Anytime I come home to Alexandria, I immediately want to drop by my aunt’s house In Charles Park for a glass of lemonade, which makes me want to lounge by the pool at the Alexandria Golf & Country Club or take a walk around Compton Park or downtown. Driving in to Pineville makes me instantly in dire need for a slow drive down Main Street while sipping on a cup of hot coffee, preferably brewed by the folks at Tamp&Grind. I would usually stop at all of my favorite spots while visiting home, but now I’m back from my eight-year move around Louisiana and I couldn’t be happier.
Central Louisiana has been my home since I was a kid. I was born in Baton Rouge and grew up in Alexandria, right behind Super One. During my college years (which started at Louisiana College in Pineville,) I lived in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lafayette, Hammond and New Orleans; I’ve made a grand tour of Louisiana. I know the best places to eat, where to catch the best live music and how to get just about anywhere you want to go. I can tell you which parades throw the best beads in New Orleans, the best places to drink in Monroe and the most relaxing spots in CenLa.
Though I’m happy for the amazing experiences our beautiful, major Louisiana cities have brought me, I am more than proud to call CenLa home. I truly understand now how much this area is taken for granted, and I can’t wait to write about all the cool things I experience because of where I live.
Bob Marley said once, “Love the life you live, live the life you love.” Though I typically agree with any of Marley’s mantras, this one is especially poignant. We create our lives, moment by moment, step by step, day by day. CenLa practically breeds positivity and has a distinct flare for the creative; you can feel it and I can’t wait to tell everyone.
Every now and then, even the most devout of CenLa girls need to get away for the weekend. The beauty of where we are located in the state is that in practically the blink of an eye, you can be in any other city! Forty-five minutes to Natchitoches, an hour further, you’re in Shreveport, one of my many stops on my living-tour of Louisiana.
I have family and friends that live in the growing city of Shreveport, so it makes visiting a breeze for me. I’d planned a great weekend for myself, visiting with family and friends, trying out new restaurants and listening to some music. I adore spending time with my family. Am I the only one who feels like Louisianans just relish this more? The importance we place on family time really lifts me up, makes me happier in ways that I cannot possibly even begin to describe.
We started the weekend with a visit to a burger joint I’d heard about, calledTwisted Root, so I had to check it out. I was completely blown away with the unconventional selection of burgers. You can build your own or you can choose from a selection of truly, “twisted,” combinations that are sure to have your taste buds dancing. I split The Sexy Hawaiian with my sister-in-law, Monica (I guess I can tell you her name,) and it really worked for my palette. I love spicy and sweet together, so the pineapple –jalapeno relish was perfection for me. My nieces opted for simple, classic cheeseburgers, one had some kind of delicious barbeque sauce, and their guests each got different burgers that were piled high with all kinds of toppings.
I love places like this, because even in a big group, everyone can find something they’ll really enjoy. There are vegetarian/vegan options, salad options, all kinds of breads and toppings; if you love burger this place is absolutely your heaven. We also devoured perfectly, crisp fried green beans (I told you, I’m a sucker,) and fried pickles, a favorite of my niece. Besides the amazing burgers and appetizers, killer beer list and awesome, rockin’ décor (guitars and rock paraphernalia everywhere,) this place has……wait for it…..ADULT MILKSHAKES. Yes, you read that right, and no, I don’t mean a daiquiri. I mean a freaking delicious concoction of creamy ice cream with appropriately matched alcohol, all blended up old school style: so thick you can barely drink it, but so, so darn tasty. I’m a sucker for anything chocolate-peanut butter, so of course I couldn’t resist ordering the PB & Chocolate; to die for, seriously, the perfect Friday dessert. I felt like I was seriously treating myself.
After thoroughly stuffing my face, it was time for me to meet up with my friends at Strange Brew. Like the good, responsible adult I am, I knew I would be drinking a little, so I had my Monica drop me off to meet my friends and arranged for my niece to pick me up; it’s amazing what my sweet 19 and 16 year-old nieces will do for me (and for free lunch!) I walked in to the bar, unsure of what to expect from a place called Strange Brew. It sounded like it should be shaped like a giant cauldron and be surrounded by witches. It was, on the contrary, quite pleasant inside, filled with pool tables, beer and cute bartenders; I wasn’t disappointed. I like beer sometimes, but mostly I drink Jameson, if the bar has it, so of course I ordered a single on the rocks and chatted with my friends.
We realized that we’d let time escape us just a little bit and it was already 10:30! We needed to be at another bar, Chicago, by 10:15. Whoops! So we hopped in the car and headed a few minutes up the road to one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been in. Chicago is a half hookah bar/concert venue (downstairs), half dance club (upstairs.) I instantly fell in love with it. The stage was ever so slightly raised off the ground, another intimate setting for a concert; you know I was diggin’ it. I was joined at a table in front of the stage by friends– because where else would we sit? – bought a giant, peppermint-patty-tasting hookah to share and got ready to enjoy some tunes. I was having more fun than I could possibly stand already. What could possibly make this night better? Oh right, loud, live music.
