Written by Amber Autumn on 02 Mar, 2011
There's so many things to see and do in New Orleans. So, what to do first? I created my own list of things to help make any trip to New Orleans the most memorable. 1. Take a tour of the cemteries,…Read More
There's so many things to see and do in New Orleans. So, what to do first? I created my own list of things to help make any trip to New Orleans the most memorable.
1. Take a tour of the cemteries, or the Cites of the Dead. My favorite tour is the Save Our Cemeteries Tour.
2. Enjoy sugary beignets and coffee at the Cafe du Monde. On Decatur Street, across from the Jackson Square. For the non-coffee lovers, there's milk and soft drinks.
3. Try a Central Grocery muffalatta. At the Central Grocery on Decatur Street, this Italian sandwich has been enjoyed by Bob Hope and Henry Winkler.
4. Mardi Gras! Grab your copy of the Arthur Hardy's "Mardi Gras Guide" (Walgreens/bookstores/convenience stores) to see where the routes are, what the krewes will be throwing.
5. Tour Blaine Kern's "Mardi Gras World" to see how the floats are made.
6. Try a Randazzo's king cake. Usually more popular to try in February, some of the bakeries are open all year long and have seasonal cakes.
7. Walk along the Moonwalk and possibly take a ride aboard the Steamboat Natchez or Creole Queen.
8. St Joseph Day Altars (March 19). An Italian tradition in which they decorate their altars with food, lucky beans (put in your coinpurses - you'll always have money), and small round peas that are for good eyesight. You can find one at the Jackson Square on this day.
9. New Orleans Museum of Art and their Where Y'Art Fridays. On Fridays from 5-9pm, the Museum stays open later and has an array of live performances, open exhibits, and guest speakers. Plus, for 2011, NOMA turns 100 as well. Besides Fridays, the art museum has many art exhibits and a sculpture garden.
10. The Audubon Zoo. So many animals, a free parking spot, and a waterfall to cool down in those hot summers - what's not to love?
11. The Audubon Aquarium. Lots of animals, but a validated parking spot here. Come walk in the tunnel where fish and sharks swim above you, and play in the Amazonian tree house.
12. Take your picture outside the St. Louis Cathedral. For the best photo shot of all, go to the Moonwalk where the Civil War Cannon is and take your picture from there. You'll have the St. Louis Cathedral, Presbytere, and Cabildo all in the picture.
13. COOLinary New Orleans (July-September). Want to enjoy expensive restaurant meals without draining your wallet? During the COOLinary, some restaurants offer three course lunches under 20 dollars, and three course dinners for 34.00. The restaurants that participated last year were Bayona's, Antonie's, Dickie Brennan's, and many more. Check out http://nomcvb.com/restaurants/index.cfm or call 1-800-672-6124 for more details and who's participating this year.
14. The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival (mid-March). Williams will be celebrating his 100th birthday in this festival where you can take classes, tours of literary places, and see his plays acted by local universities. Plus, the yelling "Stella" competitions.
15. Jazz and Heritage Festival - Jazz Fest is late April-early May. The 2011 Fest will be extra special as singer Mahalia Jackson also turns 100, in which there will be jazz tributes and a birthday celebration presented by Irma Thomas.
16. Running of the Bulls (July). Twelve blocks of the French Quarter become filled with the all-female derby team, the Big Easy Rollergirls, dressed as bulls with horns(and soft foam bats) to chase and "gore" participants. Anyone can participate in the fun by showing up at the Three Legged Dog bar on Conti and Burgundy Streets. For 2011, it will be on July 9 and participants show up at 7am.
17. Christmas in the Oaks (City Park, Mid-City) and Miracle on Fulton Street (Fulton Street, edge of the French Quarter). Christmas in the Oaks has thousands of lights and gardens. Storyland, a magical place for the kids, is open. Meanwhile, Fulton has shops and a large Christmas tree.
