Fine Print Travels: New Orleans, Louisiana

If you follow me on twitter and instagram then you probably know that I recently went on a vacation! With all the stress from grad school, my job, and volunteering, I really needed to let loose and have a good time. Enter New Orleans, the Big Easy, a city where indulging (at least for tourists like me!) is the norm.

The city’s history, as well as its centrality for Louisiana voodoo, has made it a popular setting for SFF novels. The Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter and Chloe Neill’s Devil’s Isle books are both set in New Orleans, and the portrayal of the city in those series made me want to visit more than ever.

So my guy and I made it happen, and we spent a lovely 5 days walking around the city, attending JazzFest, and eatingΒ absolutely everything. Here are some highlights:

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One of my favourite buildings in the French Quarter.
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A courtyard that serves as a “backyard” for several private residences. Paradise.
This building reminded me so much of Montreal!
This building reminded me so much of Montreal!

Aside from bookish reasons, New Orleans was on my travel wish list because of its music scene. I’ve mentioned this a few times on the blog before, but I have been playing various instruments and singing almost my whole life. There was even a time in my life when I very seriously considered becoming a professional musician (although I roll my eyes at that now, since I have neither the natural talent nor the discipline to make a living performing).

The musicians in New Orleans are, obviously, some of the best in the world. Jazz and blues music in particular are everywhere, and we were very lucky to be able to attend JazzFest 2016. There were some truly amazing performances, but my personal favourite was blues musician Rhiannon Giddens and her band. During her set, Giddens spoke about her experiences as a woman of colour in America and performed several original songs inspired by slave narratives. Here’s a video from PBS News Hour of Giddens performing “Julie,” one of the songs she also performed at JazzFest.

That voice, that banjo playing, those lyrics. Yeah…there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. My entire body erupted into goosebumps when Giddens and her band performed that song, it was completely nuts.

One of the only "PG" or blog-appropriate pics from JazzFest.
One of the only “PG” or blog-appropriate pics from JazzFest.
This costume shop sold everything from civil war uniforms to burlesque outfits!
This costume shop sold everything from civil war uniforms to burlesque outfits!
This marketplace sells art and goods made entirely by local artists.
This marketplace sells art and goods made entirely by local artists.

Aside from listening to a ton of live music, seeing the sights, and perusing funky shops, we also spent a truly impressive amount of time eating. It can be a bit tricky finding places to eat in New Orleans as a vegetarian, but since I’m a compulsive researcher I looked up a bunch of places and was able to get by just fine. I even had quite a few vegetarian and vegan versions of local specialties, including gumbo and po boy sandwiches.

This po boy was filled with chickpea-battered tofu. SO GOOD!
This po boy was filled with chickpea-battered tofu. SO GOOD!
Vegetable tagine from one of the fancier restaurants we tried.
Vegetable terrine from one of the fancier restaurants we tried.
I had these vegan tacos (and a pitcher of margaritas...whoops!) at a Mexican/Creole fusion restaurant.
I had these vegan tacos (and a pitcher of margaritas…whoops!) at a Mexican/Creole fusion restaurant.

There were a few very interesting parts of that I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures of, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them. Across the bridge and away from the French Quarter and Downtown areas, you can still see the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. The lack of support from the city and larger governmental bodies for these areas is absolutely appalling – if you search for photos online you’ll see what I mean. Personally I thought it felt exploitative and wrong to take photos of these areas as a white, foreign tourist. Just saying. I am glad that we saw this side of the city though, because it’s all too easy to forget that many people who live in New Orleans year round live very differently from what I experienced.

If you’ve never been to New Orleans, you should. Fascinating history, vibrant culture, an incredible music scene, and mouth-watering food can be found at basically any time of day. Whether you’re looking for a more traditional vacation with lots of tourist-y things or you’re going the music-food-architecture route that we did, you won’t run out of things to see and do. The lack of public drinking laws doesn’t hurt either. πŸ˜‰

Have you ever been to New Orleans? What are some of your favourite travel destinations? I’m always looking for more travel inspiration!

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  • Waah, you’re making me feel like I haven’t been anywhere in AGES! I have had New Orleans on my to-go list for a long time, inspired partly by movies and partly by books. I’m sure my vision of it is horribly romanticized, though, so I’m glad you mentioned the Katrina damage – I had NO IDEA that was still in disrepair, how horrible! I guess that as long as tourists keep coming, the French Quarter was given support, but other areas aren’t as important for the city/government. Ugh.

    I would have had no reservations when it comes to eating there. I want to try gumbo so much, it’s impossible to get it here and I have been trying to source okra and cajun seasoning for such a long time with no success. Did you try the beignets? πŸ™‚ Southern cooking is something I’d definitely want to experience, even though A. keeps saying he doesn’t really want to visit these parts. I’m sure I can change his mind. But yeah, I’ll definitely wait until I’m allowed to drink again because margaritas sound heavenly right now. πŸ˜‰

    I’m happy to report that A. and I are going on a weekend getaway to Bologna to celebrate A.’s PhD (he defended his thesis just last week!), our 3rd wedding anniversary (May 25) and “we’ve been together for 9 years” anniversary (June 2). I am hoping for lots of carbs, ice cream and warm walks through the city. Kiddo will be staying with my parents so it’ll be relaxing, I hope. πŸ™‚

    • Honestly, I was pretty shocked by the level of disrepair too! I knew that it would be bad but I had no idea just how bad some areas were (and of course those areas are predominantly home to lower income people and Black communities). It made me feel angry and powerless.

