Four wild women from the Big Apple wreak havoc in the Big Easy, but most notably (or notoriously) in the French Quarter.
by Emily on June 12, 2000
Absolutely gorgeous, impeccably decorated, and very comfortable. It’s the city’s only five-star hotel, and everyone’s reaction when we told them that we were staying there was sheer jealousy. It’s first class all the way. The room was beautiful, with a great terrace (perfect for watching the parades), and was stocked with amenities, including the fluffiest bathrobe I’ve ever worn. The staff was very friendly and accommodating. The Windsor Court was first-class in every way, from the stunning lobby with its gorgeous flower arrangements and priceless art collection, to the tastefully decorated and fully stocked suite. Service was excellent, with a knowledgeable team well equipped to handle the constant requests of four jaded Manhattanites,
and the location was perfect. Gym/Pool - There’s a beautiful outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, and a full gym. Restaurants - I know they’re there but we didn’t eat in them. Concierge services - Very helpful concierges with great recommendations.
The Palace Café is one of the famous Brennan family’s many restaurants, and of all the ones we ate at, the best. It’s really pretty, with excellent service, and a very interesting, creative menu of new spins on Cajun cuisine. I had pecan-crusted mahi mahi, which was delicious. There’s a nice bar too, which we sat at for a while because we decided to go on a Saturday night without a reservation. Although the restaurant says that reservations aren’t required, it’s very popular, so you can expect to wait.
Eating here is quite an experience. The restaurant looks like it hasn’t changed a bit in 60 years, and neither has the staff. I had the best fried chicken ever here. One drawback: LONG lines on the weekend, and random, group seating. You order your food on a line, cafeteria-style, and aren’t allowed to sit down until you’ve been given your food. The whole process is a bit hectic, especially when you know there’s no guarantee that your party will be able to sit at the same table. But once again, the fried chicken was worth the hassle.
I’m still dreaming about the coffee in New Orleans, it’s among the best in the world. It’s rich, dark and full-bodied, and the perfect cure for a hangover. Café du Monde is the place to have it, and be sure and try the beignets. The café has been around for more than a century, and it’s in a great location, right near Jackson Square, overlooking the Mississippi River. I came here during the day for a java jolt after wandering around all day, and then again at about 6.30 AM, after I’d been out partying all night. I’m tempted to say I liked it better at 6.30 AM, but maybe that had something to do with the state I was in.
by Emily on June 20, 2000
Another Brennan family restaurant, Mr. B's is a more traditional place than Palace Café (see my other dining entry), while still having a casual, laid back atmosphere. We ate here on our first night in town and it was the perfect, delicious introduction to New Orleans Cajun and Creole cuisine.
A madhouse. Parades all day long, costumes, music and beads. Partying all night, and lots of illicit bead exchanges. The local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, publishes the daily parade schedule, as well as parade locations. It will also tell you about other Mardi Gras events. Also, ask at your hotel which parades they recommend. Apparently they’re not all created equal, and the closer to Fat Tuesday you get, the more elaborate and fun they are.
Not really a park, more a green hub of local activity – musicians, street performers, vendors – framed by a beautiful, old church. Usually, there are a good number of people around the square. Wander around and hang out. Watch a performance, listen to some music, and maybe shop a bit.
A packed, multi-level bar where the main attraction is the karaoke and the jello shots. There’s dancing too, although dancing to someone’s bad karaoke is a bit challenging. Be prepared to WAIT for the bathrooms. Wander up Bourbon Street and look for the neon sign and the line around the corner.
Also packed, but there’s lots of room to play and mingle. There’s a piano bar with a phenomenally bad lounge singer, and a massive garden area or backyard patio with a cool fountain, as well as a regular bar area. Beware of the Hurricaines, the bar's signature drink and a N'awlins specialty. They're super sweet going down, and pack a mighty punch.
Small, dark, laid back with a fantastic jukebox. As you exit Pat O’s (see my other journal entry) in a drunken, claustrophobic stupor, you’ll be lured across the street by the great music and the very friendly bouncer, who’s also a great caretaker if you don’t know how to hold your alcohol too well (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).
