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 eating absolutely everything. Here are some highlights:
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.
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.
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. 😉