• Melanie

Travel Essay: New Orleans Weekend

Updated: Feb 20, 2018

Sometime over the summer, I decided I wanted to travel for my birthday, and, after a brief bit of thinking, I decided that New Orleans would be my destination.

Through unforseen circumstances, my husband, Bill, wasn't able to join me. Luckily, one of my best friends, Katie, was game for a road trip.

We had a blast walking around, exploring the city, being tourists, and, of course, eating!

Our first stop was at Katie's, in honor of my traveling companion. Katie enjoyed a delicious bowl of gumbo and I had a Cuban sandwich that was to die for.

The following day, we headed down to the riverfront. One of the things I love about New Orleans is the public transportation. Once we got to our Air BnB in Mid-City, we didn't get back in the car until it was time to drive back to Nashville.

Our first downtown stop was Café du Monde. I absolutely loved the beignets! The café au lait was delicious. I could easlily have eaten a dozen of these little happy-bombs, but I just had a couple.

We were wise to choose mid-morning on Friday to go since we didn't have to wait for a table at all. Early afternoon on Sunday, the line was down the block.

After beignets, we grabbed our only non-descript meal of the trip (random breakfast/lunch place; not bad, but not noteworthy) and then meandered around Washington Artillery Park and Jackson Square. It was pretty cold and windy, so we didn't do too much sitting.

We decided to head toward the art distrtict to swing by a gallery that recently started representing one of my clients, Charlotte Terrell.

Charlotte's work is a lovely addition to Søren-Christensen Gallery. The clean, polished finish she gives to her dreamy landscape paintings sets her work apart from other contemporary landscape artists. Her work stands well on its own with both modern and traditional work. The combination of sculpture, mixed media art, and paintings in the gallery is a fine blend of transitional contemporary work. The gallery itself is a backdrop of clean walls, exposed brick, tall windows, and high ceilings.

Charlotte will be in New Orleans the first weekend in February. If you're in the area, swing by to meet her. She's a a total sweetheart in addition to being a talented artist.

After our brief trip to the arts district, we headed back toward the French Quarter and walked the strip. It was pretty cold, so we opted out of the slushy drinks, but it was fun just to hang out, admire the architecture and people-watch.

We wandered away from the strip after a while and found ourselves ready for a rest and a few beverages. We found a chill neighborhood place called the Black Penny. The bartender poured me my first Sazerac (with cognac) and I loved it! It's become more popular to drink it with rye whisky, but I'm a brandy person, so I took it traditionally.

I limit my consumption of boozy drinks in public and usually drink beer, and

after the Sazerac, I made the switch. I tried a couple of locally made black lagers, and this can was so pretty, I took a photo to share with my friend, Miranda, who makes art out of post-consumer aluminum cans.

After resting our feet for a while, we headed back to the Jackson Square area to have dinner at Muriel's. That was, by far, one of the best decisions of the weekend. My entrée was baby drum, and it was phenomenal. Flaky, buttery, pecan-crusted with some sort of magic-sauce that was just the right amount of straight-from heaven and devillishly decadent.

From dinner, we went to Frenchmen Street and caught a killer jazz set at the Spotted Cat. The Cottonmouth Kings play every Friday at 10pm, and it's no wonder they have such a good time slot. They were incredible. The instrumentation is: bass, guitar, saxophone, violin, clarinet, and trumpet. Every guy in the band sang, too, and did it with panache!

Day two started slowly, and we decided to keep it close to our Air BnB and head to the New Orleans Museum of Art. I enjoyed exploring a permanent art collection, and absolutely loved the sculpture garden.

The blend of traditional and contemporary art keep the museum from seeming overly stiff or stodgy. The layout of their collections is very easy to navigate, and has a comfortably historic flow.

The sculpture garden is gorgeous. Pools, waterfalls, bridges, garden beds, and trees all lead the viewer through a wonderland of natural beauty and controlled chaos, puntuated by sculptures of all different styles and scales.

I imagine it's a riot of color during Spring when all of the flowers are in bloom. Even in the dead of winter, there was still plenty of green. The Spanish Moss hanging from the trees lends a quintessentially Southern coastal look to the gardens.

After taking in so much great art, it was time again to kick back and have a few beers. Katie and I stumbled onto another neighborhood bar, Wit's Inn. The NFL playoffs were on, so we had a few beers and watched a bit of a game. It was pretty low-key, though there were definitely some excited football fans there.

After our rest, we walked over to Parkway Bakery & Tavern and I had the best catfish po' boy of my life. The bread was absolutely incredible, and it was dressed perfectly. I highly recommend grabbing a sandwich there.

We sat at the bar for a while after we ate and met a few residents and tourists. It was a really great way to end a day full of art and culture: by drinking at a local bar and not needing to rush off anywhere.

Our final day of the trip was a feast. We started at Mother's for crawfish etouffée, then headed down the road to Drago's for oysters. I tried charbroiled oysters, and they were outstanding. I'm always a sucker for raw oysters, and I indulged mightily.

These are the big, mellow-tasting Gulf oysters. Smaller oysters like Blue Points have more intense flavor.

After indulging in seafood, we walked a few miles to the Bywater area and watched the Saints/Vikings game at a tavern called Vaughan's. The crowd was intense! Saints fans are excellent at football costumery, which makes sense since New Orleans is a costume hub. The game was a heartbreaker for Saints fans, with the Vikings coming back from a one-point deficit with a touchdown as the clock ran out, but it was definitely a true-fan experience. The bartender was phenomenal. She was the only person behind the bar, and I never had to wait more than a minute for service.

After the game, we went to Adolfo's on Frenchmen Street. The food was excellent; the service was lackluster.

All told, I LOVE New Orleans. There is so much to see and do there, and the blend of cultures over the course of history makes for an electric, creative atmosphere. I look forward to going back to explore more of the city.

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