1. NEW ORLEANS, LA

(Alert! Start with Day 1 of our “30 Days x 30 Cities” blog series to follow this trip from the start)

Remember when we said that some of the best bits in life included time spent with special people? Meet Tara, our gracious host in New Orleans, and her legion of adoring animals (seriously, there are like so many more cute cats not pictured. Sorry cats.)

Tara is the creative powerhouse behind the funky, solar-powered home we rented in the artsy Bywater District of New Orleans. From the start, conversation was as easy as it was lovely with this former Londoner / Australian turned New Orleans champion. Along the way, we even discovered that she and her partner carved practically the same path through Italy as did we last Spring. Prego!

Combined with her love of travel and DIY approach to life — she restored all of her rentals by hand with minimal waste — it reminded us why, over the past few years, we've become such huge fans of airbnb. Aside from making fast friends with like-minded creative souls, as far as we know there are no hotels that look like this:

And, oh yeah, sprinkle in her artist pal, Thor (yes, fact-checkers, that's his given name), pounding hot metal into whimsical sculpture (much of it pictured above) from a custom studio in the backyard and it's almost too much to believe. 

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Venturing into the city, it seemed we were destined to collide with more special people. Like an unexpected encounter with Chris (pictured below) a partner at District Donuts.We found District thanks to a plug by food blogger, Joy the Baker, and it proved a perfect alternative to the overcrowded, yet legendary, Cafe DuMonde. The donut selection was impressive and our Miso Bacon with Olive Oil Glaze donut was unearthly.

As we bellied up to the bar, Chris was quick to strike up a conversation and, before we knew it, he and his staff were offering up pro tips on the best to see and eat in NOLA. For example, they recommended we check out the special people that take part in the annual Red Dress Run.

After breakfast, we set out to find the tens of thousands of men and women running through the streets of New Orleans in matching red dresses. Result? Not. A. Problem.

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After a few days in NOLA, it was obvious that in terms of special people, food, music and architecture, we would not leave empty-handed. On our final full day, after a morning photographing at Crescent Park, we headed across the street to the popular Elizabeth's for brunch.

Conjure, if you will, hand-painted signs upon an historic, clapboard building packed with special folks of all ages, persuasions and personalities enjoying spicy Bloody Mary's and Elizabeth's infamous Praline Bacon. A petri dish of classic NOLA.

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That evening, with our highly recommended dinner spot, Mariza, closed, we opted for a nearby fine wine and spirits shop called Bacchanal. We quickly settled into the courtyard of the 200 year old building to enjoy good wine, live jazz and surprisingly upscale food at an unapologetically laid back joint.

First stop in an epic trip to discover the new and unusual? Yeah you right!