Always Thankful For NOLA – Travel Diary

Hey friends! Happy holidays to everyone! I’m back again with a travel diary (one of my favorite kinds of post to write) from my favorite city in the world!

That’s right, I’m talking about the Big Easy. New Orleans has always held a special place in my heart. My mom’s side of the family lives in Louisiana, and we’ve been making trips down there ever since I can remember.

This year has been a really tough year, and family has been even more important. After losing my grandmother, we felt it was very important to continue making trips to Louisiana and staying just as close to them as before. We decided (sort of spontaneously) to go see them before thanksgiving this year. It was such a wonderful trip with family!

Day 1: Saturday, November 23

Saturday was our road trip day, and we loaded up the car and got an early start at 7:30. The trip went by without much interruption, aside from some road work and detours on the far side of Birmingham. We did see a chemical tanker overturned, and we also endured Tuscaloosa game day traffic, which is absolutely nuts.

We stopped for a late lunch in the stunning historic town of Laurel, Mississippi. Laurel is the town where the HGTV show “Hometown” is filmed and where Erin and Ben Napier (of that show) live.

We got to experience the town-square area of Laurel, and it had all the old-timey charm you can imagine. The storefronts were all decorated for Christmas, which just made it that much more endearing!

We ate at the well-loved Pearl’s Diner for lunch, and it was quite the experience! We were there on an abnormally busy day, and by the time we made it up to the register to order, the menu was almost entirely different from when we walked in the door. Every time they ran out of something, a new side got slapped up on the menu. I was super disappointed to miss out on the mac&cheese, but the rice and gravy was super tasty. It became kind of fun to see what side you ended up with as they ran out of things ๐Ÿ™‚

It was such a beautiful day and such a lovely experience of a new place. I can’t wait to go back and explore more of Laurel!

Day 2: Sunday, November 24

Sunday was NOLA day!!! Whenever we go down to Louisiana to stay with family, we always spend at least one day in the city. I mean it when I say that I have never loved a city as much as I love New Orleans. The atmosphere is like no other, and I promise you’ll never be bored!

We headed into the city early Sunday morning, and to my knowledge our plan was to meet up with the rest of my family and find somewhere to grab some breakfast. When we got there though, there was a surprise in store for me. My mom, godmother, and aunts planned a surprise birthday brunch for me at Montyโ€™s On The Square, a beautiful little spot right in the heart of Jackson Square.

I’m sure the restaurant was a little overwhelmed with my 19-member-family, but they handled it so professionally and it was an unforgettable birthday surprise. I had the brunch po’boy: bacon, fried egg, fried green tomatoes, lettuce, and remoulade on the best loaf of French bread I’ve ever had. They also brought out cinnamon-filled King Cake beignets for my birthday treat and my whole family sang to me.

The food pics didn’t even need a filter, would you just look at the sun shining on that spread?

You can tell that I was one happy girl ๐Ÿ™‚ The combination of New Orleans and brunch was almost too much for my little heart to handle.

Next we took an obligatory stroll around Jackson Square and checked out the park and the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral.

We got a kind stranger’s help in the park to take a photo of our crazy bunch. I love my tribe and couldn’t make it without them. We are one good-looking group if I do say so myself!

Next we took a stroll around the Quarter and took in all the sights.

I found my dream apartment in the city. I’m just a little obsessed with that balcony.

I fell in love with this storefront! This glass shop is just one example of the unique craftsmanship that you can always witness in NOLA.

We also passed by the legendary Central Grocery, the original home off the Muffuletta sandwich. Which, if you haven’t had one, is absolutely something that everyone should try at least once. I promise you, it’s pure heaven in a sandwich.

We finally made our way to the French Market, a historic open-air market packed with everything from traditional New Orleans food vendors to handmade jewelry. I don’t think I’ve ever missed a chance to walk through the French Market, and I don’t ever plan to.

Next up was shopping on Canal Street, cause my cousin and I can never resist the two-story Urban Outfitters and H&M. I got to do some birthday shopping and enjoyed the early Black Friday sales.

After shopping, we took in the gorgeous views of the Moonwalk by the river. I never get tired of that skyline.

Our next stop was the ever-beautiful City Park, a place very near and dear to my family’s heart. The fall colors were absolutely breathtaking, and the 60-degree weather couldn’t have been better.

City Park is home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, and we took a stroll through the sculpture garden to see the new additions. I always find the art so impressive.

The giant Mardi Gras beads hanging among the Spanish moss are my personal favorite.

We finished off our evening at the Cafe DuMonde in the park. (Pro tip: this one is always less crowded than the one in the French Quarter.) After all, it’s not a New Orleans trip without a plateful of beignets and a hot cup of Cafe Au Lait.

Day 3: Monday, November 25th

Monday was quite a bit more laid back. We spent the majority of the day walking around the charming squares of Ponchatoula and Hammond. These two towns are absolutely breathtaking, and I daydream about moving there constantly.

PJ’s is a Louisiana staple, and I sure do wish they’d bring their franchise up to Tennessee.

Downtown Hammond is amazingly picturesque, and if you don’t believe me, just look to the multitude of movies filmed there. From the house previously owned by Brad Pitt and recently inhabited by Justin Timberlake (awesome right?) to the boutiques housed in old brick buildings, I can’t imagine a cooler place.

We had lunch at the Hammond La Carreta, a place very close to my childhood heart, and seriously, the best Mexican restaurant I’ve ever eaten at.

Walking back from lunch, I found another dream apartment building (there’s just something about Louisiana apartments, I guess.) It definitely helped that it was all decked out for the holidays ๐Ÿ™‚

After lunch, we headed to Ponchatoula to visit my great grandparents’ grave and spread some of my grandmother’s ashes there. I debated on sharing this part of the trip in this post because I didn’t want to put a damper on the mood, but it is real and very important to me so I decided to include it. My grandmother was a very big part of my life and her loss has been a tremendous one. It was a very hard day, but it felt so good to bring a part of her home again.

My great grandparents’ graves were hand-carved by my entire family out of cypress wood and decorated in the style of religious grottos.

We drove back to my aunt’s house through the little town of Ponchatoula, and I just couldn’t resist photographing the vintage buildings and shops.

We headed back home on Tuesday morning so that we could prepare to spend Thanksgiving with my Grandfather. The trip was short, sweet, and everything I needed to fill up my heart. I am forever thankful for my family, my life, and my opportunities to travel to such wonderful places. I hope you all found joy in this post and enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

Thank you all for reading and supporting me, and I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season so far. I have lots in store, so make sure to stay tuned ๐Ÿ™‚

Stay sweet, Sophia โค