Travel Diary: New Orleans
When I decided that travel was going to be my biggest goal of life as a single woman, New Orleans topped the list of places in the United States. The thought that I could be caught by the surprise of live music on any street at any time or the idea that I could possibly have the best food dish I will ever have were good enough reasons to make this trip happen.
I stayed in the Chateau Hotel, which was in the middle of French Quarter and could not have been a more convenient location. It’s two blocks from everything. Everything. Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, the Mississippi River, and the Old French Market. I was able to walk almost everywhere that I went. In terms of the room, it was simple. If you need temperature control, this isn’t the place for you. To me, it was more or less somewhere to lay my head, because New Orleans is not somewhere that you spend a lot of time in a hotel room. The bed was extremely comfortable and the room more than spacious for a girl traveling alone. The Chateau has a gorgeous, tranquil courtyard with picturesque statues and a pool that I spent quite a bit of time by.
You could definitely pay to take a horse and carriage tour or a walking tour of French Quarter, but I was quite happy to foot the area solo. I could get lost in the array of vibrant buildings for hours and I reserved the time just before sunset each day to try to capture the architectural beauty as best I could on camera. You could hear the life of the city and it wasn’t common to hear a band right outside the window, but it wasn’t too loud that it was difficult to unwind when it was time for the sleep.
Let’s talk about what is obviously the most important part of visiting New Orleans- the grub. Aside from music, the city is known for the endless options of amazing flavor and variety.
Oceana Grill was highly recommended by several people, and is obviously a very popular spot I presumed by the lengthy line of people down the sidewalk. I would suggest making a reservation here, although I still was seated fairly quickly. Here, I had the Taste of New Orleans, which the waitress recommended for the reason that you really do get a taste of the dishes that NOLA is known for- creole jambalaya, crawfish etoufee, and red beans and rice with smoked sausage. I don’t typically like my foods mixed together or even touching, but I didn’t mind with this bowl given the amount of flavor.
The Praline Connection is where I found outstanding gumbo. I wasn’t sure what people typically ate with gumbo, so I asked. Potato salad was the answer and it was delicious. The staff was very attentive and helpful- southern comfort felt so real here.
Neyow’s Creole Cafe is where I was told to get a po’ boy, so I did- shrimp, to be exact. I enjoyed it, but I would be interested to try one elsewhere.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House may have been my favorite restaurant during my stay. It was the last place I went, and the person who recommended it was not lying when they said it was the best fried chicken ever. I had yams, mac n’ cheese and cornbread as well, which were also impeccable. I highly recommend this place
Cafe Du Monde is most famous for their beignets and coffee. It’s a high energy place, because there are so many people in and out. You seat yourself in or outside, so you have to grab a table as soon as you see one open. The waitresses come quickly and are even friendly enough to take your picture. Don’t forget to bring cash with you, since they don’t take cards, but you don’t need much, because it’s very cheap.
Deanie’s Seafood, known obviously for what’s in the name, had great shrimp and decent oysters and catfish, all of which I got fried rather than steamed.
The local people were very helpful in recommending the good restaurants that weren’t necessarily the places tourists always go. Here were some of the places they swore by that I didn’t get to:
Little Dizzy’s (buffet style), Manchu (fried chicken), Lola’s (paella), Landry’s, Red Fish Grill
THINGS TO DO
I toured the Honey Island Swamp with Cajun Encounters, and it was a very interesting experience, as the bayou is a big part of New Orleans culture. If you’re not interested in seeing the flora of a swamp or being within inches of alligators, raccoons, and possibly snakes, then you could definitely skip this part of seeing New Orleans. It’s about two hours long and it’s cool as long as the boat is moving. It was almost an hour drive from French Quarter, and one thing I regret is taking an Uber. It turned out to be an expensive ride when they offer a bus/shuttle with the purchase of your ticket that I could have taken advantage of.
I spent time walking along Magazine Street in the lower garden district where you’ll find more eateries and boutiques. It runs to the central business district; however, I tried to avoid the business district of the city as best I could, as it’s noisier and less cultural.
In the garden district you’ll see older homes from the 19th century that are beautiful to look at. Not only that, you’ll find trees that have Mardi Gras beads tossed over them. At least a couple local people told me to take advantage of them to avoid doing anything you don’t want to for the beads or overpaying for them from peddlers.
Overall, New Orleans is definitely a place I would love to go back to. If you’re into drinks and partying, you don’t have to wait for Mardi Gras; you can experience that on any given night between Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street, which is like a newer version of Bourbon. I’m not necessarily into that, so my perspective is from a milder experience of the beautiful city of New Orleans.