New Orleans is known for its gumbo, jazz and Bourbon Street – and boy, did it deliver. My weekend in the “Big Easy” was full of food and dancing just as I had expected it to be.
We stayed at India House Hostel for the weekend. It is one of the most fun hostels I’ve stayed at. The property was made up of a main house with a living room and kitchen area while the property contained a collection of mini dorms. The dorms where air-conditioned and the beds and bathrooms where in good condition The real kicker was the backyard that also featured a pool! We spent most of our nights on the picnic benches striking up conversations with which ever traveller was willing to drink or play cards with us.
New Orleans is separated into a few different neighborhoods. Since we were only there for a weekend, we prioritized the ones we thought would be most interesting after our research. Following our tradition of planning using google docs as mission control, we devised a strategic itinerary to make sure we could maximize our time. The day of our arrival we walked around the area our hostel was in and got a drink at a nearby bar. We were mostly passing the time waiting for nightfall so we could head on our first adventure – Frenchman Street. Through all our research and asking locals in our first couple hours, everyone said Frenchman Street was the place to be to listen to real jazz music and avoid the debauchery of Bourbon. We danced the night away at The Spotted Cat and Blue Nile; some songs we danced with the locals and some songs we danced with the group of foreigners we met back at the hostel.
Day 2 was all about the French Quarter. Located right on the banks of this Mississippi, this neighborhood is home to the iconic iron lattice balconies and even more infamous Bourbon Street. We refilled our to-go cups with mimosas and set off to pick up muffulettas at Central Grocer. We found some benches at Woldenberg Park overlooking the river to eat our sandwiches before heading to Jackson Square.
Jackson Square is in the heart of the French Quarter. The staple attraction there is the St. Louis Cathedral. You can walk around the square and enjoy the great people watching. Many walking tours of the neighborhood start here. Our exploration of the French Quarter included visiting William Faulkner’s house (now a book store), the carousel bar (it actually moves) in Hotel Monteleone, tasting Bourbon Street’s famous “grenades,” visiting the self-proclaimed oldest bar in the US Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, and enjoying all of the buskers around every corner.
The following day we explored the Garden District – known for its mansions, cemeteries and tradition. We started at Lafayette Cemetery #1. This was my first time ever walking among mausoleums. Some of the stones dated back before 1900. From there we wandered around the massive and beautiful mansions that looked like they could all be movie sets.
Our last day was the longest day of them all. We woke up early to go to a gospel brunch at the House of Blues. I was dead tired. We had spent the night before drinking into the wee hours of the morning and doing the classic Bourbon Street scene (I’ll spare you the pictures). Brunch was able to revive me – it might have been the singing, it might have been the Bloody Mary’s but afterward I was ready to make the last day the best. We took the ferry across the Mississippi, exclusively to say we’d crossed it (believe it or not, this was the farthest I’d gone east in my life at the time). We got drink on the other side in an area called Algiers Point. We walked down Bourbon Street where we met a group of friendly Canadians who invited us for drinks on their balcony. We finally made it onto one of the famous Bourbon Street balconies and I could not have been more stoked.
Overall, New Orleans was an absolutely amazing city. The food was incredible, the architecture was beautiful, the music was some of the best I’ve ever heard, and we met so many people that are we are still friends with to this day. I actually met someone from New York at the hostel who I still catch up with every once in a while now that I live here. If you’re lucky enough to get to visit this city, make sure you allow yourself to experience everything it has to offer including Bourbon Street and beyond.