NYE in New Orleans!

When I decided to celebrate New Year’s in the Big Easy, I had no idea that Travel & Leisure would rank New Orleans as the top NYE destination in the USA or that National Geographic would name it a must-see city for 2014. I guess I chose well.

Aside from the unusually cold weather and the periodic rain, we couldn’t have asked for a better way to ring in a new year. We began the night on the legendary Bourban Street where crowds filled the streets and party goers filled the second story galleries (balconies) dangling beads over our heads. The drunken masses proceeded to entertain us all night with their antics… doing pretty much anything and everything to get the cheap plastic beads that could be purchased for less than a dollar in the countless tourist shops. We were wearing multiple layers of beads ourselves, but I’ll leave you guessing if I earned my beads or not ;)

We took a break from the crowds to cram our way into a completely full night club with live singers performing Top 40 covers. The energy was enough to keep us inside despite the smoke and lack of personal space. Soon enough we were ready to grab a world-famous Hurricane and head to Jackson Square for the main event. When the rain settled in we dodged the weather by grabbing some beignets and coffee in a nearby cafe to wait for the fleur de lis drop at midnight. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Happy New Year! We were situated right along the banks of the Mississippi for a beautiful firework show right over our heads.

We made our way back to Bourban Street to get in some more people watching before we headed over to Frenchmen Street for some more awesome jazz from our favourite neighbourhood clubs. All in all, we had a great time and this will go down as a NYE to remember!

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The Great River Road

Today I got to scratch another one off the bucket list: Visit a plantation in Louisiana!

In fact, we got to see two of these beautiful properties that face the Mississippi River (or the great river road). We started off at the Laura Plantation, which is a Creole Plantation built in 1805. The Creole were the French speaking people who dominated the area until America took over the colony after the Louisiana purchase. The plantation’s colors show the Caribbean influence and the Creole’s desire to be different from the English-speaking American’s who foolishly built big white houses that were just going to turn green anyways. Our tour was fascinating and told the long history of the plantation’s presidents, who were mostly women, as well as the sad truth about slavery in the south. Not only did the house survive fire and Hurricane Katrina, but it was also kept well preserved over the years,  retaining its original cyprus wood and brick structure and even most of the furniture.

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Our second stop was to a much more traditional plantation called Oak Alley. It’s claim to fame is also it’s namesake, the breathtaking, 300 year old live oaks that line the path to the main house. We ended up skipping out on the house tour completely to spend more time photographing the trees and enjoying the beautiful sunshine. It was definitely a trip highlight and I could have easily stayed under those trees all day.

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What Happens in New Orleans… Get’s Celebrated!

So far New Orleans, or NOLA for short, is living up to my expectations. Even though our first full day was filled with monsoon like rains and flooded sidewalks, we still managed to thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

To start, our B&B Chez Palmiers, is absolutely perfect. We have the Loft Suite, which is spacious and includes a bar kitchen and ensuite as well as TV and WiFi. Our hosts Schuyler and David are so friendly and provided the most wonderful breakfast spread in the morning as well as a custom list of recommended restaurants, cafes and bars nearby. We are staying a couple blocks from the world famous French Quarter in a residential neighbourhood called Marigny. We love being able to walk everywhere.

This place is so unique. It’s hard to believe that we are even in the U.S. anymore. Some moments, like today on our New Orleans history walk, it feels like we’ve stepped back in time. And then mere seconds later we are being dazzled by hilarious locals like Billy the Hootenanny who won us over with his killer dance/hip thrusting. You had to be there but I promise, it made our day.

We are slowly but surely attempting to try the local cuisine. Today we tried muffeletas (sandwich) and Shrimp Creole, which were both successful. In New Orleans you are allowed to drink alcohol in the street so most places serve drinks in plastic to-go cups. Basically, the whole city is a bar. Did I mention that alcohol is really cheap here?

Most of our day was spent experiencing 19th century holidays in the New Orleans style on our walking tour of five historic houses. We were told the history of the owners and even got to see the home of the first princess of Monaco who happened to be from New Orleans. It was really interesting and gave us a better appreciation for the rich history of this city that has seen so much change over the centuries.

So far the people have been extremely friendly and we’ve had many interesting conversations. Most of the locals are amazed that we are here all the way from Canada. One of our tour guides advised us to have as much fun as possible and that what happens in New Orleans… Gets Celebrated! Well Sir – we plan to… in fact, I don’t think we have a choice. The party never stops in NOLA.

Tonight after dinner we were wandering down the streets of the French Quarter, looking in shops, and then decided to stop at a bar on Frenchmen Street called Cafe Negril. Frenchmen Street has been touted as the local’s Bourbon Street so we definitely wanted to check out the scene. The bar had no cover and a really great Blues Rock band. We enjoyed that for a while before spilling out into the street to find another band playing on the street corner with a large crowd dancing in the street, like actually in the street. Of course, we joined in. At one point the crowd had grown so big that the cars were having difficulty getting through. One car was clearly annoyed and ran over a lady’s toe (or so she said). She obviously got upset and somehow dented his car. While we stood there in shock watching the confrontation – no one else seemed to notice. Just business as usual on a Saturday night in New Orleans!

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