posted by on Adventure Travel, Away From Home, Travel

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Everything about my stay in Fes was hectic. It was my first stop when I arrived in Morocco in October of 2009. The medina was a maze of bright colors, barrels of fruits and spices and the non-stop banter of a foreign tongue. It was overwhelming, especially for the day and a half I was alone in the city. For those 36 hours, I was starting to believe all that I had heard about Moroccan culture being hard to deal with, that they only saw Westerners as money pits and white girls as a means to get sex, was true. (It was only until after I left Fes for the smaller cities and villages that I learned that this stereotype doesn’t stand true everywhere and most people are quite lovely.) I was haggled, I was propositioned and worst, I was grabbed. I wanted out of Morocco, and I wanted out of there now.

Fes, Morocco Street Scenes

After a particularly rough outing that resulted in a man grabbing my arm and practically forcing me into his shop and my screaming at him, I wound up back at the hotel I was staying at in tears. I was ready to board the next plane back to nice, civilized Spain where the people mainly ignored me.

I was talked off the ledge by the 25 year old man who owned the hotel. The small building was his parents, he told me, and he had taken over it to turn it into something better. He was younger than me, I thought. And already so sure of himself and what he wanted to do with his life. A far cry from my 27 and without a clue as to what direction I wanted my life to take. He asked if I could teach him better English (we were conversing in half-French, half-English at that point) and he would teach me some Arabic. So that is how I spent the two hours before my friend Anneke and her friend Richard arrived from Casablanca.

With my travel companions I would no longer get grabbed or heckled–as much. Most of that was passed on to Richard who now became what appeared to be our “owner.” They would ask him for our hands in marriage, offering hundreds of camels in return for his generousity with our hands. We explored this wild, rugged medina of Fes where we made most of the mistakes that we quickly learned how to avoid. Don’t look interested in anything in the medina. Never look the shopkeepers in the eyes. Act as uninterested as possible. And be forceful with your no’s.

We were couchsurfing while we were there at some fancy house outside of Fes. Our host generously offered to show us his riad that he was fixing up in the medina. We jumped at the chance to see a hundreds-of-years old building being rebuilt. I don’t know how we found it or how we even found our way out but it was the best part of my visit to Fes.

Fes, Morocco
Fes, Morocco
We got to meet the artisans who were the same ones who did work on the King’s palace, got to see them hand painting each individual relief. The amazing ceiling work being done and the tile workers individually hand-cutting each little mosaic tile for the floors and walls.  The riad was still in great disrepair and didn’t even have hand railings on the upper floors facing the inner courtyard (scary for this girl who has a fear of heights) but you could see what it was going to become.

Fes, Morocco

Once we got to the roof we were met with amazing views over Fes and I felt extremely lucky to have gotten that opportunity to see a side of Fes that not many travelers got to see.

Fes, Morocco

We left Fes that evening on an overnight bus out to the Sahara after an argument resulted with this same host who insisted we pay for an expensive limo to drive us out to the desert. His use of scare tactics and threats left a bad taste in our mouths and despite his generosity from earlier in the day, we decided to acknowledge our discomfort and leave. We did leave Fes on a good note: a nice young man with very good English picked us up off the side of the road and made sure we got on the correct bus on time.

While certainly stressful, Fes (and Morocco in general) was full of beauty and unlike anything I had ever experienced before–both culturally and architecturally. It’s beauty was definitely on the inside, drab exteriors hiding brightly colored and intricate interiors that can only be seen by poking around a little.

Fes, Morocco Street Scenes

posted by on Storytelling

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When I started The Wanderscapes, I knew I wanted to write about travel. It is the one thing that I’m the most passionate about and love talking about. I mean, I have stories. But who doesn’t? I needed a direction, I needed a purpose for this blog. A niche, as some would call it. I’ve found it but I’ll need to give you some backstory first.

At the age of eight I discovered two things that would stick with me my entire life. The first being writing; I started writing in lined notebooks that soon turned into journals. Most of it was a play by play of my day, the boys I was crushing on and none of it involved being very creative. It was the start of a long love affair with telling stories that brought me to blogging five years ago.

