art · Cocktails · food · Home Decor · Travel

Annual Girls Trip: New Orleans 2019

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No kids. No husband. I am in a Lyft, heading to the airport for a long weekend to New Orleans. Just saying this, I can hear Harry Connick Jr.’s voice talkin’ in my ear.

The south. I’ve never been. Well, not since I was a young girl on the cusp of my thirteenth birthday, traveling in the back of my parent’s motorhome we had inherited from my paternal grandparents.

No, this trip will be different. Now, don’t get any ideas–this 40-something is not “earning any beads” so to speak! 🤭. Ain’t nobody wanna see those! But it will be filled with some amazing food, some soulful jazz music and some history to be absorbed.

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This is the view from our VRBO balcony. Can’t you just hear that band marching down the street?!

I am meeting my college girlfriends there–5 of us total, all flying in from the West Coast. We will see how we all deal with the humidity. You should have seen the text string when I forwarded the weather report.

  • Thursday: 85 degrees and sunny
  • Friday: 85 degrees and sunny
  • Saturday: 87 degrees and thunderstorms!
  • Sunday: 87 degrees and thunderstorms!

“I don’t know how to pack for rain and hot! My suitcase is gonna look bipolar!” says Herms who lives in sunny California.

“My suitcase is gonna look bipolar!”

I’m just happy we have the on-and-off bus tour planned for Friday–lots of walkin’ and outdoor shoppin’! Saturday, we scheduled a tour of the Whitney Plantation, a newly “open to the public” plantation focusing on the history of slavery in the south. Pants, raincoat, and umbrella may be in order that day.

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Our last morning, we have a southern brunch reservation, to soak up all the goodness of the weekend.

No, this trip will be a bit different than “stopping in” with the fam on our cross country roadtrip. But the beignets are most likely going to taste just the same as they did 30 years ago…MOUTHWATERING GOODNESS!!!

The Shopping

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The morning of our first full day, we hopped on a “Hop on & Hop off” bus tour that looped us all around the city.  First stop: Magazine Street.  On the ride there, we got some really good history from the guide on the bus (Coming back was ANOTHER STORY!!! *insert guide that firted with the 20-something passenger and informed us all –well, her–on what bars to go to in-order to get wasted.  Not the “history” were were looking for).

All I need to say is MAGAZINE STREET is my NOLA home!!!  We had the best first day shopping all the cute boutiques on Magazine Street.  Clothing and jewelry made by local artists; shops with clever souveniers; Cafes and even a beverage shop where we all got a little “treat for the road” because you CAN!  There are no open container laws in New Orleans so, “when in Rome”!

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My favorite?  The one my girlfriends had to literally pry my limp body out of was Perch.  I could absolutely DIE IN THAT PLACE!  Every room was adorned in cuteness!!!  If I lived in N.O. I would be back to furnish my place top to bottom in Perch merch!

After lunch at a cute mexican joint called Araña Taqueria y Cantina, we went on a self guided walking tour of the Garden District, back up to St. Charles Avenue to catch our Hop on Hop off bus to loop us back to the French Quarter.

The Architecture

What a way to see the city.  We followed a “self guided” walking tour route off Magazine Street thru the Garden District.  With our “beverage inhand”, we strolled the streets of the local neighborhood.

Completely breathtaking homes with so much history and charm.  Even the grandest of homes felt like you could sit on their porch and sip a glass of sweet tea with your girlfriends.  I was dying of envy.

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Speaking of dying (oh that was a bad segue…!!!), we did pop in to an above ground cemetery on our walking tour.  Right in the middle of the Garden District, 3 blocks off Magazine St. from Starbucks, there is the Lafayette Cemetery filled with above ground tombs.

Everything was so weathered and yet strong.  The marble cases were mostly intact but you could still see the water damage from the devistating floods in New Orleans, only a few years ago.  History.  The markings of our past. It is everywhere in New Orleans.

The Art

Magazine Street had some fun artwork but what really got our attention, in the grit of the city, was Jackson Square. Located just outside the St. Louis Cathedral (where there was a wedding going on!  Can you say PARADE?!  This city knows how to celebrate!), artists circled the square with their pieces on display, painted and/or illustrated while we shopped onward.

Art is one of my absolute favorite souveniers to get on a trip.

Herlocker scored the beautiful female portrait above (yes!  with the boobies 😉 )  Once she got home, she had it framed and I am totally jealous.  It is just GORGEOUS!  Art is one of my absolute favorite souveniers to bring home from a memorable trip.  Even the little houses below the gal were precious.  I could hit myself for not grabbing one.  Oh well.  Gives me an excuse to visit again! 😉

The Food

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Did we eat?  Oh yes we did!  How can you NOT indulge when surrounded by the most unique and decadent dishes imaginable?  I will try to remember all the places and share the BEST from our experience! (Thank goodness for photos!)

