J-Mo and I didn’t have a lot of time in New Orleans, but our hotel was near the French Quarter and we spent a lot of time wandering through the neighborhood. The entire city was decked out for Mardi Gras and the Superbowl and everything was covered in purple, emerald, and gold bunting, beads, streamers, etc. It was all very festive. I loved poking around in antique shops, estate jewelry stores, wandering through art galleries and reading menus of the millions of small restaurants. New Orleans is all about the food. And the booze. We skipped the drinking but had some really excellent Southern food. J-Mo lived in Houston for a couple of years and was so glad to be back in the South with the food and the manners and the charming off-hand sayings. I had to get used to grown men (and women) calling me “baby” and “sweetheart” and “honey.”
J-Mo and I both loved all of the wrought iron in the Quarter. The balconies and pillars and windows are covered in gorgeous old twisting wrought iron and it gives off this charming old-worldy vibe that you just don’t get many places. In some ways the Quarter reminded me of some of my favorite neighborhoods in San Francisco. Great restaurants, small shops, lots of funky art galleries.
We wandered up and down streets, peering at the old homes, the boutique hotels, and window shopping at art gallery after art gallery. We were in New Orleans on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and most of the museums were closed, which is really a shame. I would have loved to go to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
I managed to finish all the books I brought with me on our cruise and needed something to read for the long flight home (which had a very much out-of-the-way layover in Los Angeles). After a little internet searching, J-Mo found me this wonderful used book store that was crammed with thousands of volumes, packed into the shelves, stacked on the floor, spilling off of tables. The proprietors, two white-haired gentlemen in cardigans, were absolutely charming and gave us a great lunch recommendation before we caught out flight home. When I grow up I’d love to run a used bookstore out of the first floor of an old mansion with winding stairs, wrought iron balconies, and that musty smell of old books.
I loved all the bright colors in the quarter. This photo hardly does it justice, but many streets had house after house that were painted in bright, interesting color combinations that would make the most popular fashion bloggers swoon. Coral and seafoam green and turquoise and purple and lemon yellow and Pepto Bismol pink. It’s enough to go right to your head and make you want to sit down for a mid-morning (or mid-afternoon) snack of biegnets. Biegnets are French donuts that are one of the culinary signatures of New Orleans.
Instead of waiting for hours at Cafe du Monde for a table to open up, J-Mo and I stopped at Cafe Biegnet, a walk-up outdoor cafe located in New Orleans Legends Park on Bourbon Street.* There is a live band playing constantly, spilling jazz into the street and sitting there for a few minutes listening was one of my favorite things we did. Sometimes I forget how much I love listening to talent musicians share their craft.
J-Mo and I wandered through Louis Armstrong Park, although the only thing going on there was a bit of cleaning up and a few joggers taking advantage of a sunny lunch break.
Wandering along the Riverfront. I had seen the Mississippi River before, farther north in Missouri. But I was blown away by the scope and sheer size of the river down near it’s delta. We just don’t have rivers like this where I’m from. Our rivers hold blow up rafts and kayaks and will give you a thrilling white water experience. But there is no way a cruise ship, or a battleship, or a tanker would make it through rivers out west.
That about concludes our time in New Orleans. We did manage to eat at quite a few places, and here are my restaurant recommendations (most places you’ll probably need a reservation if it’s a weekend or evening):
Mother’s for quick, hearty Southern food.
Pere Antoine I ordered the blackened catfish, “Catfish Antoine,” and it was amazing. Ditto their creamy oyster-artichoke soup/chowder.
Red Gravy Cafe We stopped here for breakfast and their baked ham is absolutely divine. It’s like puffy clouds of pork goodness.
SoBou is a small plates/tapas restaurant with some very interesting food combinations. I had a miniature ice-cream cone full of grilled pineapple, onion, and tuna tartar and topped with basil-avocado ice cream and roasted coconut.
*Bourbon Street: it’s nasty. It is dirty and gross and the sex, drugs, and liquor are e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. We walked down the street at 4:00 in the afternoon and the drunks were already stumbling and the poles were being worked. It’s ten thousand times worse than the seediest parts of the Las Vegas strip. In Vegas they at least cater to families during the day with the smut coming out in full force as the sun sets. Not here. Ugh. It made my skin crawl. Stick to Royal Street or Chartres for your wandering through the quarter, leave Bourbon Street alone.
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