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Last week I joined my husband on a work trip to New Orleans…our very first time visiting. He had to speak and attend a museum conference, and thought it would be a great opportunity for me to tag along. So glad that I did.
What a dynamic city!
New Orleans is rich with history and tradition; it’s welcoming and familiar. It’s culinarily vibrant. Architecturally beautiful. It’s diverse. Artsy. A phenomenal party city. It’s musical. Eclectic. It’s friendly. And it’s hot!! (Which is not a complaint. I’m a heat loving girl!). I have never enjoyed a city as I did on this trip.
To acclimate myself on sights, sounds, and eats, I did do research online and in books, but then I just ran on my own wits when I got there for fun. It is the perfect city to abandon guided ideas to and get lost in adventure. That seems to be my ‘thing’ when traveling.
A good portion of my days on this trip were on my own, because of my husband’s daytime schedule, and we went without our two kids. I know! Woo!! It never was an issue for me to be on my own, however; I think New Orleans is a great place for a single person. Even though it is a city, it’s not astronomically large, like, say, LA, where you need a car. There’s a trolley system that is proficient and the city is definitely walkable. Ubers and Lyfts are everywhere, too. But the best part is that the people are super friendly. And I mean friendly. It was odd for me at first. Being from Boston, up North, the people are like the weather; we pride ourselves on being friendly, but in reality, we are selectively friendly… when we feel like it. In New Orleans, you will get hellos from every direction as you walk, from even the sketchiest folks. You will hear a lot of people address you as ‘Sugar’, ‘Baby’, ‘Honey’, or, as I even got a ‘Sugar Baby, Honey’! Haha. The folks we encountered were special for sure and I liked that intimate interaction even for those brief moments. Well, one woman did talk to me for thirty minutes as I was buying pralines from her. She was an immigrant from Thailand, and our conversation was about the history of New Orleans..and, we got to talking because of plastic bag usage. We were both not fans of using them, and she liked that I had my own bags to carry souvenirs so she just started talking to me over that commonality. She was so sweet and I believe she called me ‘Miss Lady’ fifty times, which kind of made me chuckle.
The local people are usually the best part of travel, just FYI. They show us how people are culturally different but for the most part, are the same. The interactions we had with that ‘Southern hospitality’, we had always heard of growing up, actually made me feel good, and a community connection. I kind of like being told I am sweet as sugar. 😉
Now let me talk about the food in New Orleans. New Orleans is as awesomely food centric as a great city can be. If you follow me, or know me, you see that I am pretty food obsessed myself. Food is a large part of the traveling experience. Second to the locals, it is a great way to understand the cities and towns you visit. Sounds weird, but it is absolutely fact. Travel Italy from the North of the Alps to the edge of Sicily tasting all the different pastas, or Paris for breads, or even hit up NYC for pizza, and you will understand how each region has its unique spin and/or ingredients, which taps a real connection within us to the culture and to that place. Especially, if that place uses ingredients locally. Enjoying (or not) a meal, in general, is like an automatic trip whenever you eat that meal again. Like from my favorite scene from Ratatouille; the one when Anton Ego eats the ratatouille (a peasant dish- which I love to eat myself) at Gusteau’s restaurant. He is immediately transformed from a cold man to a joyous boy when he traveled back to that special place and time… from just a bite. Boy, I just love that scene!!
Though my trip to New Orleans was short, it left an impact on my soul. Which means, I will definitely be going back there one day!
Ok, let me get started with the actual trip with photos and what not.
Day 1- The Cambria Hotel, a Quick Adventure then Two Parties
We took off for New Orleans pretty early, as we had to drop off our daughters to my in-laws first. The only good thing about traveling on a Sunday is there is barely any traffic heading to the airport, so we drove right in within 25 minutes. Parked then our adventure began!
We got to New Orleans at about 1:15PM. It was grey with rain, but we didn’t care much since the day was to be spent bouncing around indoors at functions. We checked into our hotel, The Cambria, right in the city. This hotel was decorated so cute inside that I almost died. Almost. We had originally booked the Marriott on Canal, but changed it so my husband could walk to the Convention Center if needed. At first I was apprehensive to change, but man, I am so glad that we did! This hotel was just perfect for us in every way.
