There’s nothing better than being a tourist in my home state.
I may not be from New Orleans, but it is absolutely one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve visited the city for so many different reasons in my life, and I have soaked up every moment, every single time. As a child, I was obsessed with the aquarium. As a 21-year-old, I spent my time partying on Bourbon Street. Once I met my fiancé, it was all about a good show at the Saenger Theatre and a good meal. My favorite things to do in the city have evolved throughout the years, but one thing remains the same: I love being a tourist in the Crescent City.
Living in Lafayette, my husband and I often scoff at tourist attractions. We consider some restaurants, and some of the Cajun attractions, to be too touristy. We pride ourselves on going to the most off-the-beaten-path places, and we are constantly trying new things. The same goes for our time in New Orleans. We love trying new spots in hidden parts of the city where only the locals go. When it’s just the two of us, we often get recommendations from a friend who lives Uptown and knows all the best spots (our recent favorite is Toups Meatery). We always have the best adventures walking the streets, and exploring new food, libations and music. We sometimes spend a whole trip in New Orleans without seeing the French Quarter.
Our last visit was different, though. For the first time, we brought our 4-year-old daughter, Shelby. Shelby is an adventure lover, and we knew she’d love New Orleans. We cringed at the thought of taking her to do all the clichéd tourist things there are to do in the city, but we did them anyway. Those very things are what made us first fall in love with New Orleans, after all.
Walking up to Cafe Du Monde and seeing how long the line was, my husband and I looked at each other and thought, “Do we really have to wait in this line?” Yes. The answer was yes. The only thing Shelby wanted was beignets, and we were going to give her the real thing. The line moved fast, and, in no time, we were sitting down, drinking cafe au lait and eating those sugar covered delicacies. I hadn’t had a beignet in years, and it was better than I’d remembered. Shelby took her first bite and moaned, “Momma, that’s good!” I sipped my coffee and watched her enjoy those beignets the way I had once enjoyed them as a child. Seeing her enjoy that experience was so sweet.
A few minutes later, a street band began playing a special rendition of “When the Saints go Marching In.” Shelby could see them, and she smiled from ear to ear. She danced to the music with her beignet in hand and I told myself, “She’s never seen this before.”
It’s so easy to take our culture for granted. At our age, many of us have experienced the spirit of the South for years now, and it has become normal. But our children haven’t seen the sights, sounds and smells of the tradition of Louisiana. As parents, it is our responsibility to show them these things, even if it means starting from the very beginning — eating beignets in the French Quarter.
This experience reminded me that as her mother, it is my job to share my love for this state with my daughter, and I plan on doing it step-by-step. I plan to take her to more touristy attractions in my area, because I realized I’ve skipped over teaching her the basics. I want her love of Louisiana to evolve the way mine has, and I promise to be her own personal tour guide. I look forward to our adventures as tourists in our own state.