I’ve loved to travel for most of my life and in the past few years I’ve made a bit of a job out of it. While it’s not always terribly lucrative, it has been fun. I DO really LOVE to TRAVEL. I like virtually everything about it. BUT I didn’t always love to fly. Now I’ve truly grown to love it. AND, to me, one of the best things are some of the amazing shots I’ve gotten from the window seat of an airplane. I hope you enjoy the view!
Flying over Miami Beach. One of my favorite views.
Up in the friendly Thai skies. Aren’t the clouds so gorgeous?
Catching sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. What a sky!
Descending over Londontown. Ello River Thames.
Leaving beautiful Bali. What stunning blue water!
Sunset somewhere between Mongolia and China.
The stunning south coast of Iceland.
Brrr! Greenland below.
Coming in for a landing. Welcome to Jamaica, mon.
Sunrise goodbye to India.
My pretty hometown of Boston!
Last bit of land before the English Channel en route to Paris.
Pink sand beaches of Harbor Island, Bahamas. Wow!
Seeing the Midnight Sun in Iceland!
Saying goodbye to the mighty Mississippi River in New Orleans.
Filed under airlines, bahamas, bali, boston, iceland, india, jamaica, london, miami, mongolia, new orleans, travel
I recently went to New Orleans for a long weekend with my girlfriends. It wasn’t my first visit to the Big Easy by any means but it was definitely my favorite. Even though I often choose Miami as my girls getaway destination, I have to say, New Orleans is now also a top contender.
Why? Well there are many factors that go into what would make a great girls getaway destination such as lots of things to do for everyone’s tastes. Good food options in all price points. Great watering holes for yummy cocktails and making new friends. New Orleans has all of this and more. With so much history and lore, there’s no limit to activities if you don’t feel like just eating and drinking. For example, some of my girlfriends went for a neighborhood guided run. Ghost and vampire tours are offered daily or you can visit voodoo shops and have your fortune read. Another factor that’s important to consider when traveling with a group is whether it’s a walking city and are taxis readily available. New Orleans is just that kind of city. Plus, the southern charm and hospitality CANNOT be beat. Here are my four favorite discoveries from my recent girls getaway in Nola.
St. Bernard’s Project
Two of my girlfriends and I went down to New Orleans a day early so we could volunteer time to help work on a Katrina house with St. Bernard’s Project. Having done a Habitat for Humanity build before, this was very appealing to me. It’s a great way to give a little time back to the community you are visiting and a good way to feel more connected. The St. Bernard Project’s Rebuilding Program in New Orleans rebuilds homes for senior citizens, people with disabilities and families with children who can not afford to have their homes rebuilt by contractors. We were working on an existing home for a couple that has been displaced since Katrina. It was so fun and rewarding to learn how to fire block. The girls and I felt empowered wielding hammers & drills and cutting wood with a chop saw (something none of us had ever done before). And what’s really great with this organization is there’s really no major time commitment. A perfect way to make a small difference. I will definitely return and do another day or two with St. Bernard’s as there are still many homes to be rebuilt from Katrina’s devastation.
FlipKey Vacation Rentals
When you go away with your girlfriends part of the point is to have a ginormous slumber party together. The issue is the more people traveling together the harder it is to achieve. This is where renting apartments and homes makes SO MUCH SENSE! For a fraction of the cost of a hotel, you can get a kicking place to share with your best buds. We found the perfect apartment through FlipKey on the other side of Canal Street, so a bit out of the French Quarter madness but close enough to walk back and forth as any and all wanted. It couldn’t have been better suited for us. A 3 bedroom and 2 bathroom apartment with Nola flair, a big shared living space, washer/dryer and all in a secure building. We all decided this is a premium way to go with a girls getaway.
