I’ve just returned from a 5 day stay in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is my husband’s hometown so we usually try to get there for a visit at least once a year. I have to tell you that it is probably one of my top 5 favorite cities to visit in the world. Every time I go there, I leave feeling as though I’ve only scratched the surface of getting to know the ins and outs of such a cool and magical place.
I’ve decided to try and break it down into the top reasons I love New Orleans. Visiting with family is really the number one reason but that kind of goes without saying and there are so many other amazing things about The Big Easy that I’m sure I’ll never be able to describe them all… but, here goes:
1. The Culture
Whether it’s Creole or Cajun or just the mish-mash of every different cultural influence, there’s a very specific culture in New Orleans (please pronounce it or-luns and not or-leens by the way) and they take their culture very seriously. I don’t pretend to understand the complicated history of this glorious city but I will tell you that it’s like no other place on the planet. They have their own food, their own style and even their own language… sort of. Almost seems like its own little country to me. It’s as if time hasn’t touched it. Even after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, it seems that the city and its people have come back stronger than ever.
2. The Architecture
Oh the architecture. The architecture is amazing. Those lace iron balconies in the French Quarter make me swoon. And the majestic homes on St. Charles Avenue are really something to see. With their sweeping wraparound porches that have ceiling fans and hanging ferns, it makes me want to sit on a rocking chair and sip sweet tea all day. I am also in love with the gaslamps. There are genuine gaslamps all over the French Quarter and Garden District with their eternal flickering flames. So. Darn. Gorgeous.
3. The Food
Okay, where to start? I mean, I could tell you how much I love the gumbo or the etouffee but there is absolutely no way to do the food justice. It really is ALL ABOUT THE FOOD in the Big Easy. I have never had anything there that I didn’t like and I have had everything from frog legs to turtle soup. Okay, I’ll admit, not a fan of the alligator sausage. But that’s more about the IDEA of alligator sausage than the flavor. All in all, my mother in-law’s table is probably the best spot in town. She really is an amazing cook!
4. Bloody Marys
I am a huge fan of Bloody Marys. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Bloody Marys in New Orleans are the best in the world. Everyone seems to have their own personal take on the tomato-ey cocktail. No two Bloody Mary mixes are alike and as for the garnishes: celery, cucumber, pickled green beans, olives, deep fried stuffed olives, crab claws… I’ve had them all and I love every single one.
The first time I visited Louisiana, my husband took me for a po’boy and I fell in love. Po’boys are Louisiana’s version of a sub sandwich but what sets them apart, are the fried oysters or fried shrimp you can get as sandwich fillings. And if you get your po’boy “dressed” they add lettuce and a yummy remoulade sauce. It might make your arteries hurt a little after you eat it, but it’s worth the pain, ya hear me? It took me a long time to get used to the word po’boy. If you’re not from the south, you feel a little ridiculous saying that word. But I’ve gotten ridiculed enough times for pronouncing it “poor boy” that now I just put on my best Louisiana drawl and say “Honey gimme dat oysta’ po’boy dressed” and I sound just like a local (at least in my mind).
6. Mardi Gras
I’m sure you know all about Mardi Gras in New Orleans or have at least heard about it. Mardi Gras is officially only celebrated for a few weeks right before Lent but it has become a complete year round atmosphere in the city. Tourists are always walking around wearing beads and getting wild trying to get a piece of the Mardi Gras action. It has become synonymous with debauchery but Mardi Gras really does have a long and beautiful history. I especially love how all the trees in town are covered with Mardi Gras beads thrown from past parades. The trees are all dolled up in their best jewels to remind you of the gorgeous history of this magical city.
7. The Feeling
I think the thing I love the most about New Orleans is the thing I can’t even begin to describe. It’s just a feeling. Maybe it’s the city’s long history of voodoo, or the cemetaries with their above-ground graves or even the legends of the vampires that are thought to inhabit the dark cobble-stoned streets but there’s definitely a magic in the air. It can even be a bit creepy but in a beautiful and mysterious way. The days are humid, heavy and steamy and the nights are wild and raucous. It all adds to the electricity that is the city of New Orleans.
Gosh, I never even got to the drive-thru daiquiri shops or the lack of open container laws or the music or the art. There is so much excitement and beauty in this amazing city. If you have the opportunity, go! You will not regret it.
Honey, I can promise ya dat!