3.12.2017

New Orleans, Mardi Gras, Food, and Touchdown Jesus

40. Kind of a big deal. Especially in our society and for a woman.

Birthday cake

Well, maybe for other women. I was excited to make it to 40. Much better than my other option and I really have enjoyed my life so far and expect to keep enjoying it. I wanted to make 40 memorable and decided to visit New Orleans for the first time.

Flying to NOLA!

The trip ended up being a “GirlsTrip” when T let me know he would rather go skiing. (Don’t worry, he stayed home on my actual birthday when I had a wine / birthday party). My sisters, a neighbor, a cousin, my oldest friend, and two former co-workers joined me for four nights and five days in New Orleans. It was a crazy trip.

Why?

Well it turns out that “Mardi Gras” starts on January 6th (Kings Day) and goes until Fat Tuesday at 11:59pm. Fat Tuesday this year was February 28th and we visited February 16-20th. What that meant for us was that we were in New Orleans and the French Quarter during Mardi Gras. There were tons of parades, lots of beads, and SO MANY people. Locals told us it is going to be much more crowded the next weekend, so that was lucky. Here is a link to the New Orleans parade schedule for 2017. There were 25 parades going on the weekend we were in New Orleans.

NOLA house

I rented a house in the French Quarter and it was two blocks from Bourbon Street. The house was AMAZING and we really enjoyed it. Mo of Costa Rica and Russia fame had a friend that lived in New Orleans and way before we began our trip we had lots of things we could do and places we could eat. I didn’t want to book too many things and tried to keep events to one a day and only one food commitment. There were two walking parades in the French Quarter during our stay and it turned out that our house was even on one of the routes!

We arrived on Thursday night and were lucky to find a restaurant that might be my favorite of the whole trip, Cafe Amelie in the French Quarter. We had a round table for eight on the courtyard patio under trees and cafe string lights. It was beautiful. Our waiter Michael was so charming and immediately New Orleans stole my heart.

Cafe Amelie, me and Michael
Cheers to 40!

I have to give a special shout out to the Gumbo at Cafe Amelie. For bookclub I had read Gumbo Tales and it was all about food in New Orleans. Each chapter was centered around a specific food or beverage and the first chapter was all about Gumbo. I might of taken it with a grain of salt when the author discussed all the different types of Gumbo. She went on to describe how everyone would say their “Mama made the best gumbo” and then have a backup gumbo place they would go if their Mama wasn’t cooking one. Sure enough Michael told us his Mama made the best gumbo, but his second favorite gumbo was at Cafe Amelie. We sampled it that first night and it was amazing. I tried a lot of gumbo on this trip and Cafe Amelie was my favorite hands down.

Each morning I would wake up about 6:30am and go for a walk. I sprained my foot a few weeks before the trip and had put running on hold, so walking it was. I am grateful for this time of the day in a city and especially in New Orleans. I walked to the Mississippi River and watched the fog melt away as the city was cleaned up from the night before. Everyone was kind and hospitable with lots of “Morning Mam” or “Morning”. New Orleans is filled with music and even as the sun was coming up a lone trombone player welcomed it.

Front side of Touchdown Jesus church
Early morning, empty streets
Cleaning up Bourbon Street
Morning fog on the Mississipi

Traveling with a group can have it’s problems, but our group seemed to do okay. The Friday of our trip those of us who had not been to New Orleans before took a food tour with Taste Bud Tours and those who had already been to New Orleans went to lunch. We met up at the Krewe of Cork Parade in the French Quarter and it was so fun!

