Last-Minute Trip to New Orleans

New Orleans - Post Katrina. Not sure what to expect, hopeful for a full recovery. Trip was booked six days before arriving.


Last-Minute Trip to New Orleans

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by DanCinOC on July 12, 2007

I arrived in New Orleans on July 4th. While many say it is recovering from Katrina, I would say the French Quarter is doing well. While I have nothing to compare it to, being my first trip, many establishments were operating while few smaller businesses remained closed.

Not knowing much about the city, I ended up taking many tours. Check any hotel lobby and you will find an array of companies willing to take your money. Some were better than others.

Service varies as well. One international chain stayed open later but treated customers more like an interruption than an opportunity to rebuild. The people were the greatest part of the trip. Walking down the street, it is not unusual to have strangers walking by greeting you. And many were willing to share stories, not only of Katrina, but of life in New Orleans and pride in a very unique culture.

Most will equate the French Quarter with New Orleans, and Bourbon Street as the heart of it all. While I had to at least walk down the street to witness things more extreme than Las Vegas, I found that to spend 30 minutes of people-watching was plenty.

New Orleans is more than the French Quarter. Take a ferry over the Mississippi to Algiers Point or walk through the many art galleries or antique shops. Walk through the garden district and admire the homes and beautiful architecture. Visit a plantation, ride a streetcar, or walk through the quarter and peek through gates to witness the beautiful courtyards. And don't forget to eat.

New Orleans has survived much in their nearly 300 years of existence. Before Katrina, there were fires wiping out much of the city, diseases reducing their population, and many changes in their ownership of the land. Katrina was devastating, but New Orleans is New Orleans. It rose from the ashes to thrive. I will rise from the floods, and again be the city, not only like we have heard it to be, but also the city with many more layer that make it one of a kind.${QuickSuggestions} Talk to the people while in NOLA. They are friendly and eagar to share not only their stories of Katrina, but of the many things that make their city great.

There are many different tour companies around. Some are better than others, but the Historic New Orleans Tours appeared to be less theatrical and more factual. Take advantage of a FREE city walking tour given by the National Park Services. It is limited to 25 people on a first come basis. Be there at the Jean Lafitte Historical Center on Decatur near St. Louis by 9am to get your spot. Since it is done by the National Park Services, you get a lot of the history as well as a tour along the Mississipi River and through the French Quarter.

While staying in the French Quarter, walking is the best way to get around. Pay $5 for a one-day pass or $12 for a three-day pass. This will give you access to the RTA which includes the buses as well as the streetcars. Regualar fares are $1.25 and you must have exact change.

Dress code tends to be fairly casual, but in the nicer restaurants, be prepared to dress up a bit. Some may require ties and/or jackets for the gentlemen.

Look beyond Bourbon street for all that New Orleans has to offer. Get a good travel book and discover the diversity of this city.${BestWay} While staying in the French Quarter, it is really easy to get around on foot. If traveling outside the area, you can purchase a 3-day RTA pass for $5. This is good for the streetcars and the bus line. Getting to and from the airport is as easy as booking a shuttle or a taxi, which is only a dollar or two less, and you don’t have to deal with multiple stops.

The Historic French Market Inn

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by DanCinOC on July 13, 2007

This historic building is located on the outer area of the French Quarter, a short walking distance from the Mississippi River. For a traveler that wants to be near the activities of Bourbon Street, but away from that to rest, this is the perfect location. It is also a charming hotel for someone who can give up the luxury of the more popular chain hotels and stay at a hotel in a more cozy room. The walls are brick, the floors are lopsided, the hallways are narrow and the fixtures show their age. Some of the inner rooms apparently have no windows. This hotel, which appears to be made up of a few buildings, also has a couple of beautiful, yet simple, courtyards. One feels as if they have almost stepped back into time with the brick walls and patio floors, the vines growing up the sides of the buildings, and the sounds of water flowing from two different fountains that drowned out any street traffic.

Yet with an old hotel, you give up a certain amount of luxury and service. Upon checking in, the person was friendly, but as the days wore on, she appeared less concerned about the hotel guests. More often than not, we would return to the hotel and she would be on the phone or on the computer, never looking up to acknowledge the people coming in. That was a shame because the southern hospitality, as I have come to expect, was void from this particular woman. I found it also disturbing, while waiting for the elevator, hearing her on what sounded like a personal phone call, complaining about the guests and staff.

The second floor rooms on the street side had balconies. Unfortunately, while the doors opened onto the balcony, we were told we were not allowed out there. No explanation regarding a safety issue, or any other reason for the denied access but just one sarcastic word was offered when asked: “Sorry.” When asked about the room safe in the closet, two extra words were given: “They don’t work.”