18. Champion Square at the Super Dome!
Written by MilwVon on 14 Feb, 2011
Whether your time in New Orleans' French Quarter is during the daytime or after nightfall, there is plenty to see and do. During our weekend getaway, we enjoyed spending time out and about taking in the vibe of the city.Our timeshare resort was on…Read More
Whether your time in New Orleans' French Quarter is during the daytime or after nightfall, there is plenty to see and do. During our weekend getaway, we enjoyed spending time out and about taking in the vibe of the city.Our timeshare resort was on the western edge of the Quarter, a block from Canal St. on Chartres. This was a nice starting point, day or night, to go exploring the area. Chartres is a nice mix of shops and restaurants, along with a few living quarters and some closed or for sale buildings.During our weekend, we enjoyed dining at Daisy Dukes (100 block); Cafe Fleur-de-Lis (200 block) and The Original Pierre Maspero's (400 block). Further up the street in the 600 block is Alpine, another restaurant that we enjoyed back in the summer of 2009.I'm really not a shopper, but there were a couple of places that caught my eye. First was a little jewelry boutique in the 300 block of Chartres. They had a case full of heirloom pieces as well as some interesting lesser priced costume jewelry (broaches and the like).Having passed by Laura's Candies twice, we finally stopped in on Sunday morning for some sweet treats. One thing that impressed us the most was the variety of items they featured, including New Orleans' best known confection - pralines. Pretty much straight sugar in a butter base, melted and then poured over pecan halves; this is a candy that will make your teeth hurt.We also bought some turtles and Mississippi Mud, a chocolate base candy with pecans and caramel that is made into a layered brick like shape similar to fudge.The buildings throughout this area represent significant history of the city, under both French and Spanish rule. Streets have signage representing their original names under each. As you continue to walk towards the St. Louis Cathedral, you'll note the change in architecture to include the best known feature, the wrought iron balconies overlooking the streets.The Cathedral is the oldest in operation in the United States, dating back to 1720 and the parish established along the Mississippi River. In front of the Cathedral is Jackson Square. The entire area is full of artists and musicians as well as visitors from around the world. The other side of the park is Decatur Street which runs about a block from the river and serves as the starting point for the French Quarter Carriage Tour.David and I did take the 30-45 minute circular tour of the Quarter which was very informative and entertaining. Our guide was also named David . . . a fifth generation Creole who clearly loved Na'Orleans. The price for the tour was just $15pp which we rounded to $20 to include a tip.After our tour, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the river to the point where the streetcar station intersects the walkway. There we headed back out to Decatur where we literally stumbled upon the US National Park Service visitor's center for the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Here visitors can learn more about the settlement of New Orleans and the people of this region. During our visit there was an interactive area for kids to make Mardi Gras masks.Throughout this area of the French Quarter are more shops and restaurants. It is down here that the dock is located for those wishing to take a real riverboat cruise on the Mississippi. Grayline Tours offers daytime cruises as well as those featuring lunch or dinner.After dark, the French Quarter transforms right before you eyes as you walk up towards the world famous Bourbon Street. At night, it resembles a street festival with the roadway closed to auto traffic. Foot traffic flows off the sidewalks and into the street with street vendors, mimes and other character type impersonators. With the city's open carry laws making it OK to walk around in public with booze, as the night goes on the inhibitions of people seem to disappear. Given we were down there on a Saturday night, it was especially bawdy.We did have a cool experience upon an encounter with local food bank volunteers. We were "ticketed" for being party poopers, because we weren't drinking. To get out of the ticket, we paid a fine (which I negotiated). For our $10 fine, we each received a cool souvenir cap.I have to say, however, perhaps the best chance encounter we had in the Quarter was a wedding party marching down Royal St. As we were leaving the restaurant after dinner I heard the jazz band somewhat off in the distance. When I zeroed in on where it was coming from, we headed off in that direction, intercepting the "second line" parade with the bride and groom leading the band and approximately 25 or 30 friends and family members.We walked with them until they reached the location for their reception. Upon arrival, the band broke out into "When the Saints Go Marching In" to which everyone sang along. Outstanding!As fifty-somethings, David and I both felt old and whipped, as we headed back to our timeshare. I think we were "home" by 8:30pm.Close
Written by callen60 on 09 Jan, 2011
I love New Orleans. On this latest visit, I realized that, outside of Washington, DC, I’ve visited NOLA more than any other American city (outside of those I’ve lived in). Five years after Katrina, my affection and admiration for this city’s (and this region’s) residents…Read More
I love New Orleans. On this latest visit, I realized that, outside of Washington, DC, I’ve visited NOLA more than any other American city (outside of those I’ve lived in). Five years after Katrina, my affection and admiration for this city’s (and this region’s) residents is undimmed.It’s fun to come explore new parts of the city, but I also love doing some things each and every time I visit. Even in the depths of the Katrina recovery, people would want you to visit and have fun. First, they’d tell you how grateful they were that you’d come to help. Then they’d tell you to be sure and have some fun while you were in town. And then they’d ask you to tell you friends to come and do the same. This was my fourth post-Katrina trip, and here are a few of the things I love doing on each visit, which I hope will continue to be at least once a year. Café du Monde: Yeah, yeah, it’s on everybody’s list of things to do. But I love starting as many days as possible here, watching the sun light up St. Louis Cathedral, and hearing life start to return to the French Quarter (from which, at sunrise, it’s only been absent for