Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Voyager Bien: Back to the Big Easy

"Yo, yeah dude let's go out and DRINK" the voice behind me boomed, into a cell phone I realized straightening up in my airplane seat. We had landed in New Orleans. I could feel the in-flight-sized bottle of bourbon bubble in my veins with excitement. I don't travel nearly enough in my opinion, and though I just explored NOLA for the first time but 9 months ago I was already back, for an early birthday weekend of Southern decadence in my favorite city for it.
Luckily our hotel front desk was open 'round the clock. We didn't get to Le Richelieu Hotel on Chartres in the French Quarter from the airport until close to 2:00am, and the oldest clerk I've ever seen crept to the box to fetch our key. The hotel was charmingly classic, with a spacious room (which was obviously 'updated' sometime in the '70s) and the convenience of a courtyard swimming pool - welcomed given this weather...
If you've been to the south in August, you might understand why it is NOT exactly tourist season. Leaving the hotel for a stroll around town Friday morning was like stepping into a sunny, maximum-heat steam room fully clothed. But a pretty fabulous one at that.
Every morning in NOLA for me has begun with a chicory coffee from CC's Community Coffee House, a New Orleans-born Louisiana's favorite.
The warehouse-lined outskirts of the Central Business District, once skid row, nowadays is where the hot NOLA chefs au courant house their heavy hitting institutions (several of which I visit, so stay tuned!).
With a cloying -and deadly stiff- daiquiri in hand to battle the heat we explored the antique shops peppered along Decatur to the far end of the Quarter bordering the Marigny.
The Marigny is one of my favorite parts of the city. I've heard it aptly likened to Echo Park, a vibrant and soulful neighborhood still a little rough around the edges.
It's also the home to the justly famed Praline Connection, which beckoned me out of my hangover last Halloween as ghostly revelers headed up the parade outside. Though not for dinner this time, we did pop in for a rum praline...
As if New Orleans hasn't struggled enough rebuilding its tourism post-Katrina, the BP gulf oil spill has thrown another wrench into the machine. But rumors be dispelled, NEW ORLEANS SEAFOOD IS SAFE TO EAT. And delicious as ever. "We had a period where our supply dropped considerably and prices skyrocketed," a server at Royal House Oyster Bar explained, while many fisherman were spending their days on paid cleanup rather than harvesting. For now, 70% of Louisiana's coastal waters remain safely open for fishermen, the most dangerous challenge being perception. And an unclear future. "We also just got these in this week," our server said presenting a 22oz bottle of Abita S.O.S. beer, a "Charitable Pilsner" that will generate 75¢ for every bottle sold to assist with the rescue and restoration of the environment, industry and individuals fighting to survive the disastrous oil spill. (Donate here).
Even with sweat pouring off my forehead, I couldn't contain my happiness trudging around the streets of NOLA. And OH the meals I would fit into the next 3 days! Lord knows it would contain as much local seafood as I could manage.


  1. Wow! Nice pics and I would have liked Marigny best too. I always considered myself an Echo Park kinda gal.

  2. So glad you are enjoying your trip to our lovely city. We love your photos! Please feel free to enter them in our new contest "Let's Do Shots!" Just follow this link

  3. Anna, does that make you a NE PDX kind of gal by default too? ;)

    Lots more NOLA pics yet to post this week! Such an inspiring city!

  4. Sooooo happy the shrimpers are back to shrimping!! Beautiful photos, you captured the charm and spirit of New Orleans that I can only imagine...