Pyra-Danny is taking a solo road trip to New Orleans for the three-day weekend. She’s already stopped at sites along the way and has finally made it to the Big Easy.
First full day in New Orleans! I practically speed drove to City Park ready to stretch my legs. I had one hour to burn before church but it wasn’t enough time. Larger than New York’s Central Park, City Park attracted picnics, bridal photos, joggers and more on this Sunday. My camera quickly filled with photos.
I finally stumbled into the Besthoff Sculpture Garden—part of City Park’s Museum of Art. This large property was free to enter and was begging for photos. Featuring a variety of styles and artists, I wandered this place aimlessly and paused at each sculpture- especially the non-humanoid ones. I stared too long at the giant safety pin (by Claes Oldenburg) and mused at the tenderness of Fernando Botero’s Mother and Child.
As expected, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church was a lavishly decorated church with a looming brick architecture on the outside. After getting my Jesus on I drove to Rouses—a local grocery chain that visually reminded me Winn Dixie and Whole Foods. Besides replenishing my stock of snacks, I found a few local gifts for friends at home: Zapp’s Potato Chips decorated in flavors like Voodoo, Gator, and Cajun as well as Swamp Pop soda.
I continued through New Orlean’s neighborhoods which contained strangely angled roads and sudden potholes until I arrived at the southern borders of the French Quarter. Note: parking garages are pricey and street parking was rare. As I walked along Decatur Street, the picture-perfect scenery I’ve only seen from NOLA promos started to surround me. I was on a mission to enter the French Market where a shuttle would transport me to the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery.
I was packed between some giggly ladies from Pittsburgh, young Dallas belles, and a solo traveler from Australia as we entered the Distillery and the giggles grew louder as we were greeted with a cup of mildly sweet tea mixed with their Crystal Rum—there’s nothing like starting a tour buzzed.
This self-sufficient Distillery guided us from the local Sugar entering the building all the way to the bottling and labeling process. It was sometimes difficult to hear our tour guide—an older gentleman who chuckled at his own jokes. Of course following the tour were further sampling of the Distillery’s products. I’m relatively new to drinking spirits and hesitantly sipped their Amber Rum while others around me downed it as mini shots. Smooth and strong. I bought myself souvenirs of their famous Crystal and a bottle of Gingeroo.
Returning to the French Quarter and hungry from the alcohol, I entered the inconspicuous Verti Marte. Don’t let this mini mart with a worn façade fool you because its deli is known for their crazy and delicious sandwiches. My ‘All That Jazz’ Sandwich was stuffed with Roast Beef, Ham, Veggies, Cheese and—yougottabekiddingme—Shrimp and Mushrooms sautéed in Creole Mustard and their secret ‘Wow Sauce.’
Jackson Square is the busy hub for all NOLA visits. Since a Confirmation event was preventing the public from entering St. Louis Cathedral, I instead joined the crowd in dancing to the beats of a very entertaining jazz band mere steps away. The trombonist would frequently invite tourists to take photos with the band even as they played. All types of performance artists were gathered at the Square. As for Jackson Square itself—it was tough to find a space for myself inside that acre of greenery because of all the crowds craving the same peace.
No trip to NOLA is complete without Café Du Monde. It’s amusing to watch the dance of the young servers as they weaved through the crowded tables stuffed with patrons taking photos of their Beignets topped with powdered Sugar. Around the corner large windows provided great views of the kitchen as they cut up the dough and fried. I took my order to go and walked to the nearby Riverfront. One bite of my Beignet and my dark shirt instantly became a canvas for pop art. As I enjoyed my Café Au Lait a troupe of Acro Yogis took photos of themselves using the water as a background.
Slowly I walked the Riverfront back to my car and eventually entered my AirBnB for the night as the sky broke apart into a harsh thunderstorm. True—in a land of bars and night music I had turned in early. No drinking and partying for me that night. I instantly fell asleep in an effort to reload my energy for the next day.