The second discovery was architecture. There was no point where I decided that I wanted to be an architect or interior designer, I didn’t even know it existed as a profession when I designed my future home in my imagination (some little girls plan their weddings, I planned houses). Yes, it looked exactly like the house I lived in at the time but I had rearranged all the rooms because the current flow just wasn’t working for me. Or something along those lines.

I’ve always been a nomad, even before I realized it was abnormal to move across the country every few years. That is how I grew up and that was what I knew to be normal. It wasn’t until I was in middle and high schools that I realized that most people in this small town that I was living in had lived there their whole lives. They all knew each other for almost as long as we’d been alive. It bothered me a little bit that I was the odd ball out but even then, I wouldn’t have traded that existence for another.

Paris, France

When I was 16 I was introduced to my first semi-international travel, if St. John’s in the US Virgin Islands really counts as international. When I was 18, I went to Ireland and my love affair with Europe and more specifically, travel, really began. At 24 I went back to Ireland and on to Italy. At 26 I went to Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria. At 27, I quit my architecture job and traveled through 11 countries for three months.

Here you have my three biggest passions: writing, interior design/architecture, and travel. The combination of which seems almost too obvious for me to miss but miss it I have. I have struggled with the direction I wanted The Wanderscapes to take, as I’ve mentioned before. I didn’t realize how little direction I faced until I walked into TBEX, a travel blogging conference. I was hoping this weekend would bring the clarity I needed.

Barcelona, Spain

The clarity hit pretty quickly. While sitting in the opening keynote, around 9:15 in the morning, it suddenly dawned on me. Travel. Interior Design. LIGHTBULB! What is the one thing I take the most pictures of? Buildings. I always take pictures of cool architecture and design while traveling. It only makes sense! It even works when I’m not traveling. After all, I usually will pick a restaurant based on how cool the design is and if a public buildings decor calls to me, I just have to go inside.

Lucerne, Switzerland

So The Wanderscapes really was born. I spent the weekend redesigning, writing content and goal-setting. It helped that it was about eleventy billion degrees out, I am going through a breakup and I’m still riding high off of the inspiration of last weekend. I am really excited about this new adventure and I cannot wait to embark on it. You’re going to see some old stuff mixed in with some new things. I’m taking life by the horns and I finally feel like I have something here that I am uber passionate about.

Let the adventure begin!

posted by on Conferences

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As I have mentioned, TBEX, the Travel Bloggers Exchange conference, is happening this weekend up in Keystone. I came in not knowing what to expect; I’ve never been to a blogging conference and as far as travel blogging is concerned I’m still very new. I didn’t even have a direction I wanted this blog to go in when I arrived Friday afternoon and headed up the gondolas to Keystone’s Outpost on top of one of their peaks (amazing, if not absolutely petrifying) for the welcome party.

It wasn’t until the keynote opening speech by C.C. Chapman where I was under-caffienated and over-tired that inspiration hit me. In fact, my niche, the direction I wanted The Wanderscapes to go in, hit me square across the face. And it was the most obvious thing in the entire world, so obvious that I wondered what the hell took me so long. (I think Suki also thought this and said as much.)

Diptic

The excitement grew throughout the day as I thought more and more about this idea. My brain was churning and the inspiration was, as cheesy as it sounds, flowing. I couldn’t wait to get to a computer and get started. The more I learn, the more excited I get. The more focused I get.

During Rand Fishkin’s excellent presentation on SEO, my ideas kept growing and taking shape. I started talking to people I met throughout the afternoon about my idea and got extremely positive feedback. It has only encouraged me more and made me more excited for this next adventure in blogging.

Diptic

I’m excited to announce where this site is going but I’m going to hold off for just right now. I’m going to do some planning and figure some things out but expect to see some major changes around here in the next month or two as I get everything set up.

Now I’m going to enjoy this beautiful warm sunshine before lunch begins and finish up my last day at TBEX.

 

posted by on Food, Uncategorized

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Like most freshman in college, I dove straight into the world that had been denied to me in high school: beer and frat parties. I was eighteen and I didn’t know any better than to drink Natty Light, Keystone and Milwaukee’s Best, a failure on most college students parts. After a year of abusing the most disgusting beer known to man, I gave up beer.

