About a year ago, Alex and I planned and purchased a trip to New Orleans to celebrate my 21st birthday. Lucky for us, my birthday was the day before Mardi Gras this year so we got to celebrate two events while there and cross something off of our bucket list!
Of course, travelling does come with it's fair share of stresses- which is one reason why some people don't like to travel. So I'll start off sharing the things we would've changed before getting to all the good stuff.
First things first- make sure to set up a travel alert with your bank. Alex's card was frozen and he was actually charged $300 from a gas station back at home. Obviously fraud, but because there was no alert in place, the second a transaction was made in New Orleans, his card was permanently disabled and a new one was being mailed to our house address. Solution: electronically transfer money to girlfriend and have her use her card all week.
Also make sure you bring enough cash with you. Don't bring a ridiculous amount, but bring a good chunk for the entire trip, only carry on you however much you will need for the day, and leave the rest of it in the safe in your hotel room. We had enough cash but we felt that it was spread thin because we couldn't withdrawal cash due to New Orleans not having a Bank of America anywhere.
Make sure if you're planning to take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft, to accommodate for the increase in special event or evening pricing. The cost can become super ridiculous so plan in advance. You can also try to save money by walking further away from crowded areas, but do so cautiously and be aware of surrounding areas and neighborhoods. Also be sure to compare the rates between Uber and Lyft, one is usually cheaper than the other depending on the area.
Lastly, if you're missing school, make sure you do you homework for the week before you leave (cough... Alex... cough). This will save a lot of stress and sadness when you miss out on parts of your trip or you end up with a zero for homework.
Alright, now on to the fun stuff! New Orleans is absolutely beautiful! The weather during early March can be a little bipolar with cold rains one second and hot humidity the next, but through and through, the city is one of a kind. The energy and hospitality of the locals make the city all the better and if you take the time to talk to them, it will add a special touch to your trip.
Day 1: March 2 - Travel Day
Welp, we woke up late and almost missed our flight, but we made it just in time! Most of our day was spent flying with a one hour layover in Dallas, and then losing 2 hours once we landed in NOLA. We went to the hotel, unpacked, and then.... Alex had to do some homework. We went to dinner at Acme Oyster House (highly recommend) and watched the tail end of a parade as it went down the adjacent street. From there, we walked down to the nearest grocery store and stocked up on some snacks and beverages for the hotel room.
Day 2: March 3 - The Bayou
Woke up early in the morning and headed to Westwego, LA for a swamp tour! It was everything we could've hoped for with alligators everywhere we looked, a nice swamp breeze, and some pretty hilarious locals. We went to a bar that was near by called the Mona Lisa and they gave Alex a bucket of beer for the boat ride and then gave me a pre-birthday shot of their special - Key Lime shooter. If you're ever in Westwego, make sure you stop by the Mona Lisa and give Ray a big hug for me. The people and bar owners there gave us our first real local experience and made us feel right at home. From there, we went into the city where we spent all day walking around town. We bought the New Orleans City Pass (highly recommend) however, most of the attractions you could use them for are closed on Sundays- Mondays, and they would also be closed on Mardi Gras Tuesday. Sooo... we just walked around the city and visited the other places that were on my list but weren't included with the pass. This included the Museum of Death and then the 4-in-1 Voodoo, Witches, Vampires, and Ghost tour. After that we went to a few other bars and restaurants before heading back to the hotel.
Day 3: March 4 - 21st Birthday Shenanigans
Woke up bright and early and made our way to the original Cafe du Monde. We enjoyed our breakfast right next to the Mississippi River before heading to Jackson Square and watching street performers in front of St Louis Cathedral. Fun fact: In NOLA, if you pin a $1 bill on your shirt, the locals will know it's your birthday and either buy you a drink or pin another $1 to you. Still unable to go into most attractions, we stopped by an old book shop, went souvenir shopping, made our way over to Frenchmen St, ate at The Maison where we tried crawfish, gator, and NOLA gumbo, and then continued to just wander about. We watched some Lundi Gras parades and then walked for miles to the Edgar Degas House and Museum (the only thing that was open from the city pass list). We were going to take a Lyft back to the hotel, buuuttt it was way to expensive. We just walked all the way back into the city and planted ourselves at a bar where we met a really nice couple who told us all about their travels. They were impressed by how mature Alex and I were for our ages and said that if you can travel together, you'll be able to stay partners for life. Then the sun went down over the city and it was time for our Haunted Pub Crawl. It was phenomenal and well worth the money. It took us to all the major bars that you're told you have to visit including Lafitte's Black Smith Shop, Pirate's Alley Cafe (where we tried Absinthe), and we even stopped by Marie Laveau's house (btw the true story of Marie Laveau kinda sucks so just stick with your vision of her from American Horror Story if you're into that kinda stuff). After a LONG day of walking and drinking, we made our way back to the hotel.
Day 4: March 5 - Mardi Gras
We woke up and went straight to Bourbon street to watch the parades of party people walk around. It's a myth that you need to flash to get beads because you will be arrested and people will throw them at you anyways. In between all the chaos, we went to several bars, grabbed some food, met some amazing people, got my face painted, and just took our time enjoying the crazy Mardi Gras atmosphere. We literally stayed out all day long and took it all in. It's an experience that's hard to put into words, but all the amazing things that you hear about Mardi Gras in NOLA is 100% true. The air just feels different and every thing around you feels like magic. The people are just different and everyone is there for the sole purpose of having a good time. There were absolutely no bad vibes this entire trip and if you're the type of person that can just go with the flow, this trip is the one for you.
Day 5: March 6 - Travel Day/ Pack it all in day
Now our last day was the most interesting and probably the most exhausting... ah maybe my actual birthday was the most exhausting. We ended up waking up early just to be able to see all the city pass attractions that we could see in a matter of 6 hours! We went to the National WWII Museum, took a tour of the St. Louis Cemetery, went to Pat O' Brien's, Preservation Hall, the Presbytere, St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, the Pharmacy Museum, and back to the Museum of Death before going back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and boarding our plane. I slept the entire first flight! We landed back in Dallas for our layover and rushed to the other end of the airport to get to our connecting flight because our first one arrived late. Made it onto our second flight where Alex and I watched Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born. It was the perfect end to a practically perfect trip and the best birthday I've ever had.
Since I was a little girl, writing was always my go- to way of expressing myself and escaping from the rest of the world.