New Orleans was one of the must dos on our list for our US road trip. After two days of driving, we'd made it!
After checking into our hotel, and getting ourselves organised, it was early evening, so we went straight out in search of dinner. The walk from our hotel in Treme to the French Quarter took us through Louis Armstrong Park, and a short walk later, we arrived at Bourbon Street.
I was horrified. It was a shit hole. Was this what New Orleans was like?? It reminded me of Khao San Road in Bangkok, but with older, probably richer clientele. Everyone was hammered, and the whole place was tacky as hell. Plastic cocktail cups, plastic beads, terrible music, and beggars everywhere... I hated it.
We continued walking to the end of the road, and I was shellshocked. People loved this place? It was my idea of hell.
We arrived at Canal Street, and found a place to have dinner. We stumbled on a little dive bar, but it turned out to be awesome. Zev had an oyster po boy, and I had a cajun chicken sandwich. Our first meal in New Orleans was a huge success!
From there, we wandered down quieter Chartres Street towards Jackson Square. This was more what I had in mind. The creole mansions with their big balconies lined the streets, but this was almost too quiet - I couldn't win!
As we hit Jackson Square, things livened up a little. Street performers and artists lined the sidewalks, and pre-recorded jazz floated out into the square from the surrounding restaurants. We walked down to the waterfront to watch the sunset, then headed home to make a plan for the rest of our time in New Orleans.
In search of beignets
We were up at a leisurely hour the next morning, and headed to the most famous beignet spot in New Orleans - Cafe du Monde. We arrived to find people queued around the block. We probably should have expected that, given that it was Saturday morning, but we decided to give it a miss because we were too hungry to wait, and instead had a delicious buffet breakfast nearby.
Seeing ALL the museums
We decided to spend the morning exploring the museums that New Orleans had on offer. One of the best rated museums in the country was the New Orleans WWII Museum, which looked amazing, but it was quite far away from where we were, and it was pretty expensive.
Instead, we opted to check out some more local museums.
We started at the Cabildo Museum, which covers the Spanish and French influences in Louisiana.
Right next door was my favourite museum, the Presbytere. On the ground floor is a fantastic exhibit about Hurricane Katrina. It was incredibly confronting and heartbreaking to see the devastation that was caused by the hurricane, and certainly made us notice more of the ongoing effects during the remainder of our time in New Orleans. Upstairs, the entire floor is dedicated to the history of Mardi Gras. While there is far more to Mardi Gras than I ever thought possible, I'm still not sure I entirely 'get it', but it looks like a hell of a lot of fun! The costumes were a particular favourite of mine.
From there, we headed a little further afield to the Jazz Museum. Housed in the Old US Mint, the ground floor contains artifacts from the mint, while the upper floor is dedicated to the history of jazz in the area.
By the time we were done learning, it was mid-afternoon and we were starving. We stopped into a nearby restaurant and had some lunch while listening to a great swing band.
Finally - the beignets
The next morning we were determined. We walked 40 minutes to a different beignet spot and we lucked out. No wait for a table, and we were stuffing our faces in minutes. Morning Call was an absolute delight. The waitress gave Zev tasters of all their dishes when he asked about one of them, and the beignets were incredible. I mean fired dough for breakfast - what more can you ask for?
The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Scultpture Garden
After breakfast, we planned to check out the New Orleans Museum of Art, so we walked through the sculpture garden on the way. Containing 64 sculptures, the park was really cool, but even at 10 in the morning it was starting to get unbearably hot. When we got to the entrance to the museum, we realised it didn't open for another 45 minutes. We couldn't bear the thought of hanging around in the heat waiting for it to open, so we sought refuge back in the hotel until later in the afternoon.
Cajun and Zydecco Festival
We had totally lucked out. Only a few blocks from our hotel at Louis Armstrong Park was the Cajun and Zydecco Festival. Late in the afternoon, when the sun had gone down slightly, we made our way to the park.
Our first stop was the food. I was SO EXCITED to see meat pies advertised - I gravitated there immediately. Zev got himself a catfish Po-boy sandwich, and we headed to the shade to eat. The meat pie was pretty damn good! More like a deep fried meat empanada than the kind of pie we get at home, after 6 months away from home, it still hit the spot.
For the next couple of hours, we hung out listening to the fantastic music and soaked in the atmosphere at the park.
After some quality AC time and showers, we headed out to dinner. Frenchmen Street was known for a while as 'locals Bourbon Street', although it seems pretty firmly pinned on the tourist map now.
We ate some delicious hot dogs and chilli fries for dinner, then headed to the nearby art market for a wander.
We popped in next door for a drink at The Spotted Cat, but found ourselves a little disappointed with the music. A little despondent, we headed out the door.
Not 30 seconds later, we stumbled upon exactly the kind of thing we had expected from this vibrant town. On the corner of the street, a local marching band had started an impromptu concert and they were AMAZING. Crowds had gathered and they were consummate entertainers. We had an absolute blast, dancing with the throngs of people who were loving their Michael Jackson covers, as well as more traditional numbers like When the Saints Go Marching In. When they stopped for a break, we took our opportunity to see what else the street had on offer, but we knew nothing could top that.
We'd finally found what we'd been searching for in New Orleans!
Lots of love,
S & Z