Three Days in New Orleans
January and February can be pretty unbearable months in Chicagoland. Temperatures often drop below zero degrees, and a heaping twelve inches of snow over the course of two days is rarely out of the question. This winter, after seven straight months of all work and very little play, Tim and I decided it was time to getaway. We craved sunshine, a change of scenery, and some good, old-fashioned comfort food. After a little wishful researching one night, we found round trip tickets to New Orleans for $97 each through WOW Airlines and the first major impulse purchase of the year was dropped. Three days far away from the ice and snow in The Big Easy.
Since a main objective for our trip was to relax and catch up on sleep and sunshine, we decided not to head into the week with any set plans. We meandered around the French Quarter on our first afternoon, stopping for salmon eggs benedict at the famous Ruby Slipper Cafe before slipping in and out of art galleries and watching live music and street performers. Jackson Square was crowded with artists on the sunny day, with canvases draped out to dry on warm park benches.
One of our absolute favorite spots on our first day was an art gallery we just happened to stumble across called Gallery 818. After a few minutes of chatting with the photographer Jose Fernandes, who was sitting in a folding chair surrounded by large scale black and white prints of New Orleans, Portugal, and Cuba, we were transfixed. His work was commanding and joyful, featuring common scenes and people as seen through the eye of someone amazed by the subtlety of life. He and Tim talked for a while about their favorite foreign filmmakers as we flipped through piles of photographs and received bits and pieces of their story. We unwittingly fell in love and dropped a substantial pile of money on a gorgeous black and white photograph of a New Orleans jazz funeral entitled "Heaven" that spoke to stories in with us we haven't even experienced yet. Buying art is emotional. I don't see how a collector could do it lightly.
We started out our second day with lunch on the balcony of Royal House Oyster Bar in the heart of the French Quarter. Jazz musicians played in the streets and few moments have ever felt so delicious.
The afternoon was hot and sunny and we made the slightly ill-informed decision to take a tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 just after noon. We booked our tour through French Quarter Phantoms (who offer an incredible deal through Groupon) and it really was worth the sunburn I was consequently blessed with. Cemeteries in New Orleans are unlike anywhere else in America, and the stories of the artists and visionaries who populate this particular one are definitely worth hearing. Plus, you'll get to see Nicholas Cage's future resting place, which is just as weird as you'd imagine it could possibly be.
Our last day was our most relaxed yet. After sleeping in and not checking out of our hotel until nearly noon, we had lunch at Basin Seafood and Spirits in the Garden District (they have the best crawfish macaroni and cheese!) and then walked several blocks down the main road to get donuts at District Donuts. We left New Orleans happier, fuller, and more full of sweetness and breath than when we arrived. There really is no place I've visited quite like it, and three days to recharge and discover is really all you need!
For those wondering where we ate!
Ruby Slipper Cafe (amazing eggs benedict!) - Cafe Beignet (perfect for lemonade and a sweet treat and much cleaner than Cafe du Monde) - New Orleans Creole Cookery (must try the creole shrimp pasta) - Royal House Oyster Bar (oysters + shrimp and grits are unbelievable and probably the best overall atmosphere of everywhere we ate) - The Crazy Lobster (great casual spot for po' boys) - Basin Seafood and Spirits (cajun macaroni and cheese is a must!) - District Donuts (we tried a classic donut but apparently they have great sliders and cronuts too)