As I spent last year trekking across America documenting travel, style & culture stories for my second book Wanderful, The Modern Bohemian's Guide to Traveling in Style, I often returned to the beaches of the Pacific Coast Highway, artistic hideaways in the Mojave & Sonoran deserts, and the California canyons.
Traveling the cerulean blue surf breaks, experience the flora of the canyons & the wildly energetic art havens tucked way out in the desert gives me a soul connection I've only experienced in one other place (a few summers ago on a 4 month summer adventure in the Southern Coast of Spain - and that feeling reignites for me in SoCal).
Today I'm taking over the instagram page of Passport by Forbes - the journey begins on the Santa Barbara boardwalk and ends here, in Salvation Mountain. I trekked solo for 3 days, and ended this adventure with friends - celebrating the birthday party of a dear old friend from New Orleans.
Read more about traveling solo here - and come back over the next few weeks for photo tours of each destination I stopped in along the way.
The rainbow-hued Salvation Mountain, built with adobe clay and painted with a half a million gallons of donated paint, is a favorite destination for aspiring artists and wandering off-grid types too.
I arrived into Joshua Tree for a night of birthday fun (i.e. a bit too much pink wine and lots of story telling as the sun fell over the monumental rock formations all around). The next morning I took the wheel of my friend's jeep, 4 friends (new and old) piled in, and we hit the road to Salvation Mountain. A few hours later.... south of Palm Spring, east of the resort ghost towns of the Salton Sea and through Slab City (a desolate RV filled village home to snowbirds and serious off-gridders) the five story high man-made structure was in view.
Take time to travel up the hand-painted yellow brick road to reach the summit and then explore the ingenious labyrinth of Technicolor caves below.
I get asked all the time for lists of things to do in New Orleans. It's my home, always will be, a place that embraced me so fully when I was making some serious transitions in my life and I'll be ever grateful to that dream of a town. Many of my best friends and family are there and this past couple of weeks I was able to spend a few weeks back at home.
One of the things that came up often while I was home this time was conversations about the continuous influx of tourists, and their interest in exploring areas that once were seriously off the beaten path.
Immediately downriver of the Quarter, there's the Marigny and the Bywater - like the Quarter both are live music destination—from the jazz club–lined Frenchman Street to the performance art and gypsy street bands peppering the Bywater and the punk-style arts district along St. Claude. These neighborhoods have a subculture that are truly their own, and I'll preface this by saying - tourists are most certainly onto that, and that has infused money into the city and most locals I know are happy for that. However! With that said, it's important (in any city, not just New Orleans) to be respectful of what came before you when visiting. So that's what this post is all about.
These two neighborhoods in particular were, until recently, considered two of the most unique and well-kept secrets of New Orleans. The Faubourg Marigny, which was once the plantation of a Creole born vivant who made the dice game “craps” popular in America and who dazzled New Orleans by his flair and enormous inheritance, and the Bywater, named for it’s postal code, are often likened to the Brooklyn neighborhoods of New York. The neighborhoods combine old-school New Orleans with a bohemian and considerably hip culture. If you want more on the history there's a whole chapter about this in my first book New Orleans Style, btw.
As prices rose in the 1990s in the Quarter, young artists and entrepreneurs began moving into the neighborhoods, and as of recent years, the style and happenings have been documented by Vogue, the NY Times Fashion/Style Magazine, Garden & Gun and Food & Wine, just to name a few.
These neighborhoods are packed with some of the coolest hangs in the city, ranging from hipster dives to trendy design-forward spaces.
Weekends bring shoppers to arts’ markets and junk stores. There’s a funky style and harmony that create a good time if an admittedly weird experience for all. As of recent years, more and more outsiders are moving from all over the country into these two neighborhoods. There seems to be as many Airbnbs as there are locals on some streets and if you happen to be one of these Airbnb'ers here's a few tips (do's and don'ts) on how to hang like a local.
1. Drink Wine.
Or beer, or a vodka and soda. Just do not, I repeat do not go into the French Quarter and order a hand grenade and wander with that massive plastic fire hazard out in the local areas and think you'll be accepted.
I was out with a group of friends on this last visit and literally as we walked along we encountered a group of guys in full on bead regalia, pulling a cooler along behind them (hey... drinking in the streets is legal so go all out right?!) and in each of their hands: a hand grenade. Sure, go to Pat O's and try out a Hurricane (one, btw, ooooonly have one) or hit Lafitte's for a Purple (also, one, btw!) but outside of that, if you're going to sit and have a drink with friends in the local areas, order what you would at home! And truly, try your damnedest to not get too wasted. That old saying it's a marathon, not a sprint applies here.
