The second instalment of the #scandigoesstateside adventure was to New Orleans, Louisiana. This city had been on my radar for a while: not only did it look like a little pocket of Europe, but the accents are to die for!
Flying first class with American Airlines, we landed in New Orleans late on a Monday night in June. A taxi took us straight to our hotel – the Old No. 77. Located ten minutes away from the French Quarter, this hipster hotel had a serious dose of exposed brick walls and local art – and their Michelin star restaurant was permanently full. We picked well!
Rising at 10am, we headed out the hotel fairly early for a day of sightseeing. The walk to Jackson Square took no more than fifteen minutes, and it felt like we were back in Europe again. The architecture was so pretty and unlike anywhere else I’d seen in America; and the square was full with jazz bands, palm readers and tourists.
We stopped off for brunch at Café Pontalba, where I tucked into a supremely huge portion of French toast with maple syrup. It was the perfect place for people watching!
The square was so pretty, it was an ideal place for taking lots of pictures. Neither of us could quite believe we were in America. Walking round the backstreets of the French Quarter, there were so many pretty pastel coloured houses with balconies.
Walking down the famous Bourbon Street, we popped into a souvenir shop to buy a bag of beads in preparation for our nights out.
The sun was beating down, and it was getting hotter and hotter. We headed over to the Mississippi river in the hope of a bit of breeze. We wanted to go on a steam boat, but it seemed that you had to pay for a dinner cruise, so that was out of the question.
Instead, we caught an old fashioned streetcar out to the Garden District. Full of beautiful, big houses, I made sure to pick out my own house in case I ever end up with a huge amount of money! We stopped off for a drink, and then swung by the “famous” cemetery just so we could say we’d been.
When we got back to the centre of NOLA (or N’Awwlins as the locals call it. In fact, one way you should never pronounce it is New Or-leeens; but with my British accent, I’m afraid that was the only thing I could convincingly call it!), next on our agenda was beignets at Café du Monde. Tasty little doughnut bites of icing sugar delightedness!
We’d been told about a ghost walk, and we’d planned to head back to the hotel to get changed but unfortunately we were caught right in the middle of a massive thunderstorm. By the time we got back, we looked like we’d been in a shower, so called off the 6pm tour and dried off.
Luckily, the thunderstorm didn’t last long, so we decided to go on the 8pm tour instead. Both in the mood for Mexican, we grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant, and then walked it over to Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodoo in the French Quarter, where the tour began.
For $25 each, we got two hours’ worth of ghost stories as we walked around the ancient French Quarter. Perhaps the best part was a pit stop on Bourbon Street, where a bar had a juke box and we got to play Paris Hilton (it was almost like she was there, partying with us!).
Once the tour had finished, we headed into another tourist shop to buy one of the many masks on offer (it took an agonisingly long time to decide!); and then went out for drinks.
Despite it being a Tuesday night, the street was packed, which was a welcome change from Miami. Deciding which bar to go in was more difficult.
In the end, we opted for a bar with a terrace, and a fountain that also featured a fire display! The bars were much quieter in the streets because in New Orleans, it’s legal to drink alcohol in the streets as long as it’s in a plastic cup (loving their logic).
On the walk back home, we adopted our Russian personas (it’s just something that happens to us when we’re in a foreign country), and got back at around 2am, leaving strands of beads on various statues along the way.
The wake-up call at 7.30am almost killed me, but there was a good reason for this: swamp tour!
The bus picked us up at 8am, and it took an hour to reach Honey Island Swamp, which was right on the border of Mississippi. On the way out we saw towns abandoned due to Hurricane Katrina – it was really sad.
The swamp tour in Louisiana was SO much better than Florida – I lost count of the number of alligators we saw! They were coming up to the boat with their fangs on show as they smiled, leaping out of the water for hotdogs.
We also got to see turtles, snakes, water pigs and the cutest raccoons! The raccoons were my favourite. If you’re ever in New Orleans, then I for sure would recommend that you take the tour.
We were back in central NOLA for lunchtime, and had the rest of the day ahead of us. Stopping off at a café for cake, we planned our next excursion: City Park.
The streetcar took us all the way out, and we navigated our way through the park to the fairground. $24 worse off and three hours later, we’d been on every single ride multiple times, and even ventured into Fairytale Land, where we met Humpty Dumpty, the three little pigs and more (yeahhh, we’re cool).
We had a really nutritious day in terms of food: after heading back to the centre, we stopped off at Starbucks of all places for food, and then headed back to Jackson Square for Mississippi Mud Pie for dessert. When in America…
Having been to Bourbon Street the previous night, we decided to go for cocktails and have a quiet night out instead. I wore my silver backless dress (originally supposed to be worn in Miami, but I’d had to give it a miss due to the dodgy tan lines).
We ubered it out to Bar Tonique, where we drank several strong Aviations and had a general bitch. We may have then gone back to Bourbon Street for pizza and danced to Mø whilst waiting for our taxi.
We went back to Jackson Square for brunch, and ended up at Monty’s – claimed to be the best place for brunch in N’awlins.
It was pretty good – and I got to try a proper Deep South breakfast: egg, sausage, grits and a biscuit. I could definitely get used to the food in America!
Mardi Gras may technically be in February, but beads are thrown in the city all year round, and I didn’t know much about it, so we went to Mardi Gras World to find out more. They offer a free shuttle bus from most areas in the city, and the tour took an hour long. We got to try on some particularly fetching outfits, sample King Cake (it tasted like a huge cinnamon bun!), and then we took a tour of the warehouse where artists were preparing for next year’s Mardi Gras, building floats and painting decorations.
My particular favourites were the pigeon, and the Wizard of Oz characters. I’d love to go back to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras – it seems like so much fun.
By the afternoon, we were a bit worried we were going to get rained on again as there was supposed to be a huge thunderstorm, so we stayed close indoors. The French Quarter is just so nice to wander around – whether you stop for a drink, or go into the shops (we spent a bit too long in the Christmas shop… oh, and then we bought fudge).
That night, we decided to stay away from Bourbon Street and instead, go to Frenchmen Street. Effectively we were stepping away from the tourists, and got to see where the locals go.
We had dinner at Snug Harbour, then headed over to 30°/-90° for cocktails. I really liked Dat Dog, where the upper balcony was open, so we had views of the whole street. There was also a late night open air art market that we looked around. Frenchmen Street was my favourite area for a night out in New Orleans.
A word of advice when you go out on Frenchmen Street – don’t try and walk back to the city centre from there. We decided to start walking back down Decatur Street to Jackson Square so we could get a taxi, but it didn’t feel safe at all. When we got in the taxi, the driver told us not to do that again, as it’s pretty dangerous over there. Pay a few extra dollars to get a taxi!
The morning after, we had a flight to catch from New Orleans to Boston via Detroit at 11am, so it was a case of wake up and go.
What did I think of New Orleans?
I really loved New Orleans. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but aside from the accents (and oh my God, their accents were amazing there), it felt like I was in Europe. Gone were the skyscrapers and lack of pavements (sorry, sidewalks). Instead, there were lots of little houses with balconies, cobblestoned streets, and actual working public transport!
I would definitely recommend visiting New Orleans – it may not be the easiest place to reach directly from the UK, but it’s pretty easy to catch a flight when you’re in the States.
Aside from going back for Mardi Gras, I would have liked to have seen more of the South – I wanted to go to Baton Rouge (I don’t think there’s much there, but I just like the name), and I’ve always wanted to go to Alabama.