Monday, October 13, 2014

New Orleans

Last week Mike had a conference to attend in New Orleans and I got to be his plus one. I was so excited. I had never been to New Orleans before, and I was really looking forward to the trip. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, and it looked just like I thought it would - like adorable New Orleans Square at Disneyland. . . only a dirtier, trashier, and more humid version. Oh man. It was sort of shocking, actually. Looking back, I suppose my expectations were a little off. On our first night there, excited to explore the city, Mike and I took a walk around the French Quarter after dinner and ended up on Bourbon Street. I know, big mistake! Honestly, half a block in was enough for us before we turned around and high tailed it out of there. And it was a Tuesday night at 8:00! I can't imagine what it must be like on the weekend, let alone during Mardi Gras. Goodness.

But it wasn't all bad. We actually had a really good time. The people were all so nice and everything we ate was completely delicious. Here are the highlights:

After we checked into our hotel on Tuesday, our first stop was Cafe du Monde for pre-dinner beignets. I thought they'd be overrated, but I was wrong. They were delicious and cheap and our whole experience there was great. We even went back late the next night for more. It is a fun place to sit and observe some of the craziness on the streets.

My favorite day of the trip was spent at the National World War II Museum and in the Garden District. I walked to the museum from my hotel and spent about two hours going through the exhibits. I could have easily spent two more. There was so much to read and experience there. I think it'd be terribly boring for children, but I really loved it. If you go, pay a few dollars more to see the movie Beyond All Boundaries. I didn't, and I am still kicking myself about it. I left the museum feeling so grateful for the sacrifice of those men and women. What they did and accomplished was really amazing.

The Garden District was probably within walking distance of the museum, but I didn't like the looks of the part of town separating the two, so I hopped on a tour bus. You can also take the trolly. This section of New Orleans is full of beautiful, grand homes. It is quiet and peaceful and feels like it is a world away from Bourbon Street (but like all of New Orleans, it is sort of falling apart).

The stretch of Magazine Street here is full of fun shops. I particularly liked Pippen Lane (expensive but adorable children's clothes, and if you are lucky you might score something from the clearance rack like I did) and the Antique market. I picked up the perfect vintage hat for Stella's halloween costume there.

I stepped into Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 for a few minutes. I didn't take a tour, but I browsed by myself for a bit. So interesting.

On Thursday afternoon, Mike's conference set up a swamp tour for us. I was less interested in the little alligators than I was in the scenery. It was so unlike the dry desert of Arizona! It was beautiful, in a swampy sort of way. I especially loved the green stuff carpeting the surface of the water. And the breeze from the boat as we sped down the river felt so good in the midst of all of the humidity.

I took one last walk around the French Quarter on Friday morning to admire the architecture and buy some final souvenirs. It turns out that the French Quarter at 10am isn't such a bad place. The revelers must still be in bed then and the streets have been hosed down, cleared of the previous night's debris. It was quiet and pretty. I skipped the tourist shops on Decatur and went to the French Market instead. It is sort of like a swap meet, and I found some good things for my kids there.

I don't want to give New Orleans such a bad rap, but I was genuinely surprised by the level of filth (physical and spiritual - and by spiritual I mean things that would offend a person's spirit, regardless of their religion) that I saw. But, having said that, it is unlike any other place I've ever been, too. The culture and history are completely unique and the people there are happy and kind and helpful. I'm glad I was able to visit.

A couple more notes:

Whatever you do, eat at Butcher. Mike only had two meals not provided by his conference and we spent both of them here. Super hipster, but so delicious. Mike loved the Buckboard Bacon Melt. I really liked the BBQ Pork Sandwich.

A friend cautioned me on my instagram feed to be careful while I was there, as it is an easy place to be robbed. She told me to stay to the beaten path. I wholeheartedly agree. I definitely felt unsafe, but I was never scared. Does that make sense? I learned long ago to walk with confidence in a big city. Since I was by myself most of the time, I walked fast and acted like I knew where I was going. Because of this, I was never approached like some of the other tourists I saw were. I kept my sunglasses on and didn't look anyone in the eye.

