New Orleans as a Solo Woman Traveler

07.2.14

Much has been written about New Orleans. It’s a culturally rich city that birthed Jazz, Dixie and American’s first pharmacists. The air in New Orleans is sweet with humidity and blossoms, spices and music. New Orleans is more than a city, it’s a culture and a way of life.

In addition to being a cultural hub and a fabulous vacation destination New Orleans has a booming film industry (I’m not supposed to endorse that because of runaway production) and if you’re interested in learning more about that my friend Stan Gill actually left Los Angeles for NOLA and has a great blog for you to read. In 2012 New Orleans had more than 9 million visitors and nearly 25% of them were there for business either conventions or general business.

The monkey business you can figure out on your own. If you want to eat too much, drink too much and dance all night New Orleans just might be paradise. The food is some of the best in the country, the drinks are plentiful and the music, well the music is pervasive and sublime. Finding a good restaurant is as simple as tossing a rock. If you’re traveling to New Orleans as a woman alone what could you possibly do?

If you’re from LA or New York (and a good many visitors to New Orleans are) like me there’s a good chance that you’ll be startled when everyone calls you “Baby”. It doesn’t come out like a squicky baby but a soft French tone like bebe. Take off your feminist hat and acknowledge you’re being spoken to. This threw me for a loop but after a bit I came to enjoy it. Getting called baby in New Orleans is now music to this Angelino’s ears.

If you’re traveling solo in New Orleans there’s no reason to hide in your hotel room but if you want to start your trip off right you’d be wise to drop into the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone (addresses, phones and URLs will be included at the bottom of the post for all bolded locations). There’s an actual revolving carousel right smack in the middle of the bar. Grab a seat at the bar and you’ll slowly get a view of the room.

I happened to have been staying at the Hotel Monteleone and my two drinks at the Carousel bar were free. Why? You ask. Because upon my check in I handed the front desk clerk $20 and requested a room in a high floor away from an elevator and said the magic words, “I appreciate anything you can do for me.” As is often the case it was the best $20 investment of the trip.

After you’ve had some sips at the Carousel Bar you’ll want to stroll down Royal Street and window shop (or just shop) in some of the galleries and antique shops. I was absolutely smitten when I happened upon the Bevolo workshop where they make gas and electric lights. The craftsmen there were making the same lamps that have graced the French Quarter for 65 years. By Los Angeles standards this is a very old business but I was about to find out that by New Orleans standards this is still relatively new.

If there was one piece that I would want to bring to my home from New Orleans an outdoor gas lamp would surely be it.

Also an Royal Street is James H Cohen & Sons where they sell antique weapons and coins. You don’t have to be a gun nut to want to see dueling sets and weapons from the Civil War. Ladies, just be careful and stay on the left side of the store, the right side of the store is filled with old and sometimes ancient coins that have been made into jewelry. I don’t even like jewelry that much and I was tempted.

My favorite gallery was AFA. At the moment they have an artist there named Nicoletta Ceccoli whose work is simply breathtaking. I’m not sure that I won’t be calling to have something shipped to me. Everything on their walls was incredible.

Royal street is lined with artists and galleries. Do yourself a favor and stroll up one side and down the other. You’ll also want to keep an eye peeled for Touchdown Jesus at the St. Louis Cathedral.

Wandering off of Royal Street I found myself at Hove Parfumeur which is the South’s Oldest parfumerie. I am a huge fan of solid perfumes because they travel well and the scents are both easy to layer and not overwhelming. I picked up three at Hove. If you loved Jo Malone before it was bought by Estee Lauder Hove is a must visit destination.

There are museums all over the French Quarter and they’re tucked away in the most surprising places. The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum sits on the site of the apothecary of America’s first licensed pharmacist. It’s a relatively quick visit and at just $5 for an adult I’d recommend it. Around the corner at Arnaud’s Restaurant there’s a Mardi Gras Museum. Like much of New Orleans it’s said to be haunted. I’d recommend popping into Arnaud’s for dinner ahead of time and just quit whatever diet it is that you’re on because the duck bread they bring out before the meal is worth every hour you’ll need at the gym to work it off. There’s a World War II Museum that I didn’t get to but I’m told is fabulous and since it’s right over on Magazine Street there’s plenty of shopping and dining nearby.

