In an age where instant gratification reigns supreme, I still believe in the beauty and art of waiting. I don’t mean the stuck in traffic during rush hour or suffering through impossibly long lines at the DMV kind of waiting either. More like waiting to get your images sent back to you after weeks away or eagerly waiting to confirm whether your frames are any good kind of waiting. And that’s not to imply that I’m a patient person (quite the contrary – my road rage is a devilish beast that rears its ugly head more often than would make my mother proud). However, shooting film forces me to build a stronger muscle of patience and appreciate the beautiful feeling of satisfaction that can blossom from extended anticipation. A feeling I suppose is best likened to finally getting to open a sea of presents on Christmas morning.
In a way, New Orleans had a similar effect on me. I’d been once before – a trip which really doesn’t count because it was only a 2-hour stop for po’boys while on a road trip with my family some years ago. And though my time there was brief, I was left charmed; by NOLA’s electric spirit, soulful jazz musicians passionately playing for little to no audiences throughout the French Quarter, and wishing I had more time to explore what appeared to be a beautifully haunted city. With my birthday on the horizon, I decided there was no better time than the present to head back and fully experience the Big Easy. Because really, who needs cupcakes when you can have beignets and Bourbon? So just like that, I returned.
If you’re in town celebrating anything, The Saint Hotel is where I highly recommend staying. I personally loved the mac and cheese (dear God, I loved it so much I ate it every day – and I’m lactose intolerant!), and their glorious clawfoot bathtubs, but their naughty vs. nice vibe adds such a fun dimension to the overall NOLA experience.
The Saint Hotel, Autograph Collection. 931 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70112.
If I saw it, I ate it. Shrimp etouffee, lobster mac and cheese, gumbo, raw oysters, snapper, char-grilled oysters, pralines, every kind of po’boy, snowballs, red beans & rice, alligator and everything else you can imagine. Save for alligator, I loved just about everything. While I wasn’t particularly keen on “sucking the head and pinching the tail,” I loved the crawfish’s spicy cajun flavor. My best advice: eat everything, everywhere. Or, at least any place with a ridiculously long line.
I arrived in NOLA with no set plans. Other than the infamous French Quarter and the obligatory visit to Café du Monde, I had no clue where I would go or what I would do. Instead, I chose to let the city’s narrow streets take lead as my unofficial guide. No overpriced tours and certainly no cheesy horse-drawn carriages; just pure curiosity, my bike, and the open city landscape. I believe the French call this dérive.
Biking through the city (sometimes in the rain) was as exhilarating as one would imagine. After riding around extensively, my favorite streets quickly became Royal and Frenchmen. Frenchmen for its unsuspecting bars, live jazz music, and art market; Royal for its charming foliage, iron-wrought balconies, and history. For great local art, don’t skip a trip to local graffiti artist Bmike’s Studio BE, which is a 35,000 square foot warehouse in the Bywater that showcases some really beautiful work. Other honorable mentions are definitely Magazine St. for shopping and Bourbon St. to people-watch and/or party.
In search of local flare, I spent quite a bit of time in the Bywater District – a decision met with not-so-subtle frowns and side-eyes from visitors I met in the French Quarter. While this side of town certainly did not dress itself up in any pretty bows and ribbons to appeal to tourists, I found the people around there extremely fun and hospitable. By exploring the Bywater District, I got to explore several pockets of the city we would have otherwise overlooked. Aside from the quirky people, the wide array of vibrantly colored shotguns were a big attraction for me.