Down In New Orleans
New Orleans—the city of vibrant music, spicy cuisine, and people celebrating life!
My recent trip to The Big Easy was a wonderful experience that brought together great friends, great music, and great food. We stayed at the Ritz Carlton in the heart of the French Quarter, where we were met with authentic New Orleans gumbo. New Orleans is a melting pot of French, Creole, African, and American cultures and cuisines. I had some expectations going in—mostly for good food and music—though not all of them were met (scroll down to read why). Still, I was enchanted by the city— its rich history, the music playing everywhere day and night and of the warmth of people who truly seemed happy.
New Orleans has so much to offer visitors and most places are accessible by foot or street car. Walking the streets of the French Quarter and Garden District is a wonderful way to soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of city. Colorful flowers and beads decorating buildings, musicians on street corners strumming their guitar as they sing, music spilling out the windows of jazz bars, and Cajun spices filling each restaurant. One fun way to sightsee while learning about local history is taking a Carriage Tour, which I highly recommend. There’s so much history in New Orleans and sitting in a horse-drawn carriage while admiring the cast-iron balconies of the French Quarter is a great way to learn about how the city evolved as well as its rich heritage. What stood out to me particularly was the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. It is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. Its location overlooking the square and waterfront is a breathtaking sight, but just standing in front of this historic place of worship made me feel like I was somewhere special, somewhere important.
I was enchanted by the city— its rich history, the music playing everywhere day and night and of the warmth of people who truly seemed happy.
Another glimpse of New Orleans is by the St. Charles Street Car, which is an affordable way to connect you to the Garden District. This is a charming neighborhood filled with lavish homes and rich greenery of its oak trees. The Garden District is home to many celebrities and filled with boutique shops, elegant restaurants, and cute cafes. While in the Garden District my friends and I visited Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. I had no idea of how people were buried there or the ceremonies involved, and the tour was very enlightening—it was definitely worth it! Fun fact: The tombs are above ground because of heavy rainfall and are mostly all family tombs. That means each tomb is the final resting place for not only the recently deceased, but likely an entire lineage of that family.
We also took a Bayou Tour and visited a plantation—two unforgettable experiences. The Bayou Tour was surprisingly beautiful and scenic. Water lilies, frogs, birds, Cypress trees and Spanish moss were all around as our speed boat coasted through the swamp. We also got to see some alligators up-close! While our tour guide fed one alligator I was right next to him, looking directly at the gator. My friends panicked as I leaned forward off the boat—but I was so caught up in that moment, feeling fearless I stretching my arms forward to capture the moment with my phone camera.
The Oak Alley Plantation tour was amazing to behold. In our tour we visited the slave quarters, where the slave stories were told as if they were living in the present and we learned about the importance of sugar for the plantation. My favorite part was the entrance—the tall oak trees lining the path, the branches cascading above as they intertwine and the bright green leaves woven together! Every tree was named and absolutely breathtaking to see.
Unfortunately, I had some disappointments on the trip. I was looking forward to the beignets at the original Cafe Du Monde, my hopes were high for the savory dessert New Orleans is famous for. The café did not meet my expectations—the beignet was doughy, flavorless and covered in powdered sugar; the café selection was limited to beignets and coffee so the experience was less than satisfying. Luckily however, our hotel had the most delicious, fluffy, hollow beignets served with a side of flavorful sauces—I highly recommend tasting these! I also recommend dining at Doris Metropolitan for delicious aged meats and sweet bread as well as Pêche Seafood Grill for crab claws and oysters galore.
A trip to The Big Easy is well worth it—enjoy the jazz clubs, walk the French Quarter, tour the cemeteries, visit the National WWII Museum, walk the waterfront along the Mississippi River, and eat crawfish and alligator tail. Most of all, enjoy the heart of the people and the life of the city!
Shushan Darzian is the founder and owner of Ladybugs Catering & Events. Her passion for food, presentation and exquisite detail drive her mission to provide outstanding service for her clients. As a former educator, she is committed to life-longing learning and loves to travel. She resides in Southern California with her husband and two sons.