My Wild New Orleans Weekend

New Orleans…….there’s a peculiar vibe that echoes along the streets as you walk through. A three hundred year old energy that draws you in and makes you feel like you’re not alone on this plane sustained by the smell of jasmine that comes and goes like a transient daydream.

It’s an amazingly refreshing smell; that is until you reach Bourbon Street. Synonymous with street drinking, flashing girls, beads and public intoxication; Bourbon Street definitely lives up to its reputation. If I may be so blunt… it’s gross. There are puddles of murky, putrid foulness everywhere. Now, I know I don’t paint a pretty picture of Bourbon Street, but it’s kind of a rite of passage when you visit New Orleans for the first time. You still should try it. Buy a drink in an obnoxiously large cup and walk down the street. Even if you only walk a block, you should do it at least once.

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The Food

Mark Twain said it best when he called New Orleans food “as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin”. New Orleans has flavors you can’t find anywhere else. Everything we ate was a grand experience for our taste buds. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t in a food coma throughout the entire trip. I’ll go into greater detail about what and where we ate in my next post.

Ghosts, Alligators and Vampires

We headed out to the Bayou early Sunday morning for an up close and personal with the local gators. The Bayou is beautiful. The trees are covered with Spanish moss, there are magnificent looking birds and of course alligators. Funny thing about Spanish moss, it’s not Spanish and neither is it a moss. It actually is from the same family as pineapples and is native to the Bahamas, Mexico and Southern United States.

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Seeing the gators in the wild and interacting as opposed to the ones in the zoo that just lay in one sad spot all day was incredible. It was incredible to see them laying in ambush mode, waiting for a raccoon or bird to get too close to the edge of the water. Our swamp tour included some wild boar and raccoons and we even got to see the tree that Disney used for inspiration for “The Princess and the Frog”.

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Tree Disney used as inspiration for “The Princess and the Frog”.

Sunday night we took one of the New Orleans Ghost/Vampire tours. It was a lot of fun touring the city at night and hearing all the local ghost stories. We got to see one of the houses used to film “Interview with the Vampire” and the haunted home that had been purchased by Nicholas Cage and supposedly bankrupt him. Although we didn’t see any ghosts, our tour guide was an amazing story-teller.

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Building used in “Interview with the Vampire” film.

The French Quarter

The French Quarter is so beautiful. The architecture is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The intricate iron work, the big beautiful balconies with all the hanging ferns. And the colors! Everything is so colorful!

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So many beautiful colors in New Orleans!

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That balcony! Those ferns!

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Let me twist that stache! 

We started Monday morning in the French Quarter with beignets and chicory coffee at Café Du Monde. After our delicious breakfast, we headed over to Jackson Square. Jackson Square was the site of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. A statue of the hero of the Battle of New Orleans (1815), Andrew Jackson adorns the heart of Jackson Square. The beautiful St. Louis Cathedral overlooks the Square and is open for visitors to take a peek inside unless mass is in session. Muriel’s restaurant also overlooks Jackson Square and is a great place for lunch. If you’re looking for some delicious adult beverages they have those too and allow you to enjoy them on their balcony overlooking the square where you can watch the artists performing and selling their beautiful works of art on the sidewalks surrounding.

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Jackson Square, New Orleans.

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St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans.

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St. Louis Cathedral, basilica ceiling.

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St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans.

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Muriel’s overlooking Jackson Square.

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After exploring the square, we headed over to the French Market. I have to admit, the French market was a little disappointing. The market is full of souvenirs to fulfill your every whim, but the vendors are all selling the same things and very little of it was actually hand-made. So needless to say, we walked through the market pretty quickly and then headed over for a relaxing walk along the levees. New Orleans turned 300 this year and the city has a small lit anniversary sculpture to commemorate the event.

WWII Museum

Everything in the French Quarter is a lot closer together than you think, so we were able to see and do everything we wanted in a lot less time than we initially planned. So with our extra time, we headed over to tour the WWII Museum. It came highly recommended by some of my co-workers, so we decided to check it out. Let me tell you, we were not disappointed. The museum is amazing and is very well-organized. It’s very interactive including a simulated train ride and submarine ride. Those are not included in a regular ticket but can be added on for a little extra. With a regular ticket you get a key card that you register on a kiosk before you enter the museum. From the kiosk, you get to pick someone either military or civilian who served during WWII and you can follow their stories throughout the exhibits with the kiosks located all throughout the building.

