Ah the Big Easy. Since this is my first NOLA visit I chose not to write a big guide or make any concrete suggestions. I did however think it would be fun to highlight a few of the places I visited and shops I passed through and by during my stay. I guess you could call this is a travel diary/mini guide. This is the first of what I hope to be many You Are Here posts in the future. Enjoy!
G E N E R A L
“We wander through old streets, and pause before the age stricken houses; and, strange to say, the magic past lights them up.” -Grace King¬†
Something flows through this city; something dark but not sinister, light but not angelic. It spills over the balconies encased in iron until it is out on the streets for all to feel and see for those who can. I have wanted to visit New Orleans for a while and admit to having a deep attraction to the city’s supernatural side. ¬†A side I found through the Voodoo of Eve’s Bayou and the vampires of Anne Rice but did not fully explore this trip. There were no guided tours, no history lessons under the guise of ghosts, no one to explain myself or my interests to. Instead I walked and wandered about, taking in the beauty of the area and braving the heat of the day in white and cream colored dresses.
One night at dinner a waiter told us that although New Orleans has a big city feel it isn’t one. If most of your plans are located in the French Quarter you’re in luck, a lot of popular stores seem to be within walking distance. If not you can catch a street car, cab or Uber; Uber is fairly new to the city but seems to be doing well. All of the drivers we had were very nice and not afraid to strike up a conversation. In fact, a lot of our conversations began with “after Katrina” and proved that for some the only things sugar coated in New Orleans are the beignets you’ll see below.
E A T
Caf√© Du Monde¬†
BEIGNETS ALL DAY
How many beignets can one eat in a day? When I asked my friends for some suggestions on where to go and what to do in the city (this trip was turning into one big cemetery tour) nearly everyone suggested a restaurant. Some of my favorite blogs are dedicated to cooking and food photography so I thought I would give it a shot!¬†A trip to Caf√© Du Monde is a must if you are visiting New Orleans. Don’t get me wrong, there are other places to order these sugary delights but Cafe Du Monde is the first. With that in mind be prepared to wait; the line can get pretty long depending on what time and location you visit.
My family and I opted for the original local and settled into a line that thankfully wasn’t too long and moved pretty quickly. Once inside however we found ourselves without service for a while. Turns out the cafe is split up into different quadrants and each waiter has their own section. Meaning if you sit in an area with a slow, or in our case absent waiter then you’re shit out of luck. I didn’t mind the wait and understood the delay (the caf√© was really busy) but after a while watching everyone around us stuff their faces started weighing on me . When our waiter finally arrived with our food and drinks it was well worth it. I’m not a big fan of coffee but couldn’t miss out on the frozen Caf√© Au Lait. The sweet drink coupled with the powdered dessert was perfection.
S H O P
Exodus Goods was on my sister’s list of places to visit during our trip and although small the boutique did not disappoint. Founded by sisters Darlene and Lizzy Okpo, Exodus was completely off my radar even though Solange Knowles acts as the creative director! I spent most of my time exclaiming “How cute!” as I walked past the hanging racks lined with colorful clothes. This store is a bit on the pricy side (this skirt is on my wish list) but is definitely worth stopping by.
E X P L O R E ¬†
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 ,The¬†Pharmacy¬†Museum
CITIES OF THE DEAD
Here in New Orleans cemeteries are commonly referred to as “cities of the dead” and after walking though Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 it was easy to see why. Each space between the mausoleums acted as a small alley and every turn felt like you were entering a new every new neighborhood.¬†I originally had a full post planed at this location but the heat quickly put a stop to that. Yet even as the sun beat down and my hair sweated out I was determined to soak all of it in.¬†Lafayette has been near the top of my ever growing cemetery list for a while now and my heart skipped a beat as my family and I marched along the cracked wall leading to the gate.
Before we entered my sister noticed a woman who turned around three times before she left. After asking about her ritual the woman told her that in her country it is believed that if you turn around three times when you leave a cemetery you leave any negative energy you brought in behind. Taking note I stepped in.¬†Once inside it was impossible not to fall under the silent spell. I am one who believes the veil between this world and the next is thinner than we think so when I wasn’t taking pictures or posing so my sister could snap one I was squinting my eyes, determined to read each epitaph. Every so often the veil was lifted; loud music would waft out a passing car and group of pamphlet toting teenagers on a tour would block my way. When it was time to go I headed to the gate, turned three times and left them, like my previous worries behind.
