I don’t know how to begin to explain quite how much I love New Orleans. It’s gotten under my skin in a way no other city ever has. Of all the magical, exciting, beautiful, wonderful places I’ve visited in the world, my heart belongs to NOLA. If America would only provide more reasonable annual leave entitlement…I’d move there tomorrow! As it is, I’ll have to settle for regular visits every few years. This was my third, and probably my favourite so far. The sun shone, pretty much relentlessly, for the whole trip (bar a short-lived thunderstorm early one morning) and the city popped with colour. Wandering around the streets, listening to the trills of jazz, blues, zydeco and gospel emanating from open doorways, you can’t help but have a smile on your face. And snap away on your camera every few steps. It is just the most photogenic place.
We stayed, as always, in the delightfully laid-back neighbourhood (faubourg) of Marigny. Once a Creole plantation, the area became the second historic zoned area of the city after the Vieux Carre (French Quarter). It’s full of Classical Revival and Creole houses, rocking chairs swaying gently on their front porches; flags proudly displaying the fleur-de-lis (the symbol of post-Katrina pride in the city); Mardi Gras beads hanging from pretty much every railing and tree branch; and enough cute coffee shops, bars, and restaurants to shake a stick at.
Particular culinary delights in the area include: the okra with bagna cauda at Bywater American Bistro (BAB); the short rib steak at The Franklin; the smoked catfish dip at Bacchanal; and the lump crab eggs benedict at Paladar 511. The gumbo ya-ya at St. Roch’s Market was ok too, though not the best version we had on the trip (see Part 2 for that recommendation). Incidentally, I know there’s dispute over the name of this staple of the New Orleans diet – gumbo ya-ya meaning “everyone talks at once” and referring to a loud community or political gathering. But given that’s the term used on many respected restaurants’ menus, I ain’t gonna argue. In terms of where to drink, the handsome courtyard at The Elysian Bar is a great place for cocktails and their wine list is curated by the people at Bacchanal, itself boasting the best outdoor seating in the city…with live music every night and the best festoon lighting action around.
Further out of our ‘hood, we explored Algiers for the first time – the only ward of New Orleans located on the west bank of the Mississippi. It’s a very short boat ride from the bottom of Canal Street, aboard one of the country’s oldest ferry lines, and is well worth a visit. Wandering around the cute parish, you begin to think you’re on a film set. Everything is pristine and peaceful, and the mishmash of bright homes, small wooden churches, art-deco theatres, and quirky dive bars is beguiling. We ambled round, stopping in the friendly One Stone cafe for a spot of lunch and delicious cinnamon morning bun, trying to decide if Algiers had taken the crown from Marigny (conclusion: no…but it was a close call!).
I’ll stop there for now, and cover some other highlights in Part 2. Here’s a (severely edited – honest!) first selection of photos from the trip…starting with a picture of the house on Mandeville Street in which we stayed.
Credit: Street Art of girl on trail track – Chris Adnitt