New Orleans – February 2014. There are some travel locations that draw you in to them, that call your name from across vast seas and open plains. This was NOT New Orleans for me. Some travelers go to experience the chaos that is Bourbon Street and Mardis Gras, but I didn’t want any of that. I was planning this trip after working through New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas!! I didn’t need any more madness. I chose the destination because I love watching The Originals and American Horror Story. Also, after some Concierge research, I realized it would be one of the more cost effective destinations during the month of February, especially since I would be leaving right before Mardis Gras. Even though I went in to this trip with blind expectations, I was truly blown away by this Southern city. I would return in a heartbeat.
The Highlights and Recap
The trip was a three night, four day, adventure and my first time going to any Southern state. Like the good Concierge I am, I called the hotel to make sure my reservation was all set, I made all my restaurant reservations to my “Must eat” places in advance and of course I checked the weather religiously so I knew what to wear and what to expect.
The best way that I like to describe places that have any kind of history is “it was so real it looked fake” and this statement definitely held true with New Orleans. The soft colors, balconies on the buildings and lamp lights lining the street all add to the charm.
Bourbon Street is the big claims to fame of the city but Royal Street and Jackson Square were two of my favorite site-seeing locations. The architecture and cute little shops on Royal Street make you feel like you are hearing the city talk to you! It has live music on the occasional street corners and it doesn’t need to be hosed down every morning the way that Bourbon Street does!!(YUCK!) Jackson Square was lovely in the typical tourist sense that it’s very iconic, I mean it is used for The Originals intro backdrop, after all! But what made it stand out most was that just a stone’s throw away is the Mississippi River. It’s relaxing to take a stroll along the riverside to take even the smallest of breaks from the crazy that is New Orleans.
The destination highlight of my trip was definitely The Garden District.
Taking the trolley there and back was such a delightful ride that you can’t help but enjoy yourself. The houses are breathtaking and it was so fun standing in front of doorways and pretending to live there while you take a selfie! I did my own research to see which houses were worth some merit to gander at. I’m really glad I did this so that I didn’t have to pay for a walking tour. I simply researched the area and printed out the historical facts and the appropriate addresses. It was nice to be able to walk at my own pace and take as many photos as I wanted to without having to worry about holding up a group. Located in the Garden District is Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 where they filmed some of The Originals.
It has an eerie beauty about it that the TV show doesn’t capture as well as it should. Also within the Garden District is Commanders Palace, which is one of the best restaurants in New Orleans, if I do say so myself!
Although The Garden District was beautiful, my most memorable experience was having Afternoon Tea at the Ritz-Carlton on Canal Street. Afternoon Tea is one of my favorite things on the planet and I figured I would give it a shot in a place known for Southern Hospitality! The hotel is so lovely you can’t help but feel a little fancier as soon as you walk through the doors. I know that something like Afternoon Tea can be done in almost any city, but I think that’s what makes it so enjoyable to me, I find it fun to compare all the different experiences. If you feel like drinking champagne and tea around 1pm, definitely check it out!
What No One Told Me
Voodoo has gone mainstream! Long gone are the days of sketchy voodoo shops and practitioners. Now, even at popular voodoo shops it’s just basically a glorified gift shop. Bourbon Street can only be so fun. I think if you are going to NoLa for the sole purpose of partying, then it is a fabulous location. Now, if you are coming to do more than just get drunk, I think Bourbon Street is entertaining for maybe one or two nights, max. I don’t think any place that needs to be rinsed clean every morning is necessarily the best place to spend all your time and money. With that being said, it leads me to my best piece of advice! No one told me to do this, I just so happened to pack correctly, but this is a tip I gladly pass on to anyone. Wear closed toe shoes!! The floors are uneven and very dirty. The little potholes are a perfect place for remnants of trash and water to settle. It would be so easy to get some nasty debris on your exposed toes if you so happened to wear sandals!
There was so much delicious food everywhere you went in the city it was ridiculous. Can I just tell you how fearful I was to step on a scale when I came home? With that aside, I would have to say that Gator Tail and Cheesecake all top the list.
The Gator Tail Bites came from Oceana Grill, a little restaurant right next to Hotel Le Marais. It was my first time having gator but it was delicious and quickly became a craving during my stay. It has a flavor similar to chicken with a consistency most closely resembling shrimp or octopus. If it was readily available in Las Vegas, I would be all over trying to perfect that cooking process.
Last, but definitely not least, was a cheesecake. Do not be fooled, this was not any regular cheesecake. This was a Creole Cream cheesecake from the famous Commanders Palace in the Garden District. It was by far, the best cheesecake that I have ever had so far. It was both a blessing and a curse to have had such a treat. I feel ever thankful for the experience my taste buds were able to take part in, but now I am forever haunted by a memory that no cheesecake has yet to live up to since then.