‚ÄĘ ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĘ ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†‚ÄĘ ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†‚ÄĘ ¬†
AT THE KNICK¬†
Cinemax’s blood soaked period drama The Knick is many things; gripping, gritty and painfully realistic. Downton Abbey this is not. The show explores life (and the many deaths) at the Knickerbocker hospital in New York during the turn of the century. One aspect of the show that is arguably the most interesting (as well as off putting if you have a weak stomach) is the medicine. The tools and procedures may seem primitive to us now but back then doctors were on the brink of some pretty groundbreaking discoveries.¬†These discoveries and more are on display at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, a must see Knick fan or not.
Upon entering we found ourselves in the middle of a small tour. A group of wide eyed tourists gathered around the guide, their eyes locked on the bone saw in his hand. I soon found myself hanging on to his every word as he recounted gruesome stories of amputations, disease and, on a much lighter note, early medicines as a precursor to soda. If you arrive too late for a formal tour don’t worry, each display case is chock full of information and the museum has a written guide on hand. Upstairs visitors are treated to more exhibitions including an area filled with vintage eyeglasses, and a bedroom highlighting what childbirth would have been like in the past. After you’ve had your fill of medicine bottles, knives and leech jars be sure to sit in the museum courtyard. The space is sometimes used for weddings making it beautiful by default.
SPILL THE TEA¬†
I wish I had some elaborate and dreamy story to explain how I stumbled upon Bottom of the Cup¬†tea room.¬†In truth I have¬†Beth Kirby’s beautifully written and photographed NOLA wander guide to thank for this one. I knew I would only be able to visit one place for a reading and after scrolling through some of the shops on the guide I settled on tea leaves instead of tarot cards. I admit to being a bit nervous when it comes to these things, not because of personal experience but rather the fates different characters met in the movies (which also explains my irrational fear of ferris wheels). Yes, tea felt fine, tea felt safe.¬†
Boasting 86 years of readings and a comfortable atmosphere, Bottom of the Cup is filled to the brim (pun intended) with crystals, tea sets, and candles equipped with spells promising everything from money to protection. My sister noted that love was the most popular of the bunch. After picking your reading be sure to talk with Leo at the front desk while you wait. He is not only very knowledgable about the history of the tea room he is also really nice to converse with. When it came time for the reading my sister went first and returned with a little gleam in here eye saying her experience was spot on. Naturally my own excitement grew.¬†
Now I won’t go into details about what Lettie (our kind reader) told me after she turned over the cup, but it was all good things and set my mind at ease about the future. Once the reading is done you have the option of getting the CD you were given turned into a complimentary MP3 that will be emailed to you. I find it fun and even comforting to listen to from time to time. I could’t leave without buying some actual tea so I purchased a pack of lavender earl grey that I am really excited to try! ¬†¬†
THE PRAYER TREE
After the reading my mom insisted we visit the historic Congo Square, more specifically a tree. Earlier at the shop Leo recounted a story he heard about a man who was looking for funding for his charity. The man went to the square on a sunday and prayed under the biggest tree he could find; 30 minutes later he received a call and full funding. Believe it or not that story was enough for us to head over and search for the tree. On our way there we stopped in a really cute hotdog shop to rest a bit but ended up staying longer than planed. Not long after we put in our orders the sky cracked and it started to rain.¬†
When the rain stopped and we were convinced it wouldn’t start up again we headed into the park and stopped at the biggest tree we could find. Each one of us made a small wish and uttered a prayer under the outstretched arms of the tree. Congo Square has deep roots in african dance and jazz but on this wet, empty tuesday both were nowhere to be found. The park was our last stop for the day so we decided to explore a little; we barely walked two feet from the prayer tree when my mom pointed out another one and asked if we thought it looked bigger than the first. She approached it and prayed again, just to be safe.
New Orleans I wish I could have stayed longer, four days was not nearly enough. I am really happy with how these pictures turned out and cannot wait to visit more new and exciting places. Thank you so much for reading, see you next post!