Warning: Please forgive me for the excessive amount of pictures and the quality of some. One day I will be able to master a quality shot and learn the different methods of photoshop, but until then bare with me. Also, this may be a lengthy post, that’s just how awesome it was!
This weekend was everything I expected and more! This was my third visit to NOLA & I have always wanted to attend the Essence Festival, mainly because of the great reputation that it upholds. In the previous years, I either couldn’t attend due to work or different things came up. This year however, my big sister hosted a brunch so in traditional Beck family fashion, we took a road trip to support her.
THURSDAY, JUNE 29
My sister & I left Houston on Thursday, June 29th at around 5pm and arrived in New Orleans that night at 11:00pm. We booked an Air BnB about a month before the trip for about $60/night per guest. The space was big enough for all 5 of us and in a nice neighborhood. The Gentilly neighborhood – in which it appears gentrification is occurring at the time – is filled with older model homes that have been updated and modernized. Due to the drive & after settling in, we were worn out, so we called it a night.
FRIDAY, JUNE 30
The next day, we woke up and headed to the convention center to start the day off early at the Festival. There were a few actors I was able to see (However, I missed seeing the only person I wanted to see that day – Larenz Tate). We walked around and visited different vendors until we got tired and then left to find food. My sisters friend recommended a great local restaurant called Luke established by Chef John Besh. I tried fried oysters for the first time here and they were amazing. I ordered the Soft Shell Crab BLT while my sister ordered the Crab and Shrimp with Grits. After we left there, we met up with my dad on Bourbon Street where I of course slurped a famous hurricane and for the first time had a few puffs of a cigar my dad purchased from the Cigar Factory.
SATURDAY, JULY 1
On Saturday morning, we headed to the Bosses Link Up Brunch which my sister hosted. Also, that day happened to be my sister’s 28th birthday, so it was only right that our family was there to support her during this empowering event. We were hosted with delicious food and drinks catered by Lavishly Chic Events – a local New Orleans event planning company. My sister did a great job of keeping the crowd entertained and interviewing Social Media star @Supa_Cent. Also, I had the opportunity to meet famed arthur Omar Tyree (Flyy Girl) and purchase his latest book after he recited a poem during the brunch.
Afterwards, my mom, cousins and I headed to the convention center once again where I got to see the cast of the new film Girls Trip (July 21) starring Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Larenz Tate & Kofi Siriboe. There’s so much #blackexcellence happening in one building that its hard to do and see everything, so for me at times it seemed a bit overwhelming. However I did have a good time and enjoyed the experience.
Once we left, I met up with my sister to head to the Mercedes Benz Superdome for the Ladies Night Concert. I must admit, Essence has some work to do when it comes to the process of executing tickets and getting people inside. We purchased tickets through ticket master however were not allowed to print them so we had to wait about 45 minutes in the will call line missing performances from Ari Lennox, Monica and Jazmine Sullivan (one of my favorite artists). So, when we finally got in our seats, we were right on time for Jill Scott who had an awesome performance. I knew she was talented but her vocals and stage presence was far more than what I expected. Next in the line up was Mary J. Blige. It seemed as if she knew what the crowd came for and served us everything and some. I love sad Mary & she performed hit after hit while also executing her infamous dance moves and implementing two outfit changes during her almost 2 hour performance. By the end of the performance, we were worn out. Needless to say, we only stayed to hear about two of Chaka Khan’s songs until we left.
SUNDAY, JULY 2
On Sunday, we stayed in bed a little late and decided to eat at a local restaurant that Beyonce put on the map – Gene’s Poboys. I knew the food would be good just based on the building and aesthetic of the inside. However, I think I got my hopes up too high. The food was good, but not that great in my opinion. Due to the heat, we headed back to our Air BnB and rested some more until the sun went down.
That night, my sister and I met up with my mom and cousin for dinner at the famous Mother’s restaurant. To give an example of how good the food was, there was a 30 minute wait outside of the building and then once you get inside and choose your table, you wait about another 15-20 minutes to order your food. But it was well worth the wait. I ordered the crawfish etouffee with mac & cheese and greens, but we ate family style tasting each others fried chicken, catfish, gumbo and bread pudding. I was stuffed afterwards but somehow still had room for beignets at Café du Monde. A trip to New Orleans is not complete until you have tasted beignets from this God sent place. We ate, drank coffee and talked amongst all the other tourists while soaking in all that the Decatur Street had to offer. It was a great ending of our trip as we got one more hurricane for the road before heading home and calling it a night to head back to Houston the next morning.
How we saved money?
- driving to New Orleans instead of flying
- staying in an Air BnB
- cooking most meals instead of eating out 3 times a day
I definitely plan to attend next year and create a yearly ritual to go back every year. Looking forward to my next trip.
– Kaylon Benai