The Big Easy, A Different Local Flavor
After months spent hiding away, I found myself thinking, what better way to get back into the swing of things then by finding a way to reconnect with why “local” is so important here and everywhere. Still struggling to get myself out of the house, and out and about in Snohomish County, I decided a getaway was in order. Somewhere I couldn’t possibly hide out.
With that in mind, The SnoCo Kid and I hopped on a flight and took off for a city that overflows with local flavor, New Orleans. While there we took in the culture and architecture, dabbled in history, strolled down Bourbon Street, took a walk on the dark side in a voodoo museum and an above ground cemetery, and even played with some gators. That’s right, gators!
Overall the trip was one to remember, and one we would like to take again in the future. We barely scratched the surface of all the city had to offer in our few short days there, not to mention the areas surrounding it. I would definitely like to tour a plantation house. New Orleans is beyond unique and an amazing place to visit. It has a local flavor unlike anywhere else, one that is fiercely protected, and that reminds you of just how important local shopping, eating, drinking and playing is at home. Not to mention the fact that the people there are the nicest and most polite you will find anywhere. The city and its people are an inspiration and what all cities will be. Happy to say the trip had its intended purpose, allowing me to rediscover why it is I do what I do and why it is so important.
Find out all about it, and catch all the photos, below!
Architecture, Old & New
One of the coolest things about New Orleans is its architecture. It’s businesses, homes, and everything in between, are unique from anything you will find anywhere else, and that doesn’t just apply to things built in the past.
You see, in New Orleans, new homes and businesses are required to be built in a style that matches the neighborhood/district they are located in. This is something that maintains not only the uniqueness of the city, but its culture and primarily local focus as well (it’s not easy building a McDonalds there). Don’t start thinking that means everything looks the same though, far from it. Each building and each home, while sharing similar architectural features, is completely different from the next. It’s literally impossible to take it all in.
While touring the French Quarter and the Garden District, we were treated to some seriously old and cool structures. We got to see homes of the rich and famous, the home Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride is based on, and even a well known haunted house. Architecture aside though, one of the coolest things we found while making our way throughout the city was the presence of gas burning lanterns in place of your typical outdoor lighting. They give an old school vibe to everything. It’s like traveling back and time, and maybe a bit of a creepy as well. The city is well known for its haunts after all.
I’m not going to lie, the above ground cemeteries of New Orleans are one of the biggest reasons I wanted to visit the city. I’ve seen them time and again and TV and in movies, and there is just nothing like them. Just like the cities structures, each mini mausoleum type building is unique, not to mention really old.
The look and feel of each cemetery is cool, in and of itself, but after our trip, we discovered that isn’t the coolest thing about them. Most outside of the area are under the impression that the city’s cemeteries are built above ground because the city is below sea level. While that is part of the reason, it’s not the only one. They are also above ground to allow those mini mausoleums to be used more than once by the same family or group.
If you are scratching your head, wondering how multiple coffins and dead folks can fit in the mini structures, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. This is where things get really cool. Those who pass are entombed in the structures in basic wooden boxes. Due to the high temperatures during the summer months, and the structures being built out of brick, the inside of them literally turns into an oven and incinerates the boxes and those held inside. The next time someone needs to be buried inside, the structures are opened up, ashes and bones pushed aside, and they are placed in their new resting place.
If you think this is odd, hold on, I’m not done with the cool and strange yet. For those not fortunate enough to have a family tomb or well enough off to afford one, they can rent a square (yes I said rent) along a cemetery wall. Once incinerated, their ash and bones are removed and placed in a small familial plot or a community one (I’d hate to see the possible haunting that could go on around one of those).
New Orleans cemeteries bring a whole new meaning to the idea of stacked plots. In fact, most of the small above ground cemeteries located within the busiest parts of the city are home to more remains then there are square feet to the cemetery they are found in. That’s a lot of dead people, glad I can’t see them.
History, History & More History
I’m not huge on checking out museums, so I’m not entirely sure about this, but I’m pretty sure New Orleans has more museums than any other city, There are over ten, ranging from art and general history to wars, jazz, and even Mardi Gras. I’m thinking the home is also home to the largest number of statues as well. You can literally find one as often as you’ll find a Starbucks here.
A must visit before we even touched down in the city, was the small but intriguing Voodoo Museum. which of course featured all things voodoo, not to mention Rougarou’s (a werewolf, vampire, zombie mix), and straight up zombies (yes, zombies).
We didn’t spend a lot of time in the other museums, but, honestly, if you are looking to take in the city’s history, you don’t really need to. That’s because it is all around you in the structures, statutes, cemeteries, and public spaces.
Shopping, Eating & Playing Local
The most impressive thing about New Orleans, in my eyes anyway, is the fact that everywhere you turn all you find is local. We probably saw less than a handful of chain restaurants and shops while strolling the French Quarter and Garden District. If I wasn’t already in love with the city before we decided to go there, I definitely was before we left.
When it comes to shopping, souvenir shops aside, there is an abundance of locally own shops and boutiques, as well as makers and artists. The French Quarter and Magazine Street in the Garden District are full of them. While there we took the time to explore and shop the French Market which is a year round open air farmers and flea market, as well as the artists at work around Jackson Square.
And don’t even get me started on local food. I’ve never seen so many restaurants, local or otherwise, in one city. Okay, maybe Las Vegas, but that is different. While most of the local fare is Seafood inspired, something I’m not all that into, we made time to check out other options. New Orleans based Sucre has the most amazing macaroons and desserts, Red Truck Clubhouse had beautiful murals and atmosphere, not to mention some of the best pizza I have ever had, and we couldn’t leave without breakfast from The Ruby Slipper, one of the first local establishments to get back up and running after Hurricane Katrina. More importantly, we made the a stop to the famous Cafe du Monde, home to delicious and messy Beignets.
We didn’t have nearly enough time to explore all there was to shop and eat. Our stroll down Bourbon Street was also pretty light, thanks to kids being in tow. Both reasons to come back and spend more time in the city sometime in the future.
We couldn’t possibly leave New Orleans or Louisiana without having a bayou adventure and wrestling us some gators (okay, maybe just seeing some and holding a tiny and tamed one).
Seeing gators up close in their natural habitat is definitely an experience, a bit nerve wracking of one at that. Luckily are winter visit meant they were a bit on the smaller size and somewhat slower and lazier than expected. The highlight of our gator experience had to be holding a little guy for ourselves. Their bellies are the weirdest thing you will ever feel.
Gators weren’t the only thing we got to see. We also stumbled about all kinds of birds, turtles, nutria, and even an armadillo (he unfortunately wasn’t into being photographed). I didn’t even know they had armadillo’s in Louisiana.
Animals aside, my favorite part of our little swap tour had to be the swamp itself. Although, I don’t know how you can really call it that. It is nothing like what comes to mind when you think of the word swamp. Bayou is definitely a better name, because, though the water is a bit murky, the trees, hanging moss, and other plant life are absolutely beautiful, not to mention peaceful.
I could definitely see myself living on the shores of one, might even top my dreams of becoming a farm gal.
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