Speaking of dining I had a few not to be missed meals in New Orleans. As a solo female traveler I found these spots to be welcoming. Acme Oyster House or Deanie’s is a great spot for crawfish boil. At Deanie’s they give you boiled red potatoes when you’re seated instead of bread for the table and the spices are perfection. I was late for the crawfish season so they were small and I’m sure the locals frown upon eating such substandard mud puppies but I couldn’t help myself. I love them. Coop’s Place was my favorite food in the city and also the least expensive. It’s like walking into Cheers only in the South.

I’d always heard people talk about praline pie and I’d (wrongly) assumed that pralines are synonymous with pecans. They are not. Pralines are a kind of candy that we learned to make over at the New Orleans School of Cooking but I’m here to tell you that not all pralines are created equal. Head over to Aunt Sally’s for some of the best pralines in New Orleans. I like them creamy.

So long as you’ve had your crawfish, your gumbo, your jumbalaya and your pralines you might as well sit a spell and have beignets and coffee at the Cafe Du Monde. I don’t love donuts and I’m pretty sure I won’t have another for twenty more years but there’s something special about parking yourself right there at the French Market and having a plate full of gluten and sugar washed down with a cup of good chicory coffee. If you sit long enough (like more that 20 minutes) there’s a good chance that there will be a parade going right past you.

New Orleans is a town that knows how to have fun. The days are filled with Second Lines. A Second Line is the parade that happens after the parade, you know the folks who hop in after the fact and dance and march along. Second Lines often feature brass bands and always made me smile. I don’t know how much I’d enjoy it if I had somewhere to be but the pace is definitely slower in NOLA. In fact I had a very difficult time slowing down my gait.

I took one morning off and decided that a plantation tour is the way to go. I really don’t know much about history so tours like these are a lot of fun for me. I feel like I’m constantly learning. The tour I tried picked me up at my hotel at 8.30 in the morning and we visited two plantations. First was the Laura Plantation and the tour was spectacular. We had a very serious tour guide who gave us a 90 minute history lesson that was fantastic and I highly recommend. Next we were shuttled to the Oak Alley Plantation which is much more grand than Laura but the tourguides were dressed in period costume and didn’t seem to know a whole bunch. It was overcrowded and disappointing after Laura BUT the grounds are extraordinary and walking them was a joy. Plus there were some vintage Model T’s at Oak Valley that I really enjoyed. If you don’t want to drive Cajun Encounters was very convenient and priced fairly.

There are things that should be done in very city. Outlet shopping and gambling. There’s a Harrah’s Casino over on Canal Street and I popped over there to play a little blackjack then I headed over to the shops at the Riverwalk where there’s a brand new outlet mall. They have a Neiman Marcus Last Call as well as a Cafe Du Monde in the food court. The food court is made of walls of glass that looks over the Mississippi River. While you’re there be sure to pop into the NOLA Tropical Winery for free samples and Wine Smoothies. Yes, really.

NOLA Tropical Wines

Bourbon Street doesn’t hold much appeal for me at night but in the afternoon it’s good for a giggle. Meet my new friend.

Untitled

 

 

Places to visit:

Acme Oyster House
724 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 522-5973

AFA Gallery
809 Royal Street New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 558-9296

Arnaud’s
813 Bienville Ave, New Orleans, LA 70112
(504) 523-5433

Aunt Sally’s Pralines
810 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 524-3373

Bevolo
318 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 552-4311

Cafe Du Monde
800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-4544

Cajun Encounters Tour Company
(504) 834-1770

Carousel Bar and Lounge
214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 523-3341

Coop’s Place
1109 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-9053

Deanie’s Seafood
841 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA
(504) 581-1316

Harrah’s New Orleans
228 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Hove’ Parfumeur
434 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 525-7827

James H Cohen & Sons Inc. [Antique Weapons And Coins]
Antique Shop
437 Royal St (at St Louis St), New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 522-3305

Laura Plantation
2247 Louisiana 18, Vacherie, LA 70090
(225) 265-7690

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
514 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 565-8027

NOLA Tropical Winery
500 Port of New Orleans Place Suite 144. New Orleans, LA 70130
504.522.1555

