A quick 2 day journey in downtown New Orleans!
by CurlyGirl on December 7, 2008
As I wandered out of my hotel, the Hilton, I wandered right into the Riverwalk Marketplace. I'm always a bit skeptical of these mall-continued-to-hotel shopping centers, particularly those underground, but the Riverwalk proved to have a nice variety of stores both chain and unique to the area. The area was also low on kiosks, which to me are very annoying with sales people approaching you constantly - so a big plus there.My main goal was to visit Ann Taylor Loft for a coat, so I only stopped in a few stores along the way - a cute and inexpensive womens boutique that was very fashion forward, You Go GIrl!. I passed a few stories that seemed to be fairly low end in terms of fashion and wondered if that was it.Then I found an outpost of Cafe Du Monde. I hadn't yet been to the original and I am very glad I waited to go to it - something about the original versus one in a mall setting makes the original much more exciting and meaningful! However the Cafe Du Monde had lots of seating, though you were right beside the massage kiosk. Again, not my choice to get a massage in public in the middle of the mall!I found Ann Taylor Loft and had amazingly helpful salespeople, and bought several shirts on sale. I wandered along and stopped in the Brookstone store as I need a new alarm clock and have never been in one, and realized how much junk/helpful stuff they have (I couldn't tell which some of it was - do you really need a sports updated gadget when you have the internet?).There were also many Mardi Gras shops with inexpensive beads and trinkets, and a few New Orleans focused stores. There was a sports store with local LA gear, and several other basic chain stores. You can see a full listing at http://www.riverwalkmarketplace.com/html/storedirectory.aspMost of the stores are in a fairly underground drab area. When you get to the foodcourt, you go up a level and are greeted with an awesome view of the Riverboat, the River and two large bridges. The view is great! However the food selection at 2 pm on a Friday was definitely lacking. Some of the food court stations had hot steaming food with no one out to serve it, and others had what looked to be cold food. There was a variety of typical food court items - with a strong emphasis on Cajun cuisine. Prices were not cheap for a food court, be warned - about $8 to $10 for a meal.I chose a Mexican themed station because I wanted a burrito. The glob of melted cheese was probably 1000 calories alone, and the rice and goop of beans that came with it were more appetizing than the burrito. Not recommended to eat in this area! Even with a Burger King I would have known what I was getting, but these all appeared to be independent of actual restaurants.If you have nothing to do and need to do some shopping for a purpose, check out these stores. Otherwise it is not worth the trip when you can check out the history and glory of downtown New Orleans from restaurants to bars in the French Quarter.
by CurlyGirl on November 28, 2008
We wandered out on a Friday night with our concierge giving us his "insider" recommendation of Cafe Maspero on the edge of the French Quarter. In walking distance from the big name hotels - Hilton, Mariott, etc - it was a perfect intro to New Orleans cuisine & flavor! Sitting on a corner, the restaurant was easy to find and had a rustic wooden outdoor look. We walked in to a fairly full and lively crowd and waited a few minutes for anyone to greet us. When our waitress came over, and she had amazing dreadlocks, we knew we found a fun place! We sat near the door which on a November weekend was a bit drafty. Prices were CHEAP! As a New Yorker, I always pay high prices/touristy prices, and when I go to other big cities I expect the same. A beer for $2, I was in shock. And $1 strawberry daiquiris all the time? Amazing!But on to the food - they had a wide selection of New Orleans favorites and sandwiches. They had burgers, po'boys, shrimp and catfish sandwiches, a delicious lookie veggie mufuletta and lots more. I almost went with the mufuletta (with the olive salad but without the layers of salami and ham) but opted for a catfish sandwich with fries. The fried goodness was served very quickly, and a huge piece of catfish arrived for just $6.75 with tasty wide fries. Sandwiches came with a half a long plate of frieds and sauce for the sandwich. No wonder the locals love it, tons of great food at such a cheap price! I also had an Abita Blond for just $2 that was great. Abita is a local brewing company from Louisiana, and though the glass wasn't a pint size it was nice to get a small beer to wash down the fried tastiness.Service was quick and though the restaurant was fairly full, it wasn't too loud. Decor was simple with small candles on the dark wooden tables with basic dark wooden chairs to sit in. It gave a feel of something that had been there for a long time, calmy and patiently surviving through the years with a steadiness that made people keep coming back. Do note that the restaurant is cash only. Though we opted for sandwiches, they also had seafood plates, jumbalaya and a wide array of beers, wines and cocktails. If you're looking for a healthy option, this might not be your best choice. But if you just want good food for a great price with a friendly and old school aid back atmosphere definitely visit Cafe Maspero!
