New Orleans

Our favorite honeymoon spot turned out to be New Orleans

Super thankful to Ryan or introducing us to the goodness of Dat Dog.

Enjoyed a Guinness sausage on a roll with all the fixings.

Even better though, their crawfish étouffée fries. My goodness.

I remember once having a well-traveled Swedish friend of mine tell me, “I need to be in a city with soul!” He had never been to the US and wanted my input on where to go if he ever got the chance.

Unfortunately a lot of US cities have a subdued soul, largely cause the country did a lot of growing up during the era of mass production. Life surrounded work and templates for public spaces could be easily cut and paste.

A city with soul is a place where people gather and participate in behaviors and pastimes that could never be replicated elsewhere. Whether it’s food or music or architecture or general weirdness, it’s when you know you’re in the only place to find it.

If you’re gonna look for a city with soul in the United States, I’d imagine you’d best start with New Orleans. French aesthetics meet Bayou mindsets.

At night, in front of the cathedral, fortune tellers and psychics set up stands in Jackson square. They aren’t elaborate booths usually, just a folding card table and a few candles on top. One psychic I saw managed to multitask breastfeeding while reading some tarot cards. That’s gotta be a skill set unique to the area.

The mystical New Orleans served as the last stop of our tour de honeymoon, and let’s just say that Deanna and I absolutely. LOVED. New Orleans.

NOLA’s one of the American cities with the most soul. For sure. Of all the places we saw on our trip together, it’s this one that’s most likely for a return trip sooner rather than later.

The curse of Café du Monde is when you’ve left New Orleans and realize getting a refill on coffee and beignets wouldn’t be convenient at all.

However I do sense a return to the south sometime soon, so that’s a step in the right direction.

So glad this place is open twenty-four hours, because that meant we got to go three times while we were in the city. (Not sure, but all three visits may have been on the same day.) Café du Monde was kind of an item on the culinary bucket list that exists somewhere in my mind, which the more I think about, should exist on paper soon.

Still, I’d gladly go back. Especially now that it’s cool enough to enjoy proper coffee. Those beignets man, they’re huge! And they’re such a good deal for the price, I know I would get correspondingly huge if I lived anywhere near New Orleans.

New Orleans is a food lovers dream. I already want to go back, and when I do, I call that trip “seconds” in my head.

The Café du Monde café au lait and the beignets were a high item on my Things-to-Eat Bucket List that I got to cross off this summer, and they lived up to the very high expectations for them. The beignets were even bigger and better than I thought, and I wasn’t expecting them to be such a great deal.

Not to mention… they’re open late night!

Café du Monde was one of our favorite honeymoon spots we visited.

Why must these wonderful pieces of fried dough be so hard to find in most places? I’d gladly take a beignet over a cronut anytime.

The U.S. is such a young country that even in most historic areas of major cities, it’s hard to get that feeling like you’re walking through a timeless place that has been carved out only in the way that happens over a long period of time generations of people leaving their mark on it, with forgotten origin stories and interrupting legends all slightly altering the tastes of dishes, leaving certain grooves in building façades, and altering daily lingo ever so slightly.

New Orleans is an American exception to that trend. The styles of houses and architecture, the mostly light colored exterior paints, the swirly green railways of the balconies, all of that speaks to what the city has seen through the years. The French. The hurricanes. The humidity. It’s character, to put it simply.

One of the things not to be missed while in NOLA, it’s the French Market.

Touristy? Very. But still lots of fun and a good place to find good food.

Hot summer humidity, mediocre bloody marys, and the French Quarter around the corner.

I had such high expectations for this city and it managed to meet them all. So glad we extended our honeymoon to make NOLA a part of it.

Couldn’t go to New Orleans without a proper muffalata sandwich. We got ours elsewhere, but this was one of the most raved about places, and it wasn’t too hard to tell by being in. If only we had more days (meaning more meals) to enjoy in town, this would’ve definitely been a spot.

The Central Grocery has tons of awesome imported ingredients in addition to their humongous killer sandwiches, and at least we got to swing by to browse. This place is wrapped up in New Orleans history. Apparently, they’re also really strict about how you order. Soup nazi esque.

This place is a favorite of food lovers in New Orleans, which is already an iconic food city, so that says a whole lot. Dee and I were treated to a totally amazing meal courtesy of Ryan!

Of course I had to order the cochon, being the place’s namesake and all, served with polenta and rilettes. Pretty much everything was made in house and it was pretty much amazing.

One of my unmistakable highlights from the time we spent in New Orleans was going to see a show at the Preservation Hall. The only photo I got of the outing was of the sign outside, since it wasn’t allowed inside. Not that it would’ve mattered. The inside wasn’t very friendly for photography by nature. A cramped, dusk space with little lighting, except for the faint, orange glow of minimal lamps and the lights from the street that snuck through the crevices in the walls and doors. The small hall, the size of my apartment, was packed with as many people as they could get away with, and then some. The body heat combined with the summer humidity to make the few electric fans seem futile. And the jazz quartet sat at eye level, at the center of it all, putting on an hour of well loved jams.

