It is quite amazing what a quick trip will do for your soul. If you're like me, you know that once a little wanderlust creeps into your mind, there is only one solution; until you get out and have an adventure, you won't be able to shake it!
I had the perfect girls trip to New Orleans a couple weeks ago. It was so refreshing and fun, full of delirious road trip quotes, tons of laughs, crazy good food and the thrill of a new city.
So, I thought I would enjoy New Orleans, but I didn't know I would fall head over heels in love with it. The city is so vibrant, robust with culture and history, and oozing with charm. I met the most friendly people, and everyone kept thanking us for visiting their city. New Orleans gave me a big bear hug and I must have happily gained 10 lbs. from all the soul food. My soul is indeed rejuvenated!
I'm not the type to plan a trip. I like to go where the breeze blows and see what kind of adventure I can get into. So when I was prompted with the task to plan this girls trip for my best friend's bachelorette party, I was a little scared. It happened to be the first weekend of Spring Break and the Final Four basketball tournament was held there that week, so hotel prices were higher than normal. Also Ellen DeGeneres and Brad Pitt were hosting a fundraiser (which made for fun celebrity stalking)
I took my chances and did a name-your-price blind purchase type thing with Priceline and it totally paid off. We stayed at the Bienville House on Decatur Street. Under $200 and close to EVERYTHING. No cabs, all walking. Charming, charming, charming. It had a beautiful courtyard and heated saltwater pool. It was in a very cute area. In fact, the entire trip, I never felt unsafe. That's not to say you shouldn't be careful, but I had heard cautionary tales making me think the town would be full of shady folks. Not at all true!!
We arrived on a Friday evening and Bourbon Street was hoppin'. My bride is not a partier, but the street was so alive and interesting that we hit it up first. We met some firefighters from Alaska (apparently there are a ton of fires in Alaska...who knew?) and they invited us up to a balcony overlooking Bourbon and let us throw a never-ending supply of Mardi Gras beads. It was a fun perspective, and we launched our fair share of booty-shakin' contests to earn the beads from us! Ha! What happens our Bourbon Street... :)
We began the next morning with a fabulous brunch buffet at The Court of Two Sisters. We sat beneath a fragrant canopy of wisteria and listened to live jazz on the patio....sigh...it was absolutely picturesque. It was a bit pricey but it was the best buffet I had ever had. Eggs benedict, andouille sausage, cheesy shrimp and grits, fresh fruit salad, and fresh peach bellinis....a hangover's best friend. :)
From there, we stopped in and looked at inspiring local artwork and shopped in the French Quarter. We decided to take the Green Trolley down St. Charles to look at the Antebellum mansions. I have never seen so many gorgeous homes in one stretch! We were all daydreaming about spending lazy spring days on those wrap-around porches. We got to the end and were famished. Here's a tip: ask the locals where to eat, they won't steer you wrong. Alex the trolley driver recommended The Camellia Grill just around the corner. He said the line would be long, but it will be worth it. Boy, was he right!
You've got to know when the line is out the door and locals are just grabbing lunch there, you've found a special place. The Camellia Grill is an old-school diner built in 1942. You pull up a barstool after a long but entertaining wait and the amazing and hilarious waitstaff make you feel like you're one big family. Leon will give you a 'fist bump' and sing "Goin to the Chapel" to you and tell you to "stay beautiful." Do yourself a favor....go to through the kitchen toward the bathroom. We met Ronald, the world-famous pie maker, and he let us taste test the most amazing chocolate cream pie I've ever had in my life. Melt-in-your-mouth goodness! And the food....I stuffed my face, savoring every bite of a juicy hamburger and the best, authentic gumbo. I literally almost cried. It was an incredible dining experience that I won't forget. The staff was so happy to be there and were having the time of their lives. When we were leaving, my friend said "Let's just quit our jobs and come work at The Camellia Grill." I said, "In a heartbeat."
We were blissfully stuffed and rode the trolley back, stopping in a little diner off Bourbon. After the craziness of Bourbon Street, we stopped in at Kerry's Pub just across the street from our hotel and had a beer with a Grammy winner...yup! Best Zydeco Band Grammy winner! Aw Lawdy! That was cool. Seriously, every stranger we met became a friend. We also met the owner of Cochon, which I've heard is fantastic, and he almost convinced us to stay til Monday so we could eat there. It wouldn't have taken much!
We started Sunday morning with a walk to beautiful Jackson Square and stopped for coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde. First beignet I've ever had...yum! Like little scrumptious squares of funnel cake. We took it all in...the horse and carriages lining the street and art vendors selling their wares. We didn't need to say it...we were in love! We immediately started planning our next trips...this time with our significant others, this time with a ghost tour. It is such a romantic city.
New Orleans: I'm your newest big fan. Thanks for the good times, the good food, the good people. Can't wait to see you again soon.