New Orleans

After hopping on a Mega Bus from a very questionable bus stop in Houston, we started our 6 hour journey to New Orleans.

We originally planned to travel via night bus, but as we didn’t find Houston too exciting we decided to change our tickets and get a day time ride instead. With an extra night’s accommodation to sort, we booked a hotel in mid-city of New Orleans to save on costs.

So happy we changed our plans, that bus stop in Houston is not a place you’d want to be hanging out at midnight! Mid-city in New Orleans isn’t really the best suburb to stay at either, but it did the job for one night and was a significantly better sleep than on a bus.

The following next morning we made our way to our hotel for the next four nights, the Hotel Place d’Armes. This was perfectly located in the middle of the French Quarter, and right next to Jackson Square. For once we were staying right in the middle of a tourist spot (AKA not somewhere we’d need to travel to), and we were over the moon about it.

The hotel itself was really good. It used to be a school back in the days. It had many beautiful buildings dotted around a nice garden, and a swimming pool around the centre courtyard (which again we didn’t bother using as outside is just too hot! We found it too tempting to stay in the air con after a full day outside!)

One of the first thing we decided to do on our first day was to head to Café du Monde, a couple of blocks down.

Café du monde is one of the oldest coffee shop in NOLA, serving coffees (brought by the French) and their world famous beignets, a generously sugar coated rectangular doughnut. One serve provides 3 warm doughnuts, ready to be devoured. Wow, are they delicious!

Along with the Pasteis de Belem (Lisbon), these are currently ranking highly on our top deserts sampled on this trip. They are also pretty cheap ($3.40 for 3), so we made a point to have a serving every single day. Lucky we’re not staying longer!

After our sugar fix, we decided to roam around and visit the streets of the French Quarter.

We arrived at the end of the Labour day long weekend and the Southern Decadence festival in NOLA, which meant that the streets were really busy with people, local artists and musicians.

The French Quarter’s architecture is truly beautiful, filled with numerous old town houses with leafy balconies and coloured or bricked walls. Such a change from the other American cities and their boring architecture. More and more beautiful sights at every corner.

As the sky was turning greyer and darker, we decided to go for a drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, well known for being not only the oldest pub in NOLA, but in the whole of the USA. Celebrity photos lined the walls from when they’ve popped in too. The atmosphere was nice and festive, and the place oozed character. A timely shelter to escape a short downpour.

For dinner, we decided to check out Napoleon’s House (the mayor at the time offered the house for Napoléon to use during his exile, but he never made it), well known for its delicious traditional creole dishes such as jambalaya, gumbo and muffuletta. Creole food is so good! It is exactly the type of food Nick and I enjoy eating with flavorsome rice, meat and spices.

On our second day we decided to go for some lunch and a bit of live music at the Gazebo Cafe, after having checked out the French market nearby.

I ordered a po boy (local sandwich made with bread, salad, pickles, tomatoes and a type of meat, it’s basically just a normal sandwich called with a different name, I wasn’t too impressed), whilst Nick ordered a gumbo (which was delicious). Gumbo is essentially a stew from Louisiana, comprised of a strong flavored stock, meat or shellfish, and vegetables such as onions, celery and bell peppers.

Amazing chicken gumbo at Gazebo Cafe

We then headed to Frenchman Street a few blocks away, but it’s one of those places that truly comes to life in the evening so we decided to go back another day.

We then walked on the waterfront, enjoying the view over the Mississippi river and the legendary Natchez steam boat, before going back to check the different antique shops of the French Quarter.

On our third day we walked on the waterside and headed towards the warehouse district, full of refitted warehouses which are now either residential or restaurants, before making our way to the art district filled with art galleries and the NOLA art museum.

For dinner, we decided to try out Gumbo Shop, well known restaurant for its.. you guessed it, gumbo! We ordered the creole platter filled with all 3 main creole dishes (jambalaya, red beans and rice, and creole shrimp) as well as the shrimp gumbo. All so delicious. We’re definitely big fans of creole food!

Finally, on our fourth and last day, we decided to hit the Historic New Orleans Collection Exhibition Center. This is a free museum dedicated to the history of New Orleans. It is located right at the heart of the French Quarter, and offers a good overview of one of America’s oldest cities, from its French and Spanish colony times through to civil war and Katrina. Really interesting.

In the afternoon, we wanted to hop on the St Charles streetcar (Streetcar 12, oldest continuously operated streetcar in the world in operation, since 1835) but due to renovations on the line, it wasn’t making its way to our stop that day so we decided to bus instead to make our way to Garden District (we did see it eventually).

Garden district is a more residential suburb filled with old 19th Century houses and more small and antique shops on Magazine Street. It was painfully humid and sunny, but it was nice to dive in to the random shops and browse (and enjoy air-con).

In the evening we decided to head back to Frenchman Street for a drink and watch some more live music. We chose The Spotted Cat Music Club to do so, and enjoyed some groovy jazz music. As expected, Frenchman Street was a lot better in the evening. There were a lot of people in the street, in bars, and strolling around the small night market that was set up that evening.

As we also got pretty into the history of the city after our visit of the museum, and moved by the history of slavery, we decided to purchase the ’12 years a slave’ book in one of the book store on Frenchman Street.

We are pretty pleased with our time spent in New Orleans; there’s so much more to the city than Bourbon St (the famous street that cuts through the French Quarter, lined with bars and certainly the party capital of Louisiana).

Tomorrow we’re making our way to Chicago via the northbound Amtrak train (19 hour ride!) – wish us luck!

TIPS

  • Eating beignets at Cafe du monde is a must do when in New Orleans. It’s open 24/7 so no stress about when to go. Be careful, addiction guaranteed!
  • Any Creole food seems to be amazing. Unfortunately, with our budget and relatively limited time we couldn’t try every dish and every restaurant we would have liked, but if you have time and money, eat out at every meal, it’s the best city to do so.
  • The Historic Museum was a great stop to understand the history of NOLA. Well worth a stop. Plus it’s free!

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