Breakfast

Powdered Sugar

Our first morning, we YELP’d a great walkable breakfast place and stumbled upon Powdered Sugar, a Hyatt hotel cafe that had really flavorful egg dishes, pastries and (most importantly) gourmet coffees!  I would definitely go back again (and we almost did)!

Beignet’s

When in New Orleans! 🙂  If anything, we had to visit the famous Cafe Du Monde for their beignet’s and coffee.  The beignets, though so sooo messy, were “worth every calorie” and the hickory coffee was … interesting.  I thought it quite tasty, but I know not all people are fans of the “funky” taste.  Coffee & donuts = perfect pair. Tip: You don’t need to wait to sit in the outdoor cafe. We waited in the “to go” line and enjoyed our bag of treats across the street on the benches in the square.

Compere Lapin

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The last morning, with threats of a thunderstorm, we walked to our last breakfast at Compere Lapin before we all had to part ways.  The restaurant wasn’t too far from our condo, maybe just over a 1-mile walk.  The skies were looking a little ominous though.  We were halfway down Canal Street when the skies opened up and nothing could protecting us from the water DUMPING from the sky, not even our compact umbrellas.  We DASHED to an awning covered walkway 2 blocks from the restaurant and waited and waited and waited.  The skies had opened, and they were not going to close anytime soon.

We pulled up our granny panties, wishing we had our Hunter boots with us and dashed to the restaurant.  By the time we got inside, all of us were drenched!  My feet, socks, legs (thank goodness I was wearing a dress and not jeans) were soaked.  I cannot tell you how very happy we were to finally be inside, wishfully awaiting to nestle that freshly brewed cappuccino in our cold cupped hands.

Some things are just worth the hassle, and this breakfast was WORTH the craziness that got us there.  All the food was devine.  I went “a little bit of good, and a little bit of bad” with my order.  Avocado toast started me off, followed by a creme brulee french toast.  Oh – my – heavens.  Take me home a happy woman!

Oysters

When we first arrived in New Orleans, it was evening time. Our VRBO was conveniently located 1 block off Bourbon Street.  Once all the girlfriends arrived to our place, we took a stroll and got ourselves in line at ACME.  I was told YOU HAVE TO DO THE OYSTERS at ACME!  Even if you are not an oyster fan, when in New Orleans, you must try them.

The ambiance at ACME is what I would call “country kitchen” with red and white checkered wipeable tablecloths and long banquet style tables.  You felt like you were at a southern BBQ but…inside. It was loud and very lowkey. (Did we have a waiter?! I cannot remember, we were so busy catching up on each other’s lives).  Bottomline, they served the BEST OYSTERS ON THE PLANET!  Becky and I SHOULD HAVE ordered a second round.  Seriously.  They were that good.

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The next day we tried to replicate the oysters we had by stopping at Mr. Ed’s for an afternoon treat.  Great service (was he flirting? or just selling, we couldn’t tell) but the oysters did not live up to ACME’s the night before.  We learned.  Never quit a winner.

ACME oysters: never quit a winner.

Toups Meatery

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This restaurant had a great writeup, so we had to try it!  Weird UBER ride to the out-of-downtown location (let us just say I was happy I was not alone, but in a minivan filled with my girlfriends AND that he actually dropped us off at our destination.  Otherwise, his silence was leading toward more of a “silence of the lambs” a-la I am being kidnapped feel!  Holy voodoo, not good!)

Back to the restaurant: Toups Meatery!  We walked in and the place was half full.  We told them we had a reservation, they confirmed but said our table was not ready yet.  Hello?  The place is half full!  There are plenty of places to seat us.  It was weird.

We waited a few minutes and they ended up seating us in the back, sandwiched between the bathroom and the kitchen, which was totally fine.  After that UBER ride, all we wanted to do was sit, have an adult beverage and just be happy to be alive! 😉

Drinks were good.  Waitstaff was clueless, nice but so—green maybe? And, my steak?!  It was the size of a FOOT!  Could have been the foot of the last passenger in that UBER!  OH MY!  LOL!

