My sister, Tessa, and I just returned from a short holiday in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was her first trip and my second, though I was much younger and more stupid the last time I visited N’awlins some nine years ago with Peter.
Most tourists travel to New Orleans and never leave the French Quarter which is a shame because there is so much more to see and do but in order to do that, you’ll need to rent a car. Our tiny sister trip hit the following highlights:
- French Quarter
- City Park
- Abandoned Jazzland
- Airboat tour in the swamps/marshland
- Lake Pontchartrain
The French Quarter is where all of the drunken debauchery occurs. Most bars are open 24/7 and the drinks are known to be strong. There are two legendary drinks served in the French Quarter and if you visit, it’s a must that you try both. Warning: Consuming one of these drinks will meet and exceed your recommended sugar intake for the day and will make your teeth “fuzzy”.
- Hand grenades
Tropical Isle is the only company that sells Hand Grenades. They have a few locations but I recommend popping into the original location at Bourbon & Orleans. A friendly bouncer will meet you at the entrance and may even remember you when you return later in the day for a pick-me-up. I promise this will be one of the most touristy things you do in New Orleans.
Nearly every bar and restaurant in the French Quarter sells Hurricanes, however, not all hurricanes are treated equally as proven by our casual scientific study. Pat O’Briens is not only the creator of the hurricane but they make the best hurricanes.
The other great thing about Pat O’Briens is that they have a huge outdoor courtyard. The weather was perfect for our visit so we stalked the courtyard until a table opened up and a friendly server named “Joe B” came ’round to take our order and provide us with salty popcorn.
Over the course of 1.5 hurricanes each, “Joe B” soon became called “Jobe” as a tribute to the character “G.O.B.” in the TV show Arrested Development. This was a sign that the alcohol was taking effect and oh my gosh, we were so funny by the time we left Pat O’Briens. Also this:
Protip: Bourbon Street is all about bar hopping, so don’t get too comfortable in one place and remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Once we had our buzz on, we buzzed around the French Quarter wasting time before our night walking tour which kicked off at 8pm.
We caught some live jazz on the street. The band member in the mauve shirt with glasses stared at me for the duration of the time we watched them play. It was creepy. What is not shown in the video is all the people watching them play.
Soon enough it was 8pm and we stumbled to the meeting spot of our night walking tour. There were about 150 people in the queue for the tour. This mass of people was being “chunked up” into smaller groups of around 25 people. Being the impatient buzzed people we were, we cut in line and were the last two people to make the tour group about to depart on the tour. We thought we were so lucky but it only took about five minutes to realize that the tour was going to be a complete waste of time.
There are several companies that offer night walking tours and we spent a fair amount of time vetting the companies. Our guide was way too theatrical. There was way too much scripting around simple facts and stories. It was terrible and it was a two-hour tour.
At the 45 minute mark and as I was leaning on a horse-headed bollard, I turned to Tessa and declared that I did not think I could make it the full two hours. She agreed and then we waited until the group began to move and we walked the opposite direction, cutting our monetary and time losses. We walked by many other walking tours and all tour guides had the same stupid theatrical delivery.
I learned one thing during the walking tour and that was that Nicolas Cage once owned a house in the French Quarter. Isn’t that just the most exciting thing you’ve learned?
Jackson Square is technically in the French Quarter but it is like its own little neighborhood. We went to Jackson Square primarily because I had read that there are cats there and my sister is a cat lady so off we went. We did not find any cats but we did find a spectacular view of St. Louis Cathedral and Cafe du Monde, the famous beignet shop.
I understand that the beignet in my photo above looks like a powder-dusted white poop log but it was fresh out of the fryer and Tessa said that her hands were on fire so there was no time for getting a more appetizing photo.
It was my first time eating beignets and, um, we’ll just say that I’m good to go for life when it comes to beignets. I expected them to be airier like a donut but they were incredibly dense. The powdered sugar could not erase the deep fryer taste. One beignet each kept us full for hours and I do not understand how a person can eat more than one for a variety of reasons.
St. Louis Cemetery #1
New Orleans resides below sea level so graves are above ground. St. Louis Cemetery #1 is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. It is an “open” cemetery meaning “burials” still take place every year.
Back in the 1700s when the cemetery was established, it was divided into three sections: Catholics, non-Catholics and Negroes. Initial burials took place in an unorganized fashion, some of them being below “ground” or halfway below ground and eventually, tombs were built above ground which created the maze that exists today.
As time passed and city development excelled, land in New Orleans became very valuable and the cemetery was reduced in size significantly. This resulted in St. Louis Cemetery #2 which is located further out from the center of the city.
Tessa and I had two objectives for our trip: Go on an airboat tour and visit a cemetery. The airboat tour was a success but we failed when it came to visiting a cemetery. Unbeknownst to us, as of March 1, 2018, all visitors to St. Louis Cemetery #1 must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide. Our Lyft driver informed us of this when he dropped us off. He stated that he was not sure if it was St. Louis Cemetery or another cemetery but he had heard this news from another tourist. I can confirm that it is true – visitors must be accompanied by a licensed tour guide.
Visitors can book a tour online or join one of the scheduled tours at the entrance of the cemetery for $20. Coming off the heels of our terrible night tour, we decided against the cemetery tour and so this is the only photograph we have of the cemetery – just the tops of the tombs and a guy sitting on a cooler full of water he was selling.
The Freret neighborhood is a short drive from the French Quarter but is worth the trip for lunch and/or dinner. I found New Orleans to be undergoing a revitalization. We saw many homes under renovation and new homes being built. On the surface, it appears that New Orleans is finally coming back to life after Katrina, or at least that is the case in the neighborhoods we visited which included Mid City, Freret and the Central Business District.
We made the trek to the Freret neighborhood for lunch at Ancora Pizzeria one day. The restaurant was located on a cute “Main Steet” type of street (Freret St) which was lined with restaurants, bars, coffee shops (Rook Coffee), and dessert shops (Piccola Gelateria). It’s worth a visit in my opinion even if only for the pizza. I will dream of this pizza for years to come.