Travel with Me: New Orleans, Louisiana

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After months filled with stress and many lifestyle changes I decided it was time to plan a vacation. About two months ago I booked a trip for Kaylannie and I to go to New Orleans. Neither of us have ever been to New Orleans so we thought it would be a great idea to explore an area that is filled with culture, music, history, but most importantly great food. New Orleans didn’t fall short in any of these categories.

Here is a day to day look inside our amazing time away:

Thursday, July 6, 2017
We flew out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport at 6:00AM, had a connecting flight in Atlanta and then we were off to New Orleans. We arrived in New Orleans at 9:50AM completely exhausted from traveling all morning. Our hotel at Sheraton New Orleans was located in the French Quarter at 500 Canal Street. It was literally walking distance from every tourist attraction in New Orleans. Since we didn’t have anything planned till about 2PM that day we decided to take a short nap and then head out.

Our first stop, Café Envie, they have two locations on Decatur Street. We went to their smaller shop closer into the French Quarter. They offer small plates (salads/sandwiches) and coffee at this location. I was delighted to have a turkey salad, and Kaylannie had a ham and cheese panini. None of which are very “New Orleans” typical food, but we had a massage scheduled at 2PM and needed something quick and light.

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Our next stop, Spa Atlantis, we scheduled a 75 minute hot stone massage at one of the best known spas in the French Quarter. It was the best massage I have ever had. We were offered mimosas upon arrival, robes, and slippers for our feet. I felt like I was in a movie or something. This is not your average “massage envy”, but what I will say is all of these perks came at a high price. Our massages were roughly $372 with tip for two people. I was on a splurge so don’t judge me. If you have the money and the need I would say go for it, but in my opinion it was overly priced for a massage.

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After a much needed relaxing massage we headed back to our hotel to relax before dinner. We made a reservation at Brennan’s Restaurant on Royal Street. This was one of the places we were recommended by friends and of course, the internet. If you are looking for a formal dinner setting in New Orleans, Brennan’s is a great place dine. They are most famously known for their Bananas Foster. It is flambéed tableside and served for two people. Kaylannie and I also enjoyed the gumbo, shrimp and grits, and the redfish. After a delightful dinner we decided to head back to our hotel earlier than usual that evening. We were both feeling exhausted and full, so we took a bike cab three blocks back to where our hotel was located. Everything we wanted to do in New Orleans was literally three blocks away.

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Friday, July 7, 2017
We got up around 8AM because we scheduled a bike tour with Bullfrog Bike Tours – New Orleans at 9:30AM. The bike tour was by far my favorite part of the trip. I was having some guilty feelings about eating all those calories so I wanted to make sure we did something physical while we were there. We went on a four hour tour that took us through beautiful neighborhoods, historical bayous and ports, St. Louis cemetery No.3, and the oak tree park. Our tour guide also took us to a 24 hour coffee stand that sits in the middle of the park, called Morning Call. They serve beignets and café au lait that apparently is better than the most recommended beignet spot, Café du Monde. One thing I will say about Morning Call is please don’t arrive there expecting smiling servers and warm welcomes. They were probably the only place in New Orleans we went to that had poor customer service. (Note: we didn’t go to Café du Monde because the line was over two blocks long, and we heard by the locals that it is kind of overrated.)

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After our bike tour we decided to go out for lunch at Huck Finns on Decatur Street. Kaylannie’s coworker recommended this spot for shrimp po-boys. Kaylannie and I agreed the catfish po-boy was better than the shrimp. After lunch we headed for Bourbon street where we walked, and danced, watched street performers, and went into more bars than I can count. I was very excited to get back to the hotel that night to prepare for our next adventure and much needed sleep.

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Saturday, July 8 2017
Saturday morning we went on a food tour via Destination Kitchen at 10:30AM. We met up with Lisa, our tour guide at Roux Royale. It was a walking tour that took us all around the French Quarter’s hidden restaurant gems. First we headed to a Brennans owned restaurant called, Tableau for seafood gumbo. This was the best gumbo I had in New Orleans. I tried about three different gumbos in New Orleans. I would recommend going to Tableau if you are in search of gumbo.

