Nerdventures: Nerdy Nola

Hello nerds…my name is Roni and I am addicted to traveling. Seriously, if I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is plan a trip around the world! #WanderLust is real, and it’s a worthy cause! Try to experience, see and learn as much as you can for as long as you can.

If you happen to follow us on Twitter and Periscope @nerdycurious, you may have caught our posting from New Orleans! I was lucky to spend the weekend with Show and Talk’s Sandrene and Nerdy Gras’ Michelle for a mini-nerd reunion! We missed the rest of the nerd family, but were determined to have a blast in a fantastic city!

I initially planned to head to New Orleans to see one of my oldest, dearest, designical friends during the AIGA conference. I sadly could not attend the conference, but was looking forward to do more sightseeing. It was my second time to visit, so I still had quite a bit to see! Chelle is a local, so I was excited to spend time with her while my design pal was conferencing. I immediately contacted her when planning the trip and we corroborated on our nerdventures. Upon planning on Twitter and FB, Sandrene let us know that she would be joining us as well & Nerdy Nola was born! 

Side note: If you’ve been following NC for awhile, you are aware I am a map nerd and planning nerd. :] I created a google map with Chelle of a few places we wanted to visit of the nerdy variety. Having only a short weekend, we knew we weren’t going to do everything, but that just leaves room for next time. I’ll be back in Nola for Wizard World in January! Yay! (Sandrene and Chelle are going to join me below to share our experience.)

Sandrene’s Goal: To experience the NOLA culture with some great friends! Since it was my first time to the city I really just wanted to soak everything in. There were a few things I was hoping we’d experience, like getting to see a second line, eating good seafood, enjoying some great jazz music and running into Harry Connick Jr. We accomplished all but the last of them, plus I quasi-succeeded in fulfilling a lifelong dream of singing at a club in New Orleans, except instead of a jazz club it was a karaoke bar, and instead of crooning out a standard and being “discovered” I sang Dusty Springfield and Cee-Lo Green and amazed a fun group of drunk people. LOL! That she did! Sandrene is an amazing singer and we were very lucky to check off most of her list! 

I am so happy I was able to meet up with my beautiful nerds and show them around New Orleans. I love my city. There is so much tradition, life, and beauty in this city. And even though I am from New Orleans, there are so many places I have yet to go and try. So it was really great to play tourist with the girls. We went to a couple great restaurants and shops that we all got to experience for the first time together. weeeeeeeeeee!

Night 1 Friday
Having arrived on a late afternoon flight, we all met for dinner. First place of business…
1UrsaMajor
Ursa Major  611 O’Keefe Avenue c2
If there’s anything guaranteed about New Orleans…It’s that great food is available in abundance. Upon restaurant research, this celestial, spacey themed eatery peaked my interest! They’re menu changes, revolving around the relevant zodiac constellation in the sky. You may think this is gimmicky, but the food holds up, the overall atmosphere holds up, and the staff holds up. This isn’t a pretentious place, and our lovely waiter was very welcoming and accommodating! I had the Black Honey Glazed Beef and a fanciful cocktail.
I was very satisfied with my meal. The flavor was unique and the right combo of salty and sweet. The drink wasn’t as flavorful as I would’ve liked, and now that a few days have passed, it has proven to be not the most memorable.

2UrsaMajorOne of the reasons I don’t like to go to high end restaurants is because they take themselves too seriously. If I spend a lot of money on a meal I don’t want to be afraid to eat it. Ursa Major has the great decor and top notch service of a fancy restaurant, but without the pomp or price tag. Our gregarious waiter was as whimsical as he was cordial, the cocktails were reasonably priced (albeit a little weak for my taste, but that is how I feel about most drinks I don’t make myself) and the food delicious. I just got a side, since there weren’t many pescetarian options and I decided to leave room to try out other restaurants in town. All in all it was a great way to introduce myself to the food of the city!

