While I had New Orleans on my Wanna See List, Husband was really not into it. All he could picture was drunken frat boys throwing beads, grabbing boobies and vomiting everywhere, so NOLA was not on our radar. However, what was on his Must Do List was sitting courtside for an NBA game. We looked into the local team thinking since the Lakers suck big time this year, maybe courtside seats would be doable — extravagant but affordable. Nope. Turns out that flying to New Orleans first class and seeing the Pelicans, a possible playoff team, is cheaper BY FAR than seeing this sorry ass Lakers team. So off we went to New Orleans. And wouldn’t you know it, turns out there’s plenty to do for an old, monogamous, non-drinking couple.
Where to Stay
A friend gave us a great tip to stay in The Marigny area, which is a real neighborhoody residential area about a mile plus walk from the French Quarter. Close to the action but far enough from the crazy. Husband found B and W Courtyards, a super charming B&B whose innkeepers, Tom and Dana, are fantastic. Tom cooks comfort-breakfasts — the first morning he served blueberry bread pudding (I mean come ON!) — and is a wealth of information about the music scene and places to eat. Dana sat with us and went through the map and pointed out places to go. They’re as helpful as you want them to be. If you check out their Trip Advisor reviews, you’ll find that Tom is almost one of the must-see sites – that’s how awesome he is!
Debauchery (For Us)
We hit the ground running. After dumping off our bags, we headed off to the Quarter in search of a muffuletta. So here’s the deal, not only do we not drink, Husband hasn’t eaten red meat in this century. Yeah, that ended at Central Grocery where we inhaled that sandwich deliciousness. We followed the meat-olive-bread extravaganza with a short walk to Café Du Monde and had their world-famous beignets and washed it down with some perfectly bitter chicory coffee. Two hours in town, and we had checked in all of our lofty ideals at Louis Armstrong Airport. We had succumbed to NOLA. If we got through the night without buying a pack of American Spirits, it would be a miracle.
Best Thing About New Orleans
There is music EVERYWHERE. Not just parks and squares, but also street corners and in the middle of streets. From full-on bands to a single banjo player, a female violinist, a random guy with a weird percussion instrument, and everything in between. It’s so awesome! Even mid-week we found ourselves late-night (for us) dancing in the streets to a brass band. Husband was even inspired to buy a mouthpiece for his trumpet at a local music shop as he had lost his (or I had thrown it out!).
The second best thing was just walking around. The city is colorful and diverse, and it’s all in a very compact area. This is really different from LA where everything is so spread out and economically segregated — not the case here, and it makes it infinitely more interesting. You get abandoned homes next to well-tended-to homes, with industrial warehouses and trains mixed in there too. The vibe is friendly and neighborhoody, energetic and relaxed, and a little haunted too. New Orleans felt like History. Like something had happened here. Loved it. (For more photos, see my running post.)
We had a late dinner at Galatoire’s. So this restaurant has been on Bourbon St. since 1905 and continues to be a bastion of old-school fine dining despite the Quarter’s craziness. And by craziness I mean Larry Flynt’s Hustler club is like four doors down. So the second thing that hits you is that this place is not very fancy looking for its reputation and price point. It was a bit comical that my husband had to borrow an ill-fitting jacket with a food stain on the lapel from the front desk — there are tons of restaurants in LA way more luxurious than Galatoire’s. The place has an almost cafeteria-ish look with its bright lights, tile floor, and rudimentary table/chair settings.
But even before the surprise of the commonness of the décor, there’s something else that strikes you. Or, I should say, as a dark-skinned Asian woman, it’s what struck me. I think you know where I’m going with this. I’m not someone who is intimidated by wealth or white people or even wealthy white people. I went to private schools with white kids, and a lot of us drove BMWs for our first cars. However, this was something different; this was old school Southern money. Like I clearly felt that I didn’t belong there. Now to be clear, no one said or did anything to reinforce this feeling. Our waitress was lovely…I’m just saying that I’ve never experienced THAT. Like no amount of money was going to make me OK to the people sitting in that restaurant. Exotic and tolerated (after all, I’m a non-threatening female), yes, but never one of them. Anyway, the food was meh. Let’s just say New Orleans never met a piece of seafood they couldn’t bread or drench in cheese. The black-bottom pecan pie, however, was yummy.
Speaking of which, the food in general was really not for us. Turns out we have been Angelenos for too long. And especially for me, a healthy eater with a somewhat bland palate, it was too heavy, spicy, and bready. Except for the praline bacon at Elizabeth’s Restaurant in the Bywater. Holy hell and Dayum! I also very much enjoyed Aunt Sally’s sweet pralines, but that’s because I’m partial to mainlining sugar.
I was too embarrassed to order it Yankee style.
Sinful praline bacon.
My favorite beignets were actually at Cafe Beignet. Husband said they tasted like Popeye’s fried chicken batter covered in sugar. My favorite tea was at Cake Bakery.
So the reason for this trip…the Pelicans game! However, that wasn’t the only sporting “event.” My favorite family of football, the Mannings, have their family residence in the Garden District. This neighborhood boasts ridiculously opulent homes of other celebrities and notable persons. Here’s me outside of the home Peyton and Eli learned to toss a football and Husband outside of Anne Rice’s place. And the home for those who’ve passed.
And of course the game was a blast! It far exceeded our expectations. We had fantastic seats, I got to toss a ball to Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham during shootaround, Husband spoke with Hannibal Buress, and – get this – after stalking out his house earlier in the day – Husband got to shake Archie Manning’s hand! Not to mention the food perks of sitting courtside. We got to eat at the special club behind the VIP club, and that room served sliders (my husband lost his meat-eating mind and had three of them). As for the game itself, Anthony Davis had a lights-out game after being injured for a few weeks. It was a special night we won’t forget.
We ended up at an old-timey used book store where husband bought “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.” So the pace in New Orleans is decidedly slower. In fact, that’s one of the things I loved about it. It’s bustling and has energy, but it also feels, well, easy. The thing I most remember about this bookshop was how sloooowwww the front desk person spoke. I mean, she did not have a care in the world and spun some yarns, if you know what I mean. I found myself thinking as she was talking “hurry up, hurry up” then, to myself “slow the fuck down, where the hell do you have to go??” I suspect you just downshift to a lower gear if you live there for any amount of time.
Oh, and I also picked up some smelly soaps and solid perfume in the Carnaval scent at famed parfumerie Hové. They make their scents on-site!
Husband went from “Why the hell would we go to New Orleans?!” to already planning our next visit in 2016. We’ll stay for more than three days and get out to some outlying areas — maybe even do a swamp tour. New Orleans truly surprised both of us. Turns out that there’s no need to be a rowdy drunken hot mess to enjoy NOLA. In fact, three sober days with the one you love is perfectly enchanting.