New Orleans was a surprise trip this year. I was unexpectedly sent to a second work-sponsored conference (the first being in Portland) and it just so happened to be in New Orleans! We were there for 6 days, but because I had to be in the conference and Alan had to work, we really only had 3 full days to do fun stuff. But my work paid for about 1/2 of the trip (minus activities), and Alan only used 1 vacation day, so it worked for us!

When asking around about what to do in New Orleans, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth was EAT. Which is the serious truth–the food is unreal. Our absolute favorite was also the cheapest. Muffuletta is the best invention ever. It originated at Central Grocery, and it’s a sandwich with Italian meats and cheeses and the best olive spread ever on delicious bread. Mmmm.

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How can you not want to eat all of the muffuletta?!

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We ate a lot of beignets, both from the classic Cafe du Monde and anytime we felt like it. I’ll be honest, we went to the Cafe du Monde in the mall instead of the one in the heart of the French Quarter, because the line was SO long.

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Even if you’re not into cigars, The Cigar Factory is not to be missed. They hand roll their cigars right there and I spent a lot of time watching the guys work and asking every question that popped into my head.

New Orleans is truly one of America’s unique cities. It has held on to influences since it was colonized by the French over 300 years ago. Despite being called the French Quarter, if judging  by the architecture alone, it would be primarily Spanish. This is because the French-style buildings were all burned in two major fires while Spain controlled the city, so they were built to Spanish standards (which turned out to be a great decision- brick and tile tend to not burn to the ground nearly as quickly as all wood).

Even after officially being owned by the United States, the locals were unimpressed with the Americans who came into town, and officially kept them out of the French Quarter. That’s why inside, everything is French and only after you cross Canal Street everything is anglicized. Surprisingly, despite their dislike for Americans, New Orleans had no problem with free people of color (like most of the south did for many years).

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Creole law stated that slaves could not work on certain days of the week, and that if they did work (by their own choice) they must be paid. So plenty of slaves took advantage and saved up to buy their own freedom. In fact, many free people of color owned their own slaves! A weirdly progressive/regressive system that overall led to a much higher level of cooperation and tolerance than the rest of the country.

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A Haunted History Voodoo Tour rounded out our exploration of the French Quarter. It was a great history of the city in general, and also how Voodoo became so misinterpreted so quickly.

The French Market is open every day, and the Farmer’s Market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. We didn’t stay too long, but meandered through the vendor’s stalls, checking out their wares. We were on our way back from the Ninth Ward when we went, so we were soaked and tired, but it provided a nice little break on our way back.

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St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter