Hello again New Orleans!

 


So we hadn’t been back to New Orleans for a couple of years and have just recently returned from a quick weekend visit. While New Orleans is mostly about the food, there is lots of shopping, people watching, wedding parties strolling down the Quarter, street music and atmosphere to be enjoyed. We stayed at our favorite Hotel Monteleone located in the French Quarter on Royal Street. The location is great for accessing shopping and restaurants. We also visited Harrah’s Casino, which is much nicer now that it is a non-smoking casino. Yes … I said non-smoking! I learned lots watching hubby play craps and perhaps next time I might even be persuaded to join him at the pass line to throw the dice!

BREAKFAST OPTIONS – We had some interesting restaurant experiences that I just have to share. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, especially when I don’t have to conjure it up. Be sure and check out the Ruby Slipper Café located at 200 Magazine Street, just outside the Quarter. It was recommended by several FaceBook friends and I can see why. The café has several locations and open seven days a week. Their motto is “there is no place like home” and it shows. The staff are the friendliest we encountered during our visit. Hubby had the Eggs Blackstone, which is two perfectly poached eggs over bacon, grilled tomato and open-faced buttermilk biscuit finished with hollandaise sauce and served with breakfast potatoes. Yum! We also had an interesting breakfast after attending Mass at St. Louis Cathedral on Sunday. I had noticed The Grill, 540 Chartres Street, as we walked past it from our hotel. It certainly meets all the criteria of a “dive,” but from the window, had a healthy number of people with smiles on their faces. After Mass, we entered into a world fresh out of the past. The interesting counter configuration with seating stools looked ancient like something out of the 1950’s, or older. I couldn’t help but notice most everyone had an omelet on their plate. OMG … best omelet ever! I had the Vegetable Omelette with delish grits! Eggs were light and fluffy and with over 10 different kinds on the menu how can you go wrong.

OTHER DINING OPTIONS – Dinner in New Orleans is a bit of a challenge, unless you dine at a place that accepts reservations. Wanting to be spontaneous is not recommended. That being said, we had a lovely dinner at King Fish on Chartres Street. They have an interesting menu (crab lollipop appetizer was a huge hit) and the service was great. We also stopped into Kubi’s Bar & Café located at 109 Tchoupitoulas on our way to Harrah’s. Now while I’d definitely call it a dive, hubby and I shared an excellent burger, the Kentucky, brushed with BBQ sauce, topped with bacon, cheese and fried onion rings. Our worst meal was at the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter Street. The line was long, the service too fast, and the food … put fast food to shame. We talked about getting bread pudding for dessert, but skipped it because the food was so bland and well, old-looking. We won’t be going back.

A LITTLE SHOPPING Laura’s Candies has two locations in the French Quarter and has been around since 1913. We couldn’t resist the pralines and promised to come back for more. Unfortunately, we ran out of time! One regret I had two years ago was not making time to check out The Quarter Stitch, a needlepoint and yarn shop, on Chartres Street right down the street from Jackson Square. The place has been open for 43 years and the ladies are so nice. They offered to teach me how to needlepoint, but I declined. These eyes are too old. They have amazing canvases all ready to needlepoint. I lingered through their lovely yarn and chose two skeins of ruby red Merino Superwash made in Peru. Bonus … PJ’s Coffee Shop is right across the street. Hubby had the best time hanging out there while I yarn shopped!

I already can’t wait to go back!

Layers of New Orleans’ French Quarter

Beautiful bride in New Orleans
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve strolled around the French Quarter, I always see something new. This time it was a wedding party shuffling down Royal Street with a marching band. The bride is beautiful don’t you think?

I like to think of the Quarter as the layers of a quilt. The top layer is often pieced together with lots of interesting colors of fabric … like the quaint antique shops and art galleries of Royal Street. The bottom fabric layer is often a large single piece of fabric with one identity … the seedy and colorful underbelly if you will … like bawdy Bourbon Street. But does anyone ever see the fluffy batting that lies between the two layers of a quilt? That is what I searched for in September while hubby attended his seminar.

This time I wandered into one of the gift shops along Jackson Square. Located at 523 St. Ann Street is what looks like a typical New Orleans gift shop, only on steroids, with lots of interesting history books and boxed pralines and all things New Orleans. It turned out to actually be a museum gift shop and a National Historic Landmark run by the Louisiana State Museum (www.crt.state.la.us/museum/properties/1850house.aspx). I never saw it coming. For a modest $3 (adult price) you can self-guide yourself up the spiral staircase in the back of the gift shop. The second and third floors of the antebellum row house will quickly turn back the clock 163 years. The rooms are furnished to represent life in the 1850’s before the Civil War. It is a lovely way to see with your own eyes what life must have been like before cell phones and computers.

