I’m an LA girl through and through. And not the kind that the TV shows depict and transplants come and give us a name for being. I’m a real one. The west coast, southern California girl, is in me and there is nothing that’ll ever change that. This is the greatest city in the world as far as I’m concerned, and that will also never change. But there’s this one place that stole my heart, New Orleans. So my love affair with the place started in May of 2016. A trip that was intended to be just my mom and sister in law, quickly became a group effort when my mom told my aunt and before you know it we (my mom, two aunts, sister in law and three cousins) were all on board. We stayed right in the French Quarter at a hotel called, The Saint. It is a modern, boutique hotel with very swanky lit hallways and sexy decor that sets to tone. Each guest room has its own motif that carries out the “Saints and Sinner” theme including “Lucifer” and “Archangel” suits. However, no matter how much remodeling that’s been done, you can’t escape the rich history in the walls of the longstanding building. Growing up in LA, there isn’t a lot of “history” here or architecture, so to be in a place with so much of it and such a distinct feel and beauty in its buildings was a sight to behold. It was almost as if I could feel the spirit of the pain and resilience of my ancestors and the people who make up the town. The music blaring through the streets, the free-flowing energy in the air and the heat, my God is it hot. We were ready though. Here are a few of the highlights.
Whitney Plantation Museum: One of the most incredible things I experienced while in NOLA was a visit to the Whitney Plantation. We went to a few, but this was the one that resonated with me the most. It is the only plantation that tells the story strictly from the perspective of the enslaved people. Through their first-person accounts, we are given a unique experience that is both heartbreaking and sobering. It was my first time since visiting Africa coming in direct contact with what my people endured. You read about it, the bits that they share, and you know logically how horrific it was but to stand on the grounds, read the stories and see the buildings it is unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I’d highly recommend visiting this place. Tours are $22/pp and worth every penny. To be able to truly experience New Orleans you have to understand it’s history, all of it. The Whitney Plantation is one of the best places to start.
Frenchman: Now obviously, the whole point of coming to Nola is to party and baby a party it is. I mean I don’t know if I’ve ever had more fun. Bourbon street is as advertised. It is Vegas on steroids. The party starts in clubs and spills into the street. For blocks and blocks, you are allowed to come as you are and do as you please. Drink in hand (a hand grenade or preferred though I’d warn you to proceed with caution. More on that later.) But for all the fun of Bourbon, the area that I loved the most was Frenchman. Situated on the backhand side of the quarter, it is the heart of Jazz music as the clubs are filled with live music, bluesy sangin and something that is like nothing you’ve experienced. Though it vibrant like Bourbon, it’s not as chaotic. There’s an ease about the area that makes for a good time. If you are into live music, cheap drinks and big fun as my aunt would say then this is the place for you.
The Frenchmen Hotel: On my second trip to Nola with a few of my friends, we stayed at the cutest, boutique hotel, The Frenchmen. It had the exact charm of the French Quarter that you’d expect. It also has the um, spirit of New Orleans as well. Here’s the thing, our first night there we eased into it. We went for a night on the town, had a good time but nothing too much. Our group consisted of three girls, including myself and a guy. Our guy friend was staying with a friend who lived in town and us girls in the hotel. The room had two beds in it, one I was sharing and the other that was facing our third member. To the right of my bed was the bathroom and next to that the adjoining door to the next room. So in the middle of the night, I got up to use the restroom. I just stood in the middle of the room upon getting up. My friend in the other bed happens to wake up and notice me standing there and called out to me but got no response. From there I proceeded to walk through what I know now to be the adjoining door and into the next room’s bathroom before going to climb in the bed. The problem is, it wasn’t my bed. It was the guests in the room next to us, as I went to get in the bed I could feel the woman who was sleeping in it scurry out of the bed and scream. Her roommate got up and turned on the lights and were both screaming. I, on the other hand, nothing. I just looked at them, realized I wasn’t where I was supposed to be and just got up, walked out of the front door and knocked on my room’s door. Guys, I, what I can only assume was me sleepwalking although I have no known history of it, walked into the next room of strangers, used their bathroom and got in their bed. OMG. And that was just night one. Blame it on the hotel or perhaps just a weird happening but all in all it is a hotel I would recommend if you are looking to stay somewhere that has the character or the city and is kind to your pockets.
Swamp Tours: While on my trip with friends we did manage to do some fun things like the famous swamp tour. I would recommend checking the time of the year as this does dictate how visible the Gators are. However, there isn’t a bad season to go as each one brings a different wildlife experience. Spring tends to be a time when all of the animals
are in full swing of things. If you are on a budget, then I’d recommend the New Orleans Swamp, and Bayou Tour, its one of the best ones and the guides are tons of fun. Its a bit slower and more educational, if you are looking for something a bit more upbeat then try, Airboat Adventures. This is the one I went on, and it was an absolute blast. They even let us hold a baby gator and by us I mean my friends, I was too scared. Lol.
Essencefest: Another one of my favorite reason to visit New Orleans is one of the biggest music festival in the country, Essencefest. It is an incredible celebration of black women and something I look forward to every year since my first time going a few years back. It typically takes place around forth of July weekend, 2019’s event will is set for July 4-7. I highly suggest booking travel arrangements as soon as possible if you are planning to go as the accommodations go fast and the flights can be pricey. I’d also recommend buying to early bird weekend concert ticket package. Each year the concerts have gotten better and better and are curated with something for everyone, so it’s worth going to all three nights. Another reason to get the package is that ticket prices go up quite a bit after the early bird sale is over and can cost upwards of $200 a night vs. around $300 for all three with the package. This coming year will be the 25th, so I’m sure it will be awesome. During the day there are all sorts of things to do at the convention center which includes giveaways, concerts, and seminars. They have an app that will map out the weekend so that you don’t miss a thing. For me, it is just a fantastic experience to be around nearly 100k beautiful black people who are there to have a great time, and when I tell you that is exactly what we do, that is exactly what we do. If you ever need an excuse to get to Nola, as if you’d ever need one, Essencefest is a great reason.