Whether you go alone or with others kind of depends on what sort of evening you’re looking for. There are plenty of people looking for love, as well as, couples and groups just having fun. My group of female friends found it a nice respite from the meat market that is Bourbon Street. A somewhat gay but mostly mixed club that’s been voted one of the best in the country. But, happily, there’s little attitude here. Just a lot of people dancing their butts off and having fun.
The timing of this trip was really perfect, and I’d recommend that you plan to go at the beginning of Mardi Gras too, unless, for some reason, you really love wall-to-wall drunken crowds. If that’s the case, go on or as close to Fat Tuesday as you can. New Orleans is very laid back during the day, but it makes up for it in spades at night. Plan accordingly: sleep in, go out for dinner at around 9 or 10 PM and then stay up, and out, until at least 4 AM. Don’t let my sybaritic and self-indulgent narrative deter you from going to New Orleans if you’re not the party type: the guide books I brought with me, and many friends and locals, extolled the cultural options and daytime activities that the city has to offer. We just chose not to do any of them.
There are a wide variety of accommodations in New Orleans, ranging from quaint guesthouses to standard city hotels (like the Sheraton and Hilton). New Orleans is not cheap, and especially during Mardi Gras even a standard hotel room can run upwards of $300 per night. New Orleans also hosts many conventions during the year, in addition to Jazz Fest in early May, and you may find that during peak times hotels demand payment in advance, as well as, reservations for the duration of the festival or convention, not just for part of it. Friends of ours were holding court at The Fairmont Hotel, which is also billed as first-class. However, in comparison to our palatial suite at the Windsor Court, the rooms were tiny, the décor bland, and the lobby was an absolute zoo.
Much like its ancestor, France, whether you spend $5 or $50 in New Orleans,
you can get something absolutely delicious. Cajun and Creole cuisine rule, so the food on the menu at almost anywhere you eat is likely to be blackened, deep fried, and spicy. But that's a good thing. Fish is the staple here - and you can enjoy it hundreds of different ways. For less formal dining, try a po' boy, a super-sized sandwich often dripping with shrimp and piquant mayonnaise. Gumbo is another favorite- a thick stew with seafood, sausage, rice and beans.
Despite what the Food Channel may lead you to believe, Emeril is not the
culinary king of New Orleans. The members of the Brennan Family are New Orleans true dining royalty. They own several restaurants throughout the city, varying in formality and price. I ate at several and they were all fantastic! My favorite was the Palace Café (read my journal entry). Emeril''s restaurants earn equal acclaim for their inventive cuisine and flair, but the menus looked a little too daring and expensive, for my taste.
I'm sure there's plenty of interesting, creative and historic sights to see
in New Orleans, but I didn't see any of them. I did walk around a lot, and
really enjoyed the contrast between the French Quarter's cobblestone streets
teeming with tourists during the day, and their beer-flooded, jam-packed
incarnation after dark. During the day there are lots of local artists who display their wares out on the street, as well as, lots of shops to dart in and out of. There's also music to be heard. New Orleans is famous for its jazz, and you can hear it almost nywhere. The best spot is Preservation Hall, and anyone will know where it is located. If you do want to journey beyond the French Quarter, take the antique streetcar up through the rest of the city. There are beautiful houses and gardens to see, but they're best viewed from a cool, moving streetcar. There are plenty of parks and a zoo up there too, as well as the famous Tulane and Loyola Universities.
New Orleans isn’t known as a shopping Mecca, but if you want to shop, there are plenty of places to go, including a big new mall by the Bally’s casino. You probably won’t be able to resist picking up some local treats, like praline candies and a can of that awesome coffee. There are tons of stores in the French Quarter that can meet your tourist needs. Avoid the stores on Canal Street like the plague though – they’re overpriced and the people who work there are just mean. Don't spend your money on cigarettes, if you can help it. They are about $5 a pack.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009