3Pizza
Deciding to venture to another place for dessert, we decided to wander for a bit and came across Reginelli’s. 930 Poydras Street.
 I was still hungry and decided I want pizza. Because, when don’t I want pizza? I knew we were going to be eating a lot on Saturday so I didn’t want to get a whole pie and have leftovers so I was hoping to find a place that sold slices. We went in to ask and they did not sell pizza by the slice but they did have chocolate cake so we decided to stay. We got a slice of cake and split it between the three of us, although I probably could have consumed an entire piece by myself. Still, I was thinking of the impending sugar coma of Saturday and decided to behave. As a bonus, we had a Google Hangout with the fairest of them all, Shannon Fox! It was loud so I spent most of the time with the phone next to my ear, but Roni and Chelle got to see her lovely face and it was the next best thing to having her there with us! I know that says nothing about the restaurant. Um, the chocolate cake was delicious! And I had to resist going back and ordering their Honey Island Swamp pizza, because it sounds amazing. Next time, for sure.

I totally agree with all of the above, and laugh out loud thinking about it. The Foxy was awesome as ever, and it’s always fantastic to see her smiling face. It really felt like she was there with us, sharing that chocolate cake slice. Which, by the way, was pretty great and I could’ve totally eaten it by myself. Like Sandrene, I was glad I didn’t! We had big plans for Saturday.

Day 2 Saturday
We decided on an earlier wake up call, so we could do as much as we could. It was our only full day after all! The girls picked me up from my hotel, the Hyatt Regency, in Chelle’s tardis and we made our way to the quarter. (Side Note: The AIGA conference was held there, and I shared a room with my designical friend. It’s a great hotel, and rightly pricey. Definitely split a room if you can.) So, we drove for a bit and came across some road closures due to a Breast Cancer awareness walk. We ended up parking at the hotel and walking instead. We really lucked out on weather. It was cool, breezy and an all around gorgeous day!

4CafeDuMonde
Café Du Monde
800 Decatur St.
The first mission was BEIGN-YAYS!!! It was my first time eating at Café Du Monde, my first legit beignets, and it was sooooooo worth it!!! The line moves very quickly, so don’t get discouraged by it! We also found the seating line was moving a bit faster than the take out line, but not sure if that’s the norm. Either way…do it! IT’s a tradition and a yummy one at that!

First, I was so excited to watch Sandrene and Roni try beignets for the first time at Café Du Monde. Beignets are a staple here in New Orleans. They are a square piece of fried dough covered in mounds of delicious powdered sugar. The girls ate them like New Orleans natives. 😉 Lies, lies I say! lol! It was quite riotous…I made note that inhaling is a bad idea when powdered sugar is involved. Sandrene was being so careful when suddenly she giggled, and created a small powdered sugar explosion.

SUGAR!! I’ll admit it. I’m a bit addicted. And by a bit addicted, I mean a lot addicted. Sometimes. I can quit whenever I want. Probably… But this was not the time to start. On Saturday, I skipped my usual healthy breakfast to partake in the New Orleans staple, beign-YAYS! I’m pretty sure this was my first time ever having a beignet, since I never made it happen at Disneyland, so this was exciting. The line for Cafe Du Monde was long but not too terribly long and moved quickly. I think the line for sitting was shorter than for takeout, and we were treated with a trumpet player and greeted by a local asking about our visit. Once inside, it was a bit of a free for all to find a table, but we managed to locate one that had already been cleaned, and then the excitement began. 

Things I learned: Despite my ability to consume a copious amount of sugar, it’s difficult to eat more than 3 beignets in a sitting. (Sorry for failing at consuming 17 each, Shannon!) Also, laughing is a bad idea when you have a beignet near your mouth. My apologies to the person who had to clean up after us! And too bad we didn’t Periscope that part, the powdered sugar cloud was quite impressive. But other than that little mishap, I managed to keep myself and my friends pretty clean. Definitely worth the wait, and on my list of things I must do each time I’m in town. Next time I’ll try the coffee, too!

Upon finishing our sugary clouds of yum, we ventured to the French Market. We didn’t buy anything, but it was a great day to stroll and “window shop”. I was particularly taken by a jewelry vendor who had a great collection of raw stone rings and pendants. There was a great collection of artists, from painters to sculptors, and some unique clothing boutiques as well. After a lap around we came across a young group of musicians, jazzing up the street! 

