Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Running NOLA (post sponsored by oysters and Sauvignon Blanc)

The first time I visited New Orleans was in the spring of 2005, a few months before Hurricane Katrina. I don't remember much about the trip other than thinking the city was filthy. When my husband suggested my son and I join him for a conference there last weekend, I thought it was time to give NOLA another shot. This time would be different: I would see the city through the eyes of a mom and a runner, a very different perspective.

My son and I left late Thursday afternoon from Detroit. We booked our flights relatively last minute, and my husband's flight was from Lansing. I've traveled with our little dude solo quite a bit, so I didn't mind taking him alone to have a direct flight and an earlier arrival. For the first time my son carried his own suitcase, and in his usual fashion he charmed everyone with whom he came into contact.

Kid is a traveling boss.
Thursday night was uneventful. I ordered takeout and my son went to bed later than he should've. Hotel rooms with toddlers are always a challenge, but I was grateful we had a suite so we had a little more room. By the time my husband arrived our son was asleep, and I wasn't far behind him. I was okay with it though when our son woke up at five am on Friday (he usually wakes up between 6-6:30 eastern time). Mornings are long in a hotel room with a small human.

I took advantage of the sunshine to go for a run on Friday morning. It was my first run since my hospital stay a few weeks ago. We were staying in the Warehouse District about a mile from the French Quarter, and I ran to Jackson Square in the beautiful early morning light. I felt strong and fast which surprised me. Running in a new city always makes me feel energized, and this was no exception. I've been walking a lot the last few weeks, and even walking I've been short of breath and getting side stitches. On that run I felt weightless and amazing. I ran through the heart of this beautiful old city and felt like myself again.

Beautiful morning for a run!
I consumed an absurd amount of seafood (particularly oysters) in a short, three-day trip. It all started that first morning when we headed to breakfast at Creole House. I had the Louisiana Benedict topped with fried oysters and washed it down with a mimosa. If one can't have a cocktail at 10 am in New Orleans then what's the point? We walked around for a bit, and my exhausted son fell asleep earlier. I headed back to the hotel while my husband went to his conference. My son took an epic four hour nap, and I joined him for several of those hours (thanks champagne!)

After our nap we went to around the corner to the New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Company. My son and I split some beignet bites and I had a cappuccino to help wakeme up. Then we went to ride the streetcar because my son was obsessed with "Trolley". We rode for maybe two stops before he wanted to get off. Toddlers have a short attention span. We walked down Bourbon Street and ran around Jackson Square. It was a flawless day as my son sat on the steps in front of the iconic St. Louis Cathedral and watched street performers.



My husband joined us for an early dinner at Legacy Kitchen. I had the redfish and Gouda grits, the best food I had over the weekend (which is saying a lot because we had amazing food). My husband had a dinner, so my son and I headed to the hotel to watch PBS and snuggle. 

NOLA with a toddler
Saturday was an early morning too, so we headed off early for breakfast at Willa Jean's. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere was great. It was fun to stay in the Warehouse District and get a different feel for the city. We walked back slowly checking out different city parks and buildings. 

Traveling with a toddler means scheduling naps, and with an epic napper it turns out to be a nice break in the middle of the day. We had a late lunch at the St. James Cheese Company. This place was fantastic. I decided to start drinking Sauvignon Blanc, a summer favorite. The New Orleans sunshine and delicious wine made it feel like summer, and my heart was happy. We walked back to the French Quarter and explored again. 

We were there the weekend after Mardi Gras. Love the beads in trees everywhere!
We had cocktails and then dinner at Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street is actually my least favorite part of New Orleans, but I thought since we were there we should have at least one meal there. I had oysters and gumbo, and we topped it off with bread pudding. I was happy for the mile walk back to the hotel because we consumed an absurd amount of Cajun calories.

Dinner on our last night
After another early night we were up early on Sunday too. We ate breakfast at Stanley in Jackson Square, and then my son sprinted up and down the the nearly vacant square in front of the cathedral. As a mom and a runner I fell in love with the New Orleans I met early in the day. We had the public spaces to ourselves, and it was quiet and beautiful. 

My son refused to nap on Sunday making our final lunch at Mulate's a challenging experience. I had my final oyster treat - a fried oyster po boy. We walked around as our son slept in the stroller soaking in the warm weather of the south before heading to the airport. 

It was exactly the weekend getaway I needed. Traveling with a small human means earlier nights, but I've discovered the beauty of early mornings. It turns out I prefer it. Our son visited his 18th U.S. state at the age of two. He's a rock star little traveler, and I'm grateful every minute of every day that I get to be his mom.  It was the perfect trifecta of things I love: time with my boys, feeling strong when I run and exploring a new city. Thanks for the memories NOLA!

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