72 Hours in New Orleans

When OCD hits the road, she looks a bit like this. Big Easy, here we come!
OCD may travel, but she never takes a holiday.

Technically I'm in The Big Easy for a week, but the fun bit before I switched gears into attending a work conference was three days and some change. My younger brother lives here, working as a History teacher in the KIPP charter school system after two years with Teach for America. The great part about having a friend living in the city you're visiting is your adventures aren't limited to the downtown core that you explore on foot. Ryan and I cooked up a few adventures that the average tourista in New Orleans would never have experienced.

Brunch at Jimmy J's Cafe. Also, brunching on a Friday? Luxury of travel. #nola
He took me to his favorite all-day breakfast joint, Jimmy J's Cafe.

While at dinner the first night I was here, we flipped through the local indie weekly. We found two festivals that sounded adventurous and took us out of the city. One night we traveled an hour away to Luling, Louisiana to check out the 35th Annual Alligator Festival. Thirty-five years celebrating alligators. Let that sink in for a minute. Oh, The South, you're adorable. There was an ironic lack of alligators in attendance at the festival, which was disappointing. There were, however, plenty of alligators on the food vendor menus.

Ohhhh, the randomness of The South. #nola
America is the great cultural melting pot, right?

Since we were in rural swampland Louisiana (no seriously, we drove straight through a swamp to get to Luling), the food was authentic and fascinating. I've been to the south many many times, but I felt like an anthropologist reading the menu: Alligator burgers, alligator sausage poboy, shrimp poboy, fried (un-named) fish poboy, alligator sausage on a stick, jambalaya, bbq pulled pork, crab cakes, beans and rice, bread pudding, crawfish pasta, chicken and andouille gumbo, hot boiled turkey necks, crab boudin balls with creole mustard, bbq ribs, sweet potato cookies, praline cupcakes, and you get the idea.

A blur of Americana at the 35th Annual Alligator Festival in Luling, Louisiana. #nola
Small town festivals are a blur of Americana and thick accents.

The website promised "HAND CRAFTED merchandise with Alligator images. Massproduced items, including T-Shirts and posters, will not be allowed for sale. We hope to provide the festival attendees with high quality alligator-related souvenirs." My hopes were high. Low-quality alligator-related souvenirs are the worst. Alas, 85% of the "craft" vendor booths were filled with random Made In China bric-a-brac. Oh well. The organic soap maker, you know there's one at every festival market, was legit. Also, this guy was really the only artist (pictured below). He'll paint a custom piece for anyone who asks, just name the animal you'd like hanging on your dining room wall.

Bayou folk art. Custom. Because seafood. #nola
Seafood art on reclaimed swamp wood. Because Louisiana.

The next night we drove nearly 90 minutes outside New Orleans to the town of Houma, Louisiana (which we insisted on calling "hummus" with a hard H, naturally). Houma is home to a two-day music festival called The Best of the Bayou. When I realized Better Than Ezra (from Baton Rouge, local boys made good) was headlining I was 15 all over again and rocking out to "Good" on my Discman. I've seen them a few times in Salt Lake City over the years of touring, I still own all their cds, still know every word, and still think Kevin Griffin is pure sex. It was an awesome show. They played two full hours for a happily sweaty crowd packed into the humid Houma Main Street. For free!!

I loved you then. I love you now. Marry me.

The next night we indulged in the quintessential, cliche-for-good-reason, New Orleans evening: Dinner and jazz on Frenchman Street. We ate at my brother's favorite restaurant Marigny Brasserie, a place we visit every time I'm here, and then wandered until we heard jazz. That's one thing I love about the French Quarter, you're guaranteed no less than 20 musical options in a 10 block radius. Just keep walking and stop when it interests you. We ended up at Maison and really enjoyed the set.

Jaaaaaazzzzz, man. #nola
Hardworking local musicians passed the tip jar and said goodnight after a two hour set.

Assorted wanderings and memories written with light...

I've said it before and I'll say it again...There are only two types of people in this world: Bourbon Street personalities and Magazine Street personalities. #nola
Two kinds of people in this world: Bourbon Streeters and Magazine Streeters. Period. 

Dinner with a view. #nola
Dining in the Quarter...there's nothing quite like those floor-to-ceiling window/doors. Distinct and stunning.

I had a great time adventuring around Southern Louisiana with Ryan and his tan line...but it's time for me to get to work.

The Roosevelt, now a Waldorf Astoria property, was built adjacent to the French Quarter in 1893 and has been in continuous operation since that time. I mean, it'll do for a work conference, I guess.
My home / office at the moment. The Roosevelt, now a Waldorf Astoria property, was built adjacent to the French Quarter in 1893. It's alright, I guess. I mean, it's no airport Marriott.

More exploring. More architecture. More foodie adventures. More Big Easy goodness over the next three days. Perhaps another blog post, perhaps not. I leave for Europe (writing a Live Voyage Report for Avid Cruiser as I cruise the Mediterranean) two days after I arrive home in Salt Lake City. Join me! Follow my new adventures on the Avid Cruiser website, or always on Instagram and Twitter in real time. 

Love and lagniappes, 

Coming Soon: Mediterranean posts + photos

Living the Dream: Holland America Press Trip to the Mediterranean