Have you ever been someplace your soul immediately responded to? That’s Chicago for me. Not everyone understands it and I genuinely like it that way. Chicago isn’t for everyone. It’s where my roots are, where my grandparents rest peacefully. The food in Chicago is the best in the world to me, and I will argue you down about it. It always seemed like my start and end would be there. Until I arrived in New Orleans. Stepping into the Marigny neighborhood, my insides said, “Oh I get it. I understand here.”
I had been to New Orleans a couple times but accompanied by people, and while it was good it wasn’t amazing. Touring the city alone made me excited, and I’m grateful for Joy giving me the opportunity to do so. I stayed at the Hotel Peter & Paul – a converted Catholic church, school, convent and rectory turned hotel, bar, event space, and ice cream parlor. It is exactly what it should be – vintage, a little moody, and filled with stories. Arriving early, I settled in at the hotel’s bar, The Elysian Bar. The room is warm and cozy because of the curved amber bamboo wall surrounding the center of the room. A gentle breeze ruffled plaid curtains by the window. Feeling incredibly lucky, I ordered a Pimm’s cup and a light salad, smiling to myself the whole time.
Calling myself an adventurer would be a slight exaggeration. I definitely partake in adventuring but it is very planned. I’m checking the websites, I’m seeing if there’s parking, I’m reading the reviews and ignoring them. But catch me on vacation? Oh, you’re seeing a different Abby. There is a balance between seeing, doing, and relaxing on vacation. Vacation Abby is so chill, spontaneous even! You want to go for an impromptu walk? Say less! Recently though, my body has enjoyed letting me know it’s getting older very… forcefully. Nonchalant exploration has been harder for me and anxiety inducing. Instead, I take my time, stop frequently, and wear these shoes. They’re a godsend.
Inside my frequent stops I found gems. Colorful yet unassuming house siding holds historic homes and neighborhood eateries like Alma. It begs you to judge a book by its cover, and delivers a surprise every time. Houses that serve tacos with twinkle lights and heavy poured margaritas like Rosalita’s. Go pick up a Barq’s Root Beer at the corner store (specifically The Orange Store), only to find the best po’boy ever made in the back. Walk the neighborhood and find Loretta’s Authentic Pralines on Frenchmen & Rampart. Get a praline filled beignet. Grab a lot of napkins to wipe tears of unbridled joy and the mountain of powdered sugar that falls down into the front pocket of your overalls (me). Take the shakiest elevator ride up and over a bridge that leads you to the best view of the Mississippi River, where you feel small and part of it all at the same time.
Life here moves at its own pace. If it wants to move fast, sure. If it wants to move slow, absolutely. If it doesn’t want to move at all? Mind your business. Stores that should be open might not be open. Know why? I think you’re getting the hang of the answer. My little bit of meandering led my findings to be correct. Even when I made my way to Joy, we ended up spontaneously ice dyeing shirts in her backyard before rolling about town leisurely. You take the pace as is. Even if the pace is backyard ice dyeing (which was so fun!).
New Orleans isn’t pretty. It’s old and beautiful. It reminds you of that fact when visiting – its Parisian roots reflect it. Grungey, graffitied, narrow… and perfect. I find myself in love with a city and its food for the first time outside of my hometown. I know I’ll be back over and over again.
If you’re visiting New Orleans and want to stop at Joy’s favorite spots, check them out here!