After a day in Memphis for a look around Graceland (which I’ll be sharing soon!) and A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Southern ribs, the next stop on our TrekAmerica Atlantic Dream tour was New Orleans, somewhere I’ve wanted to go for ages. Because jazz and voodoo and cool buildings and ALL THE AWESOME FOOD.
We basically spent our two nights and a day there exploring the French Quarter and Bourbon Street areas, and didn’t even have the chance to get into the rest of the city as there was so much to see in those areas alone.
The architecture in New Orleans is kinda outta this world. In the sense that it’s unlike any city I’ve ever visited before. The outer areas are still rebuilding from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, and it was quite moving to see it all with my own eyes as we drove in.
The whole place has such a different vibe to any other city in the States that I’ve been to, for sure. The French Quarter buildings were particularly eye-catching – bright colours, balconies and huge doors and shuttered windows. Despite being in the middle of the city, the streets had a pretty much small-town kinda look to them.
Bourbon Street is probably one of the best-known streets in the Deep South, if not the entire USA, and we got the chance to walk along it during both daylight hours and at night.
In the daytime, it’s still pretty vibrant, but at night it really does ‘come alive’, to use a popular cliche. It was a kinda unusual experience, and honestly, it took some getting used to. On our first night out, we took a stroll along the street past jazz bars, normal bars and strip bars. Obvviously, I had to drink a NOLA special, the Hurricane cocktail, made with rum, fruit juice, and syrup or grenadine. It was delicious, but veeery strong, and definitely induced some of my more fabulous dance moves.
We ended up in a bar (I have no idea what it was called), which was basically not that far away from a standard night out experience, playing chart music and hosting lots of tipsy dancing visitors. Earlier on, we’d hit up a thrift shop (yeah, I sung the song a lot), and picked out some fabulously eye-offending attire for the night. Forever looking fabulous. Nope, I don’t have an #OOTD shot. Soz.
After waking up with a bit of a headache the next morning, we had a free day to bumble about exploring New Orleans. One of the first sights we checked out was the St. Louis Cathedral, in Jackson Square near the centre of the French Quarter. And OMG it’s basically straight outta a fairytale. There were even horses and carts going around it for maximum magical point.
We didn’t go inside, but honestly didn’t need to. I just liked looking at it. Heart eye emojis all over the place, etc etc, more fawning, basically it’s just so pretty.
To fill up before exploring the city, we took tour leader Chad’s recommendation to grab some beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde. Beignets are basically French doughnuts – deep fried balls of dough coated in powdered sugar. The powdered sugar got absolutely everywhere- but it’s totally worth looking like you’ve been in a fist fight with a snowman as beignets are bloody delicious.
What’s more, you can get a portion of three for under $3. I could only actually manage two in the end though, as they’re ridiculously filling. Definitely a highly recommended breakfast stop in the city.
We also took a dive into this second hand book store – where the books are basically packed from floor to ceiling. Luckily, nothing ended up landing on my head. There were lots of French books, as well as ones about New Orleans, it’s history and voodoo stories – as well as lots of obscure literature none of us had ever heard of, and some old, well-loved editions of some that we had.
Louisiana is pretty well known for it’s hot sauce – so it wasn’t surprising there was a whole store dedicated to Tabasco…
…and with Mardi Gras being one of the things New Orleans is best known for, it also wasn’t a big surprise that there were plenty of mask shops to be found.
And I’m not talking the cheap plastic Halloween ones you can grab in Poundland. Walls and shelves filled with beautiful, intricate designs that were surprisingly priced – for $20-$30 dollars, you can pick up something pretty decent. Lots of feathers, lace and sparkle were order of the day, and we spent quite a while just trying them on and parading round like we were at a sassy masquerade ball.
The more ‘serious’ voodoo stores didn’t allow pictures, but inside Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo we found an emporium of curiosities and fascinating items. While the kitschy souvenirs were available in abundance, the store is also a museum and voodoo shrine, where you’re able to learn more about voodoo and even have a reading from a ‘spiritual advisor’. In the souvenir shops, voodoo paraphenalia fills shelves and displays – with a lot of skulls, statues and trinkets to take home. Even if you’re not buying anything, they’re definitely worth a nosy around as the displays are pretty awesome.
We also found ourselves having a look around an alternative clothing store (hello Hell Bunny) and managed to bump into an English girl who worked in the shop. Turns out she was from the same area as one of the girls on our tour, and had things in common with loads of the rest of us. Small-worlding all over the States…
(I’ve also just realised the store in the last picture sold beignet mix. WHY DIDN’T I GET SOME?!)
Obviously, local grub was on the agenda – I tried out a classic New Orleans shrimp po-boy. Yes, it basically looks like a sandwich. Yes, it basically IS a sandwich – but it was so delicious. Amazing crispy shrimp, fresh bread and plenty of lettuce to divert from all the deep friend munching I’d been doing.
I also tried some jambalaya and gumbo and I can confirm Deep South food is THE BOMB.
The French Quarter was also filled with street artists and performers – from jazzsters with big ol’ trombones, to human statues. I definitely found this silver Matrix-looking dude a bit creepy though…
For our last evening out, we took it a bit easier and had a couple of casual drinks at Bourbon Street’s Musical Legends Park. With live jazz and statues of musical greats, it was definitely the perfect spot to end our weekend for an early start the next day.
Like Nashville, New Orleans is another place on the trip that I’d love to spend some more time in, as I feel like we only just touched upon some of its best bits. I know I’ve mentioned this already, but it seriously has such a unique vibe to it – and I loved the buildings, food, and the ‘little things’ that made it a really quirky, fun place to visit. Can I just buy a holiday flat with a cute little balcony there, yeah?
Previously on my East Coast USA trip: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia | Sightseeing on Two Wheels in Washington, D.C. | Falling in Love With Nashville | An Hour in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame
Check out the full TrekAmerica Atlantic Dream itinerary.