Another repeat for me but still definitely deserves the mention is working with awesome Flytographer. It is one of my absolute favorite things to mix into a girls trip. One of the things that I really want to highlight with this mention is how you learn something(s) new about a city while on a shoot. Since the photographers hired are local to the area, they always end up sharing tidbits you wouldn’t otherwise know about the city you’re visiting. New Orleans was no exception. Lizzie was incredible about choosing places to shoot and suggesting choices of drinks and small bites and introducing us to local sweets. I don’t know if there was a single other activity we all enjoyed more than our Flytographer shoot and our photos came out AMAZING. Flytographer has photographers in over 100 cities worldwide and packages start at $250. (Bargain when split among friends, right?!)
While we all loved the *obligatory* stops to Pat O’Brien’s and Cafe Du Monde, we hit up some other yummy spots and I want to give a BIG shout out to by far my favorite New Orleans foodie experience yet – Commander’s Palace. We went for Sunday Jazz Brunch and BOY did we get the royal treatment. This wasn’t unique to us. This is just how Commander’s Palace rolls. Since 1880, Commander’s Palace has been a New Orleans landmark known for the award-winning quality of its food. The history of this famous restaurant offers a glimpse into New Orleans’ antebellum past. We loved every second of our multi-course brunch. Basically, my mouth is watering right this second and this establishment will be a repeat on every subsequent visit to New Orleans. It’s THAT good. I had a trio of soups including gumbo, lobster bisque and their famous turtle soup…when in “Rome”. My entrée was shrimp and grits (OMG) and dessert was the well-known house specialty, creole bread pudding soufflé. Of course, cocktails were sampled as well. Not only was my mouth and belly completely thrilled but our service might have truly been some of the best I’ve ever experienced.
* We were graciously given a media discount with FlipKey but regardless this was the most cost-effective and best way to stay in Nola. More on FlipKey:
What makes FlipKey such a great place to find a vacation rental?
- We feature 300,000 vacation homes located in over 11,000 cities throughout the world
- Every owner is verified by FlipKey staff to ensure you are only dealing with nice and trusted people
- We feature the largest collection of authentic guest reviews and photos in the industry
- Over 5,000 special deals are featured on the site every day
- Millions of travelers visit FlipKey every month to help find the perfect vacation home
- FlipKey is a TripAdvisor company and powers the vacation rental experience on TripAdvisor.com—the largest travel site in the world—and other TripAdvisor Media sites
the one & only willie nelson
the zydeco stage
given that New Orleans claims the title ‘the birthplace of jazz’ it seemed fitting that i was there during JAZZ FEST 2011. now…just so you are aware – the name Jazz Fest is a bit of a misnomer. it’s really just a music festival where some of the acts may be jazz. ie – i saw Willie Nelson & Arcade Fire – not exactly in the jazz category but nevertheless so much fun. being a native Texan, it was AMAZING to see Willie and if you can believe this…it was my first time!!! i made a quick pit-stop at the zydeco stage and i felt this was more authentic NOLA – really cool & great dancing.
Arcade Fire was all i hoped and more. their music is so emotional & you could really feel the energy in the crowd. they even had a guest appearance by Cyndi Lauper playing ‘girls just want to have fun’ and then accompanying on a couple of AF tunes. what a treat! i can’t wait to see Arcade Fire again when they tour somewhere near me OR perhaps road trip it to Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN!!
TRIP TIP – you may wonder WHY all the throngs of people attending Jazz Fest wear hats…it’s because there is NO shade to be had and that southern sun is INTENSE…bring a hat, i repeat, bring a hat! a beer koozie is also a really good idea. having said that – it was totally fantastic that when you bought a 6 pack + of beer it was served in a case box filled with ice to tote it around in. how helpful & clever!
while in NOLA i also had the privilege of seeing the Neville Brother’s at the legendary tipitina’s. it was great but i gotta say the i REALLY enjoyed the opening act much more – Big Sam’s Funky Nation. AWESOME! they really knew how to get the party started – check them out if you can!!!
