Situated less than three hours from my hometown of Pensacola, New Orleans is a city I’ve had a close relationship with for more than a decade—since I could legally drive a car. And in the years following high school, I’ve spent some monumental moments in this city.
New Orleans is the first (and only) place my car has been towed. It’s where I’ve seen some of my favorite musical acts, between intimate venues and festival settings. It’s where I became an adult, that is, I spent my 18th birthday here watching the Faint and Bright Eyes perform. It’s where I saw Sufjan (the man) Stevens up so closely that I presented him with a personal note (creepy? maybe). It’s the location of impromptu day trips taken with my mom, and friends. And it’s even where I [unintentionally] was with my roommates the moment the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl five years ago.
This photo was taken just after we stepped outside onto Bourbon Street, minutes after we watched the Saints win the Super Bowl, on a big screen inside the confines of One Eyed Jacks. I’ve never seen an entire city erupt like this and I wouldn’t trade being there in this moment of chaos for anything.
With so many memories attached to this city, it’s no wonder I was eager to experience it from a street-level perspective (running). And so, at the beginning of 2012, I jumped on the opportunity to run the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon for the first time. I was back for round two the following year, in 2013. Unfortunately, timing didn’t pan out last year, since I had literally just quit my job, wasn’t quite trained, and the race fell on the same weekend as a 15K at home in Pensacola, so I opted for that instead. However, for the past year, I’ve been eager to make a NOLA race comeback. Granted the drive was much longer this time coming all the way from St. Augustine, I wasn’t going to miss it. Thankfully Andrew wanted to join, so we made an extended venture out of it.
In my last post, “Run Happy, Run NOLA,” I elaborated on the race itself and the moments leading up to the start line. I also noted there to be much more to our trip. With that, here are some of the sights and tastes we experienced, beyond the race.
Waking Up To Bayou St. John
Our trip doubled as an opportunity to stay with longtime friends, Ashley and Alex. The couple moved to New Orleans from Tallahassee a month before I moved to St. Augustine. A number of our life decisions and experiences overlap, and it was refreshing to stay with friends who we respect and admire, and who are on a similar page in their lives. Ashley and Alex live in an area I consider to be an ideal setup within New Orleans—convenient and culture-rich, yet scenic. A short journey by streetcar, bike or car, will land you in Uptown, the Marigny, the French Quarter, or other centralized areas of the city within minutes.
Still, there’s plenty to admire right outside of their door. They live on a quiet street, just across from Bayou St. John. Saturday morning, Andrew and I stepped out into the sunshine as soon we awoke, and took a walk around the bayou with coffee in hand. It was just as Ashley had said—abounding with walkers, runners, dogs, and individuals already out on the bayou.
At sunset, the city skyline sits tall while the surrounding trees cast shadows on the water, offering a sense of calm.
The Bayou isn’t the only bit of nature the two get to enjoy at their fingertips. They also live across the way from City Park, where the race finished. It’s hard to believe, but spanning 1,300 acres, New Orleans City Park is about 40 percent larger than Central Park. In addition to paths for walking, running and cycling, the park includes a golf course, stadiums, a lake, and the world’s largest stand of mature live oaks.
Cruising By Streetcar
“What’s on your must-do list?” I asked Andrew as we drove over to New Orleans. “Riding the streetcar,” he replied.
It worked out wonderfully that one of the streetcar lines started (and stopped) right across the way from Ashley and Alex. Saturday, after our wake up coffee walk, we hopped on for a full afternoon of adventure. A $3 day pass lets you hop on and off as many times as you choose.
After heading down to Canal, standing on an overflowing streetcar, we transferred over to the St. Charles line so we could head toward Uptown, scoping out the race course while we cruised.
Chomping & Sipping
When I was in high school and first made the switch to vegetarian, New Orleans didn’t have the most flourishing amount of plant-based options. In the past six years since going vegan, I’ve watched all of this change drastically. I regularly follow along with the Vegan New Orleans Facebook Page and see mouthwatering local eats shared constantly. It’s only natural, being back in the city, we did some taste-testing of some of the city’s newer plant-based options.
After hopping off the streetcar Saturday afternoon, we walked toward Superfood Bar on Magazine Street, with smoothies on the brain. Here, at this totally vegan juice, smoothie bar and cafe, we sipped on smoothies packed with all sorts of healthy goodies and fresh produce, and ordered lunch. I tried jackfruit for the first time, something I’ve been interested in trying out as a meat substitute. In this case, it was in the form of a jerk jackfruit taco special. I was pleased with my selection, as the tacos were the right combination of sweet and savory.
