Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Funday - Back from NOLA!

I had such a great time in New Orleans this week!  The food there was as amazing as everyone said!  But I must admit that first impression was not very good, and thought that I'd made the wrong decision going there.  I arrived on Tuesday and stayed at the French Quarter, which seemed filthy dirty and was filled with homeless people and shady characters as soon as I stepped outside of my hotel.  I took a walk on the famed Bourbon St and all the bars and stores reminded me of a deserted college town.  Every single touristy shop sold boas, tu-tus and Mardi Gras beads.  I walked from one end of the French Quarter to another in about 30 minutes, and seriously had doubts of what I was going to do for the next 4 days.

Well, my impression started changing that night when I went to dinner at Acme Oyster.  Then I took a plantation tour the next day with an awesome driver who explained the area and the history really well.  On day 3, I did a self-guided walking tour of the French Quarter which was also fun and educational.  Day 4 was a hurricane Katrina tour - I thought this would have been really depressing... and it was, but it gave me a good idea of which areas were affected and how a lot of those houses are still in ruins 10 years later.  And day 5 was another self-guided tour of the Garden District which is like the Beverly Hills of New Orleans.  This city seriously grew on me!  By the time I had to go to the airport I was sad to leave, and immediately started planning another trip back in my head!

Here are some pictures I took while walking around in the French Quarter (warning: this post is VERY picture intensive lol):

I found that Royal St (one street over and parallel to Bourbon) is the nicest street in the French Quarter, so the following 3 pictures are from there:




Jackson Square, of course:


The Oak Valley Plantation was very beautiful.  I loved all the oak trees there.  It's supposedly haunted too, which makes it all the more exciting lol.  The guide there told me that he wouldn't step foot into one of the bedrooms which used to be a funeral room in the house.  Apparently many staff members won't go into certain areas of the house.  

Isn't this majestic though?  There are 9 oak trees on each side of this road leading up to the house.


And this is what happens when you goof around there, hehe.  Wearing my Lululemon Karmacollected jacket here, which I found to be rather perfect for my trip:


One of the advantages of being a sugar plantation is that they make mint juleps using their own sugar!  I had to have one.  It was super strong so I took a nice little nap on the way back.  =)


Also got the local treat - this is a pecan praline turtle:



So I can honestly say that every bite of food I had there was good.  From cheap po-boys to fancy restaurants, you really can't go wrong there!  I am one of those annoying people who likes to take pictures of food.  I actually forget to about half of the time (mostly because it looks so good so I eat it right away, then I REALLY regret not taking a pic!), so this is a small collection of what I ate... lol!

First is this Muffuletta from Central Grocery.  This is the first thing we got, because my bf's boss told him that we had to get this no matter what, or else just don't come back lol.  So it was the first stop naturally.  I had no idea what a muffuletta was, but apparently it is this sesame crusted bread, with olive spread, and salami and cheese on it.  This huge sandwich was a half order.. lol!  It was only $8.


Second thing we got was obviously the beignet.  This sugar dusted fried dough was from Cafe Du Monde which is known for their beignets and cafe au lait.  They really only had beignets and coffee on the menu and it's cash only.  This order of 3 beignets was $2.5.  I went there more than once during my stay.  


So the first night's dinner was at Acme Oyster House in the French Quarter.  We had no idea how lucky we got, because we went on a Tuesday and didn't have to wait in line to eat.  Later in the week, this place had a line a block long pretty much all throughout the day!

I had oysters there!  Among other things that I didn't photograph.


Apparently chargrilled oysters is a thing.  I had never had it, but it's so good!


The most memorable dinner I had during my time there was definitely on Wednesday night at Commander's Palace.  This restaurant is supposedly the best in New Orleans.  On Yelp, it has about 2000 reviews, almost all 5 stars.  That was our most expensive dinner, but the prices were still much more reasonable than LA.  For 2, it was $250 after tax and tip.  We ordered every appetizer on the menu, entrees, desserts, and cocktails.  Unreal.  I only managed to take pictures of a couple appetizers and dessert because we were super hungry!

Pork belly & fig

Deep fried foie gras with a shot of strawberry bourbon

Creme brulee... notice the regular sized spoon next to it... lol, yep the creme brulee it's on a full sized plate!

Back at the French Quarter, this brunch place knew the way to my heart - Stanley's.  We ordered fried oyster eggs benedict, and cochon (pork) benedict.  Both great.  Again, got lucky eating there on a Thursday and didn't have to wait in line at all!



Dinner on Thursday was at GW Fins.  This place is in the French Quarter as well, and I felt was the most touristy.  Food was still good, but only the dessert really blew me away.

