's famous for its café au lait and French beignets ("ben-YAYs"). If you've never had a beignet, it's a pastry topped with more powdered sugar than you've ever seen, best dipped in coffee or hot cocoa. I chose the latter - my only advice is to make sure you're breathing outward or not breathing when you take a bite. Powdered sugar doesn't belong in your lungs, but one wrong move at Café du Monde will turn into a coughing fit so be careful!
Moving along, visitors to New Orleans should ride the streetcar just for the hell of it. You can catch the streetcar near the Insectarium (always worth a visit, but I didn't have time on this trip) and ride it for about a half an hour until you reach Superior Seafood. If you can, sit at the bar and take advantage of happy hour. I ordered another daiquiri, this time one called a "French" which consisted of champagne, gin, and lemon juice. I like all three of those things, but they taste terrible mixed together and frozen - however, they also do their job. We also got oysters (which I can't review since I didn't eat any - I always hate them no matter how "good" they are) and crab-stuffed mushrooms (holy. yes. so. good.) before taking an Uber back to the house where we were staying because I was full and desperately wanted a nap.
Post-nap, it was completely dark out. We took another Uber to Frenchmen Street, which is supposed to be the best place for live music in the evenings. After wandering a bit, I chose The Three Muses, where I ordered their signature drink (the Muse) to start with. Although it's a strange color combo, it was a great mix of blueberry, gin, elderflower, and cucumber. In regards to food, I got feta fries (yum) and fish tacos (decent, but small and kind of wet so they fell apart) while we listened to the band play.
Further down the street, we headed into Maison. Maison is a bar with a great reputation for always having good music, and it lived up to its reputation. The band that was playing is called The Crooked Vines, and they are AWESOME. They did a mix of covers as well as original music, and halfway through their set they switched around and swapped instruments which is always impressive. I decided to wind down for the night with champagne because I thought I'd be getting a small glass, but of course everything in New Orleans is bigger and better so it took me nearly an hour just to finish. Or maybe I'm just a lightweight!
I settled in for the night (or at least, I tried to) with Leo and Parsley, Leo deciding that my tiny air mattress was meant for him. I didn't mind, because I love dogs and I'm used to my own dog crowding me every night at home.
After a solid eight hours of sleep, the rain had finally cleared up and I was ready to do something I had always heard about - a cemetery tour. Since these cemeteries are at least a century and a half old and even the descendants of the descendants of the people entombed have passed away, I don't feel like I'm intruding. The cemeteries are so rich in Southern history and I loved our tour guide, Nu'Awlons Natescott (pretty sure his name is just Nate, but what do I know?) from Island of Algiers Tours. There's a fine line between being entertaining and being irritating and he definitely knows what he's doing.
Among some of the most famous tombs in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 are the alleged tomb of Marie Laveau, the actual tomb of Marie Laveau, the tomb of her mentor Monsieur Dupre, Homer Plessy (of Plessy v. Ferguson, the suit that made "separate but equal" into a milestone for the civil rights movement), and of course, Nicolas Cage's future burial site. Like most guided tours I've been a part of, I probably wouldn't go on the same tour again but I'm happy to have had the experience and I think it was a worthwhile $20.
The entire time we were on the tour my stomach was growling up a storm, so when Nate wrapped up with us we walked back to the French Quarter for breakfast at Stanley. From what I've been told, there was also a restaurant called Stella! but when the owners divorced, he kept Stanley and she kept Stella!. Either way, they have pecan smoked bacon (!!!) and a great selection of Italian sodas. I opted for the blood orange version.
After walking off breakfast around the Quarter and along the riverfront, we had a bit of time left so we hit up Daiquiris Delight Shop for some of the largest daiquiris I've ever seen. The first flavor I tried (which was bright blue, called Ecstasy) somehow literally burned through the roof of my mouth and left it raw so I swapped it for an orange version called Antifreeze. Judging by the names, neither were good choices to put in my body but the only result from the replacement drink was a nice buzz.
Thanks to the whole open-container thing, we were able to take our drinks with us and headed to Felipe's for burritos (the photo above of the Felix's sign is just one I snapped on the way, don't think I got it confused). We walked around a bit more before I called an Uber to the airport. Out of all the food during the last day and a half I think the burritos were the least spectacular but we ate a LOT and I'm also limited in what I can order (no salsas, peppers of any kind, or queso) so don't let me deter you - I'm just forced to order bland versions of spicy food sometimes!
All in all, I think I spent around $250 total including my plane tickets. I dog-sit through Rover a few times a month to earn a little bit of extra spending money and I love it because I get to play with cute dogs and it allows me to do fun stuff (if and when I actually get free time, which I am trying to make a priority lately). I obviously purchased a lot more food and alcohol than I would have if I were at home, but YOLO or NOLA or whatever. I don't regret any of it!
In short, if you haven't ever taken a vacation on a whim, you should try it. This was probably the most adventurous 31 hours of my life. I JUST got home from the airport and I'm already perusing the web for my next trip idea...
Thank you to Jack, Julie, Hannah, and Tatyana (and Leo and Parsley!) for being a part of my amazing 31-hour vacation!