Excuse me whilst I fangirl over New Orleans again! I’ve been singing the praises of this Deep South destination ever since I came back and it’s definitely up there with some of my favourite places in the world. It’s vibrant, multicultural and super laid-back. You can drink frozen daiquiris whilst walking down the street and there’s impromptu jazz bands that set the perfect soundtrack.
We probably only spent just under two days exploring, but the mindset that Trek America gives you is the skill to fit a lot of activities in. Our tour guide lived in the city, so he knew the best places for cocktails, fried chicken and music that allowed us to make the most of our time there. There’s still plenty more to do though and it’s the kind of place I’d be happy to visit time and time again. Oh NOLA, if only you were a little closer!
Marvel At The Colourful Architecture
To save you faffing, these are some of the areas where I spotted some of the most amazing architecture.
French Quarter – These streets will give you endless Instagram content, but I’d recommend learning more about this area full of juxtapositions. The architecture is a mixture of French, Spanish and Creole, so you’ll spot streets named ‘Toulouse’ and ‘Dauphine’, cast iron balconies and hidden Mediterranean-style courtyards. My favourite combinations were found along St Ann near Burgundy street, but you’ll be spoilt for choice if you have a little wander.
Esplanade Avenue – I got extremely excited when I spotted these bright green and red houses on Esplanade Avenue (between N.Tonti & N.Miro Street) and research tells me that its a 19th century millionaire’s row. Expect a mixture of colourful townhouses and narrow ‘shotguns’.
Magazine Street – We only spent a couple of hours here, but from what I gather it’s like the Louisiana version of Kensington. You’ll spot independent boutiques, blow dry bars, Whole Foods and even Lush. There’s still plenty of character though, head towards the backstreets for murals and Greek Revival mansions. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so I’d recommend finding a walking tour.
Little Histories is also a cool stationery brand that uses the buildings of Louisiana as inspiration, so look some of these places up if you want a head start!
Eat Beignets, Oysters and Bottomless Brunch
As expected, the dining of New Orleans is pretty cosmopolitan. You can have any cuisine your heart desires but a lot of the more famous dishes include seafood, a bit of French fusion and plenty of Cajun spice. Here’s everywhere we ate:
Bayou Beer Garden – They serve a little bit of everything and it’s a great option if you’re with a large group, who fancy different things.
Coop’s Place – Our first fried chicken experience of the trip. There are some places in the US where the service is intentionally questionable and part of the experience, but the food made it worth it.
The Court Of Two Sisters – Did someone say bottomless brunch? Of course my eyes were bigger than my belly, so I ended up with jambalaya and scrambled eggs on the same plate.
Rum House – Tacos and Margarita happy hour, need I say any more?
Red Fish Grill – Try the typical fried oysters and their Double Chocolate Bread Pudding is legendary for dessert. You have to order it at least 30 minutes before.
Cafe Du Monde – We couldn’t leave New Orleans without trying the famous beignets, which are like lighter doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar. It’s open 24 hours a day, so head there super early to avoid queues.
I’m still yet to try the po-boys and muffuletta sandwiches, so make sure you try and fit them in too! It can all get a bit rich after a while, so bring vitamins and try to find some vegetables.
Missed Mardi Gras? This is the next best thing.
If you’re not able to catch this vibrant parade when it happens in February then don’t fear, Mardi Gras World is the next best thing. This museum is actually where all of the floats get designed and made, so you’ll see sketches, artists painting and plenty of random props from years gone by. Seeing everything up close just reinforces the amount of work that goes into the yearly event. As much as I’d love to visit one day, the idea of travelling anywhere when there’s a specific event with higher prices and loads of crowds stresses me out, so it’s a great alternative if you’re curious. Find out more about the history of Mardi Gras here.
Similarly if you miss the jazz festival, then head to the Mississippi River end of Frenchman Street. There’s live bands playing everywhere and it was probably my favourite music-related night, compared to Nashville and Memphis.
In the vicinity…
If you’ve planned a longer stay or road trip, these are some other areas to visit:
We actually stopped off in this quaint town for a night on our way to New Orleans. There’s not much going on apart from stunning sunsets, a colourful abandoned theatre and the most authentic saloon, but what you will notice are a lot of grand houses. There’s a whole lot of history in Natchez due to French settlers bringing African slaves and generating enormous wealth from cotton farming. A lot of the beautiful antebellum mansions were built by this labour.
We took a tour of Monmouth Historic Inn and whilst they were open about how the owners had slaves, the fact that you could stay in rooms built on former slave cabins didn’t sit well with me. It all gets spoken about in a bit of a romanticised way. You can get actually married in places like these, I’d read about the controversy in the press and the whole concept seems bizarre.
I did find out about Whitney Plantation just outside of New Orleans, which has been made into the first slavery museum. I’d definitely want to try and visit next time, as you can only gather so much from the other tours. There’s also an African American History & Culture Museum in Natchez, which details the journey from slavery to Reconstruction.
I’m not usually the most animal-obsessed person, but when I travel I’m always curious to see what’s ‘normal’ in the destination. We spotted some alligators, turtles and various birds on our swamp tour by Cajun Pride.
Final Thoughts (In The Style Of Jerry Springer)
As I mentioned previously, we had a slightly different version of the Deep South BLT tour since it was a blogger trip with pretty much everything covered. Still, the most important thing I gathered is that Trek America is ideal if you have the desire to travel but not necessarily the right group of people to go with. You can meet new people, have time to yourself every so often and not worry about logistics. Our guide Jack was knowledgeable and quickly got used to our constant photoshoots, so you can really shape your tour into something individual.
I’ve spoken to Lucie who did a slightly extended Deep South road trip and the costs are comparable, when you factor in car hire and splashing out on some hotels last minute (she’ll be posting about her fancy budget sheet soon). It’s just a different experience. Are you happy sticking to an itinerary and getting a flavour of each place or do you want more freedom, but a lot of planning beforehand? Hayley also has a great post, which goes into budgeting for Trek America in more depth.
Now I’ve been once, I’d feel a bit more confident about arranging my own trip to some of the destinations and hopefully venture further afield. Trek also do tours of South America which sound great as I’d be a bit apprehensive about organising it myself. Having everything laid out and ready really does gives you a bit of a kick-start, as opposed to waiting for friends or figuring everything out yourself.
I also have to mention the friendliness of the people we met. Whether it was our Lyft driver in Nashville who let us play DJ or the slightly merry woman in Birmingham who invited us back to her speakeasy, I was charmed by all of that Southern hospitality. It made me think about cultural differences and how sour-faced us Brits must seem when we’re back home, we’re a nice bunch really! I’ll definitely miss all the spontaneous conversations and people willing to share recommendations with strangers.
All the other bloggers and YouTubers on the trip
I hope you’ve enjoyed all of my Deep South posts! It’s definitely given me a taste for this part of the US and a massive insight into all the history. As much as I like posing by pretty walls, travel for me is a little deeper. I think the limited history we’re taught informs our view of the world and it’s so important to seek out the truth when we travel, in order to understand where we are now. Whether you visit as part of a tour or road trip with pals, I’d encourage you to experience as much as possible and understand how the diverse culture came to be. I’ll definitely be back.