NoLa Layover: Beignets & Balconies

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French Quarter balconies

I recently got back from a 4-day trip that finished up the month of March. I had a long layover in New Orleans and my crew and I went out to explore a little. We went to the French Quarter to see the sights. I fell in love immediately with all the French and Spanish colonial architecture: the curling balconies, the pastel pink and yellow buildings, and the beautiful boats that paddled the Mississippi River. New Orleans is such a beautiful city. Down each street you can hear jazz music playing somewhere (this city is so proud of its jazz heritage they named their airport after Louis Armstrong). Tall willowy trees shade the streets giving it a Southern ghostly feel. Fortune tellers and tarot card readers set up stall at the major plazas hoping to catch a wayward tourist and predict what their night in New Orleans will be like (most definitely filled with alcohol).

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Jambalaya and fried shrimp

The crew found a restaurant near the famous St. Louis Cathedral downtown for dinner. The place served classic New Orleans food: jambalaya, po’boys (Louisiana style sandwiches), seafood, and more. I ordered some jambalaya with fried shrimp. I’m not a huge seafood person but I figured in New Orleans you have to try some. American seafood (particularly southern style) is very different from the Asian seafood I’m used to. Everything is fried, battered, dipped, or covered in sauce. Makes for an interesting plate.

We did some shopping and boutique hopping and found a praline shop where you could sample pralines, which are southern-style nuts covered in caramelized sugar and cream.

Our wandering brought us to Bourbon Street, New Orleans’ famous strip known for its bars and clubs. It was still early so the place hadn’t gotten too crazy yet. The streets were filled with all sorts of performers – local children tap dancing on the sidewalk with beer bottle caps glued to their shoes, jazz musicians, and dancers, each one hoping to fill up their tip jar. Every five minutes the street dancers were interrupted by loud parades escorted by police officers on motorbikes. The parades were full of jazz bands and tourists and locals dancing along with them. Bourbon Street was one big party.

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BeignYAYs! I didn’t get a good picture of them because I gobbled them up so fast!

We capped off the night with a stop at Cafe Du Monde, the famous 24-hour cafe known for its beignets. Beignets are my favorite thing about New Orleans. They’re soft French-style doughnuts that sort of taste like funnel cake but are infinitely better. They’re covered in powdered sugar and best eaten hot with cafe au lait. Cafe Du Monde is famous for theirs but there are cafes all over New Orleans that sell them, including one in the airport. A visit to Cafe Du Monde is a must when in New Orleans. Be prepared for a line if you want to dine in at the outdoor pavilion and people-watch. Also have cash on hand as they do not take credit.

I had lots of fun during my short stay in New Orleans and would love to come back again one day, if not just to eat another beignet and watch paddle boats crawl up the Mississippi River.

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