Everyone has their opinion of what makes a city great, but for me, it has to be well-rounded. By that I mean that the cities I like most offer a little bit of everything: sight-seeing, beauty, food and night life, to name a few. Other than the fact that New Orleans has a distinct culture and is by far the most unique city in the U.S. that I’ve yet to see, I think the main reason I loved it so much was that my week there was, as one would say, well-rounded.
On top of that, there were a few special circumstances that made my week in NOLA that much better. First, by the grace of God and an even higher power, my boss, our team had four days off in a row, giving us plenty of time to enjoy NOLA. Second, we stayed five minutes from the French Quarter in a duplex owned by a past-Hotdogger named Caitlin. Two of the current Hotdoggers, Jackie and EJ, were also staying in Caitlin’s side of the duplex while we stayed in the guest side. What resulted was similar to an episode of Friends, with all six of us roaming freely in and out of both sides of the house – it was a shell of a time.
I have to tell you more about Caitlin, who’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Caitlin was a Hotdogger ten years ago who continued doing corporate tours for over seven years with everything from Sunny D to Audi to Oprah – yes, Oprah. After all of this touring, Caitlin bought a house in her dream city, NOLA, and she is more passionate and knowledgeable about her city than anyone I’ve ever met. She is extremely outgoing and personable, and she automatically embraces everyone as a friend, including us. Caitlin completely took us under her wing during our time in NOLA: we stayed at her house, she showed us around, introduced us to her friends and, by the end of the week, told us we are friends now too and welcomed us back at any time (fo free I must add).
Because she’s so well-connected with corporate tours, Caitlin mainly picks and chooses when she works, so she was able to spend a lot of time showing us around. One day she spent the whole day walking us around the French Quarter and telling us the history and ghost stories behind several of the buildings. Of everything we did that week, simply walking the streets was probably my favorite because the French Quarter looks and feels unlike anywhere I’ve ever been, and the interesting stories made it that much better. We also were able to tour the famous St. Louis Cemetery where we learned about voodoo, tombs and NOLA’s struggle to contain its dead – it was very unsettling, but cool.
NOLA is obviously known as a great place to party, and we definitely took advantage of it. We spent a couple nights out on Bourbon Street at the typical touristy places, and my favorite place was a karaoke bar called The Cat’s Meow where I did my first ever karaoke song, Super Bass by Nicki Minaj. Outside of Bourbon, Caitlin took us to several bars around the French Quarter including one with a carousel, a vampire speakeasy and the oldest bar in the country that is known to be haunted, like everything else in NOLA. She also took us to Frenchman Street, which is a more local, but equally “lit” street filled with bars and live music. Caitlin is very connected to the music scene and we saw several live shows and got to hang out with the bands afterward.
One of my favorite things about NOLA, and life in general, is the food. I was able to try all of the classics on my list: shrimp and grits, crawfish jambalaya, shrimp po boy, a hurricane and beignets. I won’t go into detail about how good each of them were, but if you ever find yourself in NOLA, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t fully indulge in all of these Cajun delicacies. Conner and I also went to a rooftop bar with Caitlin where we were spontaneously given a platter of crawfish from a traditional crawfish boil – this sort of good fortune seems to happen A LOT to Caitlin. I wasn’t too fond of breaking the bodies, but I was glad I got to try it!
After a tiring, jam-packed four days, we said a sad goodbye to New Orleans and hit the road for Baton Rouge, LA. Our morale was at an all-time low as we headed to our St. Patrick’s Day parade at the crack of dawn, but it turned out to be one of my favorite events of the whole year. Why? Because Louisianans do not mess around when it comes to parades. As I drove through the parade route following Mr. P (who impressively walked over two miles in that swampy heat) I was repeatedly yelled to, cheered for and pelted with beads and other parade favors by what seemed like the entire population of Baton Rouge who were all completely plastered for the occasion. Yea, I’m pretty sure I peaked in that moment. The rest of St. Patty’s Day was spent at three different bars seeing two live bands and eating, ironically, one large Italian dinner. For having to follow a city like New Orleans, Baton Rouge wasn’t half bad.
Honestly, every week as a Peanutter is pretty great. Even when I’m in a more boring, middle-of-nowhere city, I’m still getting paid to travel and there’s always something new to see or do. That being said, some weeks are just so exceptional from start to finish that I know when I look back at the year, they’ll definitely stand out among the rest. New Orleans was definitely one of them.
That’s All-mond for now, folks!