Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Weekend in New Orleans, LA

Road Trip Destination

The Big Easy - New Orleans, LA

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

New Orleans is a fascinating city.  We all know about Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, the parades, and the party that never ends.   And of course, we all remember the devastation of the Ninth Ward by Katrina.  But the culture, vibe, and heritage of NOLA are infinitely more interesting than these broad brush impressions.

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans


To begin with, New Orleans, like many of our cities, was first inhabited by Native Americans.  It was gradually co-inhabited by French fur-traders in the 1600's until it eventually became the capital of French Louisiana under the name "Nouvelle-Orleans" in 1722.  France at that time had ambitions to control the vast middle of North America and box in the British colonies along the Eastern Seaboard.  In the mid 1700's it was ceded to Spanish control, then ceded back to French control just before being sold by Napolean to the USA in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  

Only a decade later, New Orleans was the site of one of the definitive battles that secured long-term independence for America.  In the often forgotten Battle of New Orleans in the often forgotten War of 1812, Andrew Jackson and his troops routed the British, and Jackson was declared governor of the city until he handed it back over to civilian government in an America that had now twice defeated the greatest military power in the world in less than half a century.

 
In this depiction by Edward Percy Moran, Andrew Jackson leads 
his troops against the British during the Battle of New Orleans
Like other cities with a rich heritage and a vibrant modern city center, New Orleans' architecture is an amalgamation of new and old, and the European influence is apparent everywhere you look.  Historic buildings now sit next to modern skyscrapers.
 
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
The St. Louis Cathedral overlooks Jackson Square
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
 48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans


48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
If you can tune out the modern cars, clothing and trash cans, there are blocks where you feel as though you've been transported across an ocean and back a century or two.
But the distinctive architecture of the French Quarter and the voodoo artwork throughout the city are unique only to New Orleans.
 
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
Graffiti and art along Frenchmen St.
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
An inviting door to walk through in the French Quarter

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
A quiet Decatur Street early in the morning
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
Jackson Square
Of course, New Orleans is well known for its nightlife and jazz joints and live music bars.  But while Bourbon Street is overcrowded and a little seedy, the real gem is Frenchmen St, just across Esplanade Ave. on the other side of the Old US Mint.  Take the time to tour the mint (it's free!).  It contains US coins it minted in the early 1800's, as well as Confederate coins it minted during the Civil War until the South ran out of silver.  

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
 
Then take the stroll over to Frenchmen Street and find a place to grab a seat and enjoy some local talent.  Take a mid-afternoon rest with a drink and live music in the quiet courtyard at Rare Form.
  
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans


48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
I'm sure it's not always this quaint and quiet, but it was just what we were looking for.
   video
  It's kind of sad that all the people listening to the band were staring
 down at their phones instead of relaxing and taking in the environment around them.
  
After your rest, continue along Frenchmen St. to take in more shops and restaurants.
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

For me, the real highlight of the city - and this region of the country - is the food.  New Orleans' food is the product of ingredients of Native American, French, Spanish, African, and eventually Italian influence that produced it (read an excellent brief summary of Cajun & Creole cooking, and differences between the two, here on Langlois restaurant's website).  
  
Mother's Restaurant boasts that it has the World's Best Baked Ham.  I can't disagree, because I didn't try it.  I did, however, have the Crawfish Etouffee with red beans and collared greens.  The food was out of this world, and while eating we learned the interesting story of Hurricane Katrina's impact on this landmark restaurant.  You can read how the lives of the workers and customers of Mother's were affected here.
  
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

Across the street from our hotel, in a quiet alley, was Bon Ton Cafe.  Only open limited hours Monday - Friday and not at all on the weekends, Bon Ton is a small family-owned restaurant boasting can't-beat local fare.  Having not fully satiated my desire for etouffee at Mother's, I had the Shrimp and Crap Etouffee at Bon Ton.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

There are candy shops and coffee shops galore in New Orleans, but two in particular took the cake for us.  The well known Cafe Du Monde is constantly swamped with tourists, but don't let the long lines deter you.  The line moves quickly, and this open air restaurant is famous for its Cafe Au Lait (coffee with milk) and beignets (think French funnel cake loaded up with powdered sugar).