For nearly ten years I did not drink beer. To my untrained palate, all beer was the same and that was disgusting. You could not make me drink it, no matter how hard you tried.

In October of 2008 I went on my first trip to Germany. I met my brother at the Munich airport (he was living in Freiburg at the time) and as soon as we checked in at our hostel, we took off to the Englischer Gardens in search of the Chinese Pavilion beer garden. He did not let me say no to the honey colored beer that I had so detested for so long. I was in Germany. I had to drink the beer. He let me get away with half a pint, since the thought of that much beer was making me queasy.

You know what? I actually liked it. In fact, I finished the whole thing. All by myself. It didn’t stop there. I voluntarily drank beer on many, many occasions, including, of course, Hofbrauhaus.

That was the turning point in my relationship with beer. Don’t get me wrong, Coors, Bud, Miller and all those types of commercial beers still make my stomach turn but I’ve since discovered how much I love craft beer. Colorado happens to be the perfect place for that so it’s a good thing I live here.

TBEX festivities have been focusing on the beer. Turner PR threw a pre-bex brew crawl on Wednesday that went to four of the local breweries (Great Divide, Breckenridge, Denver Beer and Fresh Craft) and I’m glad that Germany has changed my mind about beer. I had the delicious Wild Raspberry Ale at Great Divide and got to take my first brewery tour. (Smelled divine, by the way.) At Breck, I had their Agave Wheat which was amazing but my favorite was a surprise. I love wheat beers but at Denver Beer I had their Graham Cracker Porter, a rich, dark beer, and I loved it. I usually don’t like the dark beer (yes, I once returned a Guinness. In Ireland. Not my proudest moment.) but this porter was AMAZING.

I continued drinking at TBEX’s after hours party at Wynkoop (our mayor’s own brewery), another brewery I’d never been to. I’m kind of sad I didn’t skip over to the bar at some point and get one of their beers. I guess I will just have to go back! The beer they did have available to us were from Great Divide and Breck again and I got to try GD’s Samurai, a rice beer, that I really enjoyed.

Colorado, you put out some fantastic beer.

Just a reminder to all TBEX attendees from the sea level: keep this simple formula in mind. Alcohol, water, water, alcohol. Especially up in Keystone (which I’m sure is going to even effect me who is coming from 5400 feet). Altitude sickness isn’t fun, yo. Take it from the girl who got it while sleeping at 3am in Breck.

I am off to the conference! Keystone or bust.

posted by on Travel

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This weekend is my very first blogging conference, TBEX the travel blogging exchange. Sure, I’ve been to blogger meetups, I’ve even hosted one in New York City. This is different, though. And oh, THE NERVES.

I honestly have no idea what to expect. I do know that some of my favorite travel bloggers will be there and it kind of makes me feel like a giddy little school girl that I might run into them there. I’m also not sure the direction I want to take with this blog. How do I sell myself when I’m not exactly sure what I’m selling? Hopefully this weekend brings more clarity there, if nothing else.

And have I mentioned all of the nerves?

Another awesome thing about this weekend is that I finally get to meet Suki! She’s flying in tonight and staying with me while we aren’t in Keystone for the conference. I’m silly excited for this weekend. It starts tonight with a brew crawl that B is attending with me and then tomorrow Suki, Ryan and I are going to the pre-TBEX party before heading up to keystone our separate ways (she is doing the Road Rally and I am working and then driving Alouise and myself up to the mountains.)

Guys, the opening party is on top of a mountain. And there is a party at a horse barn. That I have to wear cowboy boots to. I’m also going to learn all about marketing and SEO and all that good stuff. Basically, stuff I really don’t know that much about.

It’s going to be great. Plus, it’s all travel oriented and we all know that’s my favorite topic! My business cards are ready, my bags are not packed yet but the excitement is there!0

Stay tuned for updates over the weekend and watch my @ashalahblogs account for the live stream of all of my thoughts. Happy TBEX weekend!

posted by on Food, Home, Local Finds

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Over the weekend I attended the Colorado Urban Wine Festival in the Sculpture Park in Denver. I’ve been spending a lot more time in the Mile High City now that I’m dating someone who lives down there and really, it sounds ridiculous saying that I haven’t spent that much time in a city that is only half an hour away. I’m not really sure what my excuse is but either way, I’m glad I’m finally exploring Denver.

