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 – Part Two

Continuing to inspect the many layers of this historic area of New Orleans, I decided to write one more post before I leave the city. It will probably be another year before we get back. Although not in the French Quarter, my only regret this visit was I didn’t get to go through Louisiana’s Civil War Museum (www.confederatemuseum.com). Better known as the Confederate Museum, it is located at 929 Camp Street right around the corner from the World War II Museum. Darn if it wasn’t closed during the month of September. One New Orleans native told me it was closed for dusting, like I believed that explanation. My husband says the lady could tell I have the word “gullible” printed in big block letters all over my forehead.

Wandering toward the Mississippi River from the French Quarter is the Audubon Aquarium of the America (www.AudubonInstitute.org). It is located at 1 Canal Street at the River. There is also a butterfly garden and insectarium, along with an IMAC theatre in the same area, but I focused on the aquarium since I would be meeting hubby for lunch during his seminar break. My one adult ticket was $22.50, which I thought was a bit pricy, until I spent some time wandering around the impressive exhibits. I loved the Caribbean reef tunnel with its array of sea life. The scuba diver hand feeding the stingrays was the highlight. For some reason I neglected to pick up a map. It actually made it more of a surprise when I happened upon all the different habitat areas containing penguins, sea otters, seahorses, the Amazon Rain Forest and so much more. There are combo tickets available which provide savings for those visiting multiple attractions, children and lots more time.

The Historic New Orleans Collection (www.hnoc.org) is a lovely museum located at 523 Royal Street in the heart of the French Quarter. Closed on Mondays and some holidays, it focuses on the history of New Orleans, and what an interesting history it is! Hidden among the many galleries and shops along Royal Street, I know I’ve passed by the museum storefront a hundred times and never knew it was there. The Williams Galleries and special exhibits are FREE with lots of interesting art, maps and artifacts. The special exhibit that began October 1 and runs until March 9, 2014, is “Occupy New Orleans Voices from the Civil War.” They also offer docent tours of the Williams residence for just five dollars. I highly recommend this tour! It lasts about 45 minutes and starts with a short movie and then on through a historic counting house. You are also walked through the 1889 townhouse that was remodeled in the 1940’s. Containing several lovely courtyards and family possessions, it was owned by a prominent family in New Orleans. They took five small pieces of French Quarter property and combined it into one which now houses the museum galleries and townhouse as well as a great little gift shop. What a treasure … and right on Royal Street. Who knew?

Top 10 favorite things to do in New Orleans – part 2

Part two of our favorite things about New Orleans involve food, lodging, transporation, worship and a fantastic museum!

Cajun and Creole food is abundant in New Orleans so why not make it a quest? I was in search of the best cup of gumbo and am delighted to announce I found it at Mulate’s, http://www.mulates.com, near the convention center! Try a bowl of their Zydeco Gumbo, which is roux-based with shrimp, chunks of sausage, chicken and okra. It had just the right amount of heat … enough to make my nose drip … but just one nostril which was perfect. You may want to make your quest all about red beans & rice, meat pies (had one … delish), alligator, boudin balls (hubby’s personal favorite), crawfish etouffee, jambalaya or even oyster po’boys. Another restaurant I recommend is Mother’s, http://www.mothersrestaurant.com, at 401 Poydras Street. No need to dress up if you are going to Mother’s. They have been around since 1938 and know how to cook New Orleans cuisine. And they have some downright righteous gumbo! If you find yourself hungry for breakfast in the morning why not stop in at Oceana, http://www.oceanagrill.com, located at 739 Conti Street, in the French Quarter. We split the St. James Crepes loaded with shrimp and crabmeat. Thank goodness the waitress warned us it was plenty for two!

Okay … so you have to sleep somewhere when in New Orleans. The French Quarter has lots of great options. If you want to get a few hours of great sleep we steer clear of places on Bourbon Street. We are not late-night party animals. Actually, we try to stay away from most places adjacent to Bourbon Street. If you like garbage trucks, motorcycles and party-goers all through the night go ahead … I dare you! We love the Monteleone Hotel, http://www.hotelmonteleone.com, located at 214 Royal Street. With over 600 rooms you can easily request a quiet room and be assured to get one. Be sure and check out the Carousel Bar. Opened in 1949, it is the only revolving bar in New Orleans and makes one complete revolution every 15 minutes.

We found several interesting transportation options while in New Orleans. The street car ride down St. Charles’ Garden District is lots of fun. There are also romantic horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping all through the French Quarter. Jackson Square seems to be where they hang out. But for short hops around the Quarter why not try a bike taxi? FYI bike taxis can accommodate 2 riders and charge one dollar per block per person. If you’ve walked all day, a ride back to your hotel may well be worth the buckage! Our favorite pedaler was Russell, a 3-year pedal veteran in the bike taxi world and also college graduate with a double major. He can’t find a job so Russell pedals people around 60 hours a week. He toted us from Harrah’s Casino to Café du Monde for some late-night beignets. And yes … they accept tips!

We love to attend Mass in a city we are visiting. On our last visit to New Orleans we attended Mass at St. Louis Cathedral, http://www.stlouiscathedral.org, located at 615 Pere Antoine Alley, in Jackson Square. St. Louis was founded in 1720 and is the oldest Cathedral in North America. This time we stayed on Poydras Street in the Business District. The hotel was walking distance to St. Patrick’s. http://www.oldstpatricks.org, located at 724 Camp Street. The lovely church dates back to the early 1800’s and has the most amazing stained glass! There are three beautiful murals behind the altar painted in 1841 that are worth feasting your eyes on, particularly the one that depicts The Transfiguration.

I saved the jewel of New Orleans for last. The National WWII Museum http://www.nationalww2museum.org is located on Andrew Higgins Drive between Camp and Magazine Street. The museum itself is filled with interesting WWII history presented in state-of-the-art fashion. My favorites were the occasional alcoves with bench seating. They show mini-movies, or slides, and a personal narrative. Also, be sure and reserve tickets for the 4-D movie “Beyond All Boundaries” narrated by Tom Hanks. The movie is 45-minutes long, and literally, a moving experience. I will not give any surprises away. Don’t forget to head across the street where six WWII-era aircraft hang from the ceiling. That is also the location of “Final Mission: The USS Tang Experience,” the most decorated submarine during WWII. This interactive exhibit (tickets also required) is located in the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. You will learn about the final mission of the submarine. Each person is given a card of one of the crew. You will report to a station on the sub and participate in the final mission. The story is quite moving. Only a few survived. Find out after the mission if you were one of them. A special exhibit entitled “Guest of the Third Reich: American POW’s in Europe” is also very interesting and should not be missed. This exhibit ends July 7, 2013. The museum houses a soda shop (Jeri Nims Soda Shop) and a full-service restaurant (called American Sector) as well as several excellent gift shops. A museum expansion is scheduled to open later this year, with another expansion opening in 2014, so you will be going back for years to this amazing museum and loving tribute to all who served.