I know, I know. What kind of young woman am I to experience New Orleans entirely sober? Well, I’ll tell you. I am a woman who went to New Orleans to hang out with my mom.
While volunteering as a tutor with 4th graders on Saturday mornings, my supervisor recommended heading to New Orleans during March–after Mardi Gras but before most of the college spring-breakers. The weather would be warm, but not overbearingly humid & hot, and the flowers would be blooming. I was sold. A trip to New Orleans immediately began forming in the back of my brain. Eventually, as I was updating my parents about my life and ramblings, I mentioned heading to NOLA in March and my frustration with budgets. Luckily, I learned that my mother would be there for a conference. In March. And my budget immediately looked rosier.
How perfect would it be if I got to stay with my mom in New Orleans? I could explore the city while she was networking and exploring the vendor booths, etc. And then, assuming she had energy, we could explore the food. After all, that was a major reason why I was even thinking about going. All those rave reviews, stories and Food Network highlights about New Orleans cuisine were enough to make my brain drool. The flavors of New Orleans are unique, getting the opportunity to explore and taste it all in New Orleans itself…Perfect.
So when March rolled around, off I went to meet my mom. Scheduling ended up working out and instead of wondering the city on my own, I went down after the conference ended and we got to be tourists together. But it wasn’t the food that ended up being the highlight of my trip down to the Crescent City. It was the history that I learned.
My family is big on historical tours, getting to know how a city became what it is today helps us love where we go, to better understand just where we’re walking and just what we’re seeing. And my goodness, does New Orleans have history. We went on a fantastic walking tour of downtown New Orleans with a great tour guide from Historic New Orleans Tours (if your tour guide is Dave, you’re in for a treat!). Learning about the Baroness Pontalba, who married a cousin in Europe and was shot by her father-in-law for her money, was intriguing to say the very least. And how did I not know that cocktails were supposedly invented here?
There is one tip that I’ll give you from this tour. Bourbon Street is all well and good for music and all that. But in the morning, one street over, the musicians who come out and play on the streets really show what New Orleans music is. If you love music, you’ll love walking along Royal Street. It’s organic, exhilarating and inspiring. So I encourage you to take the time to just walk around during the day, stop and soak in some great music. Wiggle a little, let loose and let the rhythm guide you.
Another great tour we went on was to the Laura Plantation (Jasmine was absolutely amazing). It’s a bus ride outside of New Orleans but the history and glimpse into culture that you get is amazing. Also, if you want to learn about strong matriarchs, this plantation can provide at least three. Were they all nice women? No. Were they all strong women? Definitely. As an American, I grew up learning about plantations, the cruelty that occurred on them and the wealth of the owners. It was always framed as a male, black vs. white issue which still impacts life today. But it was different and interesting learning about a Creole plantation where the lines aren’t as stark and the gender roles were flipped. The history of Laura Plantation and its family will definitely highlight the cultural diversity of the area and make you analyze the oversimplification of issues in the US today.
This trip to New Orleans was just what I needed, if not what everyone expected. I learned about some amazing women and the history of an amazingly diverse city. I walked along Bourbon Street during the day and night. And while I can’t say that I wouldn’t have enjoyed an inebriated experience, I can safely say that I loved experiencing the culture and history of the city. Those are the two reasons I love traveling, especially to cities, and New Orleans satisfied my desires perfectly. And the food! Well, that’s for another article.