Diptic

I was glad I stumbled upon this wine festival, an event that was surprisingly under publicized. I only heard about it through a friend and fellow blogger, Grace, who runs Boulder Food News but I was so glad I did. I am no wine connoisseur, I can barely swirl the wine around my glass in a way that doesn’t put it straight down my shirt (nope, I did not spill red wine down the front of my dress…) and I certainly cannot differentiate many of the smells. But I do know I like wine and because I already have my favorites, I wanted to reach out and see if I could discover more wines to enjoy and maybe learn a thing or two.

Or get drunk.

All the wineries at this festival were local Colorado wineries. In a state known for it’s winter sports, tons of sunshine and large amount of awesome craft brews. But wine? That was the last thing I was expecting from Colorado. I was surprised by just how many tents there were and while there weren’t very many wineries where I liked more than one or two wines, there were a few standouts.

Diptic

I tried my first mead wine at Black Forest Meadery, locate in Colorado Springs, and I was pretty impressed. I’m not the biggest mead fan, I’ll admit but whatever the last blend was, and how I wish I could remember it because on their very primitive website it isn’t listed, was delicious. Their wine made of rose hips was also delicious and very unique. My favorite winery was definitely the Creekside Cellars from Evergreen, CO. Every wine I had was delicious. Their Riesling, usually a very sweet wine that’s hit or miss with me, was light and refreshing with just a teensy tiny hint of sweetness. The real winner was their Bianco, a mix of Chenin Blanc (already a favorite of mine), Chardonnay and the Riesling. So delicious and refreshing.

Diptic

It’s true, most of my wine tasting fell in the white wine realm; it was 95 degrees out in full sun and sadly, half the wineries’ red wines were…well, hot. I wanted something to cool me off, not heat me up even further. I’m not the biggest red fan but I did have a few I liked and since B was sampling mostly reds, he discovered a few treasures himself. He did enjoy a few reds from Creekside Cellars and there was a Cabernet Sauvignon from   that was the standout for him.

Diptic

That much wine, especially when you’re not really sure how much you’ve actually had can be dangerous. There was definitely a point half way through the break, after we’d shared a reindeer hotdog that we had to take a starbucks break because we were getting pretty drunk. Luckily that wore off but we were completely wine-d out by the end of the day.

It was a great event and I’m glad I discovered it. Now, drink up. Salut!

posted by on Budgeting, Solo Travel, Travel, US Travel

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Sometimes life gets in the way of travel plans. Sometimes the IRS takes all of your money and then you have to pay for most of May’s rent and your brakes and air conditioning need replacing in your car and then there’s a Vegas bachelorette party and.and.and.

Basically, what I’m trying to get at is that I’m not going to China in October. My finances have taken a big hit these past couple months and combined with the reality that I do want a travel companion to tackle this large country, I have decided to postpone that trip until further notice.

It deeply saddens me that this trip is not happening. While I am excited for the trips I have planned in its place and the new destination I have in mind for the spring (Machu Picchu! Galapagos Islands! More to come on that…), I was very much looking forward to hugging pandas and climbing the great wall. And now that I’ve admitted it to everyone, it seems more real.

Because it’s not official unless it’s on the Internet.

I’m not really that surprised that I had to cancel. I overloaded my plate this year and with a bunch of unexpected add-ons, My savings for China have nearly been wiped out. On top of my birthday trip to New Orleans and my trip to St. Simone’s Island, I now have my first blogging conference, TBEX, in three weeks, a family reunion in July on lake Michigan, a bachelorette party in Vegas in August, and the wedding in San Francisco in October. Not to mention concerts (Florence and the Machine, Jason Mraz), festivals and camping trips and I’m sure my parents expect me to come home for Christmas.

Are you tired from all of that? Because I am. With the amount of money and time it’d take to do china, I just can’t feasibly do it this year. Cue sad faces and pouting. (But only for a few minutes because really? All of that is pretty fantastic.)