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans


48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
We were definitely the only people drawing and blogging at
Cafe du Monde.  Notice the evidence of the jazz band
providing entertainment out on the street as people wait
in line for a table and beignets
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
My wife drawing while we ate at Cafe du Monde
The supply of pralines in New Orleans is in no danger of running low.  On nearly every street, there is a candy shop with pralines as its headliner.  At Laura's Candies, there certainly are pralines (tasty ones too), but their highlight is Mississippi Mud.  You gotta try it.

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
Of course we couldn't pass up a candy shop called Laura's!
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
This stuff is amazing.
48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
And it can be purchased online...
No Road Trip to New Orleans is complete without crossing Lake Pontchartrain on the Causeway Bridge, the world's longest bridge over a body of water. 

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
 The bridge is over 22 miles long!
A great seafood restaurant, Middendorf's, awaits you on the Pontchartrain's western shore in Akers, LA.  In addition to a "beachfront" location, neat decor, and a sign on the building showing the waterline from Hurricane Isaac, Middendorf's has great seafood gumbo and is famous for its thin-fried Catfish.


48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans


48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans


48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

Middendorf's capped off a great "food tour" of the Bayou, though I will have to return as I did not try many of the highlights of the region's food, including Jambalaya, crawfish pie, muffalettas, and local oysters. 

  48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

Accommodation Recommendation

We loved our hotel, which was located on a quiet street in the business district just a few blocks from the heart of New Orleans.  We were close enough to the action to leave the car for two full days and explore the city on foot, but far enough away that we were able to leave the noise and activity of the French Quarter behind us each evening.  Each morning, a European style breakfast is brought to guests in their rooms: warm croissants and jam and fresh juice or coffee.  For us, this was really just a pre-breakfast snack before digging in at a local restaurant, but it stood out since this was the only hotel where we stayed on this entire trip that offered this service.

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans
The charming St. James Hotel on Magazine Street
Here's a map of all the locations we mentioned in this post:


Our next post will feature the drive from New Orleans to San Antonio through Baton Rouge, LA, and Galveston, Houston, and Austin, TX. 

48 No Interstate | Back Roads Road Trip | Three Days in New Orleans

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21 comments:

  1. For a minute there, I thought Laura was eating Etoufee' .... Silly me .....

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  2. I really enjoyed New Orleans - wandering among its atmospheric streets, seeing the Mississippi, having my first po' boy..thanks for bringing back some great memories!

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  3. We spent 5 days in NOLa and it wasn't anywhere near enough. I agree, Frenchmen Street is a must. With so many incredible musicians residing in town the quality of entertainment is incredible. The Spotted Cat was a fave!

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    1. We'll have to check that one out on our next visit; thanks!!

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  4. Ah...one of my favorite cities! We've just returned from New Orleans and I would already love to go back. The food, the music, the history, the food. There's just no place else like it!!!!

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    1. It's such a unique place. We've already planned a return trip!

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  5. Great history lesson and photo tour!

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  6. What fun! We love New Orleans, and make the road trip from DFW fairly often. Glad you mentioned Middendorf's! We could live on their catfish pretty much forever. Or until the next bowl of gumbo comes our way - whichever comes first. ;) You've definitely hit some of our favorite stops in the Crescent City! It was great visiting them through your eyes. Looking forward to seeing them again with our own.

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    1. The fact that y'all know Middendorf's suddenly makes the world seem smaller! I would love to sit on their porch at sunset sometime. And eat more of their food, of course! Hope you're able to make a return trip soon! :-)

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  7. This made us so happy and equally hungry! I would love to go back just for a po-boy at Mothers right now, nowhere else is comparable. Thanks for bring back awesome memories, we can't wait to go back!

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    1. I'm glad you got to re-live some great travel memories and hope a return trip is in the cards for you sooner than later!!

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  8. I love New Orleans and have been a few times and it looks like you found some great restaurants to eat at. Mr. 1AdventureTraveler loves the gumbo and can't seem to get enough. You took some great photos and the street art is amazing. Thanks for sharing :-)

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  9. Loved the photos of the architecture of the French Quarter. We are always on the lookout for yummy candy stores. Will keep it in mind. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. I haven't been to New Orleans but I would love to go one day as it seems to be a gorgeous travel destination.

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    Replies
    1. I hope it happens for you soon! It's such a unique city.

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  11. New Orleans is soo on my bucket list. It would be a bit of a tricky road trip from the UK though!! haha. Awesome post :)

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    1. Now that is a place I would love to do a road trip! I've only ever been to London and have never spent any time outside of the city. Hope you get to travel to Nola one day!! :-)

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