CHEF ANDREW CREATIONS
Following our Saturday streetcar adventure, and after walking several miles down Magazine (stopping at shops along the way), and then all the way back down St. Charles, Andrew took the lead on cooking dinner for the four of us, plus our friends Jon and Kathy. Jon was gearing up to run the full marathon on Sunday. Andrew wanted to be entirely sure we were properly nourished and fully fed, so he cooked up overflowing bowls of quinoa, tofu and veggies, with peanut sauce and mashed sweet potatoes.
This phone capture truly doesn’t do this hearty bowl justice.
After the race Sunday we headed over to the Old Carollton neighborhood for lunch at Satsuma Cafe. The cafe offered us post-race eats, plus fancy drinks including beet-infused lemonade (mine) and Satsuma limeade (his). Holy moly sweet, tart and thirsty quenching!
Andrew and I ordered the same vegan breakfast plate—a tofu, black bean scramble and toast with sweet jam on the side, plus some cilantro (our favorite) hanging out on top.
Confession: This breakfast plate was basically my appetizer. Every runner knows, all the food is craved after a long run. I snacked really hard an hour later, and then another hour later, and then another hour later on some makeshift burritos and Saturday night leftovers.
Before we departed for an afternoon drive, we ordered some iced coffee to go, and I attempted to be somewhat incognito while snapping this photo. Although it doesn’t fully come across in this photo, Satsuma was beaming with natural light. Not only was the light one of my favorite characteristics of this establishment, it’s exactly how I want a future living space to be—open and illuminated, yet intimate. (Pretty much a tree house).
Sunday Night Strolling
Sunday night, while Ashley and Alex were at a basketball game, Andrew and I decided to hop back on the streetcar for a date night, with no destination in mind. I decided to leave my Nikon at the house this time to have one less thing to carry, and instead snapped quick phone photos at each stop along our way.
We hopped off the street car at Canal, just outside of Harrah’s Casino. Neither of us are gamblers, but it had been nearly six years since I stepped inside Harrah’s. Back then I was 22 and, let’s be honest, I just wanted the free drinks. This time we simply wanted to do a walk through, play some penny slots, and scope it out. And I [willingly] lost five dollars, just for kicks.
The inside of Harrah’s is pretty trippy. No wonder people can’t leave. As for us, we couldn’t get out quick enough.
After Harrah’s, we spotted pedicab drivers lined up outside. I knew instantly what I wanted to splurge on. “Where do you want to go?” the pedicab driver asked us. “Uh, Jackson Square, Yeah. That sounds good,” we responded. We stretched our legs out, cruised through the French Quarter, weaved through tourists, and were dropped off right by what would become our next stop.
Here’s a mid-ride photo attempt of us blissful, blurry dorky doodles.
CAFE DU MONDE
You don’t have to eat beignets to stop at Cafe Du Monde. If you’re Andrew and Sarah, you can order some coffee and juice and people watch and be perfectly content.
FRENCHMEN ART MARKET
Friday night after the expo we had driven through Frenchmen Street in the Marigny neighborhood, en route to Ashley and Alex’s. We knew we wanted to venture back this way, and so we decided to walk there from Cafe Du Monde. When you step onto Frenchmen, it’s almost like you’ve walked into an illuminated circus, or a movie set. Music on the street corners. Lights and people everywhere. Just next to a dilapidated building, we spotted even more lights. Realizing it was a market of some sort, we darted across the street to check it out. Unlike other art markets, at this one, the Frenchmen Art Market, everything was, in Andrew’s words, “our taste.” I totally agree. They even had an outdoor living space, plus sidewalk chalk for kids or whoever felt like doodling.
After exploring the market, we decided to take Bourbon all the way back to Canal, since both of us wanted to have a different view of Bourbon than the last time we were each there.
Last time I was on Bourbon Street was for one of my best friend’s bachelorette parties. Thankfully the fake mustaches we were wearing deterred anyone from hitting on us or otherwise harassing us; however, Bourbon was still very much Bourbon.
This time, at 8 p.m. on a Sunday night, Bourbon was all but empty. Andrew and I shared our individual Bourbon experiences as we walked. Saw some beads. Didn’t see any boobs. Mission accomplished.
We ended our night hand in hand on the streetcar, riding it all the way down to the end of the line. We stayed put as the driver flipped the seats, and then rode it back to the house.
Andrew and I share similar sentiments toward New Orleans. It’s a city we are drawn to. It’s a city we could see ourselves living in at some point in life, for a season. It’s a city filled with the unexpected. It’s a city bursting at the seams with off-kilter creativity. It’s a city large enough to offer public transportation and have the diversity of a big city, yet small enough to not feel overwhelming. It’s a city that reminds us of St. Augustine in charming ways.
Who knows if we will ever call it home at some point. For now, I’m happy calling New Orleans my friend. And I know we will find our way back to stay with Ashley and Alex again, before too many moons.