New Orleans, Louisiana – or NOLA for short was my next stop on my 50-State Journey: http://bjjbug.net/journey/
This was one of the places that I was looking forward to the most since I’m a big fan of Cajun food and Jazz music. For this particular trip, I timed it so I could experience the annual Mardi Gras celebration as well.
- Easiest way to get around for me was using Uber. There is also a cable car that runs throughout the city but it moves much slower so if you’re under a time crunch I’d recommend just calling for a ride.
- The most popular tourist spot in NOLA is the French Quarter. There are many hotels in this area but since it attracts so many tourists, you’ll end up paying a premium price for a room. I’d recommend looking into rooms near Tulane University or Uptown for cheaper rates.
- If you’re planning to try some of the top restaurants that people often talk about such as Café Du Monde, then you better prepare to wait in a long line.
- Speaking of Café Du Monde, there are two lines. The one closest to the Mississippi River is for takeout while the one closer to the street is for dine-in, which surprisingly moves a lot quicker.
- If you’re in town for Mardi Gras be sure to download a map of the parades. The common misconception is the Mardi Gras celebration is only one day where in fact it starts a over a week prior to Fat Tuesday.
- NOLA is a loud city. Expect to see street vendors, performers, drunken people in the streets, and more…
- The city is rich in culture and history. Other than checking out restaurants and bars, be sure to take the time to admire the amazing architecture.
- Be mindful of your surroundings. With large crowds keep your personal belongings close to you. Also be wary of others around you. During this trip I witnessed a guy pull out a good 5-inch knife on other guy just 10-feet away from me at the Moon Walk by the Mississippi River.
- The airport is a little further out. Plan accordingly for your arrival and departure since it takes a good 20-30min to get into downtown from the airport.
- Random thunderstorms occur. Luckily while I was there it was nice and sunny everyday but on the day I flew out a huge thunderstorm rolled in out of the blue.
- Don’t eat healthy. If you’ve been following me for a while you’d know that I eat fairly healthy but in New Orleans that’s not going to happen. If you want to experience the culture (there aren’t many healthy food options anyways), go get the fried oysters, crawfish, po’ boys, jambalaya, gumbo, beignets, etc. A couple days of this won’t kill you. 😉
Places to Visit as a Tourist
Here are some points of interest in NOLA:
- French Quarter
- Louis Armstrong Park
- Jackson Square
- Bourbon Street
- Royal Street
- National WWII Museum
- Mardi Gras World
- St. Louis Cathedral
- Frenchman Street
- New Orleans Museum of Art
- Saint Louis Cemetery
- Musical Legends Park
- Mississippi River Walk
- Steam Boats
- Tip for “Mat Surfing” is to always call or contact the school ahead of time to see if you are even allowed to take a drop-in class or come by for an open mat session.
This time I was able to get some training in at NOLA Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Uptown. The classes are located in the back of Temple Gym so once you enter the front desk receptionist will direct you to the back mat area.
Address: Temple Gym, 4521 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
The class was taught by Gavin and Collin Murray (whom I didn’t know were brothers until another student told me). In addition, Caroline, another black belt was also training with us the whole time.
The class started with some stand-up partner drills to warm-up. This included some clinches and single leg takedown drills. I was partnered with Vlad and we went over the techniques a couple times before moving onto some specific training exercises. For the specific training drills, we were put into positions that were unfavorable such as having our back taken by our opponent or we were stuck in turtle position and had to get out before we were choked. This drill went on for about 20 minutes with different partners as we moved through the line.
For the final portion of the class just like everywhere else we did some rounds of sparring. I was able to get in three rounds. Two of the rounds I did okay but one was with one of the black belt instructors, Collin who specializes in wrist locks. Totally different feeling going against a BJJ Black Belt. I was getting submitted left and right! After the rounds we closed out class and changed out of our gi’s. In the back of the mat area, there are changing rooms with showers so I was able to freshen up a bit before heading out.
As I was about to leave and call it a night, the group invited me to join them at a pizza spot/bar down the street for some after-class food/drinks. We spent a good hour here chatting and I exchanged my contact info with a couple people so that we could stay in touch. Overall it was a good group to train with and it was nice to relax with everyone after training and just chill with the group.
As I mentioned, there’s lots of different foods in NOLA. Many people think of Southern food when you say New Orleans but they’re actually more known for their Cajun cuisine. Here are some spots you should definitely checkout while you’re in town:
- Café Du Monde
- Jacque-Imo’s Café
- ACME Oyster House
- Johnny’s Po’boys
- Mother’s Restaurant
- Royal House
- Café Beignet
- Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar
- Gumbo Shop
- Café Amelie
Bonus: King Cake – If you’re here during Mardi Gras season be sure to try some. The famous one you’ll see is from Gambino’s. It’s a traditional cake made during Mardi Gras that tastes like a cinnamon roll. It’s decorated with purple, green, and gold sprinkles and each one has a small baby figurine inside. The tradition is whoever gets it gets good luck and has to buy the King Cake the following year.
New Orleans is definitely a city that has a unique culture. At this point I’ve been to 10 out of 50 states so far and NOLA feels completely different from any other the others so far. I would definitely want to revisit again sometime in the future. But for now I still have 40 states to go so onto the next one…
New Orleans, Louisiana – February 2017
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