Post-Katrina, a brand new New Orleans has surfaced. The city’s resurgence has proven to both locals and tourists that it’s unstoppable and relentless; a city full of lovers.
My parents spent their honeymoon in New Orleans just over thirty years ago. They’ve always spoken of its incredible music scene and unique architecture. My dad is a musician, primarily a trumpet player, and I can now understand why he resonated with the music this city produces. It is innovative and fresh, and makes you re-think all those repetitive pop songs that typically clutter North American radio stations.
I had the opportunity to visit Nola last week for the National Automobile Dealers Association convention. I was shown a wonderful time with impeccable Southern hospitality to boot!
Here are seven things I loved about my visit to the Big Easy:
1. The architecture is impossible to describe, but if I were to choose a few words, I’d call it new-age French. It’s reminiscent of Parisian streets, but with brightly-coloured houses scattered throughout the diverse neighbourhoods. You’ll feel as though you’re in Europe and Havana at the same time. How amazing is that?
2. THE FOOD. I could literally write an ENTIRE POST about the food here. To me, New Orleans is the ultimate city of indulgence. It’s a classier and better tasting version of Las Vegas, with such a rich culture and history. Vegas is known to many as Sin City, but if I had to choose, I’d rather sin in New Orleans where the buffets and casinos are limited and the drinks are flowing. Nola’s culinary scene is founded in tradition; jambalaya, po’ boys, shrimp gumbo, beignets, and KING CAKES (oh my!). I had my fair share of calorie-packed meals, but my favourite restaurants were:
a) Cochon (anyone who’s ever visited Nola will tell you to go here!)
b) Cochon Butcher (it’s an outpost of Cochon, with takeaway sandwiches, mac and cheese, and local beers) – I actually ate here twice as it was RIGHT across from the convention centre.
c) Café du Monde. Everyone will tell you to go here. Listen to them, forget about your diet, it’s winter! Have a café au lait with chicory and three beignets covered in icing sugar.
d) Merchant – order a latté and a crêpe, and stay for the ambience and Italian decor.
3. The music scene is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. We had the opportunity to listen to many talented musicians at the convention and the various parties we attended, but perhaps the best music was heard right on the street.
4. This city knows how to party. Pubcrawls are mandatory since drinking on the streets is legal and encouraged. The streets are filled with locals and tourists throughout the year, and a balcony is the perfect spot to watch the world go by with a daiquri or mojito in hand. The city amps it up during Mardi Gras, but if you’re from anywhere else, it feels like Mardi Gras year-round. Spend one night partying on Bourbon Street, sampling all the cocktails you can stomach.
Ask the bartender to make their best or favourite drink – it won’t disappoint!
The drinks are strong, and come in various sizes of to-go cups.
If you’ve had a long day, don’t despair. Every bartender in Nola is an expert mixologist. They take alcohol very seriously! Tell them your favourite flavours and what kind of booze you like, they’ll make you something like this:
5. An unbeatable tourism industry. Stephanie and I managed to get stranded in New Orleans for two and a half extra days. This meant we had time to hop on a bus tour that began with the guide talking about the drive-thru Daiquiri stops in the city. We visited the city cemeteries that are built on top of the ground instead of underneath. We were also shown low-income neighbourhoods where the damage from Hurricane Katrina (2008) still hasn’t been fixed. The tour depicted a side of the city that many tourists don’t see.
Despite their hardships, the residents of Nola exhibit a spirit unlike any other population. Several rundown houses had been given new paint jobs with other, more expensive repairs taking place. Our guide described to us a thoughtful group of kids who helped fix up a desolate old house, unexpectedly painting it the favourite colour of its inhabitant.
6. NADA. We’ve been going to the conventions put on by National Automobile Dealers Association for as long as I can remember. They are held yearly in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Orlando, and San Francisco. While I remember the last convention I attended in Orlando, I admittedly wasn’t as engaged as I could have been. I took a lot away from the convention this year, especially in terms of internet marketing, which I found extremely relevant to my career. I also enjoyed the lifestyle centre where we relaxed, got our hair, makeup, and nails done, and watched a Saks Fifth Avenue Fashion Show. The keynote speakers were the highlight of the weekend. Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton spoke as did Steve Forbes and J.R. Martinez. I was especially impressed with Hillary.
7. The NADA after parties were incredible. They always put on a great show, with music, food, and entertainment. I was especially impressed with the Dealer Tracks party, which was hosted at the World War II Museum.