Returning after Thanksgiving break we knew that we only had 3 weeks, so it was a really exciting time to get geared up for the holidays. I am so thankful to be so close with my family and friends, but on the road these people are truly your family. We make sure to watch out for each other and take care to make life as happy as possible, especially during a season like the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when we all just want to be home.
Our first week was spent in New Orleans, a city I have been dying to visit for a long time. It was a great welcome back to tour, all of us out dancing and excited to see one another in a city so full of history and culture. We spent the week rehearsing quite a bit because we had a new addition to the cast. Ann Northern joined us for a few weeks to fill in Jenny’s track. We were so happy to have her and her personality meshed so well with our whole group! Rehearsals certainly never stopped us from exploring, though, and I had a lot of time to do just that. The main event of town is just walking around. The architecture, the music, the food… it is all so overwhelmingly colorful and vibrant. I had so much fun just easing my way through the days there. Wandering through the French Quarter I found lots of fun shops, viewed interesting churches, etc.
One of the first days we went exploring through one of New Orleans’ famous cemeteries and explored all the mausoleums of voodoo queens and mayors. I started day one having classic food from the area. Between red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, po boys, crawfish etouffee, etc. I was in heaven! I had more incredible seafood in New Orleans than is fair. I also stopped for the donut-like dessert of beignets a couple of times, both at Café Beignet (my favorite little hole-in-the-wall) and at the renowned Café Du Monde.
Katie Reid’s good friend Aimee is from New Orleans and was in town, able to show us around! We ate at her restaurant, which was fantastic. Later in the week Katie and I also did a master class at a school near the 9th Ward, which was so terribly damaged by Katrina 7 years ago. It was amazing to see the progress that has been made there, but this is still a city in major recovery of that time. It was so rejuvenating to be around students who were very talented and so eager to learn and listen to any advice we had to give. It was a wonderful, fulfilling afternoon and I was glad to share it with Katie. We went to Mother’s for lunch and had the best jambalaya of the whole trip.
The nightlife in New Orleans is unbeatable, of course. We explored Bourbon Street, but our favorite spot was Frenchman Street where there were many little dive bars with great jazz music playing. We had a big night out hearing all sorts of great musicians, young and old. It was cool to see the musicianship of the community still being passed down through families and generations. We also went to a unique place called Carousel Bar where there’s a carousel inside the bar and the bar stool move around the bar in a circle. It was so fun to find spots like that throughout the city.
Our last night in town we went to the Ritz-Carlton and to the Davenport Lounge. I had been given a tip to head there because Jeremy Davenport was an excellent trumpet player and entertainer. He had played in Harry Connick Jr.’s band for years and now is the resident lounge singer at this hotel. I was also excited to see my friend, Ramon, again. He was a dancer on my ship and I was able to meet him in Jacksonville earlier on tour. I love the fun times we have together. We went upstairs to a BEAUTIFUL room, decorated for the holidays and packed with patrons all in great moods to hear Mr. Davenport’s music. He played all sorts of standards and we had fun dancing throughout the night, but the highlight was certainly when we were all dancing to the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World.” It truly is a wonderful world and a wonderful city. We were so blessed by our time in NOLA.