While one person can do this much damage to the image of a hotel, the woman who greeted us as we checked out was completely different. She was personable, helpful, and expressed her appreciation for us choosing this establishment. She recommended a restaurant to go to while waiting for our airport shuttle and even called the shuttle company on our behalf (without even being asked) to find out why they were late. While one person could not be bothered to look up as we returned throughout the day, another thanked us for spending our time at their accommodations.

Would I choose this hotel again? There are certainly a lot of choices throughout the area. I would love to stay somewhere else to enjoy the variety the city has to offer. But I would certainly consider it for a future visit.
Historic French Market Hotel
501 Rue Decatur
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130
(888) 538-5651

Olivier's Creole Restaurant

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by DanCinOC on July 13, 2007

This family owned restaurant has been handed down through generations. Tucked away on Decatur Street, it appeared to be popular. While there was never really a line, the restaurant was filled. The service was attentive from the greeting at the door to the wait staff to the owner walking throughout the restaurant welcoming and conversing with the patrons. Dinner is served from 5 ten 10 in the evenings and they specialize in Creole cuisine.

The Creole Rabbit was tender and from an old recipe. While it is normally served with an oyster sauce, this was omitted without any problems due to a shellfish allergy. The Shrimp Creole was from a recipe that it is more than 100 years old. Not too spicy, it was quite enjoyable. Appetizers included new potatoes with caviar (a unique dish), and pecan breaded oysters. Also on the menu are broiled catfish, roasted breast of duck, gumbo, and even a vegetarian pasta. It is worth looking at for a fancy restaurant without the formal attitude.
Olivier's Creole Restaurant
204 Decatur St.
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130
(504) 525-7734

Café Du Monde

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by DanCinOC on July 13, 2007

No trip to New Orleans and the French Quarter is complete without a trip to Café du Monde, located across the street from Jackson Square. While they do have shops in malls and in other parts of the area, having a Café au Lait and the beignets at this legendary outdoor coffee shop cannot be missed. The menu is simple: Café au Lait and beignets. Oh, they also have hot chocolate and soft drinks as well. Come on in, seat yourself, and one of the staff (surprisingly mostly of Asian descent) will come by to take your order. There is no need to ask for the check as you are expected to pay when your order arrives.

Prepare to be covered in powdered sugar at the end of the experience. But do try to dust off before leaving or you will become a walking billboard of where you were earlier.
Cafe Du Monde
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
(504) 525-4544

Fiorella’s

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by DanCinOC on July 13, 2007

The old saying of “don’t judge a book by its cover” can be applied to this restaurant. I had heard about the fried chicken in this place. This was a surprise because fried chicken just does not seem to fit with the name Fiorella’s, nor did the decor of the establishment. I thought I had walked into the wrong place and actually walked back outside to look at the sign and the take out menu at the front door. It reminded me of an old, run down fish and chip place, complete with portholes, wooden tables and chairs, and sea rope in a dimly lit room.

But once you get beyond the lack of ambience, order the fried chicken with mashed potatoes. To accompany the deal was a side of greens. The first bite was a surprise. It had an unexpected spiciness to it. The staff, while not typical looking for a sit down restaurant, was very friendly and attentive. I am not sure what else was on the menu, but for good old fried chicken, the only better chicken I have had was my own. Remember, don’t judge this restaurant by its furnishings.
Fiorella's Cafe
45 French Market Place
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
(504) 528-9566

Petunia's

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by DanCinOC on July 13, 2007

Come to Petunia’s famished and leaved stuffed. This restaurant has a limited menu, basically crepes, but these are the largest crepes I have ever experienced. I made the mistake of ordering a side of fries to go with it. Big mistake! One crepe was enough to serve two people easily. I would have loved to have tried the dessert crepe, but there was no room left. As of our visit in July, it appeared that they are only open until 6 in the evening. Check the times in case there was a change.
Petunia's
817 St. Louis St.
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112
(504) 522-6440

The Mask Gallery

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by DanCinOC on July 13, 2007

When in New Orleans, one souvenir that comes to mind is a mask. These can be found at any tourist shop for under three dollars. But then again, you could go online and buy them in bulk at a party supply website. These are probably made in a foreign country, and not in New Orleans.

For something truly special and original, check out The Mask Gallery at 636 Royal Street. No cheesy masks here. While there is a large selection of masks from Venetian artists imported from Italy, the real find here are the handmade leather masks made by local artist Dalili. Each piece is a one of a kind, taking several days to complete. Dalili is a true artist, making masks out of a single piece of leather, but looking like several pieces put together. Some are natural in color while others incorporated the purples, greens, and golds of Mardi Gras.

Whenever I travel, I look for unusual art from that particular city or region. What better art than a mask from the home of Mardi Gras! Check out their website to view these works of art at www.neworleansmask.com. I purchased one similar to the "Life" mask, lea 222.
Mask Gallery
636 Royal Street
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130
(504) 523-6664

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