A few months ago Danny and I planned out a road trip through the Southeast for this winter. Luckily we planned everything early because once Thanksgiving hit we were both studying like mad men for our finals in December. I had one of the biggest tests of my life in late December—it was a cumulative test over everything I have learned in med school for the past year and a half. I had been studying 10-12 hours a day for what felt like ever. The moment I stepped out of the test, Danny came to pick me up and we headed out on our adventure! Our first stop was New Orleans, which came as a great relief after the months of stress.
Bourbon Street at Christmas time
My top 5 list of things that you MUST do when you head to New Orleans:
- Reveillon Dinner:
To my knowledge this feast is only enjoyed in December. It’s some kind of Cajun winter tradition. I’m not sure what it’s about entirely. The important thing is that a bunch of fancy schmany restaurants in NOLA create 3-5 course pre-set menu of traditional Reveillon dishes, which all seem to include turtle soup. We went to Tableaux, just south of Bourbon street, and had an amazingly delicious dinner (WARNING: vegetarians should avert their eyes) consisting of turtle soup, oysters, rabbit salad, boudin sausage-stuffed quail, veal with crab cream sauce, and cheesecake. YUMMMM!
- Pat O’Brien’s Bar:
the infamous Hurricane
This is the birthplace of the Hurricane—a drink made with four shots of rum. It packs quite the punch and is perfectly paired with an evening singing along to the dueling pianos in the bar.
- Café Du Monde:
This is just one of those classic NOLA things that you can’t miss. The café is packed to the walls with tourists eating beignets (a French fried pastry) and sipping coffee. The whole place is coated with a fine layer of powdered sugar from all the pastries. If you get to the café and find a line waiting outside, don’t be alarmed, it moves pretty quickly, and there are usually street musicians to entertain you as you wait.
- Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square:
The Cathedral is quite magnificent and is truly the centerpiece to the surrounding neighborhood. You can walk inside and gaze in awe at the murals covering every wall of the church. Outside the sidewalks are teeming with musicians—we probably saw 10 jazz bands in the adjacent streets. There was a row of palm readers in Jackson Square who I desperately needed to talk to know whether or not Danny would be getting me an elephant for Christmas. Not wanting to ruin the surprise or his reputation Danny refused pay for my palm reading. There were also tons of local artists and some very talented break-dancing street performers. All the nearby street were lined with shops. My favorite was a hot sauce shop that let you taste everything—we both tried a ghost pepper sauce that nearly made me cry!
- Cooking Demonstration:
Danny and I were wandering through the streets (freely sipping our mint juleps, because New Orleans has no restrictions on open alcohol containers—woohoo!!), having finished all of our shopping and beginning to get hungry for lunch we walked into a shop with a cooking demonstration set to begin in 2 minutes. Danny and I both love to cook, so we decided to join in. For about the same price as lunch at a restaurant we got to watch the preparation and taste everything in a traditional New Orleans meal, and even got a pretty thorough history lesson on the local food. This was the perfect way to learn more about Louisiana culture while eating shrimp and artichoke soup, crawfish etouffe, pralines, and sipping on a local beer.
A non-climbing trip was a pretty unconventional idea for Danny and I, but it turned out to be a wonderful day and a half, and a perfect way to relieve all the stress built up from exams. After NOLA we headed out on the road for my very first trip to Horsepens 40, relaxed and ready to climb!