After the delicious gumbo, Lisa took us into the French Market where she paused to share historical facts about the market and its culture. I won’t bore you with all the history, but it was very interesting to hear how all of these traditions and cultures have clashed to create what we now know as New Orleans. We stopped at a small market bistro which was once a stand alone restaurant before hurricane Katrina. At Alberto’s Cheese and Wine Bistro we ate muffalettas. A muffaletta is a sandwich made with provolone and mozzarella cheese, salami, chorizo, and mortadella with freshly house-made olive salad. The texture of the bread was crispy and the house made olive salad give the sandwich a bold, flavorful taste.

In the French Market we also stopped by a candy shop that makes pralines that have been featured on the Ellen Show and Good Morning America. The pralines are a little too sweet for my liking, but if you  enjoy sweets I’m sure you’ll love it.

Our next stop was a bar that is close to the French Market (I cannot remember the name of it) where we were served a Pimms Cup, New Orleans Cocktail and a creole brisket. The Pimms Cup is a gin based drink that has a light, refreshing taste to it. The creole brisket was tender and came with this remoulade sauce that had a mustard and tomato flavor to it. The bar is directly across the street from Café du Monde. It is too bad that I can’t remember the name of it because I have two “cons” to share about the place. It smelled like drunk, sour, homeless people in there and there was a very large cockroach begging for his life right at the bar. Needless to say, great food – sucky atmosphere.

After a much needed fresh air walk we came to our final stop of the tour, Kingfish. At Kingfish they served us boudain balls, which is essentially a breaded pork and rice ball that is served with mustard Creole dipping sauce. I wasn’t a huge fan of these, but the other folks on the tour seemed to really enjoy them.

Kaylannie and I really enjoyed venturing out on these exploratory tours. It allowed us to get a sense of what the city is like and to take a look at the “holes in the wall” that provide great food, atmosphere, and service. After our food tour we decided to head back to Jackson Square where there were kid drummers, psychic readings, hair braiding, and of course we went right for the henna. We also went to the Napoleon House to eat jambalaya and gumbo after the food tour since we only had small bites since 10:30AM. The Napoleon House was recommended and discussed during our tour, it is a cool historical place to dine. We also stopped by a sneaker store to look at some exclusive sneakers at Politics. Later that evening Kaylannie’s brother came to join us for the last day of our vacation. We headed for Bourbon Street for our final night of celebration and fun. We stopped at one last food place, Pier 24 Seafood Market because we couldn’t come to New Orleans and not get any crawfish (who does that?!). Turns out – lots of people don’t get crawfish because they are seasonal. You can snag some if you are lucky but our tour guide told us the best time to get them is from Jan – March. We were able to get some at Pier 24. They were pretty good, but I wouldn’t say they were to die for or anything. We headed back to our hotel late that evening to prepare for our 10AM flight on Sunday morning. We were so sad to say goodbye to the city, but grateful for our time away.

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P.S. We also went to Popeyes late one night….just to see if anything was different, ya know? 😉

General Planning Info
We decided to use Southwest Vacations to book our trip because Southwest generally has great customer service and an excellent exchange policy. Kaylannie also has a rewards program through her employer, but I opted out of using it because I got a better package deal with Southwest. Anytime you are planning a vacation always do research by comparing package deals, rewards programs and perks. So many companies offer great deals for cheap flights, hotels, and tours you just have to take a little bit more time to look around online. Also, you may get a better deal if you are flexible on the dates you would like to travel. I started planning my vacation around mid May, and I knew I wanted to go before the summer was over. I was so busy and overwhelmed in the month of June so I opted for July. July is a heavy summer vacation month, so prices are typically higher during these peak times. I chose to go the weekend after the 4th of July holiday because I knew most people travel for the 4th so the pries may have dropped after the 5th, and also the are would be less crowded.

If you have any general questions about traveling you can always contact me. I hope that you’d find time to visit New Orleans one day. It is definitely in my top 3 places to travel now. You won’t regret it.

Safe travels,

Laura

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