I will get to China eventually, it just isn’t in my deck of cards at this very moment. Instead I am going to try to plan a road trip to California in it’s place. I am going to rock the crap out of this summer and get my car’s air conditioning fixed so I don’t smell after the drive to Denver to see the boy. I’m going to take weekend trips and party it up with my best friend in Vegas. I’m going to lounge on a beach and not feel guilty ordering another piña colada because the money spent on it could have gone towards China. I’ll appease my parents and be part of their family reunion.

And next spring? I will hopefully be climbing to Machu Picchu and diving at the Galapagos Islands. Two things sitting towards the top of my bucket list, if my bucket list was in any sort of order. China was never very far up this list but after all my research, it certainly is in my very near future.

In case this wasn’t random enough, what would top my list? Visiting the ancient ruins in Egypt.

Onwards and upwards, as they say.

posted by on Food, Travel, US Travel

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As most of you know, I recently turned the Dirty 30. I love birthday trips (18th was in Ireland, 27th was in Vegas, 28th in NOLA) and since this was a pretty big milestones, I knew I couldn’t skip out on the chance to hit up one of my favorite music festivals in my favorite US city: Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

Diptic

I arranged to have two of my good friends from NYC join me on what was going to be an epic adventure in food, music and…food. I’m not going to lie; I was most excited for all the food. Yes, most of it is fried and very, very bad for you. But oh, if you are going to go all fried and very, very bad for you, you must do it Creole and Cajun style.

I was also excited for my friends to experience the soul of this city that I love so much. The architecture of the French Quarter is amazing, the people incredibly friendly, live music on every corner…there’s just something about this city that you have to experience to understand. One of my friends wanted to go on all these tours and I felt sort of bad but I’m just not a tour person. Don’t get me wrong, I love walking history tours but I would much rather wander around the city aimlessly on my own than sit in a van being driven around.

To me, that is no way to feel a city’s true pulse. So I nixed the tour ideas. She did get to go on one before I arrived and based on how drunk she was when her and Andy, my friend who lives in NOLA, picked me up at the airport, she enjoyed herself. Our downtime in the city was spent wandering the Quarter, drinking daiquiris in the hot humid weather and eating beignets with frozen cafe au laits at Cafe du Monde. All things you must do while here.

Another thing you MUST do? Go to Jacques Imo’s. Wait in the ridiculously long two hour line and eat at 11pm. I don’t care what kind of excuses you can come up with, just do it. I had my thirtieth birthday dinner there and it almost didn’t happen. We almost let our hungry stomachs talk us into a shorter wait. What a disaster that would have been.

Sure we had to stand outside for two hours but I got to drink several bottles of raspberry beer and ate the biggest, most delicious grilled oysters I’ve ever had that were freshly grilled right outside the restaurant. I’m talking two bites huge. Oysters with melty cheese and herbs. And once we got inside?

THE FOOD. Guys. Out of this world. Alligator cheesecake. Duck and Andouille gumbo. Crawfish étouffée. Corn Maquechoix. And that’s just what *I* ate. I hope you’re drooling because I certainly am.

Diptic

The food at the festival was another story. The highlights were the return favorites of Crawfish Monica and white chocolate bread pudding. New favorites include the soft shell crab po’boy, crawfish beignets and something called Cochon du Lait. Which translates to Milking Pig. Which means…baby pig. Yes, I ate baby pig. Twice. IT WAS SO GOOD, STOP JUDGING ME.

Diptic

From top left: Cochon du Lait, the Holy Trinity (crawfish beignets, oyster patty and crawfish sack), Crawfish Monica and Soft Shell Crab Po'Boy

This trip really wasn’t just about the food. (Ok fine, it really was) There was also this little festival called Jazz Fest. This year’s lineup was pretty stellar: Bon Iver, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Trombone Shorty and Bruce Springsteen all topped my list of must-sees. I enjoyed seeing all these bands but Trombone Shorty and Bruce Springsteen, both on Sunday, both stole the show for me.

I knew Shorty was going to kill it. I’ve seen him twice before, the first time was at Tippitina’s in NOLA the last time I was there, and he just blew those other two performances out of the water. Nothing like seeing him in his hometown. But the real surprise was Bruce. I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of his; some of his music is catchy and who doesn’t love Dancing in the Dark?