by CurlyGirl on November 26, 2008
Donuts and coffee, really, what more do you want? Oops I mean Cafe Au Lait & Beignets! This laid-back, large outdoor seating Cafe is a must on your trip to New Orleans.Cafe Du Monde's original outpost consists of waitstaff in cute white traditional diner style hats, dozens of outdoor tables (covered in a tent during our November visit) and a cozy indoor space. The price was right for two people, with two cafe au laits and a plate of beignets at only $6. For those not in the know, "au lait" means half coffee and half milk. They also serve it dark, along with milk and chocolate milk and freshly squeezed orange juice. The menu is written on the wall - or you can order inside and take out.Grab a few friends and sit down for fabulous mini donuts covered with powdered sugar. Do not bring your diabetic friends here! The powdered sugar overflows from the beignets, and sugar is provided on the table to douse your coffee with also. There are additional shops including one in the Riverwalk. I walked by the one in the Riverwalk - it is in an unexciting basement area. Certainly stop by the original late one evening to people watch and enjoy a snack!Visit them online at cafedumonde.com or 24 hours a day in the French Market. Yep, 24 hours a day except Christmas day!
According to our waitress, the restaurant hadn't been that busy in "months" on the night of our visit. Despite the large crowds waiting at the door we got a table for two in about twenty minutes and were delighted to sit down and dive in to some delicious Southern LA cuisine!The restaurant is enormous with a fairly large dance floor in front of the live band-set up. There is a bar area that seats about 25 people just inside the entrance plus the gift item area, and more seating behind the bar. Tables are tight especially as people avoid the dance floor to get around when the music starts! Nightly music plays at 7 pm, at least on the weekends when we went, and provides a nice background setting. Don't expect to have an in-depth conversation however if you are sitting near the music as it blares out to serenade you.An older couple got up to dance to start the trend, and later I saw they were featured on the Web site - certainly regulars, as we guessed! A few children got out to bop around, some 40something tipsy ladies, and a handful of couples at random.Our waitress was slow in getting to our table, and apologized explaining how big the crowds were. We were ready to order - fairly hungry but not wanting to splurge, so we each got a cup of soup.gumbo.bisque and a house salad. The big meals looked great - but definitely high in calories! The corn and shrimp bisque, when it finally arrived, was scrumptious! I was hungry and it was a great option. The salads arrived next, a bit odd, but were a full house salad. My dining partner also got a twice baked potato, small but filling. We contemplated the highly touted bread pudding but decided to pass. Prices were reasonable, with our cup items being around $5 or $6 and the house salad slightly less. Entrees ranged up to $20 and sodas were pricey at $3 but came in an enormous glass (meaning an unhealthy amount).At neighboring tables we saw plates full with jumbalaya, rice, potatoes - and I would be glad to go back the next time in town! Advertised as the "original" Mulate's wasn't overly cheesy or touristy, though that is who filled the place. The staff were wearing LSU jerseys or the Mulate's shirt and were friendly, and the atmosphere was a good time feel. Visit them online at www.mulates.com - and if you go, look for the cute older dancing couple!
The New Orleans Riverside appears to go on for blocks - since it is connected to the RiverWalk, but unlike most conference hotels it has an easy layout. When entering you land on the first floor with a classy, busy restaurant and concierge desk, but you must go up one level (elevators or escalator) to the lobby level. They have several kiosks for checking in, or printing boarding passes, at the bell station along with several staff at the check-in desk. I was informed promptly that I had two packages waiting for me - which is a huge plus as hotels of this size frequently lose packages, and I knew it was off to a good start.My room was a bit musty upon walking in, but then the air kicked on (In November?) and the room was fine. I had a large king bed, a small bathroom and a great 16th floor view of the river. The flat screen TV was located next to the desk, and the room was spacious enough for a two night stay. Crabtree & Eveyln products were in the bathroom. An easy one or two cup coffee machine was located just beside the TV (not hidden away in a drawer, hard to find) with sugars and caf & decaf, though not delicious it worked early in the morning. The hotel advertised an enormous fitness center that locals could also be a member of, both on the website and in the elevators, but the area where it existed was being constructed upon.The conference area consisted of a huge ballroom on the first floor and a smaller ballroom and breakout rooms on the third floor, up two escalators. The rooms were adequate and the area spacious so it did not seem as if you were cramped in a small space.Located near the French Quarter, the hotel location was great - on the river, near the action and close to great restaurants and downtown shopping. Though I was mis-told on when the package room was open and the man who came to open the room was none too friendly, everyone else was very pleasant and accommodating on the Hilton staff. Even with a high school conference on site with 800 students running around, the hotel was relatively quiet.If you are looking for a pleasant experience for a business trip - this is highly recommended. If you are looking for the New Orleans flair, I recommend heading elsewhere - perhaps in the French Quarter above one of the famous bars!
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