My darlings, my loves, my pumpkin pies… this has been my summer of dreams coming true. A few months ago, I was having one of my usual lengthy email/Whatsapp conversations with my homeslice Rosie from A Red Lip and a Nude Shoe. She was telling me about the epic trip she was planning to the USA over the summer. Her favourite band, Def Leppard, was performing in North Carolina, and she’d decided to combine it with several other city stops across the States. As we excitedly talked outfits and locations for Rosie, she said “You have to come too!” Being the anxious, deeply dull person that I am, I immediately said “oh stawp it, I simply mustn’t, think of the money…” And then it hit me. I AM 30 NOW. I have a good job. I’ve wanted to go to America forever. I deserve this. I work hard and gosh darn it, I’m going to go ahead and treat myself.
So I did! The decision was made, tickets were bought, lipsticks were selected… the plan was that I would head to New Orleans and meet up with Rosie, her childhood pal Tez (who I just adore) and Rosie’s American blogger pal, the delectable Karen from KP Says. Before I knew it, I was 35,000 feet in the air, more excited than I’d ever been in my life.
From the moment I landed in New Orleans, I was enchanted. Arriving at the hotel, I yelped and screamed and jumped on the bed, before running out to the balcony to fling the doors open. And there it was. New Orleans.
Once I had marginally calmed down, I got down to the business of Eating All of The Things. Numero Uno on my bucket list was to eat a Shrimp Po’Boy. This is a Southern sandwich served with freshly baked bread and something delicious inside. YOU GUYS… I don’t know what to tell you. I wept #JesusTears from how good it was.
Side note: one incredible thing about New Orleans and staying at a hotel just around the corner from the legendary Bourbon Street, is that you can order room service from many of the surrounding restaurants. When the young man (we’ll call him Tyrone) brought me this delightful sandwich, I was almost rendered unconscious by his sexy Southern drawl. Good Lawd. If I hadn’t been so hungry, I would have eloped with him on the spot. As it was, I tipped him approximately $4000 for being hot, and carried on with my evening.
I could barely sleep from excitement, knowing that the next day I would be reunited with my gal pals. The next morning I went to get myself a little snack, wanting to save my appetite for when the girls arrived and we headed out to lunch. I went to a cute little place called Cafe Conti and ordered the special, a grilled cheese croissant. This was how I learned my first lesson about American food portion sizes. This “croissant” came out and I was like O_O
You couldn’t even SEE the croissant, laden as it was with bacon, tomatoes, basil, roasted garlic and poached eggs. I soldiered on, and then staggered back to the hotel to meet my friends. The reunion was a blur of screams, squeals and hugsies, and I cannot even begin to tell you how overjoyed I was to see my Rosie!
Those of you who’ve been with me since the beginning know that leaving Melbourne was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and Rosie and I bawled our eyes out at the airport. Seeing her and Our Tez again gave me ALL OF THE LIFE. I also finally got to meet Karen. Guys, you know when you meet someone for the first time and love them on sight? Karen aka “Mama Karen” is so sweet, warm and caring, and she had me howling with laughter within minutes.
And we were OUT! The debauched and wanton pleasures of Bourbon Street called from just around the corner. This day will go down as one of the happiest days in my life. We munched on seafood platters and deep-fried eggplant sticks at Oceana, got drunk (in luhhhhve) on the famous Hurricane cocktail at Pat O’Brien’s, continued drinking in style at Carousel Bar, became famous for our karaoke at The Cat’s Meow, and rounded off the perfect night with an oversized pizza slice at The Big Easy Daiquiris & Pizza Cafe.
We had a good perve n’ flirt with the hottie behind the counter at the pizza parlour. He had a face carved by a benevolent God, and an accent that caused instant arrhythmia. Tez tells me that I leaned over the counter towards him and whispered, “I love you.” I can neither confirm nor deny this of course…
*coughs discreetly* ANYHOO. The next day we met up with one of KP’s blogger friends, the adorable Chelsea from Tiger Love Beauty, and her lovely friend Ashley. We met at the famous Cafe du Monde. I was beyond excited to try their world-famous beignets, and I was not disappointed. These folks don’t play- the beignets were huge! Fresh, crisp and golden, piled high with powdered sugar.
We then visited the breathtaking St. Louis Cathedral, and walked through Jackson Square. Just outside the cathedral we stopped to watch some live jazz. I’m a jazz and soul fiend, and I just couldn’t take my eyes off this band. They were having a whale of a time, and I wanted to give up my worldly possessions and tour with them.