      HA! Yeah, Ed and I were both a little rounder when we left than we were when we arrived. πŸ˜‰ YES, omg the beignets were soooo good! We had them for breakfast a couple of times, which is a rookie mistake because they made us super drowsy, haha. I really enjoyed gumbo and po boys, too — hallelujah for Southern cooking! But you’re so right, being able to drink margaritas is a crucial part of the experience. πŸ˜‰

      Wooohooo, congrats to A.! That’s so exciting. And of course congrats to the two of you – you’ve been together 9 years…holy crap. That’s an accomplishment for sure! I hope you two had an amazing time in Bologna.

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    My roommate from college used to live in New Orleans, she loved it. But somehow I still haven’t made it there.

    • I absolutely adored my time there, I highly recommend it as a travel destination! Especially because it’s so different from other major U.S. tourist destinations (at least in my experience).

  • I’ve never been but I’m dying to go!! So different from California. I’m hoping my daughter’s choir might go there this year, and then I’ll probably go along. Love your photos, thanks for sharing!

    • I had been wanting to go for ages, and it was completely different from every other American city I’ve been to! Wow, that would be an amazing choir trip. I hope you and your daughter get to go and have a great time! πŸ™‚

  • Maraia

    Lovely pictures! Thanks for sharing them and the stories about your trip. πŸ™‚

    I actually went to New Orleans twice with my choir when I was younger, but to be honest, the part I remember most is the humidity. XD Ooh, and also the beignets! I have no idea what I ate besides that, but it definitely wasn’t anything as interesting as the vegetarian food you found. That tofu looks great!

    As for other travel destinations, I hear Michigan is pretty great. πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks Maraia! Some of them were taken by me and some by Ed. I’m pretty proud of them because I’m usually a terrible photographer.

      HA! Okay, to be fair it is crazy humid there! Not too bad in the Spring though, so I’m glad that we went then so it wasn’t too humid (or rainy). Beignets are sooo good, the doughnuts we have in Ontario just aren’t the same! Yeah, I was actually really relieved to find all that great veggie food!

      Hahaha, I will definitely have to check Michigan out soon! πŸ˜‰

  • Awesome pics! I’d love to visit, sigh, one day

    • Thank you! Armchair travel is always fun, right now Thailand is on my list…which is way less feasible than NOLA since it’s across the world!

  • Wow, gorgeous photos! I’d love to visit some day. My husband was there after Katrina helping out with the army, I think we’d like to go as a family one day to see how everything is now – he’s aware a lot of things are still being repaired/rebuilt.

    • Thank you! Half the credit goes to my guy, who very patiently took a lot of our photos.

      Wow, that’s cool – helping out in a situation like that is such an important role. I hope that everything is rebuilt soon!

  • This makes me want to go back to New Orleans. It’s one of my favorite vacation spots. I swear I practically do nothing but eat while I’m down there though. Everything is just so good.

    • I know what you mean! Looking back over my pictures makes me want to go back, too. Haha! Yeah, the food is so sinful…I needed to wear stretchy pants and skirts for a couple weeks after I left! πŸ˜‰

  • I only ever say New Orleans through the TV series The Originals. You make it look so wonderful!! aah the food!

    Lola @ Hit or Miss Books

    • Oh my gosh, that TV show was one of the first times I saw NOLA on TV too! I had a fantastic time, I highly recommend it!

  • Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    I want to visit New Orleans so badly! It just seems like an incredible city. I love your pictures, and that song is absolutely beautiful.

    • It really is an incredible place! I’ve never been anywhere like it. Thanks Jolien, I’m a fledgling photographer but I’m having fun with it! Rhiannon Giddens is amazing, I’m so glad you liked the song.

  • Your pictures make everything look stunning. I miss New Orleans, it’s been two years and that’s way too long. And it’s interesting that you say some of the buildings reminded you have Montreal as they both have the French influence, it’s cool when you see those influences in different places and can see the connection. I may have to plan a trip there some time, I’ve never been to Canada so that would be interesting.

    I remember seeing some of the damage that was still there from Katrina, it’s so upsetting that no one is willing to spend the money needed to restore such a lovely city. The tourist areas are fine, but it’s everywhere else as well.

    All the food looks so good, I was such a fussy eater when I was there (because I am a fussy eater) but even I loved the food. To be fair, though, at least I didn’t have major food restrictions.

    I want to go back, I’m glad you had a good time, though. Everyone needs to have a break and New Orleans is certainly a good place to do it.

    • Aww thanks Becky! My guy gets half the credit though since half of these photos were taken by him. Yeah, I really liked the French vibe of the city because it made me think of one of my fave Canadian places. Montreal is the best! I definitely recommend visiting if you ever end up in Canada.

      It’s unbelievable how much still needs to be done post-Katrina. It seems like once the public eye has moved on, the work slows down to almost a stand-still. Very upsetting.

      I feel like the food is so good in New Orleans that anyone, with any tastes, could enjoy it. I’m glad that you loved it despite your particular tastes! Eating was a highlight of my trip, haha.

      It was the perfect vacation destination for sure. I hope you get the chance to go back someday soon!

  • Your trip sounds great!! Going to New Orleans is on my bucketlist!!!

    • I had an incredible time! New Orleans has topped the list of travel destinations for me, I definitely recommend it!