Oak Alley Plantation
3645 Louisiana 18, Vacherie, LA 70090
(225) 265-2151

The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk
Port of New Orleans Pl, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 522-1555

World War 2 Museum.
945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 527-6012

Street Performers getting ready ask that you Stan Hur

Music is everywhere

Revised: Art is everywhere

Cars at the Oak Alley Plantation

Laura Plantation

Slave Quarters at the Laura Planatation

You Can Eat Around The Green Part

06.26.14

I’m still working on a good post for y’all about New Orleans. My only souvenirs were two jars of Tabasco jelly, some solid perfume and the three pounds I gained. I walked everywhere but when you walk from a restaurant to a bar and back to another restaurant the weight gain is inevitable.

The first meal I had alone was at Coop’s Place. I had read on some local message boards that it was not to be missed but there was some issue about what the best dish is so I decided that I’d try a taste plate.

coops place taste plate

It was listed with entrees on the menu so I wondered if it came with anything else. Oftentimes entrees will come with a vegetable. The conversation with my server was indicative of many conversations I’d have in the coming days.

“Baby you ready to order?” How all of Louisiana can call me Baby and make me love them will always be a mystery.

“Yes ma’am,” I learn quickly, “I’ll have the taste plate please. Does that come with anything else?”

“It’s the gumbo, shrimp creole, red beans and rice with sausage, some rabbit and sausage jambalaya and a piece of fried chicken.”

“Right but are they any vegetables with it?” As I asked she looked confused and ran her finger down the menu. I continued, “Anything green?”

“Oh no baby. I think there might be a few slices of green pepper on the plate but you can eat around it.” She said pleased and helpful.

“Well I was hoping to get some veggies to eat.”

With a look of understanding she said, “We have some mixed green salad.” But the face that accompanied this revelation told me that it wouldn’t be very good.

“It is worth ordering?” I asked.

“Baby you’re going to have to get your greens at another place. Maybe later at another meal.”

Can I just say that I didn’t miss having a vegetable? The jambalaya was one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in my lifetime. Everything else was also really great. The gumbo was sent from heaven but the jambalaya will be something I remember for the rest of my life.

 

I Don’t Want to Write About New Orleans – Yet

06.23.14

Last night I came home from New Orleans and in my head I came up with a million different versions of a blog post that I would diligently sit down and write for all of you. New Orleans is a town that everyone’s familiar with so it’s not like I’m going to discover Acme Seafood or Joanie on the Pony for y’all.

joanie on the pony

I don’ t have to tell you that Bourbon Street is for tourists or that the Cafe du Monde is an absolute must see. You know that music spills out onto the street and that I was there too late for crawfish season but you don’t know that I ate them anyhow, they were tiny and a lot of work but worth it.

I don’t know how I’ll tell y’all that New Orleans has a sound a spirit that cannot be replicated anywhere, that music spills onto the streets along with the scent of boiling spices and the sound of English being spoken with a very different accent.

It was a magnificent trip to a city I’d only visited once before and knew that I loved. I thought that a lifetime later the love would subside but it hasn’t and today I’m wishing I was still there. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the plantations and being called baby and loving it. I’ll tell you about the po-boys and the strippers, the musicians and the painters. I’ll tell you about the perfume that I cannot live without and I’ll remind you why women should travel alone sometimes. That we need to recharge and that our own company is damn good company.

Also I’ll tell you that I won $400 in 90 minutes playing blackjack at Harrahs. Because I’d like to type that sentence twice.

Tomorrow. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Things I Know About Marriage & Careers After 15 Years

01.30.13

This should be a two-word post.

Not much.

I don’t know much about marriage and careers even though I’ve been married for over 15 years.

I suspect many things and I know a lot about my marriage but I don’t know a lot about other people’s marriages. I ask about them and certainly, I observe them but if success or failure is marked by marriage or divorce then none of us know much. There are marriages I knew were doomed. I went to weddings and decided to not bring a gift because no part of me thought they’d be together at the end of the year. Some couples are unable to make a clean break and they need to get married so they can get divorced. It’s like it’s the only way they know to get away from each other.

