The first thing I noticed when getting off the plane was that the city has a peculiar smell. At first I wrote it off as just some airport funk, but the smell is definitely hanging around in other parts of the city as well. I guess that’s the problem with cities built up along the east coast, you may be able to clean up the swamp land but you can’t take the marsh out of the air. The trade off, however, is a beautiful city with breathtaking architecture and culture pouring out of every crack.
We attacked day one with no plan other than finding a good cup of coffee, something the city is supposed to be famous for. While this hunt took us to a few mediocre coffee shops, it also took us all around the beautiful French Quarter. All the buildings and balconies were adorned with beads, flowers, flags, Christmas decorations, and Saints merchandise (the football team is a BIG deal around here, especially on game day).
Our romp around town took us from St. Louis #1 cemetery, to Bourbon Street, to the Court of the Two Sisters, all the way down to Café du Monde. We even hung around Jackson Square listening to some live music and watching people dance their hearts out!
Finally, after a couple hours of walking around we got a bit hungry and found a place to eat, nothing fancy but the highlights were: crawfish, gumbo, alligator sausages. After lunch the sky opened up and we headed to the World War II museum in the hopes of keeping dry. Overall the museum was pretty boring. We saw three exhibits: “The Road to Tokyo”, “The Road to Berlin”, and a collection of vehicles and aircrafts from the war. Both “Roads” were way too battle oriented for my taste, there were no references to the political or social states the countries were in, just battle timelines. The vehicles and planes were pretty cool to look at, but even those only captured attention for a short time.
Unless you’re a diehard history buff, you can 100% get away with skipping the WWII museum.
Finally, after dinner, we found our good coffee! There’s a dessert shop called Sucre which sells cakes, cookies, chocolate goodies, ice cream, and, most importantly, coffee. There desserts are very yummy, and the perfect size to satisfy your sweet tooth without going overboard, their coffee is also very delicious, and they do little designs with your milk (something I find very cute). Overall Consensus: would recommend visiting at least once. They have locations in the French Quarter and on Magazine Street, so they are very accessible and you will likely pass them on your other adventures.
Day two got off to a very slow start. We spent the morning sleeping in and lounging around the hotel before making the 45-minute trek out of the city for the swamp tour we were booked on. We went with a company called Cajun Encounters, and they take you for a two hour trip up and down Pearl River and the surrounding swamp. Our captain, Sunny, was knowledgeable about the plant and animal life in the swamp.
We got to see (and feed) some not so wild pigs and we even managed to see quite a few alligators, which was surprising since they typically hide in the winter, looking to keep warm away from the reachable tourist spots.
We had dinner at this amazing restaurant called Gumbo Shop located in the French Quarter. They serve traditional Creole and Cajun food; jambalaya, gumbo, alligator sausages, catfish, crawfish! My mouth is watering just thinking about it all! Everything was absolutely phenomenal and we kept having to order more food, by the end of the meal we had to be rolled out of the place! With a killer drink and food combo, our evening strolling the French Quarter was off to a great start. We visited a voodoo shop that turned out to be the real deal, not just the fun touristy stuff. They had a lot of cool things to see and buy, but we didn’t stay long, the real religion and practice of voodoo is not something to mess around with. I did get a voodoo doll for a friend though, on to bring luck and creativity.