He was stellar. He rocked for a solid three hours without a break and looked like he was having a blast. I love live music. I especially love it when you can tell they are really enjoying being there. And Bruce was having his moment. We stayed til the very end rather than cutting out early to beat the crowds and danced our little feet off. I think his performance was even more special because he was the headliner for the first jazz fest right after Katrina and this was his first time back since then.

Diptic

The crowds were pretty intense this year. It was crowded two years ago but this year was even more so. The weather was gorgeous though and I had such a great time.

If you ever find yourself pondering a trip there, don’t ponder–just go. It is such a fun, vibrant city with gorgeous architecture and a rich past. Plus it’s got more soul than most cities I’ve been to in the US and it’s ten times more crazy fun than Vegas. New Orleans has managed to work it’s way into my heart and I will continue to return to that city. Just not too often unless I want to be 500 lbs.

posted by on Uncategorized

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One thing I was not prepared for when I arrived down in New Orleans was the food. I had heard about the crawfish and the alligator but I figured that my eating habits wouldn’t change that drastically while down there. Boy, was I wrong.

About a few days into the trip Heather and I started referring to our stomachs as “The Situation.” The Situation was that they were a little…larger. Full of fried shrimp, oysters, crawfish po’boys, alligator and bread pudding. A whole assortment of foods that my stomach and I were not used to, yet loved. Could not get enough of.

The love affair with Cajun food began the first night. Andy was pulling out the big guns and making us Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo and teaching me how to make it at the same time. I learned about why his right arm is stronger than his left (sure it’s from stirring the roux….suuuuuure) and I chopped an entire red onion without crying (which is a huge feat in and of itself–I ALWAYS cry with red onions for some reason). I watched the roux change colors and watched it stew. The finished product the next day was SO good and I was glad I had two bowls when, after getting drunk, we forgot to put the Gumbo away in the fridge and it turned moldy overnight. (A crime!)

The gumbo was the only homemade dish we had, the rest of the days and nights filled with one restaurant stop after another. I breakfasted at Surrey’s on Magazine in the Garden District with Chris and Ana and had the most amazing Crabmeat Omelette, while Ana had a fantastic Crawfish Omelette, Chris the Migra with Chorizo. Yes, we all swapped plates at one point so we could enjoy everything on the table. We joked about licking our plates clean (especially Ana’s because her’s was just SO good that we all would fight over the excess on the plate, if it had come down to that) but our waitress, clearly catching wind of our plan, intercepted our plates before they could reach our tongues.

Thursday night we went out for dinner at this out of the way local joint off of Canal street which I forget the name of. Madina’s or something of the sort. This was the night of epic drinking but it started with turtle soup, which I was unsure how I felt about eating since I had a pet turtle when I was little called Bubbles. But I had to try it. When they served us though, they told us it was fake turtle, actually veal, and I was disappointed. This was information they could have, I don’t know, shared with us BEFORE we ordered it?I only ordered it because of how strange it was! I’ve had veal before. Apparently turtle meat skyrocketed after Katrina and the only places that sell them did not include this restaurant. Nevertheless it was delicious. The second course was a whole lot of…fried. Fried oysters and fried shrimp. I could barely get through half of them without feeling like I was about to blow up. So good, but wow.

Somehow I drank enough to make me forget just how much fried crap I’d ingested and had some greasy disgusting pizza on Bourbon Street in my drunken haze later that night. Maybe all this grease helped me not be hung over the next morning? Maybe.

The food at Jazz fest was unexpected. I was not prepared for the amazingness that was crawfish bread, a cheesy concoction stuffed inside bread with these little crawfish which were quickly becoming my favorite item to eat. It was SO good. Between acts I picked up a crawfish po’boy for my dinner and immediately regretted that decision. While amazingly delicious (and oh, it was), it did not sit well with my stomach and I ended up in pain for some of the night until Andy pumped me full of pepto. I did bear through the pain though and ended up standing in line at Acme’s to try their oysters. People had been mentioning these char-grilled oysters that have parmesan cheese and herbs on top of them and I had to try them. YUM. So amazing. I was on the fence about oysters until this trip. I ate so many, I am now a huge fan!