Some final advice: avoid Bourbon Street. And maybe Canal Street, too.

Have you ever been to New Orleans? Was your experience similar to mine? I'd love to hear about it.


  1. Stephanie, you were in my "neck of the woods"! We live about an hour north of New Orleans. You're right, it is a dirty city...spiritually and physically. We love to visit. It's rich in history with plenty to see and do without stepping foot in the French Quarter. Great museums, zoo and defiantly delicious restaurants, but I couldn't imagine raising a family there. I hope you enjoyed the southern hospitality and the seafood! We're not all "dirty" down south.

  2. I agree with Terry. We lived about an hour north of NO and loved our friends and church community while we lived there. We did a lot of exploring while living there and loved all the history that's alive there. There is a lot of filth and it was sad to see the parts that are falling apart. I am so grateful for the time we had to love there as it is like no where else. We learned so much and made memories there that will live with our family for years to come.

  3. STeph we were a coup;e of days in New Orleans when we went around the country in the RV. t was HO and like you say dirty annd old. The plantation houses we visited and toured were beautiful and we loved the history, We were warned about goin to certain parts and did not wonder there. We did not feel unsafe while we were there. Glad you got to go. Hugs

  4. Stephanie. I love your blog. I love that you slow down and are deliberate. I am trying to do that too. This post really really bothered me. See, I was born and raised in New Orleans. Yes, it can be dirty. Yes, there are definitely some areas that even a native stays away from. But, I am proud to say I was raised there. There is a rich Catholic community (I went to Catholic schools my entire life). I noticed your picture of the St. Louis Cathedral- which is a wonderful church. There is a sense of community and family in New Orleans that you don't get many other places. Katrina devastated many of my friends homes and my families homes. Yes, it is not rebuilt the way it was, but to see a community come together and rebuild the best they could is amazing. I wish I could meet you there and take you on my tour- of good restaurants, wonderful parks and streets with huge oak trees forming a canopy over the grounds, historical places (yes run down) but interesting culturally, and spiritually. Just because many people there don't share your Mormon beliefs does not make them dirty spiritually. I am sorry that what you saw was your impression of New Orleans. It is so much more and I wish you would give it another chance with a more open mind.

    1. hello! thank you for your comment. i appreciate your perspective of new orleans, and i wish that i'd been with a local to guide me during my visit. i'm sure it would have changed my opinion of the city quite a bit. i visited the beautiful st. louis cathedral and i felt the peace there. i definitely felt the sense of community you spoke of. like i said in my post, every person i met was warm and kind and so happy. the people were wonderful (and the food was fantastic, too!). the parts of the city that bothered me were the ones that catered to tourists- the cheap shops, the bars, and the pornography. it really has nothing to do with religion. i know that my church does not have a monopoly on goodness. there is goodness everywhere, and i definitely felt it in new orleans. but i was disappointed with the cleanliness and upkeep in general (and yes, I realize that the city has come back from a devastating situation). i'm sorry to have offended you. that was not my intention. i was trying to give an honest account of my experience there, and i know that my experience is not the same as anybody else's.

  5. Thank you Winter Party of Six.

  6. I've never been to New Orleans, and it hasn't really been high on my list, neither has Las Vegas and tons of people I know love that kind of place. I'm not into the bar scene, I have no interest whatsoever in gambling, but I do enjoy nice restaurants, and history, so for that I might go to New Orleans someday, but there are many other places - mostly scenic, remote, nature-type places, that are tops on my list for vacations. We rarely choose to travel on vacation to a city - New York City was the only exception that.
    I enjoyed reading about your travels and I respect the fact that everyone is entitled to their own view!
    Kind regards,

  7. No offense taken, Stephanie.

  8. I've always wanted to go to New Orleans and see the sights, like the French Quarter and the old manors, which are favorite settings for gothic fiction. Of course, the other thing I want to try out there is their food. Thank you for having listed all those places! I'm definitely visiting a few of them. Cheers!

    Marci Deegan @ Twin Pines


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