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The bustling on Bourbon begins to pick up on Saturday night in NOLA.

The always bustling Bourbon Street begins to pick up for another Saturday night in NOLA.

English: Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand s...

Original Cafe Du Monde

Talk about SOUL!  I’ve just returned from my first trip to the jazzy, cool city of New Orleans.  I was there over the weekend for a girlfriend’s bachelorette party.  From the wild nights on Bourbon to the grits and bananas foster that changed my life forever, this weekend getaway was quite the experience.

Where we stayed: The Hyatt French Quarter (beautiful hotel, I highly recommend it!) in a huge, modern, chic two bedroom suite that opened up to a cozy courtyard where we smoked some cigars our last night and toasted our friend off into the married life.

What we ate:  Oh, where to begin?!  FYI, you can eat VERY well at a VERY affordable price in New Orleans – what’s better than that?  For our big “splurge” dinner, we chose NOLA, which is owned by one of my fav chefs, Emeril Lagasse.  The fried egg and duck pizza was blasting with texture and flavor, the buttermilk chicken was crispy and golden, and the shrimp and grits was sweet, salty, chewy, and creamy all in one – OMG.  From the sweet, sugary, lightly fried beignets at the famous Cafe du Monde, to the crispy, tangy fried alligator bites and catfish sticks at Pat O’Briens, to the most mouth watering, creamy, buttery grits and bananas foster one could ever dream of (I’m not kidding, I can’t get them out of my mind) at The Court of Two Sisters, there’s simply one word that can describe the food in NOLA: FLAVORFUL.  Listen, just a heads up, don’t come to New Orleans to count calories.  Sample every bit of their flavorful, fried, crispy, creamy, sweet, spicy culture, and savor it!  If it makes you feel better, know that you’ll be walking everywhere for hours each day – it’s an “on foot” type of trip.  And hey, the gym will be there when you get home – indulge in the spices and flavors of the south and enjoy it – and that’s coming straight from the mouth of this daily gym goer.  I promise you will NOT regret it.

Daytime Activities:  In the words of my man Will Ferrell, “SO many activities!”  There’s an abundance of soul and culture to experience in New Orleans.  The history is just fascinating.  We tried to squeeze in as much stuff as we could while we were there.  We spent some time poolside at our hotel taking in the hot sun and sipping our Kettle and clubs with lime.  Like I mentioned before, we did TONS of walking around on Bourbon Street, Frenchman Street, and around the French Market.  The shopping was fabulous –we definitely did some damage.  From vibrant Mardi Gras masks, to Voo Doo charms and bracelets, to trendy clothing boutiques, to tasty snacks like praline pecans, famous hot sauce, and beignet mix, we purchased a variety of things to bring the culture of NOLA back home with us.  We also went on a walking ghost tour – SO cool.  Stops were made at different hotels (once orphanages, hospitals, homes of the wealthy) and even a haunted bar where we drank Voo Doo daiquiris.  We all decided to visit one of the gypsies reading palms and tarot cards in the promenade of the French Market (her name was Gina and she was SCARY accurate).

Pat_O_s_sign

Nighttime Activities:  Oh, the nightlife of NOLA.  You’ve heard about it, but you don’t truly understand until you’ve lived it.  It’s pretty wild in the best way!  Strolling with the mobs of people up and down Bourbon Street and people watching is a fun activity in and of itself – as long as you don’t get wacked in the head with the beads flying down from balconies above like we did (yes it hurts but it’s still ironically flattering).  We stopped at bars like Saints and Sinners for the pop music and dance floor, Cat’s Meow for some serious karaoke performances, and Resurrection for the barber chair shot recliner (if you watch the tv show Bar Rescue, maybe you’ve seen the episode featuring this awesome bar).  I know you can only have so many sweet and sugary drinks – just be sure to try the famous Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens and Grenades at Tropical Isle before you go home, too!  This is history people, get some culture while you’re out on the town!

**Musical Note** (pun intended) Just walking around the French Quarter, you’ll see people, alone or with a group, with a trombone, saxophone, or guitar in hand, singin’ their hearts out to the sounds of the Blues.  American Idol should check out the French Quarter.  There is some SERIOUS talent hanging out in the neighborhood making magic happen.

frenchquarter

My advice is to have a written itinerary for you trip.  Nothing too crazy, just an outline with a plan for each day.  My very organized, patient friends made one ahead of time and it was our savior.  There’s SO many options and directions you can go in, it’s better to have an overall plan for what you want to do and where you want to go.  You can cover a lot in one day, so being organized helped us to experience all of the heart and soul that is New Orleans.

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