Laissez Les Bon temps rouler! Or as some in the Bayou may simply say, “Let the good times roll!” Spending a few days in Nawlins will have any traveler thinking that they have daiquiris running through their blood and the skills to start their own jazz band. Although this wasn’t my first visit to New Orleans, this was the first time I’ve gone with a plan that consisted of more than cruising Bourbon.
Actually, I take that back. I was lucky enough to visit NOLA back in 2009 for a wonderful initiative by my Alma Mater, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU), called “Christmas for Katrina” which transported charter busloads of students to New Orleans for a few days. While there, we took part in numerous service activities around the area dropping off hundreds of gifts for the local children, assisting in landscaping heavily hit areas, and so much more. Always a lover of giving back to the community, it was amazing to go and lend a hand with my fellow Rattlers!
I also had the opportunity to experience Mardi Gras for my 21st birthday along with some of my girlfriends, as my birthday falls around the world-renowned celebration. That trip was truly one for the books, so going back solo this time, I had more on my mind. 7 years later, showing out on Bourbon Street wasn’t my first priority (although a possibility!) This trip was for adventure.
What I Flew
Spirit. Omg. We all make so many jokes about Spirit Airlines, and most of them are true. BUT – this flight wasn’t terrible. What gets you annoyed about Spirit? The hidden fees and the lack of true comfort when buying a ticket, pre & post boarding. Between stuffing all of my clothes & toiletries into ONE “Personal Bag” that by Spirit standards measures 22x18x10in. Which by measurement, you can compare to a computer bag or large briefcase. PHEW! Either way, I made it happen and saved myself almost $100 by preparing in advance and packing smart. I’ll speak more on this in another blog post. I’m still stressed by the experience, LOL. But either way, my flight made it safely and Spirit didn’t make me fly the plane or sit on the lap of another customer because they were overbooked. God is so good.
Where I stayed
This was my first experience, EVER, in a hostel! Have you ever stayed in a hostel? For those who have never heard of Hostels, they are budget lodging locations that accommodate multiple people at once. You are usually in dormitory style rooming with shared bathrooms and common areas, but you can also usually rent a private room of sorts. These establishments are popular with backpackers and solo travelers, and you can often see them in Europe as well as around the world.
The idea of staying in a spot with so many strangers had never appealed to me. Ever. My dad, (always the supporter of me being as adventurous as possible) brought up the idea of me staying in a hostel previously and I quickly dismissed the thought from his mind. “Ugh. No way Daddy, those places are full of creeps.” Welp, who’s the creep now, Erica?! So finding the BEST Hostel was important and I found that in the India House Hostel in New Orleans. For less than $100, I stayed here with travelers from all over the world and had the time of my life!
Read more about that experience here!
How I got around
When traveling solo, transportation is major. I am NOT a driver. Even when it’s an option, I don’t opt to drive lol. Not out of laziness, just major driving anxiety due to others on the road. But that’s a story for another day! Because I flew to NOLA, I definitely didn’t have a plan to drive and I honestly didn’t plan to be in a car at any point while there. For many, cars are convenient when traveling but I do like the opportunity to live as the locals do when possible and safe. In New Orleans, their RTA public transit system is AMAZING, at least by the standards I have and what I have seen in Florida. Their bus and streetcar system are on the same ticket, they have a wonderful app you can download to use for times and tickets, and they go all around the city.
The best part about it? The prices are SO low!
My budget for transportation was $15, the cost of a 5-day unlimited bus/streetcar pass. Wow. I put $30 in my budget for possible Uber/Lyft costs, but as soon as I stepped foot on my first streetcar I realized that it was truly my best bet! I traveled on the streetcar like a pro, as I used the app to help direct me and the Streetcar operators were so helpful as I hopped on the incorrect streetcar once or twice, oops. Not only are they efficient, but I absolutely loved that I could view the city as we strolled along by way of the carefully constructed pathway laid out in the streets. Viewing the melting pot of people on the streets, enjoying the free jazz shows put on by musicians making their way home and getting a waft of whatever Cajun cuisine carefully clutched by other passengers… why would I pass all of that up to ride in a car?!
I also walked! – A lot. You never know how much you can walk until there’s so much to see, and you refuse to miss it all. Based on the data I got from my phone (before the freak accident I had that had me on a replacement iPhone for 3 days of the trip J), I hit over 45,000 steps in just the first two days! When I got off of whatever bus or streetcar I was riding, I put my legs and feet to work. Walking to tour the Garden District, Bourbon, Frenchmen or whatever stroll I happily made happen equipped only with my phone, wallet, iPhone map and headphones. I will note that the iPhone map is a lifesaver because it shows you which direction you are walking in, which is everything to me because who wants to turn down a wrong, random road?
NOLA RTA, thank you for the awesome service and getting me to/from safely!