about 30 or 40 minutes). On my first visit, I camped out here while the rain poured and poured, and I drank coffee after coffee waiting for the torrents to end. If there’s any kind of crowd in town, there’ll be a line a lot earlier than you might expect, so get there early and grab a table right on the edge of Decatur Street. Your other option is the takeout line, but it’s just not the same. It’s not really a day in New Orleans unless you begin it coated with powdered sugar, which is an unavoidable consequence of the mandatory order of three beignets. Po-Boys: One of my favorite things about New Orleans is the food. You can walk into nearly any restaurant, anywhere in town, and find something great to eat. You can spend $2 or $200 for a meal, and leave wishing that you had those kinds of assurances back home. (That begs the question of why you would drop the big bucks on a meal at one of the city’s many more expensive restaurants, but it’s worth setting those thoughts aside every now and then.) I’ve had po-boys to remember everywhere from Metairie to Algiers to the French Quarter and beyond. Mother’s (in the Central Business district at the NW corner of Poydras and Tchoupitoulas) or Johnny’s in the French Quarter (on St. Louis, just above Decatur) are classic, but the downside is that everyone else knows that, too. Luckily, they’re by no means exclusive. Take the Algiers ferry to Dry Dock Café, if you need another recommendation, but it seems that everybody here makes a great sandwich. It all starts with the bread: a terrific French loaf that crackles as you bite into it, and then gives way completely and lets you get to the filling. My two favorites are roast beef, and fried shrimp. Don’t leave without having one of each. French Quarter: Frankly, I can do without Bourbon Street. I’m not a prude, but I like my alcohol without having to endure dozens of solicitations for skin and peep shows, much less the above-average chance of having every stage of excessive alcohol consumption demonstrated for you within two blocks. If this makes you nervous (as it has several folks I’ve traveled with), just do your exploring before dinnertime. (Things do start to change a little as nighttime descends.) One of my favorite pastimes is exploring Royal Street, classy relative to Bourbon that’s just a block closer to the river but miles away in stature. Here, the storefronts feature antiques, art, books, clothes, and the occasional restaurant or coffeehouse. Pick a favorite and walk in (and, as in France, be sure to greet the proprietor as you enter). Chances are you’ll either strike up a great conversation, find something cool to look at, make a wonderful purchase, or all three. On this trip, my daughter and I wandered in to Vintage 329, a memorabilia store. Among other things, we saw a 1957 flag signed by Martin Luther King, Jr. & Coretta Scott King, Roy Wilkins, and Malcolm X (1957); a U.S. flag signed by all recent presidents (Nixon, Carter, Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton and Obama), as well as walls full of autographed music memorabilia, antique maps, and exquisite silver pieces. It’s still New Orleans, though: you can take your drink into 329, but you do have to leave it on top of the jukebox. No cell phones, though: gotta have a little class.Jackson Square: I think this, and adjacent St. Louis Cathedral, are the center of New Orleans. The cathedral anchored the Creole culture that originally built the city, and provided the canvas on which a rich palette of cultures subsequently made contributions. The cathedral is gorgeous, and the plaza outside is home to musicians, palm readers, performance artists (is staying perfectly still a performance?), and others. If you had one place to go in New Orleans, this would be it. The cathedral is flanked by the Cabildo, now home to several pieces of the Louisiana State Museum. The northern side had a lengthy and moving exhibit on ‘Living With Hurricanes’, which used a brief historical introduction as a lead in to the story of Katrina, with all the horrors, heroism, and pride that accompanied this disaster, our country’s faltering response, and the aftermath. Hang out on one of the benches in the square, enjoy the gardens, and try and figure out just what Andrew Jackson is looking at. Go back and grab another coffee at Café du Monde if you need it, or head up Pirate’s Alley to the wonderfully dense bookstore in Faulkner House (his residence for two years while he wrote for the Times-Picayune).French Market: From Jackson Square, turn left and head north (downstream) on Decatur to the French Market. The vendors themselves have t-shirts, jewelry, photographs, paintings, packaged foods, masks, and anything else you can imagine, although fresh foods are a little hard to find. Across the street is Central Grocery, home to the famous muffaletta. If you’re not up to a sandwich at the moment, take home a quart of the olive salad that really makes the sandwich; if you are hungry, don’t buy a whole one unless you’ve brought a friend. Any other seasoning or spice or ingredient needed for Cajun or Creole cooking can also be found here. Now’s the time to indulge yourself with a little sweet stuff: head across the market to Evans Candy Shop. There are a lot of places that will sell you a praline, but this is my favorite: it’s a big store, the cases are enormous, and you can grab a sample while the friendly ladies wait out your indecisiveness. After you’ve picked out your flavor of praline, be careful: it may look like a cookie, but you’ll end up unconscious if you eat it too quickly. No other item I know of packs as heavy a sugar punch. Close
Written by Amber Autumn on 13 Oct, 2010
If you decide to visit New Orleans in October, you'll find that there's a lot to do, and in so little of time. Throughout the month of October, I recommend going to the French Market along Decatur Street and South Peters.…Read More
If you decide to visit New Orleans in October, you'll find that there's a lot to do, and in so little of time. Throughout the month of October, I recommend going to the French Market along Decatur Street and South Peters. The Market is a whirlwind of colors during this time, and you can easily find cute little and huge pumpkins as souvenirs of your excursion. Also, from October 8th to October 24th, 2010, The Historic New Orleans Collection at 533 Royal Street is hosting a Halloween-inspired tour called "Historic Haunts: The Myths and Legends of Vieux Carre" that costs $5.00 a person. The tour starts at 2pm. You can get more information on the tour by calling (504) 523-4662. For most tour prices in the city, this is a great price, and I would highly recommend taking advantage of this.