We got ourselves put together for a run to grab some food in the French Quarter. One of us didn’t eat anything but the blue chips on the plane and was about to eat their purse. (ME) The walk from our hotel to the French Quarter was just a quick 20 minutes, but with so many things to see it felt way faster than that. The rain stopped and the skies opened up to partial sun! WOOHOOO!! Walking around to the French Quarter was un, and boy, what a beautiful city. There are so many buildings ornate and stuck in a different time. We walked down a lot of their well-known streets like Royal Street, Decatur Street, Chartres Street, and Bourbon Street, which in the daytime looks very unassuming, just tired and dirty. haha I want to make a joke here but I think I shall refrain.
We stopped into Kingfish Kitchen for our first meal of the trip. IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT! We got greeted by the sweetest staff, with their Louisiana drawl seeping through their words a bit. We opted to sit by the window to people watch, which was a good idea. See New Orleans doesn’t have open container laws, people just walk around with cocktails and beers all day long. As long as it’s in a plastic cup, there is no one to stop you from public drinking. Needless to say, I watched a TON of people at 5PM holding onto large fish bowl style cups having a great time walking past that window. I loved it! hahah
We had two plans after hitting the Kingfish, two parties. One was a private function at a design house and the other was the kick-off celebration for the museum convention. Sounded boring to me, but guess what, guys? Not at all boring!! So, as we had to head to two parties afterwards we didn’t want to totally pig out on this meal. We grabbed a set of daiquiris to start, because we miss Cuba so much, and then two dishes to split, a shrimp and grits and a pork taco with crackling. Gosh, I can’t tell you how amazing these two dishes were without salivating right now. I have NEVer, and I mean never, had shrimp and grits this good! NEVer! And this was my first attempt at eating crackling, fried fatty pork skin, which is the most delicious food ever invented. After another round of drinks, we took off on foot to our next stop, the private party.
Well, I wore the worst shoes for my first day, especially for walking as much as we were, that making it to the first place was pretty taxing on my feet. We decided on the walk that we would go back to the hotel after this party to change for the next event, which is another “so glad we did” moment. haha But let me go back to the private party.
This party was by invitation only and thrown by a design firm in New Orleans. We all figured this party was going to be drinks in an office, but again, we were so wrong!! We were greeted at the door of the firm by two lovely people who handed us drinks and waved us in towards the elevator to go up to the second floor. Before going up, one of my husband’s colleagues, Ed, arrived. Which made me happy, since I love Ed and knew no one else by my husband. We all got on the elevator together, wondering where we were headed.
On the second floor was the firm’s owner’s flat..and by flat I mean HOLY CRAP AMAZING APARTMENT!! Wowweewowwowow!! The place was perfection in every way, except I was not living in it. It was decked out with plush designer furnishings, an outdoor deck with pool, and it smelled like fresh squeezed Sicilian oranges. Just perfect.
We walked around a bit, grabbed a drink at the bar set up at the front, then headed for outside. There was a brass band playing on the back deck that lead to a newly installed pool that overlooked N’Orlins, as the firm’s associate outside was saying it to us.
I wonder what it’s like to have money.
↓There’s Ed finding us, eventually, outside.
The catering at this party was crazy good. I, again, tried something new, broiled oysters Rockefeller. And holy frack, was I missing out never trying these before. I swear I ate like six in twenty minutes. Ok, I am slightly exaggerating, more like 25 minutes. hahah The prosecco flowed, and conversations did too, it was a good place; and my husband was having a great time with colleagues and networking with new people, too.
I got to sit on some plush seats around the apartment to rest up my feet, too! heehee
I did not want to leave, but I had to. Our first stop out of there was back to the hotel for a shoes change and then we were off to the second party. This was the kick-off celebration for the convention, and it was at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, which was to say the least, interesting. The place is decked out with tons of vintage or vintage-inspired signs, props and photos. There was a lot of fun going on with walking through the swarms of people. But personally speaking, this museum party was more odd than a celebration. Maybe I am odd?, but it was set up wonky and there wasn’t much food or drinks to celebrate with; we figured the party would have been to the nines with food and beverages, seeing that we were at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum… but we were wrong! hahah This is why you eat before going out!
Anyways, this was a fun stop after all. I got to meet a lot of people in the museum world, some familiar too, and I got to talk with the Museum of Science folks who were traveling separately from us to the convention. There was only a small group from Boston on this trip, which was nice.
We had to make this an early night, as my husband had to talk at the convention pretty early. We hung out at the museum till around 10:30PM, then jetted right back to the hotel to wind down and unpack. I secretly wanted to head back to the design firm’s party, but oh well. 😉
It was a pretty fun day to start this trip!