Last week I had the opportunity to take Bernadette and Elizabeth to New Orleans.
This was my first time going. I was warned against taking a trip to New Orleans in the middle of August. I went anyway – and if you’re going with a family, I’d suggest that this is the time frame to go in.
We did have some rain, but it served as a nice cold drink of water. It rained for like ten minutes each day, and when it stopped – the weather felt great.
It’s not pronounced New Orleens, it’s not pronounced, N’Awlins, it’s more like, Nw’Aarliins. There is a hard W in the word when those native to the area pronounce it. I will abbreviate it as NOLA for the rest of this post.
I tried to design the vacation to be a collection of experiences. And with that said, as a vegan, the food spots were identified up front, and the activities were loosely planned around the location of each restaurant.
Before I get started on describing the vacation, I should say that first and foremost, it really is a tourist city. The French Quarter (FQ) is all Airbnb’d, and those that remain in the FQ help facilitate the tourist economy that exists. It seems that the effects of Katrina are long reaching and NOLA will probably never recover. Two million people left the city after the storm. That’s crazy.
What to do
But with that said, the city is really good at tourism. There are plenty of tours for all ages – pirate tours, vampire tours, ghost tours, voodoo tours. It’s kind of difficult to choose from the array of tours. And if you decide on a ghost tour, you have to decide on which ghost tour you’d like to do. I went knowing I wanted to do tours, but I was taken aback by the variety and quantity offered.
With regards to lodging, there are plenty of hotels, and of course, plenty of Airbnb’s. We stayed at an Airbnb for $67 a night. It had a great kitchen and it was directly between two vegan restaurants that were on the very short list of vegan eateries.
Walking. It’s that simple. Taxi’s are per person – for example, to get from airport to where you are staying, it’s $15 per person. If you are planning a tour outside of the FQ, most likely, there is a tour bus or shuttle that will take you. Food, restaurants, shopping are all located in walking distance from where ever you are. No need to rent a car.
Our Schedule and Activities
The links will take you to the photo album of the event.
- Saturday – Arrived and shopped for food
- Sunday – Walk into the French Quarter, Cafe Du Monde, and Holy Crepes
- Monday – Swamp tour and Cafe Carmo
- Tuesday – Ghost tour and Jazz Museum
- Wednesday – WW2 Museum and Seed
- Thursday – Voodoo Tour, Gumbo Shop for lunch, Voodoo Museum, and Dat Dog for dinner
- Friday – Whitney Plantation, Preservation Hall, and Gumbo Shop for dinner
- Saturday – Return
Odds and Ends
We flew in and arrived to our Airbnb in a taxi. We asked the taxi driver about local supermarkets. He pointed us to Walmart and Whole Foods. Whole Foods it is. We settled, then called another taxi to take us to Whole Foods. He pointed us instead to the local grocery story, Rouse’s (I believe it’s called). There they had everything we needed including a food bar, and it was way cheaper than Whole Foods. The food bar had the best brussels sprouts I ever tried. One trip to the grocery store was all we needed for the trip. In retrospect, maybe we should have purchased another loaf of bread.
Regarding our Airbnb, it advertised that we had wifi, but we didn’t. And TV was dependent upon one’s ability to cast from a laptop or smart phone to the chromecast. Since we had no wifi – we had no tv. We didn’t have wifi until Wednesday. And still, even after we got wifi, we weren’t able to cast because I had to download apps and at that point I was just happy to have wifi. I got what I paid for. The company that provided the place was Sonder. They have Airbnb’s in most major vacation destinations, and position themselves as next level hotel. That’s great, but if I paid a bit more, I would have had TV. I won’t use them again.
The first day
We decided to walk into the French Quarter to familiarize ourselves with the city and to talk to locals about recommendations. As we were walking into FQ, which was about a 15 minute walk, we ran into very nice lady trying to sell time shares. Turns out because I was the only adult I didn’t qualify for the presentation, and couldn’t get the discounts for the tours at the other end of the presentation, but she gave me all the information I needed to structure the vacation for the rest of the week. Thanks.
Our mission was to head over to the French Market and get a vegan crepe, and get Bernadette a biegnet from Cafe Du Monde. CDM was on the way so we stopped there first. That was a serious line. Then off to the crepes. Yummy. That night we ate in. The crepes were really good. And because we had not TV, we picked up some books, which were all devoured by Thursday.
The route we took was simply up and down Decatour street, which is like an urban boardwalk. They were selling the same things in every store, and there were tour brochures on every corner.
History. NOLA is known for debauchery and Mardi Gras. But beneath all of that is a history that makes all of that possible. It’s really worth visiting and taking in sites that will help piece that history together. It makes your time there so much more meaningful. If you’re interested in this, take tours that focus on historical context as opposed to gimmicky ones. Of course, you can always take the gimmicky ones. Understanding the history will put the food and music into perspective. For example, gumbo is the major food. A key ingredient to gumbo is okra. Do you know the origin of okra? Ahh – they covered that in the Whitney Plantation tour. Ladies used to put seeds in their braids as they were brought from Africa.
What about Jazz?
It was everywhere. NOLA is the birthplace of jazz. Still not sure why Utah’s basketball team is called the Jazz. Jazz as talked about in the voodoo tour we went on, as well as in the Whitney Plantation tour. We even swung by Congo Square. The birth place of jazz. Preservation Hall is a must. And honestly, just walk down Bourbon St. at any time during the day. It’s in the air in that city.
It wasn’t as hard as it seems. Seed, Cafe Carmo, but most surprisingly, The Gumbo Shop. Rouse’s also had a nice vegan section in the grocery. And the food there was great.
Alligator claw keychains. These were every where. Alligator jaws. Why are these being sold?
It was fantastic. I would recommend going in August with younger children. It gets hot, but it isn’t crowded. Make sure you hit the Whitney. That is a must.