2. Leave the khakis at home and don't buy the beads.
The hipster cred in these neighborhoods is long term. Recording studios and artist retreats tucked away on quiet side streets means the stars can hide out a bit. Just ask Trent Reznor, Josh Tillman (Father John Misty), the guy from the Flaming Lips, Lenny Kravitz, and as most people know - Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt for some time. When I'm taking in a new city I too love to explore the neighborhoods. So if you want to fit in, especially if you'll be walking for miles and miles opt for simple sneakers and a monochromatic ensemble - those things pair well with everything and as you pick up little trinkets from the local shops you can layer those gems into your outfit as you go.
While shopping make sure to hit the local stores. There's so many incredible designers based in New Orleans, it would be a shame to stop into the H&M or Urban Outfitters (or even worse the $5 bead shops) when tucked into the neighborhoods you can find gems like Porter Lyons (pictured and where my jewelry is from!), Trashy Diva and Shop Freda up in the Warehouse District.
3. Don't ask for handouts.
Don't ask for stories about Katrina from the girl serving your coffee. Don't ask her which bar she frequents when there's a line of people behind you. And - this one is kind of a joke, but I've actually seen it happen more than once: if you see someone carrying a sack of crawfish, that's their lunch. The only time it would be appropriate to ask for crawfish is if you're invited to a boil... and in that case, there will be a pile of crawfish and you just go all in. You may then, have to ask for help on how to eat the crawfish, and locals are always happy to help in that regard.
My brother and I were having crawfish at the park last week, and as he went to grab a gallon of water (also necessary when you're having crawfish) three super obvious tourist girls asked "can we try a few of those?" pointing to his sack of crawfish. Uhh, no - would you ever approach someone and ask to sample their food in any other city. Of course not.
Truly, I intended this to be fun, and I'm always so thrilled to see new friends (and old ones too) visiting my favorite city ever. I've got another little list coming this week of off the beaten path places to visit for Art & History lovers. Come back for that, and if you're ever in town while I'm there and you haven't yet found your way to the crawfish, let me know and I'll share mine with you anytime.
In the post I'm wearing Eileen Fisher, a made in the USA brand with Sustainable and Organic fabrics committed to supporting clean air, clean water and a healthy environment for workers and wildlife. Shop my look here:
Happy Lundi Gras!
I'm so thrilled to share this post today! While I've been off traveling it's carnival season back home in New Orleans. I'd been having a teeeeny bit of that FOMO feeling seeing my friends and family celebrating back home, so as any good New Orleanian does, I decided to create my own Mardi Gras celebration just in time for this past weekend's parades.
Today, over on Reese Witherspoon's Draper James blog, I've shared my 'Mardi Gras, Party Gras' party just in time for Lundi Gras! You can take the girl out of New Orleans, but never ever can you take the carnival spirit out of the girl. I hosted this little Mardi Gras brunch for a few of my out of town friends and truly it was glitter filled perfection.
Plus: I relived so many of my favorite New Orleans moments in a series of posts I contributed to with several fabulous New Orleans locals for the DJ blog. If you've never been to New Orleans, trust me, this list will have you booking a flight immediately. See the series here and here!
Read the full Lundi Gras Party post here!
Here's an excerpt from the feature:
Happy Lundi Gras! As in, the Monday before Fat Tuesday—the closing day of the Mardi Gras season. And who better to show us how to make the most of it than Andi Eaton, whose Mardi Gras party ideas guarantee you’ll close Carnival out on a high note?
We first met Andi when we were searching for experts for our Draper James New Orleans Guide (see the guide here and here). Andi’s enviably hip day job is writing and blogging about her many travels, as well as bringing her self-described “modern bohemian” style to fashion brands as a creative director. While her blog and Insta have her everywhere from Nashville to Cali, Andi makes her home in New Orleans, where her colorful and freewheeling (and totally chic) look fits right in.
To close out Mardi Gras, she hosted a low-key “Mardi Gras Party Gras!”
Draper James: For folks outside of NOLA who want to get a little Mardi Gras on while there’s still a little bit of time, what’s a fun and easy way to whip up a celebration at home?
Andi: I’ve been traveling so much this year, so I’m well-versed in having a New Orleans celebration wherever you are. It’s easy! Create a New Orleans inspired playlist—mine has Dr. John, The Meters, and lots of Allen Toussaint songs. Have a king cake shipped in and whip up your best New Orleans cocktail. My must-have king cake is from pastry Chef Lisa White. Lisa’s presently at the Marsh House in Nashville. She created the infamous Salted Caramel & Banana King Cake served at Domenica in New Orleans; it’s completed with a gold leaf decoration that truly makes it fit for royalty! She also created the pastry program at NOLA favorite Willa Jean.