Jazz performances will always remind me of late high school, when I would go out with a good friend to jazz shows on weekend nights just to mix up the usual movie outings and sitting around. We’d split a dessert, since they’d usually be held at places that were (and probably still are) way too expensive for us. And we’d get hours of jazz, not saying much, not doing much, but it was the perfect way for me to clear my mind each week. Glad to have finally gotten to one of it’s most important heritage cities.

The Napoleon House in New Orleans made for one of the best eating experiences I had overall.

They’re probably most famous for their muffalata, which I got to fulfill the obligatory experience, but I enjoyed some of the other things I ordered even more.

A refreshing mint julep and a surprisingly good boudin sausage.

Even better was the charming eating experience. This restaurant was refurbished from an apartment that was supposed to be used by Napoleon in the event of his exile from mainland France. Today it’s staffed by the most charming moustached waiters who seem to have drifted in from some other time period.

The USA’s most infamous party street… How could we not take a stroll down it? Actually it’s more of an out-of-towner party hub at this point, but still worth the walk.

During the day, this street is fairly quiet actually, but that didn’t stop us from bringing the party. I bought a praline AND sampled at least six others.

Wandering around the streets, with its distinct architecture, the ornate green railings of the balconies and the brightly painted yellow façades of the nearby storefronts brought back memories of exploring major European cities, each with their own distinct aesthetics and their own unique atmospheres. It’s not a feeling that comes attached to every major American city, but there definitely is one present in New Orleans. It’s a rare pocket where the air seems to carry a sense of the history of everything that’s happened in the place, from the French colonial era to the devastating hurricane only a decade ago.

As the Preservation Hall band launched into an easily recognizable Ray Charles cover, I stopped to take account of my newlywed life. The honeymoon thus far and the years that lay ahead. Deanna was having a great time and I found joy in the fact that we always knew how to have fun together. We of course had a natural drive towards adventure, but at the root of that was the fact that it came pretty natural for us to enjoy a good time together.

We were walking around the French Quarter. Deanna had just bought some dry perfume and I was in search of a sno-come. We passed by the tourist heavy plaza in front of Saint Louis Cathedral when we noticed some drone flying overhead.

I looked at the crowd and saw among them a bunch of people in military fatigues and SWAT uniforms. They had cordoned off the area by the fountain. Somebody yelled for the crowd of people to duck so we all did as the drone went whirring by overhead.

In the square, there was one guy in civilian clothes standing wide with his arms at his head. It was kind of tough to tell if he had a gun pointed at himself or not. Everyone seemed to be holding their breath and then he dropped to the ground. It looked like one of the guys behind him got him with a taser gun.

Then the guy stood back up and everyone relaxed a little bit and someone shouted “good job, let’s do another one.” And that’s how I discovered a NCIS series is filmed in New Orleans and if you look hard enough in a certain episode you might just maybe get to see Deanna and I on our honeymoon.

This was a more reserved year for me when it comes to travel… at least in the ways I’d gotten used to over the past few years prior. But I did get to see a bunch of new states, especially around the American South and I knocked the number of states I have left to visit down to nine. Of all those cities, New Orleans had to be my favorite.

They say “happy wife, happy life,” but I think you can plug just about any adjective into that equation and still have it be true. “Sad wife, sad life,” “funky wife, funky life.” Sometimes it can barely be an adjective… “gumbo-filled wife, gumbo-filled life!” Deanna is a self-professed gumbo lover so being in New Orleans was not complete without a proper gumbo fill-up. A place called “The Gumbo Shop” seemed promising, but we looked it up online just to make sure. Everyone said good things so we went in.

I totally loved my bowl of shrimp and okra gumbo. My only regret was not going in there hungrier. Then again, I also got a large side of gator sausage, so that’s partially on me.

Food all across the South… how is so much of it this good? One of the things I looked forward to the most about this trip were the good eats I knew there were to be had along the way. I couldn’t have been more right.

I thought of just lining up a bunch of BBQ places and seeing who did it best… Battle of the Briskets! Except with all the variety of food the region has to offer and with how few days we’re spending, I would be selling myself short.

Featured here: a pair of gator sausages with a spicy remoulade mustard. Also had it with a cup of gumbo on the side. Seriously, I could drive around the South from diner to diner for a good long while. It might not be the healthiest choice ever, but I could do it.

Featured here: an obvious classic- a small bowl of shrimp and okra gumbo.

Eggs benedicts are probably my favorite breakfast item. Give them a good remix based on regional cuisine, and I’ll love them even more.

Take this New Orleans spin on the classic. Jalapeño cornbread as the base. Pulled pork forms the second layer. Then go with the necessary poached egg and hollandaise and shower with some green onions. Bravo.

Breakfast at Coulis was a treat. Nothing like waking up and hearing the city get all excited on the same morning as the running of the bulls.

A whole lot of gratitude is owed to Ryan Oliver for the awesome time that Deanna and I enjoyed in New Orleans. Awesome getting to see him twice this summer.
Thanks for the southern hospitality and showing us around- not to mention the amazing meals!