My Mother, God rest her perfectly imperfect soul, is either going to love or hate this entry as she looks down from above. A deeply religious, proud Catholic woman, she instilled in me a recognition that often times life’s most difficult challenges are created, at least in part, from within. Allow me to reference the Seven Deadly Sins as I understand them…Anger, Lust, Greed, Gluttony, Sloth (Laziness), Pride and Envy. The sins that if committed often enough, would most certainly lead to a troubled and tortured soul. And on a recent 48 hour trip to New Orleans, I am almost certain I committed every…single…one of them. However, maybe not in the way one might while in the Big Easy. Like most of us, vacations and getaways have always been an important reset for me. A rewire, a recharge…a way to break the routine and disturb the collective complacency that settles in from time to time. That being said, I’ve always seen travel of destinations both near and far as adventures. I thrive on the search for the less ordinary in both places and people. And on this particular trip to New Orleans, not only did I give in to temptation, but the result was an experience that was as unplanned as it was unforgettable. And for the record, I am all but guaranteed to commit these sins again and again…in as many places as possible. And you know what? Maybe you should too.
So here they are in no particular order…sorry Mom.
I demonstrated a fierce contempt for the clock that rules life most days. I recommend taking the streetcar* from Canal Street and head to the Garden District. Get off, explore…and lose track of time. But make sure you’ve visited the shops, pubs and restaurants on Magazine Street before you leave the District.
*Thank you Susan Durnin Catalano
I loved the experience of the French Quarter before 9 am. I cannot encourage you enough to wander these streets without the distraction of the debauchery. Let the Quarter ravish you with its complex color combinations and unbelievable visual texture. But don’t just walk around. Absorb. Stare and study.
New Orleans is such a complex and interesting city on so many levels. It’s a shame for those who hold it at arm’s length. Be greedy for the endless experiences this amazing place has to offer. Which means don’t spend hours sweating in line for a bite at a beignet. Be smart with your time. Better to make a return trip at another time than burn valuable vacation hours. Besides, that town will NEVER run out of beignets.
I over-indulged in the different and consciously tried to expanded my culinary comfort zone. From crawfish to creative comfort food to classic cocktails…there may be no better place to push your palette in more ways than one.
I took some time to find a place to just be still and just watch everything unfold around me. Jackson Square is the perfect place to do this, so is any local cemetery. Creepy? You bet! Creepy, historical and fascinating. Point being…be lazy, and take an intentional time out before heading back into the chaos.
From Bartenders to Bourbon Street Bystanders to Street Musicians…I loved engaging with the people I met on my visit. From Kevin at Goorin Brothers Hat Shop, to Fernando, my new favorite New Orleans salvage soldier, to Eric the Pool Bartender at the Roosevelt. The interesting conversations with so many people, revealed a side of New Orleans I had not really experienced in past visits. I was able to experience NOLA from their perspective. And it was so easy to do. Try asking open ended, genuine questions…and just listen. My go to questions was “So…how did you land here?” Try your hand at the art of conversation. It’s amazing the lasting pictures it creates.
I was so envious of New Orleans rich history which has as much texture, grit and drama as its brick streets. Read the signs! There are historical makers everywhere…and almost every building has a story worth hearing. And if you have time, the World War II museum is a must visit.
Well, there you have it. I guess I’d ask for absolution…but as you can tell I am without contrition. The older I get, I become more and more convinced that one of the most important things in life is curiosity. And most of us underestimate it’s power, downplay it’s value, and even mistake it from time to time as temptation. But a curious disposition may be the most important item to bring on a trip to New Orleans…or any other place for that matter. As Oscar Wilde said, “To LIVE is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.” And you know what…my Mother would have agreed.
Thank you to our dear friends Kyle and Melinda H. for making this trip such a great adventure! And special thanks to The Roosevelt Hotel, Aidan Gill for Men, Ruby Slipper Café, Goorin Brother Hat Shop, Redfish Grill, Willa Jean, Court of Two Sisters, Muriel’s Jackson Square, The French 75 Bar at Arnaud’s, Drago’s Seafood and the City of New Orleans for the amazing cultural calibration. Until we meet again.