Saturday morning we headed to Slim Goodies for breakfast, Andy’s supposed favorite breakfast joint. He recommended the Tex Mex plate, which included eggs, avocados, beans, cheese, salsa and other stuff. I was sold at the avacados! So naturally all four of us at our table got that option and we all devoured it. So yum. Somehow, I still had room for food–or at least biegnets from Cafe du Monde. Oh holy powdered sugar. SO GOOD.

And yet, I still had room in The Situation. That afternoon, the second day of Jazz Fest, I continued eating. I tried Crawfish Monica, a pasta dish with some kind of red cream sauce with crawfish. Again, amazing. What is with this town and it’s fantastic dishes?! Everything I tried was worthy of the fake reactions you get out of the Food Network stars (what? There is no way those reactions are real), only these reactions coming from me were 100% REAL. I had a bite of meat pie that was great and got a bowl of white chocolate bread pudding, quite possibly my favorite dessert that warranted two trips to that stand over two days.

Saturday night we all were pretty tired but a few of us ended up at Mona’s for some Turkish food, a small break from the fried shellfish–but still greasy. It was good but certainly not really worthy of too big a mention in the grand scheme of New Orleans foodgasms.

Sunday morning before heading to Jazzfest Andy, Margaret, Mollie, her brother John and I headed to our reservation at The Court of Two Sisters down in the quarter. It was a beautiful old restaurant with an outdoor garden seating area with a live jazz band. It was a buffet and while it wasn’t the BEST food, it was still good. I had three plates of food–one was fruit, the other eggs benedict with an assortment of carbs, and the third was a plate full of dessert. Clearly couldn’t go without that! To top it all off I had a delicious Bloody Mary, a drink I had been craving since Friday when Heather mentioned that she had just had one before coming into the festival.

Since sunday was my last day at Jazz fest and I was determined to eat as much as possible. I mean, these food stands were not going to follow me to Boulder (and boy, I was glad for that!) so I had to make good use of them. I had some catfish dish that was really good, grabbed more crawfish bread, some crawfish pie and yet another white chocolate bread pudding. I also tried a bit of some oyster bread thing and some banana bread pudding–both were very good. I was so full from that by the time the Allman Brothers ended and we headed back to Andy’s, I couldn’t even think about eating anything more.

Monday, my last day in New Orleans, was epic and not just for the music. It started with Heather and Jake at Mother’s on Poydras where we ordered the soft shell crab po’boy (shown above) and the crawfish etouffee omelette with a side of debris and biscuits to share. FOODGASM. The po’boy was amazing, the omelette to die for. Debris is the parts of roast beef that have fallen off into the gravy and was pretty damn tasty. We piled that on top of the biscuit and devoured everything on our plates.

The Situation was clearly growing larger, for both of us.

For dinner that evening we decided Felix’s for oysters was a must. Andy, Heather, Jake and I managed to put away four dozen oysters (our reasoning? The oil spill, extremely tragic and heartbreaking, was going to kill all those poor oysters and we had to eat as many as we possibly could). FOUR DOZEN. Three dozen of those were raw, one dozen was char-grilled. We had to mix things up a bit though and we got fried pickles, sweet potato fries and blackened alligator, which was SO good. That was the one thing I was determined to eat while in NOLA and it was looking like it wouldn’t happen but when we saw it on the menu we had to order it. I was impressed! It was chewy but really tasty!

And that my friends, was my trip to New Orleans. It was an epic trip full of amazing music, amazing food and some excellent company. I am still completely in love with it.

Originally posted on May 1, 2010 on Ashalah.com. This is to commemorate my trip to New Orleans this year to celebrate my 30th! 

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Standing on your feet all day really can wear you out, especially when one foot is swollen, itchy and in pain. Not only from the fire ant bites I had gotten on the first two days, but from flip flop injuries–the worst of which was between the first two toes on the same foot as the bites. Apparently my feet do not believe in equal opportunity for pain. LET’S JUST GIVE IT ALL TO THE RIGHT FOOT.

I was in such pain that I decided that evening I could not handle wearing my flip flops for a second more and put on my three inch pointy toed heels when we headed out for the evening. We were all tired but Andy and I had been spending too much time together and while all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and sleep, I decided to give Andy some alone time and went to meet Heather and Jake after dinner at the Hermes bar where the Treme Brass Band was playing. Little did I know was that the bass drummer was a LEGEND and on the poster for Jazz Fest! We had a great time listening to them and even got some pictures with Lionel Batiste, that bass drummer. He was an interesting character, that’s for sure.

