Greetings, globetrotters! bumble here. Seriously jazzed to bring you my pick of the great city of New Orleans (see what I... yeah of course you did). Now, I think New Orleans (NOLA to the locals) has a bit of a rep as a party town, but slow down to take a closer look - - it has a bit more going on than that. You could take a trip down Bourbon Street if you like things on the tacky or seedy side, but know that folks from around the place are happy to leave it to the tourists. If you really want to kick back with local peeps, head over to Frenchman Street. "Chill" was at the top of our list on this trip, so we headed for....
On the other side of the river from the French Quarter, and a very short ferry ride away, the cozy neighbourhood of Algiers Point is an alternative (and depending on your vibe, an antidote) to typical French Quarter hustle and craziness. The Point feels like a local community, so if you like to see real places when you travel, this one is worth a look. We're told it's a bit of a taste of how old New Orleans used to be. Take some time to stroll the quaint residential streets and soak up the architectural vernacular (look at them long enough, and the houses will tell their stories). If you can, skip the rental car and walk instead - nowhere is very far from the ferry landing.
You'll find local artists and businesses to check out, sprinkled in a few places among the family homes (more about folk artist Charles Gillam below). Our local coffee stop, with some great breakfast options, was Café Tout de Suite (347 Verret Street, Algiers Point. Louisiana 70114). The perfect spot for your first espresso drink of the day.
There's something magical about taking a ferry to the French Quarter, and this one whisks you over there before you know it. I could go on, but I don't want to spoil that feeling of discovering something special. Algiers Point is a great, relaxing base for you New Orleans trip -- we're pretty sure you won't be disappointed.
Meals from the Heart Café
Meander your way over to the Old French Market, where artists, artisans, and vendors show off their wares, some tacky and some cool (you decide which is which). If you're like me, you'll probably find just being there is enough, getting to soak up the atmosphere, but you might find that memento you just have to have. The real destination almost always involves food - so don't be surprised if you start to see a pattern.
In the middle of the market, you'll find the amazing Meals from the Heart Café, proudly offering traditional New Orleans favourites like gumbo or po' boys, which can be veganized if you like. We liked. Everything. We liked the vegan okra gumbo and black bean brown rice and avocado so much that we came back the next day for breakfast. The vegan blueberry pancakes were ridiculously good, but the vegan apple patties were so good we almost sold everything and applied for a green card.
We can't sum it all up better than @veg_peas_punk did on the MFTH instagram feed: "I ate there for the first time because you serve vegan options, and I kept coming back because the food was fantastic and you all are some of the kindest people I have ever met." We couldn't agree more. So much warmth and love in this place. Just go.
1100 N Peters, Bay #13, New Orleans, LA 70116
St Roch Market
We found St Roch Market on a tip from a friend. It's a bit further out into the real NOLA, so we decided to hop in a taxi, and we were there in under 10 minutes. St Roch may be the patron saint of lost causes, but it's safe to say St Roch Market isn't one of them. It's been refurbished and re-modelled a few times since it was built in 1875, most recently in 2012 post-Hurricane Katrina. Restored to its former glory probably won't cut it here. It's a bright and airy space, with imposing columns and funky art-deco pendant lighting, modern without feeling cold at all.
But back to what's important: this is one of the best food halls you'll ever see, with a handful of local makers, all at the top of their game. There's something for everyone here, and we were no exception. Breakfast was avocado toast, a green smoothie, and a double espresso. It's impossible to do justice to it - I mean, that sounds like breakfast just about anywhere these days. But you have to try to imagine the pleasure of eating the best avocado toast, and drinking the best green smoothie and the best espresso you've ever had in your life, no matter how long. Every bite is perfect. Nothing outside it exists in that moment of total pleasure. I mean, it was good.
So, back the next day for dinner. I mean we're no fools. This time it was for Fritai's insane Mushroom Tofu Fritai Sandwich. You get two fried plantains for 'bread', with crispy tofu, avocado, mango sauce, and pickles for the filling, and a mess of crunchy plantain chips. A lot of ecstatic groaning and stuffing our faces. It was glorious. To this day, we talk about making one of these where we live. But this one is special. Don't visit NOLA without making a pilgrimage.
2381 St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70117
Algiers Folk Art Zone & Blues Museum
As a fan of the letter 'b' and a music lover, you can imagine my excitement when I found our Algiers Point b n b within easy walking distance of the Algiers Folk Art Zone & Blues Museum. Bessie Smith, Blind Lemon Jefferson, B B King... my mind raced. It was a must-see. We called to make an appointment for a tour with our gracious host, folk artist and proprietor, Charles Gillam.
A NOLA native, Gillam has been a Black Panther, and a rastafarian, as well as a self-taught artist, taking driftwood and discarded, found objects and using them to create strikingly distinctive artworks commemorating the great blues musicians of New Orleans (Charlie Patton was among his first subjects), and local cultural traditions like the jazz funeral procession.
Mr Gillam took us on a tour of his museum and studio (he prefers to personally escort his visitors), talking about his passion for documenting the history and culture of New Orleans, and patiently answering our questions about his process (his busts of blues greats are made of cement and actually built into the walls of the building). He showed us an easel given to him by Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue, whose work we saw in a French Quarter gallery earlier that day. As far as we're concerned, Gillam's work is the real deal, and we were inspired by his commitment to telling the story of New Orleans through his unique artworks. A true one-of-a-kind.
207 Leboeuf Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70114
That's it for our whistle-stop tour of New Orleans highlights. Tune in next time for another instalment. Seattle, Brooklyn, Portland, all coming up soon. Stay safe and be good to each other,