New Orleans and Jazz Fest Here We Come – April 2015
Last weekend we took a quick three day trip to The Big Easy. The original plan was a couple days at the annual Jazz Festival (which has a number of classic rock and chart topping headliners as well). Turns out 1) that most of the bands we most wanted to see were the second weekend and 2) there were forecasted thunderstorms every evening of our visit, which would prove to turn the festival grounds into a field of mud. Ultimately, we went for just one evening of the concerts and saw The Who, which was epic, despite the rain, mud and crowds.
We found great direct flights from Nashville to New Orleans that left at 6 am. We were in our rental car at in downtown New Orleans by 10am. Our flights back also worked out well – we left around 8 am and because we gained an hour from time change, were back in Nashville and at work by 10! Best yet, the flights were free with our SW companion pass!
Priorities being what they are, our first tourist stop was for some food! We discovered the Cochon Butcher on yelp and loved it! We split a pastrami and muffaletta:
The Muffaletta (which is pronounced just like it’s spelled – not “moof-aletta” as I had always called it) was pretty tasty, but the pastrami was definitely the best. Elisa was captivated by all the pickles and the place had a delicious smoky smell which really peaked the appetite.. this place is definitely on the short list for our next visit!
Next up we took a “free” walking tour of the garden district and Lafayette cemetery. We learned loads of fun facts and history. The name of the area caused a bit of a letdown though, since there were very few gardens as I was expecting (I had in my head the gardens in Seattle neighborhoods, which are awesome). There were flowering jasmine vines all over though, which was nice.
We walked by a number of celebrity homes, including the one that author Anne Rice lived in for a time, which was then purchased by Nicolas Cage. Per our tour guide, the citizens of New Orleans really did not like the Cage during his time there, as he was a wild and crazy drunk. He, on the other hand likes the city so much that he constructed an above-ground tomb in the shape of a pyramid in one of the old cemeteries for when he dies.
We also saw the house where Benjamin Button was filmed.
We also toured one of the old cemeteries, where most everyone is buried above ground in family vaults. The bodies are interred and left until the next family member dies, at which point the vault is opened back up, the casket remains are removed and thrown away, and whatever remains of the body of the previous family member is scraped to the side to make room for the next member! In this way, over the generations they have been able to “bury” crazy numbers of people in these vaults.
Another fun fact – the walls surrounding the cemetery are about 8 feet tall and 6 feet deep, and comprised entirely of slots for caskets like a beehive. Due to the brick construction and baking heat of a Louisiana summer, the bodies in these slots essentially burn up due to the heat and there are usually just ashes in their place whenever the tombs are opened for a new body.
Our favorite way to visit cities is on foot, so we really enjoyed doing it with a tour guide. We ended up giving the guide a good tip but without having to pay the $30-$40 base rate that walking tours seem to average.
From the end of our tour we walked up to magazine street for some shopping. It came a huge thunderstorm so we sat down at a restaurant called Ignatius for a stellar happy hour! Here is our view…
.. and our receipt: 5 martinis, 1 dozen oysters, a sandwich and another specialty drink for $35! You can’t beat $2 Martinis (good ones at that). Apparently there are other happy hours with oysters for as cheap as 40 cents! Again, another reason to come back to New Orleans..
The next day we visited the city park and the botanical gardens. The highlights were ancient Spanish oak trees like this one..
… or this one:
And this century plant, which only blooms once every 100 years and just happened to be about to bloom during our visit:
The free sculpture garden was interesting too. This is one of the coolest sculptures that I personally have ever seen (and I feel like I have seen more than the average person):
And here are some pictures just walking about in the French quarter:
We visited the oldest bar in the united states – Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar:
And then I got thirsty from all the walking and decided to sightsee in a truly New Orleans manner – with beer in hand! It really helped to pass the time while Elisa was dress shopping.
Our last meal was another round of oysters, and we got some of the chargrilled ones this time as well. We decided that I prefer oysters raw with a splash of lemon and cocktail sauce and Elisa likes the grilled kind with garlic and crusty parmesan.
We did make it out the fairgrounds as well on Saturday for the Jazz Festival. Shortly after our arrival, there was a huge thunderstorm, but fortunately we found space in a tent and stayed comparatively dry. It stopped raining time for the headliner of the night – The WHO!! The crowd was massive (I’m guessing 60k), and it was very muddy, but still loads of fun. I thought at first that Roger Daltrey was too old and had lost it vocally, but his more mature voice fit well the theme of some of their greatest hits like “Love, Reign O’er Me”.
Of course, with concerts there is always some good people watching to be had. The most entertaining was this dude, who managed to find a little island oasis in a sea of mud, and was congratulated for this fact by nearly every joyful festival goer who passed by. He was really, really into the music too. At one point he turned around to yell to a buddy “this is my F*ing religion man!!! This is my f*ing life!! “ haha.. whatever floats your boat I guess..
We really enjoyed our trip and since it’s so close to home for us, we plan to visit again as soon as possible. Next time we’ll try to hit up some of the plantations in the area (like Oak Alley Plantation), have a list of restaurants to eat (such as Cochon, Commander’s Palace for lunch, Luke, and a couple of the vietnamese places on the west bank), and will try to get a oyster happy hour or two in to round it all out. Regardless of what we do, I’m sure we have a good time.
“Laissez les bon temps roulez” as they say in New Orleans.. “let the good times roll !”