Sunday, February 8, 2015

#ThankYouMiamiGoesToNewOrleans - 4 Remarkable Similarities Between the 504 and the 305

The city of brass bands, beignets, and bon temps is on fire. Recently, it seems like movies, businesses, and tourists are looking to New Orleans. Everyone we talk to brings it up in conversation and, with the start of their peak tourism season, the chatter is only bound to get louder.

In October 2014, we traveled to New Orleans to check out the competition and see if it lives up to the hype. Our findings? New Orleans is just as awesome as everyone makes it out to be. On a more surprising note, it is similar to Miami, which must be why we liked it so much. Here are four remarkable similarities between the 504 and the 305:

1. New Orleans has great food. Miami has great food.
New Orlean's dining scene is at the top of its game. Long-time staples like Lil Dizzy's Cafe, Jacques-Imo's Cafe and Dooky Chase, with their signature soul food and southern hospitality, set the bar high for the city's culinary success. Recently, a new era of modern restaurants from Cochon Butcher to MoPho has stepped up to the plate with delicious food focused on using fresh ingredients and pushing the envelope.

Similarly, Miami's restaurants range from hole-in-the-wall classics, which in our case are Cuban (i.e. Las Olas Cafe), to modern, ingredient-focused cooking as manifested in every Pubbelly Boys and 50 Eggs restaurant. While Miami's service industry could learn a few niceties from the friendly folks of New Orleans, our culinary scene is also riding high and offers just as much variety. Before our trip to New Orleans, our friend Bobby told us: "if you don't gain at least 5 pounds while you're in New Orleans, you're not doing it right." We argue that the same thing can be said about Miami.

Cochon Butcher was our go-to for lunch three days in a row. We recommend ordering from one of the specials.

The gumbo from Lil Dizzy's Cafe is as delicious as it looks.

2. New Orleans and Miami both have titillating histories.
New Orlean's history, with its Louisiana voodoo, private social clubs, and long-standing traditions, is the type of story that is ready-made for best-seller novels. Then again, thanks to writers like Carl Hiaasen, so is Miami's history - in its own way. During our stay, we did not learn much about New Orlean's more commonly explored historical milestones. However, we learned firsthand about its drainage system, its architecture, and, to our dissatisfaction, its ghosts. Pro tip: If you're not into ghosts, check Google to see if your hotel is haunted before you book a room. We didn't and the struggle was real.

Parades are one of the many traditions that make New Orleans such an interesting place to visit. This is a photo of a wedding parade that passed by our hotel.

We spent the second half of our trip in the Garden District at the Ponchartrain Hotel, a hotel that is said to be haunted by 25 different ghosts. We are not usually believers of the supernatural, but we did experience a handful of eery moments during our stay.

3. The New Orleans bayou is the long-lost cousin of the Florida Everglades.
Like Everglades National Park, the six sites of John Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve are an important part of the Louisiana watershed and have played an important role in New Orlean's history. We took a day trip to the Barataria Preserve to explore the beautiful natural resources few tourists remember to see. During a three-hour walk through the boardwalk trails, we spotted a handful of birds, a baby alligator, frogs, spiders, and a few snakes that took us by surprise. It was the type of outdoor experience you can also get at Everglades National Park.

Our group spent one afternoon exploring the Barataria Preserve of Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. The wetland environment was very similar to what we have seen in the Florida Everglades.

The spiders we saw during our hike are not unlike the ones we see in South Florida.

4. There is something for everyone in New Orleans and in Miami.
If you're looking for a tourist experience, New Orleans has Bourbon Street and Miami has Ocean Drive. If you're in search of a more low-key, local experience, New Orleans has the Mid-City District and the Garden District just like Miami has Midtown and Wynwood. The two minutes we spent on Bourbon Street were reminiscent of walking through our city's smelly alleys, which is not really our "thing" so we spent our New Orleans trip actively avoiding tourists traps.  Whether following a ready-made itinerary or curating a local experience is your jam, New Orleans and Miami have a place for you.

Although we did not spend much time near the tourist hotspots, we did visit Frenchmen Street which is a stone's throw away from Bourbon Street and stopped to watch this street band play.

Most of our trip was mostly spent at local hotspots like Bacchanal Wine Bar where we watched a local band play over a glass of Merlot. Bacchanal has a similar set-up and vibe to Miami favorite Lagniappe.

We look forward to chronicling more of our #ThankYouMiamiGoesToNewOrleans travels in future posts so stay tuned! In the interim, if you have any questions about experiencing local in New Orleans, don't hesitate to Ask #ThankYouMiami.

Have you been to New Orleans? Do you agree that it is similar to Miami? What were your favorite places to eat, drink, and listen to music? Which of the places on our list do you most want to see during your next visit? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

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