Last month I took a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. My husband was privileged to be speaking at one of the biggest cancer conferences in the world, the American Association for Cancer Research, hosted in New Orleans this year, and I tagged along for the ride. This was our first trip away together since we got married and so it was a special one for us.
Whilst 20,000 conference delegates from around the world descended on New Orleans, I vacationed it up, enjoying the long walks, the historic architecture, the scrumptious food and cocktails, the quirky shops, the music and the bonhomie of NOLA’s lovely residents. If cities were soulmates, then New Orleans would be mine without a doubt. This city is so vibrant, beautiful and sultry, with a rich history and cultural tradition, and despite the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina it has managed to pick itself up and march on ahead. The positivity and generosity of the place was so infectious that I came away happier. Truly!
After a 10-hour flight, with a quick stop off in Atlanta, we were exhausted but happy to be checked in to the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street, bordering the famous (and infamous!) French Quarter. The long day of travelling (and some cocktails! I was on holiday after all!) took its toll on me, and all I was craving a comfy bed and a cup of tea!
The first few days we were so jetlagged (New Orleans is 6 hours behind London during Daylight Saving Time) so after a non-existent night’s sleep, we headed out to the super-popular Ruby Slipper Café at 200 Magazine Street for a good breakfast pick-me-up. And it did just that! They do great Eggs Benedict in various configurations so I got the one with beef plus a delicious Bloody Mary. Head there early as it is only open for breakfast and brunch.
The other great NOLA go-to for breakfast and brunch is Daisy Dukes on 121 Chartres Street, a guilty pleasure of mine. On one early morning (6.30 am to be precise!), we headed out to this 24/7 café, where I shamelessly took full advantage of the unlimited refills of Bloody Mary cocktails. By 7.30 am I was on my third cocktail and they even gave me a cup ‘to go’! Nowhere else in the world could this happen, but it felt so right here! The omelettes were heaven, too.
Aside from scrummy brunches and Bloody Mary cocktails, we visited the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. This wonderful museum, housed in the old US Customs Building, has a great collection of live and preserved specimens of a variety of insects. My favourite bit was the walk through the humid Butterfly Gardens, where tropical butterflies flitter from leaf to leaf and butterflies can be seen hatching from pupae.
When my husband was at conference I took the opportunity to take a long, long walk down Magazine Street, the location of many wonderful independent boutiques, art shops and antiques shops. It is a shopper’s heaven. Vintage clothing is really big here, and there were so many boutiques selling exquisite vintage designer pieces as well as retro-inspired clothing. If I could, I would have bought the contents of the shops Century Girl Vintage and Trashy Diva combined! Grandmother’s Buttons also caught my eye – I really coveted their beautiful antique button necklaces.
There were also lots of lovely gift shops, including the treasure trove of Sterling Silvia, a magpie’s haven for sterling silver jewellery and Peony New Orleans, for beautiful gifts and soft, floaty clothing. There are lots of art and antique shops on Magazine Street, selling local artists’ works. Derby Pottery & Tile make beautiful New Orleans-inspired pieces in aqua colours, such as the Water Meter Clocks.
For music lovers, there’s the epic Peaches Records, where the shop assistants were ever so friendly and even offered me a free root beer to drink whilst I browsed at leisure. It was perhaps one of my favourite moments of the whole trip – the warm buzz of root beer, riffling through a vast record collection, and good cheer.
This good atmosphere extended to the whole of Magazine Street, where every shopkeeper exuded warmth and took the time to chat to me for ages, without once pushing me to buy anything. Of course, it worked because I bought a hell of a lot that day!
Magazine street is very long, as I think I’ve emphasized already, about six miles in total, and interspersed between the stretches of shops are residential streets, of unique wooden-panelled French-influenced architecture and bright colours.
I’m going to take a breather here – I have so much more to tell you about the fantastic French Quarter, including a NOLA food tour and the jazz clubs of Frenchmen Street in my next post, plus the big shopping haul from my Magazine Street trip!