My trip to the Crescent City – Part 2

New Orleans is heaven for foodies.  The cuisine is a melting pot of French, Spanish, African, Creole and Cajun influences so there’s plenty of spice and richness.  So what better way to experience traditional cuisine than to embark on a food tour?

We booked our food tour with Destination Kitchen and opted for the 6-hour walking tour, the NOLA Foodie for “A” Day.  With our lovely friends from Atlanta, who came to see us specially, our guide Mary Eshenour led us through the sights of the historic French Quarter, providing an educational and culinary commentary.  Along the way we stopped off at various points for little bites to eat.  Some of my faves include eating a delicious Italian sandwich called a ‘muffuletta’ in the French Market, and settling down to a bowl of home-cooked gumbo at the New Orleans School of Cooking as well as enjoying the delights of a refreshing Pimm’s cup.

We dined at some remarkable places in between, such as Restaurant R’evolution, Cafe Amelie for its fantastic ambience, and Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar for spicy oysters.

The legendary French Quarter is worth a big mention for its historic architecture, party atmosphere and jazz bars.   Swamped with vibrant local art and talented street musicians, its not uncommon to pick up the party buzz with a cocktail in your hand as you walk the streets, bar-hopping and browsing eclectic boutiques.  There’s the French Market for scrummy eats and bric-a-brac souvenirs, and the neighbouring Cafe du Monde for sugary beignets.

We headed to the infamous Bourbon Street within the French Quarter.  Love it or hate it, you can’t miss the 24/7 party here, with its bars, neon lights and sleaze.  We enjoyed a snack of breaded shrimp and fries with a tasty cocktail at the Desire Oyster Bar on Bourbon Street.

You can’t visit New Orleans without heading to a jazz bar.   Frenchmen Street is where its at, musically, and so we got our fill at Rare Form.   When we got hungry and headed to Dat Dog for hot dogs Jazz in Frenchmen Street, we were treated to a real blast of a brass street band, who literally blew us away with their bravado and force.

Our final stopping point of the trip was a visit to the famous New Orleans Cemeteries, distinguished by their above-ground crypts and mausoleums (to solve the problems of burial on swampy land).

 

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My trip to the Crescent City – Part 1

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!

 

My Easter Weekend Update

Hi folks! Hope you’ve all had a great Easter weekend amid all the stormy weather and managed to get in some lovely choccies and quality time with friends and family.  Mine has been really hectic, hence why I haven’t had a chance to write anything until now.

The big event of the weekend was my cousin’s wedding on Saturday, held at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel at Heathrow Airport.  It was a blast.  Plenty of food, drinks and dancing, and catching up with relatives and friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.  The civil ceremony was lovely, with poignant literary references and readings, cheesy Vitamin String quartet arrangements of rock songs and pretty-in-pink floral arrangements.   The drinks reception was held in the tropically themed Sky Garden, a central courtyard with palm fronds and a swimming pool, and the Indian wedding breakfast was held in the International Suite.  We stayed over at the hotel so all we had to do was crawl into bed after a heavy night at the open bar!

Here are some snaps of me in my wedding outfit, a lotus-themed Kanchipuram silk sari from Aishvarya Sarees, plus my accessories, all in tones of blue.

In between all this my husband and I had our lovely friends over for an Easter meal.  We opted for tradition with a feast of roast leg of lamb and veggies, which my husband had proudly prepared, and a creamy tiramisu that I’d made following a recipe from BBC Good Food.

I also got a hair cut – this happens once in a blue moon so it was much needed!  I have very, very thick hair, so I don’t normally trust many people with it as it is a challenge to deal with. My regular salon is the Japanese-run Malishi near London Bridge who always do a fantastic job because they know how to work with my hair type.  Unfortunately they were booked out this time round, and I didn’t really fancy the trek across London, so I booked in with Scruffs in Cambridge.  I was quite nervous about trying out a new place and I didn’t know what to expect.  However I had a luxurious experience at Scruffs from the moment I arrived to the moment I left.  From my much-needed cup of tea to my head massage, and the great job that my stylist did, I couldn’t have asked for more.  I had a conditioning treatment during my hair wash which has left my hair looking and feeling glossier and healthier.  Plus they throw in a loyalty scheme for regular customers with points that add up to discounts, so I’ll definitely be booking with them again!

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My new haircut!

Last but not least, to round off this rather random and disjointed post, I took some pics of Easter and Spring-themed shop window displays around Cambridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Valentine’s Day

By my own admission I am not the world’s most romantic person, nor do I particularly like to build up Valentine’s day as a huge event, as I believe that one should show one’s love for their loved one every day of the year, and so on and so forth… However, I’m going to be a massive hypocrite and write about how I spent my Valentine’s Day this year.

For those of you who don’t know (and I suspect that is most people here) I got married last October to my boyfriend of nine years, and this Valentine’s is my first one as a married lady.  We’ve always treated Valentine’s Day as a low-key thing without too much emotion invested in it, and the various things we’ve done are exchanging small gifts, cooking for each other and going out for dinner.

This year, I gave my husband a lovely teal sweater by Kin by John Lewis and this cute ice-cream shaped chocolate.  He gave me a beautiful orchid from Waitrose and a box of strawberry truffles from Charbonnel et Walker.

As hubby was off by train to a conference in Newcastle late on Valentine’s Day, we decided to go for a relaxed drink first at the railway-styled GNH bar at King’s Cross Station.  I love coming here because of its vintage mirrored opulence and evocations of a more glorious era of train travel.  Plus the cocktails are to die for.  I had the deliciously sweet and sour Mr Cubitt whilst hubby went for a more classic Bloody Mary.

Onwards to Spanish tapas place Camino, @ 3 Varnishers Yard, just a short walk from King’s Cross Station.  The choice of dishes was staggering! Aided with a refreshing Cava Royale and soft bread, we finally managed to make our choices.  Everything we had, from cheese fritters to chicken skewers to squid ink rice with cuttlefish, was absolutely delicious and we were full at the end!  I’m afraid I’ve only managed to take pics at the end of the meal, as I was way too hungry to wait!