NOLA: Pronouced “N’awlins”

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Would I immediately discredit this post if I referred to New Orleans, Louisiana as “AWESOME SAUCE”? What if I said that NOLA is a “lovely, Southern city”? Does that give it more creditability and substance? If so, than NOLA is a truly lovely, Southern city.

But….If not, NEW ORLEANS IS ABSOLUTELY FU*%ING AWESOME SAUCE!!!
(I don’t know, the latter just seems so much more fitting, but whatever)

I just returned from an 8 day stay in the Big Easy, and what a fabulous vacation. Not only is the location just amazing, but I had such a fantastic time with my Mom, Steven, and Roy that I felt really lucky to have the time and opportunity to spend quality time with them in a get-away locale.

New Orleans itself is so magical and multifaceted. It is everything is appears to be from travel books and so much more. I guess I’ll have to dive right into the vibe.

To be fair, I’ve never been to an MTV Spring Break, but if I were to imagine how it would be, NYE in NOLA is it. The French Quarter is a rectangle of chaos, with music and booze literally busting out into the streets. You could totally get lost amongst the throngs of people carrying around the local specialty, the Hurricane, which is so alcoholic and sweet, it’s a puke and hangover waiting to happen in one adorable, brightly colored, plastic cup that immediately alerts all hustlers to your state. Bourbon Street is everything that it promises to be, all the glitz and glamour, the balconies filled with drunk frat boys holding beads out in the hopes ladies with show off their twins, all styles, types, and rhythms of music which blare from the dark caverns of the countless bars, or the street corners filled with tourists and touts. I even saw some bad ass break dancing by some old brothers who just laid down some cardboard, turned on a boom box, and went for it.

Bad ass.

But once you break away from the madness of the French Quarter (give yourself a couple of days of debauchery), New Orleans really begins to show you why it is considered one of the most beautiful places in our grand ol’ country. Everything is walking distance, which is great for tourists like me who want a work out and a site seeing expedition all in one, but if that’s not your style (you know, wooden legged people, and the like) than there is a cute little train car that rides around the city and lets you still get the feeling of the city without the effort.

Imagine the scene in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” where Benjamin ventures off into the city with the dwarf (?)…yeah, that’s the same street car. In fact, when visiting the GORGEOUS Garden District, you can even see the house that was in the movie, as big and boisterous as it looks on screen. The houses throughout the area are so well preserved and glamorous, you truly can imagine yourself wearing a big hoop skirt and parasol (including the 19 inch waist…?) walking down the streets, waving to soldiers who litter the balconies and porches of every single home. Most of the house are historically preserved, and for all that time and energy, it creates an emotion which is tied to the past of this country so intimately, you do feel like you’ve made love…to a house…if that’s even possible…

ok, that was weird…moving on.

The architechture is so Southern, it is somewhat heart breaking how sweet a porch can seem, or how much we have all always wanted a porch swing to lounge on with our lemonade. We loved looking at the traditional “shotgun” houses, which are named for the ability to shoot a gun from the front door all the way out the back door with no walls to hit. The houses don’t have hallways, just rooms that open up to more rooms, which makes for close quarters, and tiny spaces. Adorable…but small.

The weather is also a landmark of its own; even in the Winter it’s hot and humid. We were told that it can get up to 118 degrees in the summer, with 100% humidity, and I thought I would pass out just thinking about how suffocating that would be. I was wet all the time, either by heat, cold, or just the air, and it left me thinking of Mexico in the winter. Pleasant…and yet, not.

I really appreciated all the people and crafts that were outdoors, more than anything else. The painters that had their work aligning the iron bars of Jackson Park, the street performers who sat out at 9AM, were in the same place at 12PM, and when I passed by again at 8PM, were continuing to jam the hell out of old tunes, laid thick with Souza horn, clarinet, sax, and drums. I bought all kinds of crap, just to engage with the locals, hear their delicious slow drawls, and immerse myself in a culture that was my own and yet, not. And a highlight for me was definately putting my Hunter boots in the Mississippi River.

I had the best time, felt filled with the city, and yet left still wanting more. I even made gumbo last night at my home in Cali, just to get the taste of hot sauce, sausage, and rice in my memory again.

I did feel the broken nature of the city, that I can’t deny. I didn’t see with my own eyes, destruction or despair, although the area felt deeply bruised. But where there are scars, there is so much life, love and hope throughout New Orleans, that one can’t help feel inspired and upbeat in its presence. And by God, they do love their New Orleans Saints football team. Their banners are flown on every shop, home, and car throughout the region. There are stickers on every food item sold, and each local has some paraphernalia attached to their outfits, whether a key chain, hat, scarf, t-shirt, or jacket. I loved that. It felt like no matter what, this place was going to stay here, stay proud, rebuild, repair, and revitalize those that come within its quarters.

I left feeling like a million bucks.

I hope you enjoy the pictures, and I even more so hope that you get out there yourselves.

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