I bought my first guidebook some 20 years ago, at that time still unaware of the Lonely Planet series. With my husband-to-be we were planning to rough it in Ireland (i.e. to camp) so Rough Guide seemed to be the best fit. Later on the recognisable blue bible became our constant travel companion and curling up in bed with a guidebook and marker in my hand remained one of my favourite pre-travel activities.
It wasn’t until last year when the whole digital revolution changed my travel planning ritual. Our trip to New Orleans was the first one not following the well-trodden paths of Lonely Planet readers. And yet we managed to experience a perfect blend of music gigs, po-boy joints and popular sights while still uncovering some hidden gems. So here’s my list of alternative information sources to plan your perfect NOLA getaway:
- Blogs: Ever wondered where the acclaimed New Orleans chefs and foodies go to eat? Or are you trying to plan an easy Monday to recover from the buzzing weekend without the fear of missing out? The GoNOLA blog is your go-to source of information with plenty of inventive “top 10” lists and insider tips about food, sights and music in the crescent city. The corresponding @GoNOLA504 twitter account is also worth following.
- Twitter: @VisitNewOrleans is the official New Orleans tourism account. If you cringe at the notion of anything “official” withhold your criticism for a while. This Twitter feed combines great tips from the locals with recommendations from fellow travellers. What I also love is the endless array of random street impressions. As if the person behind it was constantly strolling around taking in all the hidden nooks and crannies this city has to offer. Use #followyournola and your photo of that lovely shotgun house that you just couldn’t get your eyes (and your camera lens) off might be featured too.
- Books: If food is not on the list of your “Top three reasons to visit New Orleans” you should perhaps reconsider your plans. For everyone else, Sara Roahen’s “Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table” is a must-read. As Wall Street Journal cleverly put it in their review, the book “would wreck any diet if it had recipes” but “Ms. Roahen charitably refrains”. I read it only after we returned home but I’m determined to follow in her tracks and try the places she writes about during our next visit.
- Newspapers: It may sound morbid but New Orleans is the place to crash a funeral. Checking the obituaries section of the Times-Picayune might increase your chances of catching a traditional jazz funeral procession, taking the deceased from the church to the burial. After the deceased is laid to rest the brass band kicks into a higher gear and this is when the funeral turns into a party. Don’t be surprised if you’re offered beer from a cooler that is being dragged along.
Have fun planning. And if New Orleans is not on the top of your bucket list yet, reading or following any of the above sources is guaranteed to push it up the list.