There is only a small sign on the door which reads “Faulkner House Books” (www.faulknerhouse.net). If you walked past the shop after quitting time when the place is buttoned up tight, you wouldn’t even know it was there. It is another interesting layer of the French Quarter. Located at 624 Pirate’s Alley just off Jackson Square, it is also a National Literary Landmark that should not be missed. In 1927, the young William Faulkner rented rooms in the same space that houses the bookshop. Books in the tiny space can be found in every nook and cranny clear up to the ceiling. Closed only on Mardi Gras Day, they sell new, used and rare editions.

There is so much more to tell about the French Quarter. I’ll attempt to tie the layers of the quilt together next time. Or maybe I’ll just play around in the fluffy batting for a bit longer!

Top 10 favorite things to do in New Orleans

This past week hubby and I traveled to New Orleans for four fun-filled days to celebrate 41 years of marriage. May is a great month to visit the city of gumbo, beignets and all the French Quarter has to offer. So here is part one of my top ten list:

Since 1862, Café du Monde, http://www.cafedumonde.com, has been generously sprinkling powdered sugar over their tasty beignets (French donuts). If you don’t do anything else while in New Orleans stop here! Note to self … if you wear black … be prepared to be covered with powdered sugar. Everyone else is. With eight café locations, their oldest is in the French Market at 800 Decatur Street across from Jackson Square. Look for the green and white awning and just sit down at an open table. Someone will be there to take our order shortly! This location is open 24 hours a day, except on Christmas and the occasional hurricane. FYI … beignets are served in orders of three. I’m not going to tell you how many orders to get. You will have to figure that one on your own. Paired with creole coffee, hot chocolate, or milk, there isn’t anything more decadent!

Stroll down bawdy Bourbon Street in the French Quarter just once in your life so you can cross it off your bucket list. For the faint-hearted, make that visit during daylight hours. The street is loaded with bars, restaurants, strip clubs and hotels. I got way too close to the door of a strip club and was asked if I would like to step in for a pole dancing lesson. Really? I didn’t know whether to feel mortified or glorified at that moment. Streets get crowded with party-goers later in the day carrying around plastic fish bowl-shaped glasses of mind-altering liquid. And yes … drinking alcoholic beverages while strolling down the street is legal in New Orleans.

You can book and pay for all kinds of tours on http://www.NewOrleans.com before you even leave home. I recommend the French Quarter Ghost Walking Tour (ages 13 and up). With choices like the “The Vampire Tour” (I’m scared of vampires so we couldn’t do that one), “Voodoo Tour,” a “Cemetery History” tour, we opted for the “French Quarter Ghost Tour.” The meeting location for this particular tour company, http://www.hauntedhistorytours.com, was Rev. Zombies Voodoo Shop in the French Quarter with departure times at 6 pm and 8 pm. People … these walking tours are VERY popular! Reservations in advance make life so easy. Cost is $20 per person and lasts 2 hours. Wear good walking shoes! Your guide takes a group of 20 for a stroll through history stopping in front of haunted locations and imparting stories of woe through the ages. Note there is a bar/drink break halfway through the tour at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop/bar (also haunted).

Browse through the many art galleries in the French Quarter. Our absolute favorite is the Rodrigue Gallery http://www.georgerodrigue.com at 730 Royal Street. It is the home of George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog. You will fall in love with his bold use of color and the many interesting images and situations of Rodrigue’s Blue Dog, which by the way is not always blue. So the art is pricy, but hey, he has an affordable line of children’s books and prints a yearly calendar you can purchase on-line. Oh, if you prefer to wear your art, my daughter’s favorite t-shirt is a Blue Dog version we purchased several years ago at the Blue Dog Cafe (www.bluedogcafe.com) in Lafayette. You can also enjoy his art at Mulate’s, http://www.mulates.com, 201 Julia Street, a New Orleans Cajun Restaurant over by the Convention Center where I had my favorite bowl of gumbo. Spoiler alert … more about that in my next blog.

The New Orleans Cooking School located at 524 St. Louis Street has been in existence for almost 30 years. Who knew? I didn’t. Their lively cooking demonstrations and entertaining history lesson cost $29 per person and can also be reserved through http://www.NewOrleans.com. We signed up for their 10 a.m. morning class. Allow at least 2 hours and come hungry, as part of the experience is getting to feast on the goodies they prepare! Each class seats about 60 and is very popular so reserve ahead of time. We sat next to a family who was coming to the school for the third time. Michael, our awesome host, cooked Shrimp and Artichoke Soup, Crawfish Etouffee, Bread Pudding and Pralines. Not only did we leave with full tummies, we also were given copies of the recipes that were cooked. I also understand they have a hands-on cooking class. Cost is obviously more with smaller numbers in the classes. Check the website for details.

Be sure and stop by my blog next time to learn about the food, where to stay … and not stay, interesting transportation options, historic churches and our absolute favorite museum in New Orleans.