Oh and these freshly baked corn bread things that they walk around and hand out.  We called one of the guy handing them out a crack dealer and he laughed so hard:


Lobster dumplings

Red snapper entree

Sword fish entree, with fried plantains

This is the killer.. salted caramel ice cream cake thing.  :::::Drool:::::

On our last night there, we had dinner at the French Quarter again, at a place called SoBou which was at the W Hotel and apparently ran by the same people behind Commander's Palace.  It's the most modern restaurant of all that I went to, by far.  The food was also the smallest portion.  So the value there was not that great comparatively.  But everything still tasted so good that we didn't mind.

Yellowtail cones and fried pork balls

Crab, 'nuff said

This was the most creative and probably the single best dish we had in all of NOLA!  Sweet Potato Beignet

Lamb skewers

Pork bun

3 chocolate dessert
And at the last place we had brunch before leaving - The Palace.  Back to big portions:


Oyster pan roast appetizers

Crab cheesecake

This is kind of random but I had no idea people ate this stuff... pickled pigs lips, found next to the check out area at Walgreens!


Close up of the lips lol

Can you believe that's not even half of what I ate??  LOL... I feel like such a fat kid.  But there was an amazing gym at my hotel, and I took advantage of it the last 2 days I was there.  I basically started feeling disgusting after 2 days so I had to workout!

I stayed at the Ritz Carlton, which was on one end of the French Quarter.  Everything is within walking distance though so you really can't go wrong there no matter where you stay.  I loved my hotel though, it was beautiful, everyone was super nice and they gave me tons of bottled water.  I know, small things.

Most importantly, THIS was their fitness center!  THREE rooms with high ceilings!  And a resistance pool as well as a jacuzzi.  I didn't use them though.  But the rest made my heart sing.

Cardio room.. I counted 8 treadmills, 7 elliptical machines and 3 bikes.. all in great condition

Weights room... they even had a Smith machine!

This empty room where you can do your conditioning and plyo work, or stretch I guess

Resistance pool

Jacuzzi

I did manage to take pictures of my workout outfits in the hotel room mirror!  On the first day I wore the Lululemon 105 F Singlet in bruised berry with laceoflage free to be bra under.  And Lululemon Wunder Groove crops, and printed Nike Free 3.0s.  I just ran for 30 minutes on different incline levels and speeds, and then did 5-6 weight exercises. 




And on day 2, I wore Lululemon cool racerback in wee are from space white barely pink, and the new wunder under crop in diamond jacquard flaming tomato.  Same shoes since they were the only ones I brought.  I basically did the same workout - ran for 30 minutes, and then various whole body weights.  I mostly wanted to get some fat burning in for these days, since I was eating all the yummy food!



The Ritz Carlton itself was super festive.  It had lights everywhere for the holiday season.  They also served home made apple cider spiced with bourbon in the afternoons.  Those were SO good!  I even took one with me in my taxi to the airport... lol!  

They had a pretty outdoor garden area, where this huge Christmas tree was:






The room itself was not too special.  But it was roomy enough and the bed was comfortable.  It had all the necessary amenities.



The bathroom was kind of small:


Whatever, it was clean, and we went during the week so it only averaged to about $1100 for 4 nights.  That's not bad for Ritz.

Are you tired of pictures yet?  Lol.

So, I had no idea so many famous people lived in New Orleans.  But my self-guided tours in both the French Quarter and Garden District pointed out quite a few!

The yellow house in the middle is the William Faulkner house where he lived and wrote his first novel

Tennessee Williams House

This house was seen on the way to the Oak Alley Plantation... where the movie Django Unchained was filmed

The movie Benjamin Button house, in the Garden District!  It's 2 houses down from Commander's Palace restaurant.

Me in front of the Benjamin Button house lol

Apparently Eli and Peyton Manning grew up in the Garden District as well and this was the house

Ann Rice house, also in the Garden District

John Goodman's house.  This one was my favorite.

Sandra Bullock's house


What souvenirs did I bring home?  Well, the Starbucks You Are Here mug of course!  I started collecting these mugs last year or so.  So far I have one from the very first Starbucks location at Pike Place in Seattle, LA of course, Tahoe, California, and Amsterdam (supposedly only European city that carries this series).  Now my 6th is Nola!  I kind of plan my trips based on which city mug I like best... lol!  I'm really not joking actually.  Nola has a good one:




And the only other souvenir I got is this mask!  It is a style that is not carried at every single souvenir shop.  I only saw it in the one I got it at!  I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but I love the design and color!  I guess I'll go find some masquerade party to go to lol.



So that was my trip!  I had so much fun and can really see why all those celebrities have houses there.  Surprisingly enough, I also didn't gain much weight from all the good food!  I seriously thought I'd gain at least 5 lbs lol.  But I'm at 2.5 lbs heavier than when I left, which I hope to work off this week!  Then I really need to eat clean for at least a month!  I guess I'll be exactly like one of those New Year's Resolutionists!




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