What I ate
DO NOT GO TO NEW ORLEANS ON A DIET! Please repeat that to yourself over and over again if you think you’re going to be slick and be the difference. Nope, go on an empty subject and try not to eat the same thing twice. Being a major foodie, of course, every trip HAS to have a major focus on the food and this vacay was no different. Well, except for one thing. I opted to challenge myself to see if I could enjoy all of the best cuisines New Orleans had to offer, without repeating, without eating much fast food or trash… on $40 a day. Almost! I went over by less than $20, and that came from taxes!
VIP Recommendations – If you follow me on social media, you already know that I met a veryyyy special person during my very first meal in New Orleans. If you’re a Food Network or culinary arts fanatic like me, you’re very familiar with Chef Aaron Sanchez of Chopped, Master Chef and so many more amazing shows and owner of some amazing NOLA restaurants. Chef Sanchez is also a legend in the Latino community for his work in his community, a scholarship program and so much more. While sitting having a delicious Cranberry Champagne Cocktail at The Mayhaw bar located at St. Roch Market, there was only me and a gentleman who was listening to his headphones and sipping on a barely-touched pint of beer. What drew my attention towards him were his awesome sleeve tatts that covered both forearms. A tattoo fan, they looked familiar. I didn’t want to stare in his face to confirm who he was so I waited for a good opportunity which came when another patron nicely asked him for a photo. OMG, THAT IS HIM!
What did I do? I called my mom LOL as I do when I can’t think on the spot.
“Mommy, I’m pretty sure this is Aaron Sanchez next to me. But I don’t want to disturb him!”
“Omigosh Punkin, you have to! You’ll never get a chance to be so close again, buy him a beer!”
“But I’m on a $40 a day budget!”
LOLOL responses like that always result in my mom expressing her hilarious distaste for how cheap my sister and I are, lol. So I didn’t buy him a beer BUT I did speak to him. I let him know I’m a travel & lifestyle blogger and a BIG fan and foodie. He was SO kind, so welcoming! He jotted down my website (SQUEAL!) and offered to share his personal recommendations for NOLA food, WOAH. I will forever hold onto that email for dear life! And I’ll share that list with all of you… soon. 😉
Learn more about Chef Sanchez here!
Okay, story time over.
Here’s some of the awesome food I got to enjoy! * denotes a personal recommendation from Chef Sanchez!
Sausage Gumbo at Fete au Fete of St. Roch Market
Gulf Shrimp Po’ Boy at Parkway Bakery Po’Boys*
Rum Praline at Southern Candy Makers
Creole Slammer at Slim Goodies Diner
Beignets at Café Beignet
Beignets at Café Du Monde*
Raw Oysters at NOSH
Jerk Chicken on the side of the street
Chicken Box & Red Beans and Rice at Brother’s Food Mart
Fried Chicken + Tabasco Honey Biscuit at Willa Jean*
Oyster Creole & Crawfish Pie at J’s Seafood Dock at Frenchmen’s Market
Cheese Plate at Bacchanal *
Croque Madame at The Ruby Slipper Café
King Cake from Rouses Market
Cajun Dog at Lucky Dogs
What I did
I won’t lie, I had an itinerary as normal and I stuck to it for the most part but definitely missed a few things I had planned but of course, the trip was still wonderful!
Here’s a snippet of my original itinerary
My itinerary made a BIG switch when the tip of my charging port got stuck in my iPhone. The staff, guests, and manager of my hostel and I fought for about 2 hours trying to get it out! WHAT A NIGHTMARE! As a blogger AND a solo traveler, my phone is everything to me!! Why do I continue to return to the volatile relationship I have with Apple?! Well, we got it out but ruined the pins in the port in the process so the morning of Day 2 leads me to spend hours trying to fix my phone, failing and then having to replace it with a downgrade. PHEW! (Good news is, when I returned to Florida, I got my phone fixed and was smart enough to make a shared folder of my original pics so that I could have access even if my phone didn’t make it. YES!)
As my Dad says, “sh%t happens!”
Here’s how my itinerary ended up going in real life
- New Year’s Eve partying on Bourbon Street
- Touring the Garden District
- AHS Coven House
- Strolling down Frenchmen Street
- Cruising for art on Frenchmen Street
- Coyote Ugly Bar
- Harrah’s Casino
- Strolling through Riverside to view the water
- Enjoying street jazz and music at Café Beignet
- Jazz & Dancing at:
- Café Negril
- The Maison
- The Spotted Cat
- Art at Dutch Alley Artists Co-Op
THANK YOU, NEW ORLEANS!
No matter the season or occasion, I don’t think it’s possible to come to New Orleans for fun and ever be disappointed. A trip planned to celebrate the coming of a new year, I’m so happy that I didn’t let anything stop me from making this an absolutely amazing trip. From the daiquiris to the people, from the beautifully designed cathedrals to the soulful jazz that filled my ears wherever my feet started their journey, New Orleans continues to stick in my mind. A city full of culture, New Orleans is definitely a vacation made for girl’s trips, family fun, lovers and solo travelers alike.
So visit with your bellies empty, your morals in good standing and your eagerness to party like the locals do because who comes to Nawlins to skip out on the fun? 😉