We got to New Orleans at night on a Sunday, so I think we may have a different first impression than most people. We booked a hotel on the Mississippi River near the French Quarter, and took a nighttime stroll to check out the neighborhood. It was around 10:30pm on a Sunday night, and quieter than we expected. It was also dirtier than we expected–there were giant cockroaches scurrying around on the street in the French Quarter, pretty gross, and something I’ve never seen before, not even in NYC.
But, there were a lot of cool things and interesting people there though. We stumbled upon a cool nighttime Art Market that was lit up with cafe string lights and set off the street in a large courtyard. It was filled with vendor artists, selling their handmade creations. We chatted with an artist named Tony about our road trip. He used to live in Boston, and Austin as well, so he gave us some tips on what to check out in Austin, including a cool graffiti “park” that was supposed to be a condo development which ran out of money. Apparently graffiti artisits started tagging the concrete foundation and the city let it stay, allowing artists to continue to tag, and the public to enjoy.
We called it a night because we had big early Monday morning plans – a workout with the November Project – NO chapter at Champions Square at the Superdome! We were super pumped for this, since we are a part of November Project in Boston, the original location. It has now expanded to 17 cities across North America, and we’re planning to check out as many of them as we can. We reached out to the leaders of NPNO – Kate, Will, Preston, and Cameron- to let them know we were in town and to ask about their normal workouts. They were rockstars and set up a special Monday morning workout. We did a stair/bear crawl/lunge/plank workout with them. Generally a kickass morning. November Project – NO works out on Wednesday mornings at 6am at Champions Square. Check them out the next time you’re in NOLA! You’ll be glad you did, especially if you’re thinking of hitting up all the amazing NO food next!
The main NOLA objective was to try all the classic foods it’s known for – fried dough ‘beignets’ at Cafe du Monde, crawfish, gumbo, jambalaya, etc. Our first food stop was in fact Cafe du Monde. It was down the street from our hotel, so we strolled there for a morning cafe au lait and beignet. The beignet was great: moist and light, and topped with enough powered sugar to make a small sand castle. In Jersey they’re called zeppoles and they serve them at the boardwalk–we’d always get them on our summertime visits. The vibe is busy yet old-timey and caferteria-like. The servers wear little caps and white aprons, and were friendly and very busy. I bought a box of Cafe du Monde beignets mix to test out myself at home, a future first time food!
Our lunch stop was another cafe from the Road Food book: Bon Ton Cafe. It was billed as a place to get classic New Orleans food. The scene was interesting – plaid tablecloths and home-style cooking, but the clientele and prices were upscale. All the Southern food we’ve been eating finally caught up to our Northeasterner stomachs, and we had to wrap our food up to go after only a few bites. The fried and buttery food was just too much to finish in one sitting. We ordered fried shrimp, crawfish bisque, and shrimp etouffe, which is a roux-based sauce served with white rice. While the etouffe was too heavy for me to finish that day, it tasted great the next day, once the rice had absorbed much of the sauce and tempered the heavy butteriness of it.
As we headed out of New Orleans we stopped at a tourist information center in Sorrento, LA and met a super nice woman named Tina who ran the place (Tour Ascension LA http://www.tourascension.com). She knew all about the area, and suggested we “take a look at dem ‘gators” that lived across the road in a swamp. They were some big boys let me tell you–12 feet long and a few feet wide. Luckily, they were behind a chainlink fence and pretty lazy in the hot afternoon sun. It that was a pretty cool, off-the-beaten-path stop that I’m glad we found.
The humid high heat and the bugs are not our cup of tea, but New Orleans and Lousiana are cool because they’re so different than what we’re used to in the Northeast. Definately worth visiting again!