Babies in the Big Easy - Not Your Average Nola Trip

Ahhh, New Orleans. Nola. The Big Easy. The City that care forgot. Bourbon Street, Frenchman Street, Jackson Square. Jazz Fest, Beignets at Cafe Du Monde, and of course, who can forget the magic of Mardi Gras?

Lucky for me, my best friend Courtney lives in this magical city we call New Orleans, and I've had the absolute pleasure of visiting her on more than one occasion and checking off those iconic New Orleans tourist 'boxes' along the way. And while I enjoyed every moment of those other trips, this last trip was by far the best! There's truly nothing like traveling to a beautiful place and living like a local for a few days.

Photo via:  James & Jayleen Johnson       

I'm calling this trip the Good CoffeeVegan Food, New Mom, Park Tour of New Orleans, and if this sounds like your own personal nightmare (and I get it), please stop reading now. It won't any get better for you. 

Let me first say that in this world, there are besties, and then there are Besties. My bestie, Courtney, and I have known each other since the 6th grade. We survived high school together, backpacked all over Europe at 19, lived together in college, moved to New York together in our 20's (and somehow lived to tell about it), and even stood at the alter to officiate each other's weddings. More recently, we both struggled to conceive at the same time and having her there for me during that difficult time was truly the greatest blessing. Courtney is such a special girl, and when I go too long without seeing her, my heart feels sad.

Eileen & Courtney circa 6th grade

Eileen & Courtney circa 6th grade

So, naturally, when prior to the arrival of her daughter a couple months ago, Courtney invited me to come meet her beautiful baby Sunny for the first time, I could not resist. Sure, the prospect of flying & traveling solo with my 7 month old son Emmett for the first time (My hubby couldn't make the trip) intimidated me, but I decided to put my big-girl pants on, and go meet that Sunny girl!

I got a lot of tips and tricks from my mama friends and baby group (it takes a village), and the flight was pretty stress free. I checked in luggage, pushed Emmett through the security line and folded up the stroller with one hand (mom's get really good at this whole one-hand thing) and I was even able to keep Emmett in his car seat and take up a seat on the plane for him without paying for it since the flight wasn't full (thanks Southwest!)This helped Emmett stay cozy and sleepy (at least an hour or two).

LAX Loungin'

LAX Loungin'

The trip was only three days long, but it was packed! Kudos to Courtney for planning so many fun adventures at three weeks postpartum! Say whaaat? I believe all I was doing at three weeks postpartum was giving myself sitz baths and wondering if milk was ever going to come out of my boobies. But I digress. 

Courtney and I spent the first part of the first day hanging out at home in our PJ's caring for the babies and catching up on life. We talked a lot about being new mamas; the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was perfectly slow, quiet, and just what we needed. Later, Courtney and her southern gentleman of a husband Mike, took us to The Sneaky Pickle for the best Vegan Mac n' Cheese I've ever had! And if there is one thing I do know, it's a good vegan mac n' cheese.

Sneaky Pickle, New Orleans

Sneaky Pickle, New Orleans

Sneaky Pickle, New Orleans

Sneaky Pickle, New Orleans

It was light's out by 9pm, and up and at em' but 8am! Cause, you know, #momlife.

The next day, Courtney took me to one of her favorite local spots Cherry Espresso Bar for amazing coffee and breakfast while the babies napped in their strollers. Great vegan options here, guys! And bonus, the coffee did not disappoint. After breakfast, we drove home, changed the babies, packed the car up, and took a little mid day stay-cation to Mandeville, a heavenly, sleepy little oasis located on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, across the lake from New Orleans - just a short little 30 minute drive. Set amidst big Oak Trees with Spanish Moss, and gorgeous southern homes, it really felt like we were worlds away from the  hustle bustle of New Orleans proper. We celebrated our first mother's day together with the babies at The Beach House Bar & Grill, overlooking the lake and sipping bubbly. It was a very dreamy afternoon!

The Lake House, Mandeville, LA

The Lake House, Mandeville, LA

The Lake House, Mandeville, LA

The Lake House, Mandeville, LA

Once again, light's out by 9pm! Speaking of which, can I just say how nice it was to not have to explain to someone why I want, love, and need to go to bed early these days? It's nice to be with other moms who get what you're going through. I can rally like the best of them during the day - but crashing early is a must do these days if I want to be my best self for Emmett. 

The next morning we headed to Bearcat Cafe  for a delicious brunch (I had the Vegan Ranchero - BIG hit! Emmett enjoyed his first sweet plantain). The staff was very accommodating and again, really frikkin' great coffee! Mike casually mentioned picking up a Fro-sé and heading to City Park for a little stroll before heading to the airport. Fro-WHAT? Yeah, you heard correctly. A delicious slushy made of the #1 beverage of choice for new moms, Rosé! How did I not know this was a thing? More importantly, why had I not come up with it myself? And even more to the point, how quickly could I get one in my mouth? I'll tell you, it was as good as it sounds, and I've craved it every day since. I am currently concocting my own recipe to get me through the L.A Summer.

Photo Via:  Willa Jane

Photo Via: Willa Jane

After brunch we made a pit stop at Willa Jane to pick up said Fro-sé, and it was off to City Park for the day. This New Orleans gem is so beautiful with its old bridges, Oak trees, and ponds. And best of all, its perfect for kids. Emmett especially loved the little choo-choo train that weaved through the park -- so magical. Spending the afternoon at City Park was the perfect way to end our trip and say goodbye to New Orleans.

City Park, New Orleans

City Park, New Orleans

Traveling solo with a little one is no walk in the park (pun intended), and I'd be lying if I said the aftermath of arriving back in L.A with a super over-tired baby was any fun. Real talk, poor guy screamed his head off for an hour and didn't know up from down. But when it was all said and done, the experience and memory of spending those early first-time-mom moments with my best friend - were well worth the momentary moments of stress. 

Bearcat Cafe

Bearcat Cafe

So if you thought New Orleans was all Bourbon Street and Beignets, think again. Delicious coffee, healthy food, baby-friendly sprawling parks, relaxing day-trips, and Rose slushees await! A special shout out to my lovely soul sister Courtney who managed to host the hell out of us less than a month after bringing her daughter into this world. Those first few weeks can be especially exhausting and overwhelming, and we were just so grateful to be invited!