Soulful New Orleans

After we left the fun, casual vibe and tacos galore of Austin, Texas, we were on to our next stop: Louisiana. Our destination was New Orleans, but to break up the drive, we stopped in Cajun country and stayed at an AirBnB for the night. Tip: When arriving to a sprawling bayou cabin, get there before dark, when your place of lodging looks less like the set of a backwoods horror movie.

lascaryentranceAfter checking the place for ghosts and/or vampires, we had dinner in the nearby town of Sunset at Cafe Josephines, which serves roasted corn and cheddar grits that are so resplendently creamy that for a moment in time, I thought I preferred cheese grits to mac and cheese. Before we left this upscale diner, a bartender came over and delivered a note to our table that said “Jacque Imos.” “I heard you were going to New Orleans,” he said. “You have to eat at this place. It’s funky.”

When sun rose on our bayou movie set, it was less scary and really quite tranquil and pretty. We chilled in Louisiana nature for a while. Within a few hours, we saw half dozen snakes and Mr. Dame in Spain got stung by a wasp and was dive bombed by a caterpillar, practically simultaneously. On our way out, we had to stop our car so a baby alligator could cross a rural road and then we saw a huge gator sunning himself on the shores of nearby Lake Martin. In awe, yet slightly skeeved by the venomous sort of nature offered by the bayou, we headed to New Orleans.

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We made the same mistake as the previous night and arrived to New Orleans after dark and did battle with the city’s epic potholes before dropping our bags at our AirBnb, and driving to Jacque Imo’s (8324 Oak Street) before it closed. Our note-giver from the previous night did not steer us wrong: Jacque Imo’s is super funky – one table for two is in the back of a truck bed parked out front and the restaurant’s ceiling is covered in old framed oil paintings – and the food was creative (Mr. Dame loved the shrimp and alligator sausage “cheesecake”). We quickly decided that two nights wasn’t enough time in the vibrant city of New Orleans and lopped Savannah off our itinerary in lieu of extra time in the Big Easy. There is so much to see and do in New Orleans, but there is nothing that you must see and do. While no single activity, sight, or meal blew me away, the city’s thrum, pride, and sense of complicated history was palatable and powerful.

I particularly enjoyed:

  • A walking tour of the French Quarter with Grey Line . The sweeping tour includes lots of NOLA history from the city’s French founding, Spanish rule, to its French rule again, to the Louisiana Purchase, through the Civil War, up to Hurricane Katrina and the post-hurricane state of the city.
  • Yoga at the Cabildo. On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30am Nina teaches a yoga class in a stunning, light-filled room of the historic Cabildo building. For $12 your can have the unique experiences of doing sun salutations in an 18th century building while listening to a brass band play in the square outside. Then, you can learn some city and state history because the Cabildo is now the Louisiana State Museum. (Don’t miss a video that explains how the Battle of New Orleans has been depicted in Hollywood. For some reason, it’s narrated by Sal from Mad Men). World famous Cafe du Monde is across the square, so have some beignets and a cafe au lait after yoga.
  • Riding the trolley up to the Garden District and doing a walking tour with Historic New Orleans. We saw houses owned by Anne Rice, Nicolas Cage, John Goodman, Sandra Bullock, walked through the cemetery, and also learned a ton of history and architectural tidbits about leafy and picturesque “suburb.”
  • Cocktails in French 75, the bar that is part of the historic Arnaud’s restaurant (813 Rue Bienville); a hurricane at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, which was built in 1772; planter’s punch at the buzzy Cane and Table (1113 Decatur St); and a $3 happy hour Old Fashioned at Barrel Proof in the lower garden district (1201 Magazine St).
  • Jazz at Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro (626 Frenchmen St). Okay, I was actually so pooped by the end of a long day, and I’m not the biggest jazz fan, so my enjoyment of this activity was lower than it should have been. But, Snugs is an intimate jazz venue with top notch performers and if jazz is your thing, you should go, or at least go see another show on Frenchmen Street.

Seems crazy I should write a blog post that doesn’t really mention food, but I didn’t eat anything that I would strongly endorse, especially for vegetarians. I tried a vegetarian po boy and turns out a po boy is just a ho hum submarine sandwich. I also gave grits another go, but this time they were like Cream of Wheat that had been left out for two days. I did, however, eat enough fried food to tide me over for months. But who am I kidding, we’re still in the South, where frying is a regional pastime.

Next stop: Charleston, South Carolina. Stay tuned.

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The “yoga room” in the Cabildo.
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In front of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
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Beignets and cafe au lait from Cafe du Monde

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Strong Halloween decor game in New Orleans

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Back when the Spanish were in charge, Bourbon Street was Calle Burbon.

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The mansion once owned by Anne Rice.
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Skull-like decals on the iron fence surrounding Anne Rice home.

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John Goodman’s house.

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To New Orleans,

The Dame in Spain

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