Now, usually before I see a show I research the band like crazy, getting the names to all of the band members and noting who plays what. But this band came highly recommended from a close friend of mine that I absolutely trust on musical adventures. My friends, my ears were not disappointed. The secondShayliff hit the stage, I was hooked. Between their catchy riffs, killer vocals and the cutest drummer I’ve ever seen, I knew I’d found a gem of a band. Shayliff is ridiculously popular in the Shreveport area, but also has an impressive following all over. I immediately started buying all of their songs on iTunes during the break between sets. I’m serious when I say I’m picky about what bands I really fall in love with, but this one was easy. With songs like, “Mona Lisa,” “Won’t Go Away,” (my personal favorite) and, “Red Leather Jacket,” it’s really no wonder why the girls, and guys alike, were lining up at the door to see these dudes play. I’d highly suggest you stopping whatever it is you’re doing right now and go check them out.
I headed home after the concert, feeling refreshed and energized; live music has that effect on me. I slept like a baby on my brother’s couch and woke the next morning happy to be alive.
Side Note: I really got super-fangirl with it and later contacted Spirits Food & Friends, insisting that they book Shayliff for a show, and they happily obliged. The group’s acoustic project will be playing there some time in the spring! Yay!
The next day we lounged for a while, spent the day chatting and meandering around the Mansfield Rd. area, lazily waiting for supper inspiration. My nieces had plans of course, so Monica decided we deserved a trip out on the town, a semi-new tradition for us. We begin the night at 2 Johns Steak & Seafood forgrapefruit martinis. Yes, you read that right. This beautiful, granita-style martini is delivered to you by one of the many attractive waitresses in almost perfect timing to the live piano that’s playing in the background. My sister-in-law and I usually share everything, but martinis are not on that list. I’m so happy I got my own, because it was nothing short of heavenly and I wanted it all to myself; I’ve found the perfect Saturday night drink. We split an order of the crab cakes then headed over to Chianti. There we shared delicious, amazing, beautiful, cheese tortellini and a Portobello salad that had some sort of amazing dressing on it – I never ask for recipes for fear of getting slapped, especially in an Italian restaurant.
I won’t lie, I had to unzip my jeans after everything I’d eaten over the weekend, but that place is so, so, so good. Perfectly candlelit and romantic if you’re on a date, just cozy enough for a girl’s night. Chianti is connected to Vintage Wine Bar. I may seem a little biased saying this, but this place really does have the best drinks in town. My brother just so happens to bartend there, so I get the hookup when I have a hankering for an espresso martini and a good cigar. Monica and I sat and chatted for hours before Michael (the brother,) kicked us out and told us it was passed our bedtime. I protested a bit, but eventually gave in as thoughts of pillows and electric blankets came to mind.
My drive home from Shreveport was beyond pleasant, regardless of the overcast weather. I had new jams and no hangover, so I was pleased as punch. I also pin-pointed a list of several stops I’ll be making and bands I’ll be checking out the next time I visit Shreveport, as I will obviously return. My advice? If you’re ever in the mood to get out of town, Shreveport should be at the top of your list of places to visit!
Alexandria is really the perfect place to live. If I want to take a quick trip to the Natchitoches during Christmas, I can in exactly 47 minutes.
I was really excited to be living back in Alexandria for the holidays this year. I’m sure if you’re under twenty-one and reading this, you’re rolling your eyes at me because, “there’s nothing to do here!” Okay, sure, let’s think about that for a moment, and pretend it’s true. I was still living here at twenty-one and shared that sentiment; aside from bouncing back and forth from Finnegan’s and Chili’s on the weekends, I felt like my weekends here were empty – even though Alexandria/Pineville as, “boring,” is beyond far from the truth.
Here is my solution if you’re bored and can’t choose between the wide selection of fun things to do in Alexandria/Pineville during the holidays: Load up your car with your best pals and head to Natchitoches for to see the Christmas lights. Two of my bestfriends in the world joined me for Thanksgiving here and I insisted that we make the trip. I wanted to show off one of Louisiana’s most picturesque cities, which is conveniently located not far from home. We easily found parking and enjoyed a stroll across the bridge to beautiful Front Street. My friends, “ooo-ed,”and, “ahhh-ed,” over how cool the lights looked on Cane River, a sight I’ve taken for granted many, many times. Mike, my friend from New Orleans even said that he preferred this experience to Celebration in the Oaks, a huge Christmas display located in City Park. Isn’t that something?
We went completely unconventional holiday and had sushi at Hana Japanese Sushi Bar & Grill on Front Street. It was adorable and funny to me that while we’re all still slightly full from our Thanksgiving indulgences, we somehow managed to pick the most un-holiday meal to enjoy together, while faux-snow fell on picturesque Front Street. What’s better than that? Quite possibly the beers we had at The Front Street Pub; an adorable place with a nice menu, great beer selection and fun, local company! I will definitely return to explore more of the beer menu and for the French dip, which I hear is to die for delicious.
As I find true for almost anywhere in Louisiana, Natchitoches is a great place to get-away for the weekend, the day or just for the evening like we did; CenLa lends itself so easily to this idea. So the next time you’re feeling antsy and need to get out of town, pop over to Natchitoches for some guaranteed, southern, charm-filled fun.