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National WWII Museum, New Orleans

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National WWII Museum Lobby

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Model of the D-Day Invasion

Better than Bourbon?

During our visit, a lot of the local residents told us we needed to check out Frenchmen Street. So we did and it did not disappoint. If you’re looking for a Bourbon Street-like experience, but without the obnoxious smell or inebriated people; well then Frenchmen Street is definitely for you. The average age of the people who hang around Frenchmen Street is about 10 years older than Bourbon Street, there are better options for Jazz Clubs and they have a great open air market called Palace Market where local artists sell their work. I love art and getting to meet the artist is an incredible bonus. We came home with some really great pieces.

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The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street

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The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street

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Palace Market, Frenchmen Street

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Palace Market, Frenchmen Street

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Palace Market, Frenchmen Street

The Garden District

In the Garden District you will find some of the most beautiful architecture we’ve ever seen. The mansions are spectacular and home to quite a few celebrities. We managed to find one of writer Anne Rice’s homes. It was pretty spectacular. The Garden District is also home to a beautiful historic cemetery, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. You do not need a tour guide for this particular cemetery, but people are available at the entrance if you do want one. Since most of New Orleans is below sea level, above ground tombs are a necessity. The design and architecture of these crypts is beautiful. So much history can be seen here, a lot of the graves show many generations of a family in the same tomb. The Garden District is accessible via the Saint Charles Street Car if you’re not crunched for time. If you do take the street car, make sure you have exact change for the ride. Some locations allow you to purchase a day pass if you plan on riding the street cars around the city.

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One of author Anne Rice’s homes

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Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, Garden District

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Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, Garden District

Preservation Hall

“If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.”
― Louis Armstrong

My husband and I were a couple of band geeks throughout our middle and high school careers, but neither of us could have ever dreamed of being as amazing as the musicians at Preservation Hall. It’s the jazz music your band teacher has wet dreams about.

If you want to hear traditional New Orleans jazz in an intimate setting, Preservation Hall is the place. The venue is however very small, so intimate is an accurate description. We opted to purchase tickets for the “Big Shot” seats. These tickets allow you to skip the line and have an actual seat in the two front rows. If you don’t have tickets, you will have to get in line early to get in and you will be standing for the performance as well. Now, even if you’re not able to get into Preservation Hall, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to hear jazz music. There are jazz clubs all over the city or you may come across an impromptu performance on a street corner.

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Outside Preservation Hall

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The Stage at Preservation Hall.

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Jazz performance outside Cafe Du Monde.

Although short, our trip to New Orleans was amazing. She’s an amazing hostess, and there’s no place quite like her. Until we meet again New Orleans, we bid you adieu.

 

 

 

 

 

 


I Heart NYC!

Can you do NYC in 3 days? Yes. Will you be exhausted? Yes. Will your feet hurt? Probably. Should you do it? Absolutely! We did and saw a ton of cool things, ate some great food and listened to some amazing music. We were extremely exhausted and our feet hurt sooo bad by the time we got home but it was totally worth it. Here’s how our 3 days played out.

Day 1

Our first mission after we checked into our hotel was to get some New York City pizza! It was delicious and of course we ate too much!  After lunch we walked down by the water and were able to jump on one of the tour boats that take you around Hudson Bay. We went under the Brooklyn and the Manhattan bridges and then got a good look at the Statue of Liberty. Those lines fill in fast so get there early.

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Brooklyn Bridge

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Boat ride with NYC skyline reflected in the window.

Next we ventured over to the 9/11 Memorial site and toured the museum. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the day that tragedy changed our country forever, as I’m sure most of you do too. As a result, the emotional experience was greater than it has been for any other memorial or museum I’ve ever been too.

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Reflecting Pool 9/11 Memorial

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Rose left on 9/11 Memorial with new World Trade Center building in background.

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Remains of concrete stairs from one of the towers. 9/11 Memorial Museum

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Fire truck, 9/11 Museum

We decided to stay in a hotel that was away from all the craziness, so we booked one located in the financial district of lower Manhattan only a couple of blocks from the shore of the East River. Our hotel was also just a couple blocks from the famous Wall Street Bull, but it was always completely surrounded by tourists whenever we walked by. (Hint: If you want to take a picture with the Wall Street Bull and not have to wait in line with a thousand other people, go on Sunday morning before 8am. There’s absolutely no one around at that time!)