Sisters and cousin
Food tour fun

I should mention that my New Orleans trip was rated PG-13. There was no nudity and I never saw someone flash for beads. I did see a lot of people drinking on the streets (legal in New Orleans) and Bourbon Street turned into a crazy drunk fest at night, but for the most part the worst was nothing more than I remember seeing at Frat Parties in college way back in the day. I mention this because Krewe of Cork was my first parade during Mardi Gras in New Orleans and I LOVED IT. The parade was all about wine and it was just fun. The streets in the French Quarter are one way and small. They were closed to traffic during the parade and the sidewalks were lined with people. The members of the parade tossed a few beads, but most of our group had members of the Krewe come up and place them over our heads. The marching bands had us cheering and yelling and dancing along to the parade.

Krewe of Cork Parade

Later that night we learned that parades can shut down the city when it took our Uber driver over an hour to get to Atchafalaya. The driver was newer in the city and half of our group were in another Uber with a local who knew all the back ways to avoid the parades. They arrived half an hour before us. The convenience of Uber is awesome but driving in a car during parade times can be ridiculous. We did it the next night to have dinner at Commander’s Palace and ended up walking a few blocks before and after dinner. I declaired Sunday, “No Uber Sunday” and was happy to walk everywhere.

Atchafalaya private room party
All dressed up for Commander's Palace.

Even though I tried to keep our trip simple, the days seemed jammed packed. Here is what we had planned:

Thursday: Arrive. Uber to house. Walk the French Quarter and have dinner at Cafe Amelie.

Friday: Tastebuds Food Tour. Krewe of Cork Parade. Dinner at Atchafalaya.

Saturday:Garden District walking architecture and graveyard tour form Two Chicks Tour. Dinner Commander’s Palace

Sunday: Brunch at Mr. B’s with live jazz. Barkus Parade. Cafe Amelie for dinner again.

Monday: Leave New Orleans.

Additionally we visited the Flea Market where I got a fabulous ring that looks like a green jelly bean. It is almost the green of Mardi Gras and I love it. My cousin and I saw the Krewe of Femme Fatale parade because we wanted to see a float parade. I went to Frenchman’s street with my cousin and my neighbor and we saw a reggae band and then a funk band. One night a few of us went to Bourbon Street and the Cat’s Meow where my neighbor rocked Karaoke. We visited our local grocery store often and I was amazed that it was open so late at night. I love visiting grocery stores whenever I visit someplace new! Speaking of that, did you know the bars in New Orleans only close once a year for one hour? Yep, once a year. And our Tastebuds Food Tour guide told us it was so they could close the books for that year and then open next year’s books. The bars have a three month period where they all take turns closing for that one hour.

Jazz brunch at Mr. B's

The house I rented was perfect for this trip. It was beautiful and we enjoyed the time we spent there. The kitchen was awesome but we only “cooked” coffee. My two former co-workers got a King Cake and birthday cake from a local bakery that were delicious. It was a decant trip and coffee and cake might of been breakfast a few days…. I mentioned earlier the house was close to Bourbon Street and it was a great location. Far enough away from the noise, but close to everything. Our first night in town we were trying to figure out how to get home and the Little Sister said, “Turn your back on Jesus and walk home”. This is because there was a big church at the end of our street and a statue of Jesus with his arms raised. At night Jesus was lit up and his HUGE shadow covered the church wall. We just needed to find him, and then keep him at our back as we walked home. We learned the locals refer to him as “Touchdown Jesus” and that made me laugh so hard!

Touchdown Jesus!
King Cake

I was always full of food in New Orleans, even though I worked so hard to not over schedule any meals. I feel like the majority of places I ate were more upscale than I usually eat at. They were DELICIOUS, but next time I am going to look for more hole in the wall kind of places. NOLA is an amazing food city.

Hot pickled okra! AMAZING!
 
The SMALL cup of gelato....

I had such a good time in New Orleans and can’t wait to go back. Maybe T will go, or the same group of girls. Either way, New Orleans is going to be a city I visit often. Thanks to everyone there for such a warm welcome and continuous hospitality. Your city has captured my heart.

 

1 comment:

  1. We've been to Café Amélie several times before! It's awesome and not just because of the name. Glad to see you enjoyed it too.

    ReplyDelete