When it was time to hunt down breakfast, we headed to The Old Coffee Pot. Now, I’m sure you guys know by now that I’m an epic foodie. My telly is permanently fixed on The Food Network, and one of my all-time fave shows is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives hosted by Guy Fieri. So imagine my delight when I saw this by the doorway of The Old Coffee Pot:
Guy ate there! HUZZAH! We swiftly proceeded to do the same thing. It was absolutely divine, and due to over-excitement and stuffing of faces, no photos were taken. We continued on, with the day getting better and better. We walked through the French Market, and stopped to gaze at the mighty Mississippi river. With every moment, I was falling deeper and deeper in love with NOLA. Around every corner was a different adventure: The Pepper Palace (an entire superstore dedicated to thousands of different hot sauces), The Central Grocery (where we ate the Best Effing Sandwich Ever- the hilariously named Muffaletta), and finally more live jazz at Maison Bourbon Jazz Club.
On our last day, we had breakfast at a place called Stanley’s, which was amazing. Cheese eggs, bacon and cheese grits, poached eggs with fried oysters… all of these were washed down with gallons of my new favourite drink, sweet tea. Sweet tea is basically iced tea that has been used to wash down angel wings, before being strained through gold dust and unicorn’s tears. I quickly got into the habit of asking “D’you have sweet tea?” everywhere we went, until KP explained that they were guaranteed to serve it everywhere in the South #winning
We then took a tour down to the swanky Garden District, Mardi Gras World, the St Louis Cemetery, and saw the very beautiful and poignant Hurricane Katrina memorial. Afterwards we wandered through the streets with their lacy wrought-iron balconies, and soon it was time for lunchies. KP took us to a place called Fiorella’s Cafe for fried chicken. Listen… I’ve eaten a lot of fried chicken in my life. But THERE ARE LEVELS, and this was the pinnacle. This teeny little place doesn’t look like much; it’s a no-frills dive bar with the customary sticky floors and low lighting. But guys… when the chicken came out, the cherubim and seraphim burst into triumphant song.
This was the most perfect fried chicken that has ever crossed my lips and you must try it immediately. Like, go now. I’ll wait.
*cue Lionel Richie hold music*
So?! Right? It was golden-fried to perfection, and when you bit into it… I’ll be hearing that crispy crunch sound in my dreams forever. I also got to try fried pickles for the first time- so good! Then it was time to head back down Bourbon Street, soaking up that frenzied late-night atmosphere I’d come to adore. There were people everywhere, hollering and whooping and generally having the time of their lives. From every doorway spilled live music (special shout out to the band at Razzoo Bar for their amazing MJ medley!) and guys, you could take your drinks in a “go cup” and wander the streets! That evening we tried the famous Hand Grenade, and all I can say is Yow. Za.
(NOTE: Green shirt guy wins the prize for Best Photo Bomb Ever, obvs)
(NOTE: See Our Tez with that two-hander situation? Profesh.)
Our last hurrah was eating at The Gumbo Shop, where I had my first taste of crawfish etouffé, a rich and delectable stew served with rice. The food was incredible, and we had the opportunity to gaze at yet more fine figures of Southern men (apparently New Orleans just insists on hot employees at all times). We later stumbled upon an awesome gay bar, where there was a drag show on! I love the hell out of drag queens (I hope to be one someday) and I screamed myself hoarse with delight! Those ladies were made up and dressed for the Gawds, honey. Of course we ended up on stage…
And then much too soon, it was time to leave. I wanted to drink in every sight, every smell, every second of those few days. New Orleans has stolen my heart. I adored those Southern accents, and my new favourite phrase is the greeting “How yo’ Mama n’em?” closely followed by “Who dat?” I kept noticing signs saying “Shops Dat Way” and “We Will Ship Dat” When I asked KP about it, she explained dat (see what I did there) this everyday phrase actually originates from a New Orleans Saints football chant: “Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”
I loved everything about New Orleans- the famous Southern hospitality is very much alive and well. I couldn’t believe how charming and polite everyone was, how flirtatious the vibe was (men of London please take note, for the love of God). It goes without saying that the food and music were phenomenal, but it goes much deeper than that. There is such a beautiful sense of history in those streets; the crumbling but still-proud buildings, those timeless jazz melodies. There’s just something about that this place that puts a spell on you.
New Orleans, I will be back. You can believe dat.
Pssst! Look out for the next stop on our USA adventure coming soon!