A QUICK FINAL THOUGHT ON NEW ORLEANS…despite all the devastation – NOLA was so alive & it pumped me up. music truly filled the streets everywhere you went! keep it going NOLA – i’m rooting for you come-back kid!!!
st. louis cathedral
jackson square peddlers
if you go to New Orleans you are probably going to visit the french quarter. jackson square is a beautiful park right in the thick of it and it’s where you go to find the “fortune tellers”. OK – it may be incredibly touristy but i think it’s all in good fun – like reading your horoscope – and there aren’t too many places where you feel like that’s a part of the culture. i found a palm reader during my visit to jackson square who had nothing but nice things to say about me. i’m creative, independent & think outside of the box – PHEW! she did mention that due to my fun-seeking personality – i do have the potential to burn out. OUCH! better keep that in mind when livin’ it up.
voodoo off the square
i also felt compelled to visit some to of the voodoo shops. again – perhaps a tourist trap – but boy did my friends like their mini mojo dolls! you can’t knock a good tchotchke!!! and – it turns out voodoo is really meant more for good than evil/getting revenge. who knew? see…it was educational for me too.
although there are several places to check out – i went to voodoo authentica where they have a variety of local practitioner-made items in the voodoo arena. they can custom make things for you as well depending upon what you are hoping to gain from the voodoo doll experience. they also do rituals & readings – ooo!
OTHER PLACES WORTH THE MENTION –
on a more serious note – i did stop by Hemline (cute clothing store @ 609 Chartres) but hit the jackpot with Violet’s @ 808 Chartres. i could have bought one of everything in Violet’s – it was THAT GREAT & the customer service was UNREAL! (back to that southern hospitality thing) one of the dresses i bought had straps that were too long and the owner literally sat down & shortened them right then and there for me. INCREDIBLE! read a NY TIMES review of Violet’s. definitely worth the stop if you are in NOLA!!!
one place i wanted to get to but ran out of time was Dirty Coast – a t-shirt store that has unique and funny NOLA tees. next time! i’ll buy one online in the meantime.
TRIP TIP – some of those souvenir stores on canal street actually do have good stuff. ie – mardi gras beads for every interest under the sun, cafe du monde beignet mix & french market coffee, pat o’briens hurricane mix & slap ya mama cajun seasoning!
cafe du monde
in my pre-trip planning i asked some New Orleanean friends about food recommendations. bottom line – there is so much great food in NOLA – it should be called ‘The Big Easy’ because your belly is going to get BIG if you don’t take it EASY!
old classics that didn’t disappoint
i did make it to cafe du monde for a cafe latte & beinet AND to napoleon house for the muffaletta & pimms cup out on the patio. while these food-stops may not be original they should be essential on anyone’s food list for a definitive New Orleans experience.
in addition i had the occasional counter food – poboys, gumbo, daiquiri hurricanes & spicy bloody mary’s (which are all MUSTS for any visit to NOLA)
great new gastronomy
i discovered a couple of wonderful newer places – sylvain & le foret. both have an old-school New Orleans feel with terrific ambience.
sylvain is a local favorite in the french quarter (locals sent us there!) serving fresh gastropub fare with a modern twist – delicious! and while i enjoyed the food & cocktails (try their homemade cola with dark rum!!) very much – the atmosphere is really awesome & authentic. it’s housed in a renovated carriage house with historic original doors, ceilings, walls & balconies. the tree-covered courtyard feels like a timeless New Orleans experience. GO! read these articles on sylvain @ nola.com & time.com
le foret was named “best new restaurant of the year” by New Orleans Magazine and has a menu featuring strong French technique and seasonal flavors. housed in a newly renovated historic building – le foret makes you feel relaxed in a truly indulgent setting. LOVED the food & the service! more on le foret @ myneworleans.com
crawfish boil at “BarreFest”
BUT bar-none the BEST food experience was at “BarreFest” – a party that some local friendly folk invited us to. post-jazz fest we wandered over to “BarreFest” and were greeted with a feast of ribs, crawfish & rum punch. our new friends even offered lessons in proper deshelling of the crawfish – how’s that for southern hospitality?! SORRY – there is no formal website or press as of yet for “BarreFest”. you can’t make reservations…you just have to be in-the-know!
TRIP TIP – portions are large at a lot of the counter places – you should plan to share if you want to partake in as much food sampling as possible!