Discovering Louisiana In Four Days
Guys, I finally made it to Louisiana! I've been meaning to visit New Orleans for years now and I finally did at the end of June with friends. Two of us flew in directly from Montreal and the other two courageously drove down from Fort Lauderdale so we could all start discovering NOLA together as of June 24th. The goal was to stay for a day and then drive west towards Baton Rouge and Lafayette but our itinerary quickly changed which was totally cool as we had a car to get us everywhere and booked rooms as we went.
We ended up spending two days in New Orleans and two days in Lafayette. We skipped Baton Rouge as a tour guide told us we'd find more to do around Lafayette, which was totally true as we ended up driving to Breaux Bridge and Avery Islands easily from our hotel.
So here's what I discovered on my Louisiana road trip. Of course, do not hesitate and comment below if you have a question for an upcoming trip down there!
New Orleans was a little bit of a disappointment on our first contact as we didn't expect to be surrounded by big towers in what seemed to be the financial district.
But after walking around for a day, we finally got a better idea of how neighbourhoods worked and quickly fell in love with the charm of the city and its older buildings.
Where to stay
I booked us a room with the InterContinental on St. Charles Ave and it was great. The hotel is a big two minute walk from the main streets and tramway stops in the French Quarter. It was clean, spacious and the service was top notch.
I really enjoyed the complete gym and rooftop pool during my stay!
What to do
Take the St. Charles streetcar from beginning to end Taking the streetcar was so worth it and cheap ($3 for 24h). Even if they're slow and noisy, the streetcars are great to cut through multiple areas of the city, take some nice photos and videos and even meet locals!
Get lost in the Garden District The Garden District has some of the most beautiful and historical houses I have ever seen. It's easy to get lost for hours in all the little streets, as long as you can take the heat.
From there, we found a cute area with shops right next to the Lafayette Cemetery No.1, at the corner of Washington Ave and Prytania St.
I fell in love with the store Loomed which specializes in Turkish textiles.
Learn about the history of New Orleans We picked Le Monde Créole as it is one of the only tours offered in French. The whole tour was worth it just to get to speak with our guide, Yvonne, a Cajun from Lafayette! I would also ask about their Voodoo tour which looked very interesting and wasn't mentioned on the website.
Where to eat
Sadly, other than the two restaurants below, I didn't have anything outstanding in New Orleans. I regret not trying Emeril Lagasse's restaurants though, which I will prioritize if I ever go back.
Antoine's This restaurant was actually suggested by Yvonne, which she loves to go to for her birthday. They offer a 3-course lunch menu for $20.16 and if you guessed it, will go up to $20.17 next year. The food was delicious and the restaurant was beautiful. Make sure to visit each rooms once you're done eating!
Another Broken Egg Café While checking out shops on Magazine St, I got hungry and didn't know where to eat. I stumbled upon Another Broken Egg Café which seemed to be specialized in breakfast but ended up serving a full lunch menu. I had the most satisfying salad and cold brew coffee while sitting in their gorgeous terrace. The best was that the whole bill stayed under $10. From what I understand, they're a chain but a new favorite in my book.
Would I go back to New Orleans?
I would love to go back to New Orleans but only if I happen to have a work conference or longer trip that includes a small stop in the city. I regret not spending time on Frenchman St for the music, not giving a chance to more upscale restaurants to blow me away or going on a steamboat for a couple of hours. I would also have loved to see some of the neighborhoods that got a bad rep at night like Treme and Marigny but it also felt awkward to visit after hearing how those areas suddenly became touristy because of the Katrina hurricane.
However, I would definitely skip Bourbon St which was truly disgusting. Some people say that it needs to be seen no matter what but I say hell no! Also, the beignets are not worth it unless you find a great pastry chef.
Videos are cooler
Lafayette is about a 2.5 hour drive west from New Orleans. I truly didn't know what to expect out of this town but it ended up being everything that I wished for: a small town with the friendliest people! I also couldn't get over how cuuute their accent was <3.
Where to stay
I got us a room at the Hampton Inn which is sort of a staple in small towns for free breakfast & wifi and a pool to keep us fresh. Sadly, all the hotels are pretty far from the cute downtown area so don't be surprised if it looks boring when you arrive.
What to do
Downtown Lafayette is pretty small so it wouldn't keep you busy for more than a couple of hours unless you're going out for food & drinks too. The good news is that there's plenty of cool things to do around if you have a car!
Go on a swamp tour We chose Swamp Tours of Acadiana and had a blast! The $20 / two-hour boat tour takes you around Lake Martin and gives you the chance to see lots of birds, turtles and even alligators (we saw a baby alligator!). It's also a great way to see how locals hunt through the swamps.
Visit the Tabasco Factory I had no idea Tabasco was from Louisiana so I got very excited when I realized Avery Island was just 30min away from Lafayette! You can visit the factory for about $5 which can be done in about 45min. What's really worth it though is the gift shop and the restaurant on-site.
The gift shop features all kinds of Tabasco products including a Japanese version and their take on Sriracha. Plus, all the bottles are incredibly cheap since you are at the source. I also really enjoyed the restaurant next door which gave me the chance to try 3 new things in one dish: andouille sausage (also called boudin in Louisiana), biscuits and a tabasco red pepper jelly!
Where to eat
Zea Rotisserie & Grill Zea was perfect for our first night as it satisfied everyone's cravings with so many menu options. It was also our first encounter with locals and we just had great conversations with everyone! For the sake of trying some BBQ sauce from the south, I ordered ribs and mashed sweet potatoes with a local beer. It was perfect and so was the bill compared to the high prices in NOLA.
Crazy "Bout Crawfish Cajun Cafe A place like this had been on my mind since day one in Louisiana so I was so happy to finally find one! Crazy "Bout Crawfish Cajun Café was recommended to us by our swamp tour guide so we knew it was legit. I went for it and ordered 3lbs of crawfish by myself with corn on the cobb, boiled potatoes and one big lemonade. If you like spicy like me and they ask you if you want your crawfish mild, medium or very hot, save your fingers and mouth and say mild! My hands burned for 3 hours after finishing this meal but it was so damn satisfying! This restaurant is actually in Breaux Bridge where all the swamp tours are.
The Wurst Biergarten This is the only place I tried in the downtown area and I'm glad I did. This beer garden is where all the hipsters hang out with their dogs and they even have poutine on the menu! I treated myself with a hard cider, a hot dog and delicious fries to wrap up my last night in Lafayette.
Would I go back to Lafayette?
Much more than New Orleans yes! I loved the city and what was around it. I could have spent some more days discovering the area, and eating more crawfish really! I do hope a future trip to Texas can get me to Lafayette!
Videos are cooler
One Last Stop
During this whole trip, I did quite a high number of tourist activities with my little group which is not really what I dig when I travel. I'm more into getting lost, trying food and meeting people..
However, on our last day, they really wanted to visit a plantation and after doing a little bit of research, I went along with it but pushed for the Whitney Plantation. It's often referred as the first slavery museum in America and all I have to say about it is please, if you're around, go visit it. The stories are hard to hear but it's better to hear them than act like nothing bad happened like they do at the other plantation museums.
This whole trip visiting Louisiana was pretty amazing when I think about it and much more different than any prior experiences I had in the United States. If it's been on your to-do list for a while like me, stop waiting and get your ass down there!