26 Hours in New Orleans

It's amazing how much you can cram into the span of (just over) a day! Saturday morning I squeezed in an 8 mile run then embarked on the 3 hour trip to New Orleans. I visited the city a few times last year and, honestly, swore I wouldn't go back. I'm so glad I gave it another chance because I absolutely fell in love with it this time around! The past trips I was confined to the French Quarter due to the groups I went with but this time I stayed around Mid-city. Wikipedia defines Mid-city as "a generally local, middle-class neighborhood in that it contains fewer tourist destinations than other parts of the city. Restaurants and bars rely heavily on local clientele, giving the area a quirky local flavor." Within 5 minutes of being in the neighboorhood I saw more runners and bicyclists than I do in a week in Pensacola. It's amazing how health-centric and family friendly this part of the city is!

Our first stop Saturday afternoon was Holt Cemetery. I had been to a few of the traditional catacomb cemeteries before but my incredible friend, and host, for the weekend really likes this one as many of the tombstones are handmade. The families of the people buried here often cannot afford traditional tombstones so they make them themselves. I've never visited a cemetery before that had such tangible sense of death to it.

2013-02-16 14.42.27

Some of the graves were only marked by bricks lined around them or pvc pipe. Very humbling.

2013-02-16 14.43.10

2013-02-16 14.51.59

Next up a quick stop at Z'otz cafe to get caffeinated for the evening. It was everything a quirky independent coffee shop should be!

2013-02-16 15.51.38All of our drinks were wonderful, very reasonably priced, and they even had delicious vegan cupcakes!

2013-02-16 16.02.50After our coffee break we went to dinner at Carmo, a tropical cafe. I found the place online after searching for the best vegetarian restaurants in New Orleans. I can see why it was so highly recommended - the food was incredible! The atmosphere was super casual, you ordered at the front and they brought it out to you. I splurged and got a mixed drink, the L'entrepot: tea-infused New Orleans style Rum with lime, mint, agave and soda water. Incredible! I ordered a small Esmeralada Salad (quinoa, black beans, corn, peppers & cilantro tossed with coconut chili lime vinegarette topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and Cotija cheese) and a Maqaquito bread to share (Armenian bread topped with bananas, cinnamon sugar and havarti.)

New OrleansWe all dug into the bread first and agreed it was out-of-this-world good. The food came out quickly, the staff was friendly and I'm almost grateful I don't live close to this place or I would be there daily.

After dinner we headed to Frenchmen street to walk around for a bit. Frenchmen street is all the best parts of the French Quarter without the massive amounts of obnoxious drunks. It's got this great hipster vibe to it - incredible local bands, lost of restaurants and a small outdoor market on the weekends.

2013-02-16 19.21.47

Our last stop for the evening was a quick trip to the French Quarter to meet up with a friend and listen to some Jazz at Fritzel's. We had planned to go to Preservation Hall  but the line was so ridiculous we didn't want to waste time standing outside for 30 minutes. I really enjoyed the band at Fritzel's so I think it was meant to be that we ended there!

2013-02-16 20.02.27

Sunday morning we got up early to go to a Bikrim Yoga studio. Bikrim yoga is done in a room  heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. The class is 90 minutes and goes through a series of 26 poses. I was actually pretty nervous about trying it but I really wanted to see what it was like. I was worried the heat would be so overwhelming I'd pass out or throw up. Thankfully, neither happened!

2013-02-17 09.43.09

The instructor, Charlotte, was very friendly and gave me some great advice on what to expect since it was my first time. I've only taken one other in-person class before so I didn't have any expectations but it was strange that Birkim instructors don't actually do the moves - only tell you how to. It really helped you stay focused on yourself though instead of constantly watching the instructor. I was able to do all of the moves but one (a back-bend) and I left the class positively radiating.

2013-02-17 09.40.00I can safely say I've never sweat so much in my entire life. It felt so detoxifying; my skin feels like I just had a mud bath and my muscles haven't been this relaxed in ages. I'm definitely going to try and do it often in Pensacola!

After yoga we were famished so we went to Elaine's favorite restaurant, La Macarena, for brunch.

2013-02-17 11.43.17Elaine snapped this pic of me as we were waiting for our food. I look a bit tired but my skin is glowing! This was probably the first time in months that I went out without any make-up on aside from mascara and lip-gloss. I couldn't stomach the thought of piling gunk all over such a clean canvas!

2013-02-17 10.54.39For brunch I ordered the Vegetarian Spanish Breakfast: sweet corn tamale, cheese pupusa, refried beans, sweet fried plantains & avocado. It was like, a little bit of heaven dropped down from the sky, turned itself into Spanish food, and landed in my mouth.

2013-02-17 11.09.30

The place was seat yourself and cash only (atm on location though!) The service was quick and friendly and I can see why it's a local favorite. That pupusa will visit me again in my dreams, often.

After lunch we made a quick stop to Whole Foods where I picked up some stuff to make smoothies this week and coconut oil to try (I'm years behind that bandwagon.) We did a bit of thrift store shopping then headed toward the Quarter again to visit Marie Laveau's grave. Before leaving Pensacola I picked up a kind bar to leave her as an offering. I thought it was appropriate.

Unfortunately, we didn't think to check the hours of the cemetery first so we arrive shortly after they closed on Sunday. On the walk back to the car we strolled through Louis Armstrong park.

2013-02-17 14.26.06

This park, and the Audubon Park close to Elaine's house, really reminded me of being in New York. Just this gorgeous nature setting surrounded by cute shops and restaurants. I'm not exactly sure how, why or when but I will get back to NYC this year.

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect weekend. A trip out of town was exactly what I needed - new sights, people, tastes. I'm so glad I gave New Orleans another shot because I could honestly see myself living there at some point now. The city has such an amazing energy and history to it but you have to remember there is so much more life outside of the French Quarter!

Have you ever been to New Orleans? Any Bikrim addicts out there? 

Also, don't forget to join me in my DietBet and Fitness Challenge starting today! I'm so excited to help a new set of people lose weight and get healthy!