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Wall Street Bull

Day 2

What’s wonderful about New York is all the history you can stumble upon just walking through the city. We happened to stumble upon Trinity Church and right next to the church is a graveyard where you can find the burial site of Alexander Hamilton. Some gravestones around the church are so old, you can barely make out the writing on them. Many visitors leave pennies on the graves of Alexander Hamilton and his wife, which after a quick Google search revealed that leaving pennies on the grave would show the deceased loved one’s that they’re loved or simply that you visited. I didn’t want to leave a penny unless it meant something good, so after my research I learned that leaving a penny was not only meaningful but also a very old tradition.

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Trinity Church, NYC

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Grave of Alexander Hamilton.

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Graveyard, Trinity Church, NYC.

Next, we took an Uber to Times Square. It’s colorful, noisy, full of people and very touristy. There are plenty of places to shop and interesting characters that, for a small fee, will let you take a picture with them. We stayed long enough to snap a few photos and then headed over to Central Park.

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Times Square, NYC.

For us Midwesterners, Central Park was a beautiful respite from the concrete jungle that is New York. The park is absolutely gorgeous and a lot bigger than you think it is. We stopped by Strawberry Fields to pay homage to John Lennon then found a hot dog cart and headed over to the lake to have a picnic. The weather was perfect, the birds were chirping, squirrels running around and children playing. It was perfect.

We continued to stroll through the park until we emerged on the other side to find the Guggenheim. I’ve always wanted to visit this museum ever since I learned about its architectural design and saw Will Smith chase an alien all the way to the top in Men in Black. It did not disappoint. Afterwards we walked down to the Met to peruse their collection of Rembrandts.

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Strawberry Fields, Central Park, NYC.

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The Guggenheim!

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Rembrandt, Self Portrait. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

On our way back to our hotel, we stopped in Little Italy for supper. We were told by a New York native about a restaurant called Lunella Ristorante and it was the most amazing Italian food we’ve ever eaten! Plus, the owner schooled Reed on the proper way to pour oil and vinegar for dipping bread. (The vinegar goes first!) We talk about that pasta we had there all the time! We can’t wait to go back just to eat there again!

 

Day 3

On our last day in NYC, we decided to head up to Chelsea to have breakfast in the Chelsea Market. After some lemon ricotta French toast, we climbed up to the High Line and headed over to Pier 86 on the Hudson River to tour the Intrepid Museum. The Intrepid is an aircraft carrier that served tours of duty in World War II and the Vietnam War. It was also used as a recovery ship for some of the space missions. Many of the volunteers on the ship are former military. One particular gentleman on our tour was not only a World War II Veteran, but he had also served on the Intrepid! It was amazing to hear his stories and listen to him explain his job on the ship. Our WWII Veterans are becoming fewer and fewer, so to be able to meet him and hear his story was an amazing experience that we will never forget! The museum also houses the space shuttle Enterprise in their space exhibit.

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Chelsea Market, NYC

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Inside Chelsea Market, NYC.

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The High Line, NYC

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The deck of the Intrepid Museum.

 

 

After our tour, we headed over to the Museum of Modern Art. Van Gogh’s Starry Night is our all time favorite painting. To be able to see it in person was absolutely amazing! Get there early though, large groups tend to crowd around the painting, which is a lot smaller than you realize.

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Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh. Museum of Modern Art, NYC

After leaving the museum, we decided to explore the neighborhood for a while and just happened to turn a corner and found the LOVE sculpture! I had forgotten about it until we saw it. It’s a great place for a cute selfie, if nothing else! IMG_20160612_145052

In the evening we headed over to Webster Hall, which was the reason for our trip in the first place, to see Tom Petty and his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch. Webster Hall is a very old and iconic venue for performers and it was amazing to get to see a legend play there.

Having grown up in a small town (so small there’s less than 350 people who live in it) you wouldn’t think I would like being in a city as large and crowded as NYC. But as it turns out, I fell in love with it. The sights, the sounds, the smells (some were questionable), everything about this city feels like you’re starring in your own sitcom.

Although we did manage to see and do so much in our 3 days, there’s still so much we didn’t get to see and do. So, until next time NYC! We’ll be back!