The post you are about to read is my last one for Nola Newbie. As I wrote last week, my fiancé and I are moving to Belfast, Northern Ireland. I'm sad as I write this post because I will miss New Orleans, as I'm assuming everyone who moves from here does. There's even a song about missing this city.
I have only lived in New Orleans for less than two years, but I feel like this city has taught me so much in that short time. New Orleans is different from other the cities I have called home. It has so much more diversity, spunk and character. I've learned a lot in this town, so for my final list, here are 10 things New Orleans taught me:
1. It’s okay to be a tourist in your own city.
New Orleanians love to differentiate between the “touristy” parts of the city and the “local” parts, implying that the local parts are cooler than the touristy parts. This might be true, but it’s no reason to avoid the touristy areas. Bourbon Street can be fun. The National World War II Museum is amazing. I don’t go to these places all the time as a New Orleans local, but these spots are touristy for a reason: You will most likely have a good time.
2. Never miss a chance to try new food.
I have yet to have a bad meal in New Orleans, and the amazing variety of food here has made me a more adventurous eater. Since moving here, I’ve eaten Ethiopian food with my hands, I’ve learned how to devour crawfish, and I’ve actually ordered alligator sausage. New Orleans' legendary food culture encouraged me to try new foods and I'm grateful for that.
3. Every city should adopt the “go-cup” concept.
This is obvious. The go-cup is the best invention since… the regular cup.
4. Don’t judge a restaurant by its cover.
New Orleans restaurants get a lot of press and attention, and there are those famous New Orleans restaurants visitors and newcomers love to try. However, I had some of the best experiences at the restaurants I found by accident. I loved Bar-B-Q Kings in Gentilly and Ba Mien in eastern New Orleans, two places I found after my first choices were closed. Those hole-in-the-wall places can turn into your new favorites, you just have to try them.
5. Always make time for the once-in-a-lifetime concert.
Jazz Fest 2013 was my first Jazz Fest and I will always remember it because I saw Billy Joel. I consider Joel a living legend, so seeing him in concert at a venue less than a mile from my house was perfection. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band played with him, too, so the whole experience was a quintessential New Orleans moment I will always remember.
6. Dogs should experience the city, too.
New Orleans is such a dog-friendly city, so my dog, Leila, has been able to explore New Orleans as well. She's been to a few bars, many dog parks and a baseball game. She hates when the kids at the nearby school marching band have to practice for parades, but besides that, Leila has had a positive New Orleans experience.
7. Punctuality isn’t always necessary.
My biggest pet peeve is tardiness, but I had to get over that when I moved here because “New Orleans time” is a real thing. I believe I learned this one time when Chris and I were waiting for a friend at a bar. When the waiter asked if our friend was still coming, we replied, “Yeah, she's just a little late.” The waiter replied, “That’s ok. She’s on New Orleans time.”
New Orleanians tend to be a little more relaxed about certain things, and punctuality is one of them. I still get a bit irked when people are late, but living in New Orleans had made me slightly more relaxed.
8. Resilience can grow from disaster.
One of the most eye-opening experiences of living in New Orleans has been hearing Hurricane Katrina stories. I had no idea how massive Katrina was. I still find the whole situation unfathomable, and it is truly impressive how well New Orleans has rebuilt since Katrina. Of course there's more to do, but the fact that New Orleans can successfully host Super Bowls and All-Star Games years after such a huge tragedy is fascinating to me.
9. People can surprise you.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned here is people are not always what they seem. The perfect example of this occurred when I was walking down a quiet street in the French Quarter with some friends one night. All of a sudden a man came up beside us, walking his bicycle. I was nervous because I had no idea who this guy was, and he was walking a little too close to us. Who is this person? I thought as my heart started racing. Are we about to get mugged?
But then the man started rapping. And this wasn't like a junior high kid trying to rap – this guy was incredible. He spoke so fast, but his words were clear. He was an amazing performer, and it was all happening in front of us on this random street. The guy was so talented and so friendly, and the encounter made me think twice about judging strangers.
10. There is no place like New Orleans.
It's very cliché to say “there's no place like New Orleans,” but there's not a better way to say it. New Orleans is a special place. With the historic buildings, the eccentric people and all the Carnival craziness, New Orleans has a charm unlike any other city I've visited or called home. I know I have changed forever after living here.
So I'm going to miss you, New Orleans. I hope I see you again.