My Solo Trip to New Orleans!
Nature inspires me. And National Parks are my go-to places to get in touch with myself, rejuvenate and feel alive. But then, occasionally, some cities tug at my heart. Cities that inspire, bring joy, and so full of zest that they rub off on you. And today, I want to talk about one such city - it is none other than New Orleans!!
New Orleans has a very special place in my heart. It is the city where I fell in love with music and art. There is no place else in the United States that I know of, that embraces these in their purest form like New Orleans does. You can feel the music in its air, there is art everywhere with creativity expressed in a multitude of ways with such joy and pleasure that is unique to that place. The place is so lively and yet so reachable; it touches my heart and inspires me every time I visit. It's vibrant and pulsating energy is so contagious that it brings me back to life. To me, it is a place like no other.
I always cherished travel not only because it has allowed me to find myself but it also helped strengthen the relationship with my husband through all the adventures we have done together. I love traveling with my husband to National Parks and remote places but when it comes to cities, I love my solo trips. I love reading books in coffee shops, morning solo walks, and biking in the narrow alleys and parks. I have done and thoroughly enjoyed my solo trips to New York City, Washington DC and San Francisco so far. I went to New Orleans for my 35th birthday with my husband and fell in love with it. I knew I wanted to go again, at least twice - once by myself and once with my bestie.
So, I was super excited to get an unexpected break between jobs this January (due to visa delays) and jumped on the opportunity to plan a solo trip to New Orleans, Miami and Key West. More on Miami and Key West in a separate blog; this one's all about New Orleans :)
I reached New Orleans on a Thursday evening and spent 3 nights and 2 days in an Airbnb in Marigny, which is at a very convenient walking distance to everywhere I wanted to get to. My plan was simple - to explore French Quarters more. In other words, I had no plan - I just wanted to go where my heart takes me, just be present and absorb the sights, sounds and flavors of the city :) Even though I had no specific plan, there is one place I wanted to go as soon as I landed. New Orleans is well known for its flavorful food and while I would not describe myself as a foodie by any means, I could never forget the lamb ribs I had at Coop's place on my first trip. It is an unpretentious little place that serves only adults (they are serious about their food:)) but their lamb ribs are so delicious that I had them for dinner 2 days in a row on this trip too. When it comes to food, savoring their succulent lamb ribs is as close as it gets to a beautiful kiss for me. And I think I even closed my eyes while eating ;)
After dinner, I came across this interesting store called 'Wandering Wizard Wares' that sells "custom leather and curiosities," and ended up buying a leather diary from them for $50. I saw this diary being sold for $25 in the French Market the next day. Oh well, the store name was worth the extra $25 for me, I told myself :) I then walked into a voodoo store and learned a bit about the afro-Caribbean religion that believes that everything has a spirit or ashe. I always knew this about the spirit, just didn't think anyone would believe me :)
The next morning I walked all along the Royal street to Jackson Square, admiring the French balconies and the cute flower pots hanging from them. Oh, how I love balconies! I loved the empty streets and the quiet long walk in the morning. I then stopped at my favorite coffee shop, Cafe Beignet - how can I skip that!
After refueling myself with some hot and fresh beignets, I began exploring the art scene in the French Quarters. It wasn't something that I planned but when I walked into Greg Creason's gallery by chance, it blew me away the minute I stepped in. His exquisite use of glasswork intertwined with his art brought the images to life for me. All his paintings were embellished by hand blown glass and were so playful, fun and colorful. They felt very interactive and communicative. What else would an artist want than to express eloquently and touch the hearts of his audience! He also transformed the very meaning of art in my heart, from thinking about it as a serious piece to look at versus something more fun and playful piece to touch and feel. I will forever remember his gallery fondly. Here are some of my favorites (pictures taken with permission):
This experience drew me into exploring more galleries and I ended up spending most of the day admiring oil paintings with interesting textures, thread paintings with applique work, lithography and etching of art. I also saw paints made from locally sourced beeswax and tree sap called "Encaustic". I learned so much about art in that one day than I learned in the 30+ years before that. It was truly inspirational, sensorially stimulating and a very personal and beautiful day. And that's the beauty of solo trips - you can just follow your heart and go where it leads.
I also visited several other interesting stores in the French Quarters and for a person who rarely shops on holidays, ended up buying a bunch of things - my first seal stamp & wax for letters, a coconut bowl for breakfast, a luxury beauty product, a cup, coaster and champagne glass from my favorite store, "Roux Royale." This boutique store sells kitchen and housewares and everything here was so clever and funny that I spent a couple of hours reading all the witty lines, and had to tear myself away from it, lest people start thinking that I work there. Here are some of my favorites (pictures taken with permission):
I ended the day with lamb ribs at Coop's place and spent some time listening to live jazz music in an open-air restaurant.
I started the next morning with reading a book in a quiet coffee shop. I needed those moments of calm, before the buzz of the day began. It is in trips like this that I truly get to discover what I need and enjoy doing the most. I then visited the French Market, bought a vibrant photographic art piece and a souvenir t-shirt. I then spent some time reading poetry and listening to a harpist at Jackson Square. I even bought a poem from an English teacher for $20. I then walked across to the downtown area to check out the 'Glassworks Studio'. Though I couldn't actually see the glass blowing in action, I still got to marvel at the beauty of their creations in their showroom.
I then picked the beautiful courtyard setting of "The Court of Two Sisters," to have lunch. The weather was perfect with a slight drizzle and a gentle breeze, there was live jazz music accompanied by the lovely sound of the sparrows. It was a perfect setting for a relaxing late lunch after a long morning of walking.
After taking a break for a couple of hours, I headed to Bourbon street for the evening. It was almost as if, though unintentionally, I saved the best for the last. Bourbon street was as electrifying and lively as I had remembered it from my first trip. I danced on the streets, listened to the kids playing drums on made-up sets, the guy playing trumpet on the sidewalk, the bands playing music in the bars and just had a great time.
New Orleans is so intoxicating even without alcohol! While I was mesmerized by its music in my first visit, I was enthralled by its art scene in this second visit. It is a magical place for me and the city of my dreams. It may not be the best place to live but it is a place I would love to visit once in a while to remind me of my self, of all the things I love and all the things that touch my soul. Spending time in New Orleans is as stimulating and satisfying to me as sex is. There, I said it. Nothing else needs to be said.
If you haven't been to New Orleans, do try it. You might fall in love like I did and find yourself :)