Here is my friend Heather with Lionel:

The band took a break and we decided to move on the Frenchman Street where we had heard some big names were playing in a few bars there. What amazed me was that these jazz musicians–these LEGENDS–were just hanging out on the streets of New Orleans. Playing to the masses as if it were nothing. These bands were coming in the front door like everyone else, no VIP treatment even though they deserved it. Discovering that the cover charge was a little steep, we decided to just wander around, there being so much live music happening anyway.

One one street corner we found a large crowd gathered around two marching bands, perched on opposite sides of the street, battling. It was AWESOME. We let ourselves get swept up in the crowd and danced along as they played various songs, including Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. I don’t know how long we were watching them but it was definitely a highlight of my trip. I was loving the energy this city was giving off, loving all the music and loving the people.

By Day Three of Jazz Fest, Sunday, we were exhausted but still intent on having a great time. Heather had this app on her iPhone that allowed her to schedule not only her music, but her food. The night before we had scheduled in some alligator pie, crawfish monica (so good!) and other such deliciousness. Of course nothing goes as planned and we didn’t meet up until later on at the Allman Brothers. Being it was our last day (or at least MY last day) we hit up the food stands like we would never eat again, stacking up on crawfish bread, crawfish pie and more white chocolate pudding before heading into the crowds of people gathered at the Acura stage to see the Allman Brothers and to meet back up with Heather.

Now the only Allman Brothers song I know is Ramblin’ Man, pretty much my own personal anthem. And a couple others I don’t know the names of. I was only planning on going to two days of Jazz Fest but once in New Orleans, I decided that I might as well go to all three days, I would kick myself if I didn’t. As was the theme of most of the weekend, I kept having to tell myself that it was just money and I can make more of it. But who knows when I’ll be in New Orleans again! Anyway, I didn’t know what to expect with the Allman Brothers but I certainly enjoyed it. It was one giant jamfest and they could jam. They were incredibly talented and while I didn’t know the songs they were playing, I appreciated and loved the music they were making.

Unfortunately they did not play Ramblin’ Man but it was a great end to three days of intense music. It also happened to be gorgeously sunny that last day, without a cloud in the sky.

That wasn’t the end of the music though. Monday night, my last night in NOLA, Heather, Jake and I headed to Tipitina’s to see a bunch of jazz musicians take the stage. Despite having my boobs proposed marriage to, it was the best way to end my trip there; I danced my face off, loved every band that took the stage and just had a blast. Soul Rebels were really fun and interactive, getting everyone in the bar down on the ground at one point. The lead singer from Cowboy Mouth was there again and I fell in love with the music of Trombone Shorty, even though I was dead at that point and very ready to go home and sleep.

Now, you might have heard about something called Boobquake. I had heard about it earlier in the morning, about how some guy from Iran said something about how loose women who dress improperly cause earthquakes and how in response, people were showing some skin to see if that was scientifically true. That night I happened to be wearing a rather revealing dress (hence the guy wanting to marry me–or my boobs) and discussed this with my friend Heather. The two of us alone should have been causing massive earthquakes all over the world but alas, I don’t believe any happened.

It was an amazing weekend for music. I love music, especially live, and this town has done it right.

I have at least one more post coming about all the amazing FOODGASMS I was having while down there. Yes, N’awlins’ food deserves it’s own post. I have never been to a city in the US where I did not have one single “American” dish the entire week I was there.

Now I will leave you with some more photos from this week:

The rain on the first day, at the Gentilly Stage.

The muddy lake I had to wash the fire ants off my feet in

 

Heather and I and her lanyard koozie at Simon and Garfunkel, Day 2, after the sun had come out!

Muddy feet! Ewwww…

Guy playing the guitar and harmonica on Frenchman Street

This is what I picture when I think of New Orleans: feathers and umbrella parades!

Band playing on Royal Street

Originally posted on April 29, 2010 on Ashalah.com. This is to commemorate my trip to New Orleans this year to celebrate my 30th!