Southern Hospitality, Southern Charm, Southern Living

So, although I have not visited all 50 states yet (I only have 1 state left), I can soundly declare with 99.4% certainty that Louisiana is my favorite state and New Orleans is my FAV city.  The same way I feel when I visit mi yard is the same way I feel when I journey down south to Nawlins.  The only difference is that Nawlins does not have a beach.  What is there not to to love?  There are all of the luxuries of a big city like Miami, Chicago, or New York, without the expense.  There is the nightlife which is full of high energy, bass thumping, body pumping rhythms and sassy saxophone playing.  Did I mention that a majority of the night spots are FREE?  No cover charge.  Gratis.  Soulful bands which could be an opening or headlining act on ANY major stage around the world, like The Phunky Monkeys which can be heard at Razzoo Bar and Patio on Burbon Street.  If you are ever in the French Quarter between Sunday and Thursday, DO NOT miss this band.  They are the truth!!

With respect to the hospitality, tell me where else you can go and have individuals genuinely offer you sunday dinner?  Where else can you go and have a complete stranger offer you a beverage or food?  Where else can you go and have a complete stranger sketch you out an itinerary of places to go and things to do for you to further enjoy a city that you already enjoy?  Where else can you go where complete strangers just say “hello baby” without being fresh, just wanna “hug a neck” because that is just how they get down in the south, or call you friend upon first meeting you?  Other than Tampa where my family lives, I can’t think of too many places that fit the bill.  Nawlins just feels good.  It just feels right.

Of course I can’t forget about the food.  No other place have I ever visited where I LOVED the food EVERYWHERE I went.  I am the world’s pickiest person.  It is hard for me to be satisfied and find a place that serves great food at a great value.  However, that has not been the case with my visit to Nawlins.  Not only was the food off the meter, I spent very little money and the portions were HUGE.  Like take it back to the hotel and eat off of it for three days HUGE.  From the shrimp creole to the shrimp etouffe, to the gumbo to the jumbalaya, to the red beans and rice, you are talking about some good eating.  I felt like a stuffed pig just sampling the local cuisine.  Like you can taste the love that goes into each and every ingredient in your dish.  You have to try really, really hard to find bad food in Nawlins.

So, what tips to I have for individuals who visit Nawlins and other points out in Louisiana?

  1. Chat with the locals.  Cop a squat and just chat for a bit.  You will receive some of the most valuable information that money or a “tourist trap” cannot provide.  Locals can give you the details of the rich history and culture of the environment.  They can explain the differences between cajun and creole cultures the way that no one else can.  They can explain what the bells on the plantation mean.  They can explain the rich history of the 2nd Line.  The locals can tell you how Katrina impacted the city and it’s inhabitants in ways that have not been documented by historians.  Perhaps most useful is the fact that locals can save you money by giving you cost saving tips that you will not find in the published guides.
  2. Nawlins is very easy to navigate.  If you are blessed to have two feet and are in good health, use those sticks that God gave you and walk the town.  It is quite easy to walk to major attractions from the downtown hotels within minutes.  But, if you are not as mobile, have a lot of items to carry from your retail therapy, or just want to take public transportation, jump on the trolley or city bus.  Make sure you get an all day pass.  It is only $3 and will allow you unlimited access on RTA transportation until 4.m.
  3. Experience more than the French Quarter.  Yes, Burbon Street is the biggest draw that most tourist know of, but journey to other areas such as Uptown, Midtown, the Warehouse District, the Garden District, Carrollton and Treme.  I know that some people have been told and probably think that areas outside of the French Quarter are not safe, but that is not always the case.  As with any place that you go, you have to be on your guard and exercise common sense.  You can just as easily be bashed over the head and robbed in the French Quarter after a night of partying as you can in the Ninth Ward.  I wouldn’t necessarily write off an area because of “those people” or “that area”.
  4. Plan ahead to save money while seeing some of the most popular sites.  A lot of people who go to Nawlins want to do the swamp tours, the cemetery tours (yep, they have tours of cemeteries and it is tasteful), tours of Jackson Square, and the city tours, but those tours can sometimes get pricey.  To save money, try the package deal route.  Check out Visiticket.com for the power pass which gets you into many attractions within the local area, as well as the outlying areas for a nominal fee.
  5. Finally, just take a moment to take it all it.  As I said earlier, there is no other place on the earth like Nawlins.  Take a moment to enjoy life, slow down from the rat race and laissez les bons temps roulez!

Till next year Nawlins – Mi amour.

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Do Not Pass Go – Unless You Have the Proper Credentials

So, as one who is EXTREMELY anal retentive when it comes to travel and travel preparations, you would not think that I would be ill prepared for a trip.  But, that was the case on one of my most recent excursions.  I purchased the plane ticket for this trip more than four months in advance.  Arranged my accommodations with a travel provider five months in advance.  Had my suitcase packed and ready to go at least two weeks in advance.  Printed copies of my itinerary and local information one week in advance and printed my boarding passes 24 hours in advance.  Yet and still, somehow, I arrived at the airport, crossed through security and was prepared to board the plane with NO PASSPORT.  Yikes!!  Yes, that is right, I said it, no passport.  Where was it?  In my everyday bag/purse, which was in the trunk of my car, parked in the off-site parking lot.

So, how did I come to realize that I was traveling sans passport?  Well, like any female who has consumed a gallon of water throughout the day, I had to make a run to the ladies room.  Just as I was prepared to leave, a small voice in my head said, passport- make sure you have it.  I tore through all of my carry-on items and didn’t see it.  In instant I went from cute chica with stacked sandals, sundress and floppy beach hat in hand to frantic chick sweating bullets and looking crazy.  Though I missed my first flight (and there were no more departing for the day), all was not lost.  I was actually planning to spend the night at my sunny american destination, prior to continuing to my caribbean destination.  So, I was able to get on a flight departing at 6a.m. the following day and make my connecting flight to the caribbean.  The hotel where I planned to spend the night canceled my appointment with no issue and I actually shared my connecting flight with the hair diva– Diana Ross.

Bottom line— make sure you have all of your documentation in hand before you drive to the airport, park the car and proceed to the airport terminal.  I dodged a bullet this time because I was staying overnight in my connecting city.  However, had I not checked for the passport in the ladies room and my flight to the caribbean had been on the same day, that would have been a VERY expensive mistake.