I love places that have such a diversity of people and culture all together. Even just walking to the Market felt magical, as it is a place that’s just bustling with life. If we had not just eaten I would have gone overboard with the food vendors, everything looked amazing. We quickly walked through that area in order to avoid temptation and headed to the flea market area. This section reminded me a lot of the flea market in the Nashville Farmer’s Market, except the localized items were different, obviously. It was actually a lot of fun to see the similarities and differences in vendors. I refrained from buying a Mardi Gras mask, but it definitely put me into a Mardi Gras frenzy.
While in the market we heard a brass band start playing and thought we might get to witness a second line. Instead, it was a group of kids playing on the corner. I’ve been a horn player since I was 9 but I still don’t think I have the improvisational skills to play as well as they did. It was a great first street band in New Orleans encounter, and when they began playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” I felt like I was getting the full New Orleans experience.

We really lucked out with AMAZING weather for the weekend. It was blue skies and it stayed remotely cool and comfortable on Saturday. And being it was a beautiful Saturday, we were able to see so many street performers and local bands playing, especially in Pirate’s Alley. I was so happy that Roni and Sandrene were able to see the range of music you can experience from just walking from one block to the next. One minute you’re listening to bluegrass, or someone playing the washboard, and the next, you are listening to a beautiful classical song being played on a violin. Couldn’t agree more!

5CityViews

Continuing our walk and being fully aware it was October, we decided to take a Christmas break, and entered Santa’s Quarters1025 Decatur St 
CRP4_7EU8AAAeZ4 
Oh man, I love Christmas stores! No matter what time of year it is, they immediately transport me to December and I’m a kid again at a time when it was all magical. This store was more amazing than most, for two reasons. One, I was introduced to the concept of a Mardi Gras tree, which I now need to convince my roommates is an essential addition to our house this year. And second, they had some of the most ridiculous ornaments I’ve ever seen! Some were perfect and nerdy, like Doctor Who and what we are convinced was a Chuck knockoff. Others, like the mermen, were just so outrageous I momentarily thought of having a second tree just so I can decorate it with the craziest ornaments I could find. I don’t know if I’ll make it back to New Orleans before Christmas this year, but if I lived there it would definitely be the place I did my decoration shopping.
What can we say?! Nerds like their holidays, and there were plenty of nerdy nicnacs!

Continuing down Decatur and traveling up St. Philip St. I lead the girls to the French Quarter Gem & Lapidery 527 St Philip St.
I was on the hunt to find my sister a citrine pendant, which I was successful in finding, but at a hefty price tag. It was a gorgeous piece, but quite a bit out of our price range. It’s not all expensive gems at the lapidary, there are any affordable pieces for rock nerds like myself. This is definitely a place I plan to return to whenever I come to the city.

Photos courtesy of Galerie's  Facebook Page

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Continuing our sightseeing along Royal, I am very grateful to the girls for noticing a particularly nerdy art exhibit taking place at the Galerie d’Art Francais 541 Rue Royale. The most gorgeous multi media, pop art of Spidey, Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman and more were gloriously displayed. You should’ve seen our eyeballs popping out of our heads!  We didn’t want to snap any photos of the works inside the gallery, but I caught this glare-y shot of Supes at the entry & here are photos from the gallery’s Facebook. The artist, DeVon followed Warhol’s pop art footsteps and has developed his own style! He’s amazing and we hope to feature him sometime on NC! Hey, gotta #DreamBig nerds! 😉 

After fawning of art, we ventured to our lunch plans. Chelle and Sandrene went to Acme Oyster House 724 Iberville St. I’ll have to make it next time! I met up with my lovely designical friend Nic for pizza at Blaze Pizza 611 O’Keefe Ave. We got the Art Lover (appropriate name ;)) which had artichokes, mozzarella, ricotta, chopped garlic and red sauce dollops. It was quite yum, good crust!