Other marriages I simply don’t want for myself. I suspect they’re happy (perhaps in the way people with Stockholm Syndrome are happy) poking and prodding and making fun of each other. Others seem sexless and one, in particular, has me thinking that they’re both gay and closeted (even to themselves), to be fair Mr. G says that I think everyone is gay, maybe I spent too much time in West Hollywood selling tanning packages to “straight men” who had an inordinate number of gay male friends and a penchant for bodybuilding, hair waxing and tanning nude. Maybe I just see the world a little differently.

My friend Cassie is starting a new relationship and as everyone who is married or living with someone knows, the first year is really tough. It’s not tough in a way that folks understand when they’re in it, it’s difficult in hindsight. My husband and I were strangers sharing a home, a cubbyhole really in the hillside. We had to figure out how we saved money (hah! there was none), how we earned money, who got the computer, who scooped the cat shit and who our friends were. We had to decide on bedtimes, morning routines, food and newspaper sections. Everything was a negotiation the first year and it was easy because we were madly in love and really couldn’t get enough of each other. When people date for 5 and 7 years before marrying or cohabiting I wonder if it’s more difficult having some of the bloom off the rose?

So Cassie and I were talking about Penelope’s post where she talks about the different ways to be married to someone successful and I sort of bristled. I didn’t say it out loud (because I’m trying to develop tact) but hasn’t Penelope been divorced? More than once? She’s crazy, right? Or maybe she’s just crazy smart. I don’t know, I haven’t read enough to make that judgment but something tells me there’s a bit of mania involved with her ascent to the top. I say that without judgment, with some amount of reverence even. I’ve become a bit of a slug in the winter months I could use a dose of mania.

So there’s this post where Penelope Trunk outlines the kind of marriage you can have if you want kids. According to her, there are the following scenarios for women:

Be the breadwinner

  • Marry a Stay at home dad
  • Use nannies

Be home with your kids

  • Work part-time
  • Don’t bother earning money

I’ve read and re-read that post a dozen times and I’m wanting to pick it apart and be able to say, with authority, “This is insane, there are more options for mothers than this. There is a balance, there’s a way to have a career that doesn’t dip into your personal life. It’s all possible.”

I can’t say that. If you’re thinking of marriage and you know you want to be someone’s mother these are discussions to have before conception. I’d argue that this is a decision to make while dating, before getting serious.

No matter which route you go it’s tough to adjust to marriage and to parenting. I cannot begin to comprehend what it’s like to adjust to parenting someone else’s child. My mother married when I was 15 or so and our stepfather had to walk a fine line. I think he did it gracefully as teenage years are not imbued with grace.

There’s a particular challenge in being the non-earner. It’s been difficult to give up control of our future and basically bet it all on one man that I met at a boozy party when I was 25. Obviously, we’re the thing movies are made of. We still like each other, we haven’t filed bankruptcy and the kids seem to be well adjusted. I’m only minimally jealous of my husband.

Yes. I am often envious of my husband. Which makes ZERO sense because when I go to pilates today he will be meeting that will likely wring him out and use every bit of energy he has. But he’s doing it in a luxury hotel so I convince myself that it’s all fabulousness and luxe and there’s no actual work involved and then I feel sorry for myself that I’m home.

And then I start arguing with myself (maybe Penelope and I have a little bit of The Crazy in common) and I remind myself that the man works long hours and I don’t. I should stop being petty and jealous of his amazing dinners. Then I remind myself again that we are different people and he doesn’t actually love fancy dinners with strangers. He doesn’t thrive on it. This is actual work for him. So I start feeling grateful and not at all put out that I have to rush to FedEx to get a tie that he forgot sent overnight. In fact, I hoped to myself that he would be as generous with me and my pending trip to Australia.

Then we got to chatting a little more and I found out that someone booked his flight from Los Angeles to New Orleans via Minneapolis. No. I cannot explain why. I can’t even get a slightly slow eight-year-old to look at a map of the US and explain how that happened. I chatted with him about ways to fix the return flight (which has similar idiocy built into it) and joked with him about needing a private jet.

Which is when I began to resemble this lady.

In marriage it's easy to turn green with envy, and equally important not to.

 

Mr. G explained that his trip in late February would indeed involve a private jet to the east coast. I love that man and I want wonderful things for him but sometimes the perks of being the one who works leave me feeling a little left behind.

And it’s just a feeling. We don’t cater to feelings here. We cater to actions.