SoBou

Our best dinner by far was at SoBou on the last night.  We did the set menu which is ALWAYS a winner!  The atmostphere was delightful, from the glowing yellow bottle wall of the bar as you entered, to the fun light fixture above our table (that’s me -above- taking a photo up into the lampshade).  Food was delicious, waitress was excellent and the surrounding parties were all having the best time.  There was good energy, everywhere.  We entered with a great feeling and left with an even better feeling.  Perfect end to a wonderful weekend.

The Whitney Plantation

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One thing we all knew we wanted to do was a plantation tour.  I booked us the Whitney Plantation tour.  What an experience.  We drove out in a bus with half of the tourists being dropped off at the “mint julep” famed Oak Alley plantation and then the rest of us scooted down the road to the Whitney Plantation.

No words can describe the true experience we had on that visit. We had the most honest and articulate guide, taking us on a journey starting at the chapel filled with sculptures of the slave children, to the slaves’ quarters, the rusty “jail” box, the “kitchen” for the main house and finishing at the main house.

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What we learned is the plantation owner’s homes were built long and narrow.  The plantation owner wanted their home to look grand and opulent from the road yet in all truth were actually pretty modest on the interior.  Think of it as a long lego piece: from the front it looks really wide, but if you looked at it from the side, the structure was actually only 1 room deep.

The tour finished at the heart-stopping memorial for the slaves who tried to flee the plantation in 1811.  Those slaves were beheaded and their heads were put on display on stakes for all to see. This article here says they were brought to the French Quarter and put on display.  I recall our guide said they were on stakes lining the road to the river.  Needless to say, the display was meant to making a statement. A horrific statement. An inhuman statement.

Not but men for a second, these 15-20-year-old boys had but a short life.  It pained me.  My heart and head and whole body ached for the truth of the past.  But this is the truth that has to be told.  This is OUR HISTORY, American history.

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Though I left the Whitney Plantation drenched in tears, with a great need for a cocktail to just bring me back to our lovely trip, I would not have wanted to miss this tour.  Yes, we could have visited a different plantation, like Oak Alley followed by mint julips on the great lawn, but we would not have gotten the WHOLE history, the WHOLE story of how life really was for the people of the plantations.  The PEOPLE—ALL the people—of the plantations in New Orleans.

The Carousel

Did someone say COCKTAIL?  We road the bus back to the heart of the city, pulled in to the smell of biegnets being fried and the skies opening up once more.  No fret though! It gave us a reason to pop into a few shops (H&M served Melanie well!  She picked up a hat perfect for the weather we were having 😉 ) & made our way to the next “must do while in New Orleans” spot: the Carousel Bar.

As we walked from the river to the inland streets of the French Quarter, you could feel the shops going from tourist tchotchkes to high end glassware, art, chandeliers and authentic antiques.

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We followed our google maps walking directions to the doors of the Monteleone Hotel, stepped inside and just to the right was the dark, patron-packed Carousel Bar.  It was HOPPIN!  All 5 sets of eyes were scanning the perimeter of this round, rotating bar, looking for a table for 5 of us to sit.  There were a couple lone seats at the bar, but then a couple stood up from a table just against the wall, next to the bar.  It was for 2 but we were gonna “make it work” so we could atleast experience this New Orleans gem of a spot.

Half of us went to the ladies room, and half of us sat guarding that precious real estate, watching the carousel slowly rotate in the center of the room, until we could order ourselves a drink.

As Leahy wandered back from the loo thru the other half of the bar, she proclaimed, “Guys!  A group is leaving the lounge area.  I’m gonna grab it!”  And sure enough, big comfortable armchairs in the center of the adjoining room to the carousel were calling our names!

It was the perfect spot to unwind, grab a cocktail (with “Sonic” ice) and a nibble.  There was a wedding party catching a beverage at the second bar in the back, and lots of lovely people just sitting, chatting, and enjoying each other’s company.  As we sipped our beverages and reminisced about all that we had seen.  It humbled us to know this was how we live.  We are all so blessed with good families, stable homes, and really wonderful ladies who support each other through good times and bad.

This Year 2020

We didn’t get to go on our annual trip THIS year, due to the Coronavirus halting the world. But we are working on maybe booking something somewhere closer to home…where we can all road trip to.  Somewhere where there is fresh air, good hikes, and peacefulness to absorb.  We had an AMAZING trip to New Orleans, experiencing an AMAZING city!  But, in the end, all we really need are our girlfriends, to listen, support, and hold our hands through every stage of life.

Want to venture to another city for a minute?  Head to my post on Austin from a few years ago!

I hope I have helped you take a little “mini-vacation” to one of the liveliest cities in the US if but for a second.  We all need to “virtutally” escape our homes for a change of scenery every once in a while. Where shall we go next?

xo, Melis

 

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