New Orleans was truly magical - on the flight there I joked by saying that this 5 day trip is going to feel like 20 minutes. I was right, the getaway flew by; the biggest thing I got from this trip was to embrace spontaneity, say yes to it more often and remain present and mindful in each interaction. I connected with some of my closest friends. Powerful women of color professionals in media, medicine, law, food and the fight for immigrant rights. We are hard working so we really needed this getaway.
The first time I was in NOLA was 2006, one year after hurricane Katrina. I went as a participant with DreamYard A.C.T.I.O.N. project, a youth organization that combined art with activism. We visited schools and churches to bring art to youth and communities because the organization felt that mental rebuilding was just as important as physically rebuilding homes. I was profoundly impacted then and I hope we positively impacted the people we connected with as well.
Excited to return in 2019, I was looking forward to seeing how the rebuilding of the affected communities culminated. Unfortunately, 5 days was not enough time, but NOLA is a place that you visit repeatedly so I look forward to my return, again.
There is a lot I didn’t get to do but I have absolutely ZERO regrets about that. Each day was an adventure, there was something new happening back-to-back. I was finally able to put away my calendar, the multiple alarms on my phone and the structure that I cling on to daily. I truly relaxed and most importantly, I had fun!
Day 1 - after getting acquainted with our Airbnb we had dinner at Lilly’s Cafe, an authentic Vietnamese restaurant where we met Lilly, the owner of the restaurant. We sat down next to a gorgeous peacock painting and each wall was painted a different, contrasted color. The food was just as vibrant.
Day 2 - My friends distracted me with a trip to Whole Foods in the morning while they set up the Airbnb for a surprise birthday moment!
We then walked around Bourbon Street and saw the building the locals were talking about - the Hard Rock Hotel building collapsed. We were told that pre-construction the team signed off on using sturdy cement and other materials but when it came time to actually build the building, materials were swapped for low quality materials, in efforts to save money. This resulted in the death of about 3 people and injuries to even more people. It was a hard thing to see, we could not avoid it as we were walking and driving around since the building was positioned to be such a large presence. It was also unfortunate to hear how slow things get done in NOLA not just for the clean-up of this building but with things like lamp posts or the maintenance of building facades. It made me realize how much of a New Yorker I am, I love NOLA but I am a do-er and in this moment of realization I came to appreciate that part of me.
To shake off the vibes, we had brunch at Ruby’s Red Slipper Cafe while drinking our Pimm's Cup cocktail from a bar nearby. Our friend Stephanie guided us to a cigar shop that she visited in February 2019. Employees rolling the cigars were Dominican, I was happy to see de lo mio in NOLA. We found some uno cards and lingered for a bit.
We returned to the Airbnb and got dolled up to celebrate the nightlife. Unfortunately, we ended up in some recommended places that we should have avoided, we weren’t treated right. I won’t go into detail here because I feel that it would take away from the overall positive feelings we took home from NOLA. We ended up at Harrah’s casino where we ate junk food and left our bad vibes on the dance floor, I didn’t dance much but I did some push ups for fun.
Day 3 - The Comelonaz prepared a healthy breakfast the next morning. We stopped by the French Market where we bumped into a metalworker. His jewelry pieces were made of stones and copper. No piece looked like the other, everything was unique. A ring kept calling my name, I kept trying it on until I ended up buying it. We each bought ourselves a piece of jewelry and the vendor told us what each stone meant. He doesn’t have social media or a website, believe me, we asked! He said, I will see you when I see you. Imagine that!
I think our jewelry saved us from danger because on Day 4 we had a close call with a car accident that I will get into later.
Of course we got some beignets from Cafe Du Monde and made our way to the Glitter Buffet where we got our faces painted - Euphoria style. Coincidentally, Zendaya was at the Glitter Buffet a day prior.
The music kept calling us down the street, we ended up at the Apple Barrel bar. Lolailo was playing and it was epic. The music sounded like cumbia fused with Jazz, la guira and the sax, I’ve never heard anything like this before. It hit different!
After hours of dancing we ended up at another bar where I saw the most glorious head of curly hair that I had to compliment because I was happy and drunk. I noticed this gorgeous woman was with someone familiar. UrDoingreat was low-key, bashfully hiding from us!
I was exhausted at this point but we still made our way to one last bar where the band asked us where we’re from because we clearly brought the party to the space. The band was called Vegas Cola and they were SO talented, ya not even ready! They started a twerking content that my friend also won. I took a quick 5 minute nap at the bar because I am washed up.
Day 4 - We started our morning at Louis Armstrong Park where a pick up truck hit a beamer that ended up on the sidewalk. The beamer missed our rental car by a hair and we missed the complete accident by a couple of minutes. We felt truly protected, it could have been the stones we bought from the metal worker days prior, or the fact that Marie Laveau’s house was across the street. Whatever it was that was cloaking us in safety, thank you, we felt peace and confirmation after that. We walked into the park and nature was loving us. A monarch butterfly followed us and stuck around for pictures, a bird did as well.
Day 5 - was our last day at NOLA, we brunched at NOLA Vegan. While waiting for our food the building next door was calling us, we walked into Community Commitment where we met Nicole who founded the space with a mission to service the needs of many in the ninth ward neighborhood. Paintings hung on the walls with proud African American history depicted in each frame. We later learned about other healing centered spaces like yoga studios, that were emerging in the coming years in the same community.
I look forward to returning 🥂 and to our next girls trip!