The moist air clings to me like snug spandex as I walk through the French Quarter in search of my hotel. It was eight in the morning and the streets were eerily empty; a welcome respite before the debauchery that would undoubtedly resume in about 12 hours. Walking around this area past the familiar landmarks with Creole architecture built on burned down colonial French and Spanish buildings, (oh and that bar I stumbled out of on my 31st birthday after hours of dancing) I could feel the remnants of history all around me: in the buildings, on the streets, in the air.
I was back again in New Orleans for a bachelorette party, ready for a good time with my friends.
I am no stranger to New Orleans; I have been here close to a dozen times and I keep coming back. The city stands in stark contrast to those that seem like they are different every time you visit. I was in New Orleans less than a year ago and I had the distinct deja vu feeling as I walked around. In fact, in all visits I had made to NOLA over the years, I found it comforting that the heart of it, the French Quarter, hadn’t changed much at all. Warm beignets that left you covered in white snow-like powder were still served up at Cafe Du Monde, the same bars still opened at 9 in the morning and the same rowdiness still prevailed in the evenings on Bourbon Street. A few gastronomical establishments have arisen in the burgeoning food scene but the old places still held steady serving up classics like spicy jambalaya at Coop’s Place or Gumbo at the Gumbo Shop. The music scene was the same too. My friends and I couldn’t believe that the same hits from 3 years ago were still playing at clubs on Bourbon like those weddings where everyone requests the same songs. But this lack of change was probably a good thing for the Jazz scene. New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, has held on to the best parts of it fiercely over time – and thank goodness for that.
New Orleans is one of my favorite places in the world because in a rapidly changing world, when I enter the French Quarter, I feel like time stands still. I feel the stresses lift off me because here it feels like I am not fighting a losing battle against time. It feels like I am exactly where I am supposed to be and no where else I needed to be. The city has rebuilt itself over and over again, after devastating fires and floods, but the spirit of the city is on every street, tucked away in every hidden courtyard and in hearts of every local.
Visit New Orleans not because you are looking for something new but because you find comfort in the old.
Here’s a recommended list of things to do if you visit. Believe me: I’ve tried them all!
– DO stay at this gorgeous Airbnb. It was a cozy one bedroom full of little eccentricities that reflected the owners and the city so well. The most magical part was the bathroom…seriously! I don’t make it a point to gush about bathrooms but this once had old Roman statues, a jacuzzi and a huge shower area with TWO showers! I have never wanted to spend so much time in a bathroom before.
– DO spend one night on Bourbon Street. I mean come on, it’s worth checking out one night and witnessing drunken coeds. If nothing you can say you tried the overly sugary hurricanes and can dance to 90s music along the way.
– DO spend other nights far, far away from Bourbon street.
– DO check out bars interspersed with art galleries and antique stores on Royal street for a classier night out. Stop by Sylvain’s for a delish cocktail.
– DO check out Shaya – a hot relatively new Israeli restaurant. It gets booked waaaay in advance so don’t procrastinate! I had dinner there on the night of my 31st birthday and absolutely loved every morsel! Veggie Delite Tip: lots of veggie options on the menu!
– DO check out live music anywhere around Frenchmen Street, especially at the always crowded Spotted Cat.
– DO take a break from Cajun cuisine with flavorful burritos and an insane salsa bar at Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria.
– DO try some tiki drinks and pineapple bread at Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 for some island vibes.
– DO check out a ghost tour; it’s a neat way to get the history of the place and hear some fun, spooky did bits.
– DO NOT check out a food tour of the city if you are vegetarian. Waste of time I tell ya!
– DO check out Goldmine for some late night dancing till the wee hours.
– DO check out the revolving bar at Hotel Monteleone.
– DO stock up on Cajun spices and hot sauces at any store; I replenish every time I visit!
– DO check out a show at Preservation Hall. So worth the wait!
– DO head over to Magazine Street for some great shopping
– DO walk around and get lost on the streets, preferably with a drink in hand because that’s what it’s all about anyways! There are so many gorgeous doorways and ornate buildings along the way, it’s hard not to stop every few minutes to snap a photo!
– DO let the good times roll! Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!!