DJ: We love the way you styled your Draper James!
A: I’m a vintage lover and this top and shorts together remind me of something a Southern girl would wear to a sixties-style afternoon lawn party. The whole look is so fun and flirty—what girl doesn’t love pink?
DJ: What’s your personal favorite MG tradition?
A: Waking up with the sun, fueling up with a café au lait, hopping on my bike covered in feathers and glitter, and heading out to catch a coconut at the Zulu parade.
I chatted with Lisa, btw about the cake and her love of Mardi Gras and here's what she had to say!
A: Tell me about this cake?! All the details please!
Lisa White: The king cake ...I had heard about this King Cake competition in NOLA... I think 2009 or 2010 and entered. I of course then went on a tasting spree of all the king cakes at that time! I decided the inspiration would be what would I give to the king of Mardi Gras!
I kind of think of it as all things New Orleans flair: bananas, pecans, rum, brown sugar, caramel, cheese because why not, praline glaze, and gold!
A: What are you doing presently? Obviously we love Willa Jean and the Besh restaurants and everything you do, where are you at the moment?
LW: I am up in Nashville loving life and creating breads & sweets in the The Marsh House Restaurant in the Gulch - I came from New Orleans in December literally right before Christmas.
I have worked for John Besh & Alon Shaya since 2009 and opened Willa Jean with John Besh in 2015.
A: What do you love most about MG?
LW: I personally LOVE Mardi Gras ...a lot! I love the costuming, parading, brass bands, the fantastical use of glitter! My friends would say my favorite is probably wigs ..I have a pretty great wig collections. I truly love the passion and joy of it all!
Thanks for stopping by today you guys. This post was so much fun for me. Hope you all have a beautiful week! Kisses to my friend Keiko for snapping these photos!
p.s. All the decor was provided by Fox Fete! They've got the best in indulgently luxe party supplies. Tell them I sent you!
Hello bebes! It's official. I'm in Paris. I arrived just a few days ago after a whirlwind few days of U.S. traveling.
As miss Hepburn once said, this place is always a good idea, and truly! I believe it is. It's been quite some time since I've been here, however, Hailee, one of my soul sister friends from New Orleans moved here several years ago, and Chelle studied here too. So, between the two of them they've got lists of cafés, museums, gardens and hidden little restaurants that we're committed to spending the next week living in.
When we arrived the weather was drizzly, maybe 60 or so... typical Parisian afternoon I suppose. And from that day on the sun has twirled in and out as quickly as the horses on the carousel whirl by.
It's ok though... here it rains - you dash along, tuck in under an awning at a café and wait... and sip coffee, and wine, and daydream... and eventually the rain subsides and it's time to move along again.
Hailee's apartment is a short walk to the Eiffel Tower, so of course, before I could even think of doing a single other thing, I went straight for the twinkling lights and the carousel.
We spent our first full day touring the Luxembourg Garden (the chairs, the flowers, the hot chocolate around the corner at Angelina! Le swoon!) and then yesterday I strolled for hours along the Seine, wandering the quiet Sunday streets, arriving in the Tuileries Garden for a solo picnic. A great afternoon of solitude, which I find to be so important to gain a connection to a place.
More to come - including my packing guide and a travel guide, which I fully decided I'll only share if what I traveled with proves to be the right choices! These Parisian girls are hard to keep up with, wish me luck!
p.s. Bisou bisou to GG Boutique for dressing me for my first day here!
Hiyaaa wanderful girls (and boys),
I've been home in our new Nashville home for a full week, Ben's home too and it feels so incredibly good to be here together. We're exploring our neighborhood (baby deer sightings confirmed over on my instastories!) and it's been a nice change from our usual out in the world travels. Making time for early morning adventures and sunset drives seems like the perfect way to settle in.
I leave again Monday for a quick trip to New Orleans, then New York and then I'm off to Paris with Michelle. (!) We're going to visit my little Parisian bf Hailee (oui oui!) and I can't wait to settle into girlfriend time. Send me all the recommendations you guys. What's your favorite hidden Paris gems?
I wore this adorable dress from Personify, a shop in Lakemont, GA catering to the modern bohemian (hand raise emoji right here), to catch a Tennessee sunset the other night. My sweet friend Sam sent me the hat and it feels perfect for these Nashville nights. I just love it out here by the way, and Nashville girls - I can't wait to meet more of you, it's so nice making new friends!
I'm feeling the happiest lately and love and appreciate all of you guys for reading so much!