At the end of June, I had the good fortune to be sent on a work trip to the great city of New Orleans, one of my favorite places in the world. After finishing a work conference, I spent a couple more days relaxing in this iconic American city.
It has been at least a decade since I’d been to NOLA. I had no idea what it would be like after being devastated by two and a half years of the pandemic. But I shouldn’t have worried: this is a city that has been through a lot of $%^& and a global health crisis wasn’t going to stop these hardy folk.
Walking down Frenchmen Street late on a Monday night and seeing it crowded with tourists, bands playing in every bar, artists selling their wares on the street just filled my heart with joy and hope. The Young Fellaz Brass Band was busking on the corner, making exuberant noise for the passersby. I had to dance in the streets, even if no one else was!
I only had a couple of days to wander the city, but I think I did good job considering I was rolling solo on this trip.
The Roots of Music is local afterschool program that teaches young people to play jazz. I got to see their brass band perform at a private event sponsored by Spotify. Being right up in front with a full brass band playing is like no other musical experience. So powerful and inspiring!
At D.B.A. bar I caught the Shotgun Jazz Band led by the incredible Marla Dixon, with this sick trombonist I met the previous night whose name I can’t remember.
I finished off my musical adventures with Kermit Ruffins and band at the Blue Nile. Such a NOLA legend and a character. “I’m SO high right now.”
I enjoyed visiting the New Orleans Jazz Museum, which included a free concert by pianist Kyle Cripps. His rendition of this Stevie Wonder classic was incredible.
You know I was going to eat my way through NOLA.
I will be honest and say I am not a huge beignet fan. That said, Cafe du Monde’s beignets, hot out the fryer are truly glorious. My colleague Angel tipped me off to the Cafe du Monde in City Park, which is just as fancy as the main one, but with no crowds at all.
My favorite beignet was a beignet breakfast sandwich I had in the Warehouse District at my hotel. The beignets were pillowy biscuits sandwiching eggs, bacon and cheese perfectly.
After consulting my local friend Eli and his partner Melissa, I headed to Coop’s Place for their fried chicken. It did not disappoint. Perfectly fried with a unique spice blend that added a lot to the experience.
I had a delicious bowl of etouffee from Olde Nola Cookery on Bourbon Street, followed by a nearly perfect bread pudding with rum sauce. Wow.
Taking the streetcar on the St Charles line through the Garden District is one of the most popular tourist activities, for good reason. It’s the best way to see one of the more gorgeous parts of the city for just $1.25.
While the New Orleans Art Museum didn’t really seem to be my thing, I enjoyed strolling through their delightful sculpture garden. It’s right at the entrance to City Park. So many cool sculptures!
I found this cute little bridge and couldn’t resist doing a little freestyle.
One of the most moving spots to visit was Congo Square, in Louis Armstrong Park. This is where enslaved and free Blacks, Native Americans, and some whites gathered to make music, dance, and trade goods. The roots of so many artforms that we celebrate in America can be traced to this exact spot, from jazz to blues to tap to lindy hop.
Walking through the French Quarter on a quiet morning is breathtaking — you can feel the energy of so many cultures coming together — French, Spanish, Native American, Black.
On my last night, my friend Eli took me a lovely ferry ride from his home in Aurora Gardens to Chalmette. Crossing the Mississippi as the sun went down was the perfect ending to my trip.