7Acme It seemed wrong to go to New Orleans and not get seafood, and Acme had been recommended by several people, so we made our way over there. On the way we passed two or three other oyster houses, and naturally Acme was the only one with a line. The host who took our names made our wait less boring, and I was impressed he got my name right on the first try. Must be the French heritage in the city. Thanks to Disney’s animation of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from Alice in Wonderland, I’ve never been able to bring myself to actually eat oysters, but Michelle and I shared some boom boom shrimp and I got another staple, shrimp gumbo. Honestly, the food was a bit underwhelming and while it was satisfying, I would probably opt to try other places next time instead of making sure I return there again.

After a short lunch break for my buddy, so she had to get back to conferencing, I grabbed a cab back to the quarter. I met the ladies not far from Acme and headed to The Striped Hats  716 Bienville. This little place is an authorized gallery of Dr. Seuss art, and it is a gem! As kids who grew  up with a Seussian influence, we felt like kids in the place! Go!
10seussAnyone who has known me for a long time knows I have a bit of a Dr. Seuss obsession. It’s not quite as intense as it used to be, but I still get really excited whenever I see anything Seussical. I’m as guilty as anyone of getting caught up in the stories and missing out on the greatness of his artwork and this gallery helped he remember what an amazing artist he is. My favorite pieces were the Collection of Unorthodox Taxidermy. Not a fan of real taxidermy, the sculptures he created were a beautiful mix of reality and whimsy. My favorite was the Sea-Going Dilemma Fish. Photos online don’t do justice to the vibrant colors.

We continued our walk and stopped into what would surely be a Peggy Carter favorite, Trashy Diva 537 Royal St.! Retro clothing and accessories from the 40’s and 50’s in all their glory! I wish I had this place at home! Need period cosplay attire that you can still wear on your day to day?! Go here.
8 TrashyDiva

Next Chelle took us to Fleurty Girl 632 St Peter St., a super cute boutique that featured local wares with NOLA pride! 

After walking around for a few hours we decided to take a break and relax in Jackson Square 700 Decatur StThere was a lot of great art to see, between the art galleries, and the street artists around Jackson Square. We were also very lucky to see a wedding second line parade. Which is one of New Orleans many traditions. This is when the bride, groom, and the wedding party dance in the streets accompanied by a jazz band on their way to the reception venue. It’s an awesome way to celebrate the bride and groom’s new life together, and so many people love to give their congratulations on the way. I was really hoping that one would happen so the girls could see one first hand. It was a beautiful second line.

6KaraokeAfter some much needed rest and discussing our evening plans, we headed to the Cat’s Meow 701 Bourbon for some karaoke nerdioke. On the way we walked past Preservation Hall and Pat O’Briens courtyard where our nerd love, Zachary Levi did his ALS ice bucket challenge. Sandrene and Chelle both belted out some tunes and we periscoped a little Cee Lo for the nerd family, KISS showed up, and it was a blast!! We ventured to Preservation to see if we could catch the show, but the line was already crazy. We decided to Uber our way to Lucy’s 701 Tchoupitoulas St. for din dins. Now, can I just say, some of my friendliest Uber drivers have been in NOLA! They are always super friendly and informative, I absolutely love them! We had a lovely dinner at Lucy’s and we all felt the somber feeling of goodbye.  My lovely ladies and I made our way back to my hotel and Chelle’s car, we hugged each other and tried to convince Chelle to make it to New York in March for our next nerdy adventure. (#ZacOnBroadway) Come on Chelle!!! ❤
9 Lucys

Sunday Morning 
The next morning my lovely friend Nic and I made it to Café Du Monde for beignets part 2! It was her first time trying them, and I’m glad Du Monde is open 24 hrs. She then drove me to the airport and we said our goodbyes. ❤

I love my friends and have been fortunate to share many wonderful experiences with them, especially while traveling together! All in all, I would say it was a pretty amazing weekend. Can’t wait for Roni and Sandrene to come back and visit, along with any other nerds who would love to come and experience New Orleans! I agree! Here’s to many more nerd reunions all over the world! I love you girls and a special thank you for sharing your thoughts with the NC community!

(For your future Nola planning, here’s the google map link with all of the destinations we would’ve liked to have gone to.)
Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 6.50.52 PM

We hope you enjoy nerds and let us know if you have any other recommendations we can add to the list! 😀
~R
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