If you find yourself in the city the weekend of October 16th - 17th, 2010, there's two interesting events going on. The Botanical Gardens in City Park (Mid-City) has their Fall and Garden Show that costs $6 for adults, $3 for kids ages 5-12, and kids under 5 and Friends of City Park are free. From 10am to 4pm, you'll find plant sales and exhibits, educational programs, plant health clinics, kids discovery center, and a Scarecrow Garden Trail. The Botanical Gardens is a must-see attraction in October, and in Christmas (Christmas in the Oaks Celebration). Also, in the French Quarter, the Patio Planters is having a "Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre Tour" where you'll be able to see private courtyard gardens that aren't open to the public. This tour costs $20.00 per person, and children under 12 are free. One of the many things that makes the French Quarter unique is its courtyard gardens.
If you're not interested in seeing plants and courtyards, and looking for a spooky experience, then you might want to test your courage at the Haunted Mortuary in New Orleans. I went a year ago before Halloween. The Blood Center was there offering visitors the option of skipping ahead of the line for donating blood, and the line wasn't that long around 5pm. The group that I went with spent about $20.00 a person, and was disappointed because we had discounted coupons from the website that we couldn't use. Another thing I wished the Mortuary had done differently was not rush everyone in and out. There's three floors to this actual mortuary, so you're constantly going up stairs, around long and dark corridors, and back downstairs. You really didn't get to enjoy the artwork and spooky decorations that were throughout the House. What I didn't see, the person behind me saw, and vice versa. According to my relatives, the scariest moment was seeing a white monster coming out a dirty toilet and bathroom in the basement. She told the poor janitor who worked there that she didn't want his job, and she felt sorry for him. If we were in the House ten minutes, it was long enough.
If you're looking for something to do Halloween weekend, you have two options. The Voodoo Music Experience is Halloween weekend in City Park, where you'll find many bands, food, and music. Ozzy Osborne, Kermit Ruffins, Macy Gray, and Weezer are some of the bands lined up for this year. There's also many booths and a beautifully designed stage. And finally, Saints fans get your Who Dat shirts, and get your tailgating items together because there's a Saints game on Halloween night at the Superdome.
Written by Amber Autumn on 30 Aug, 2010
"Who Dat". It's the two words since 2009 that united and inspired everyone within the city of New Orleans and those on the Gulf Coast to believe in the Saints Football Team. The Saints are the Champions of Super Bowl XLIV…Read More
"Who Dat". It's the two words since 2009 that united and inspired everyone within the city of New Orleans and those on the Gulf Coast to believe in the Saints Football Team.
The Saints are the Champions of Super Bowl XLIV 2010, and have more than a dozen songs to encourage "the Boys". They made the artists of the Times Picayune sketch historic New Orleans radio host who passed away in 2005, Buddy DeLiberto, in a dress (like he promised if the Saints ever won). This is much different attire from the brown lunch bag he encouraged fans to wear when the Saints lost their games. Of course, some Louisiana historians believe the real reason why the Saints never won was because the Superdome and the New Orleans Shopping Arena was built over the Girod Street Cemetery, and some of the bodies were never moved. But New Orleans' prayers were answered: the Saints are World Champions. They gave the city hope for the better when Katrina tried her best to destroy that, and they gave us (or Tom Benson) the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
New Orleanians love to celebrate any occassion - and this was one of them. During the Super Bowl weekend in February, massive crowds gathered in the French Quarter to celebrate in the city (since we party much differently than those Floridians). Mardi Gras parades and their "Who Dat" theme was commonplace. The streets were bathed with black and gold. And after the Super Bowl on a Tuesday February 9th, there was another parade that was given (even if the Saints hadn't won) in the deep winter cold. Even now in the beginning of pre-season games, New Orleans is proud of their "Boys" and is excited about another season. So, if you're in New Orleans and someone tells you "Who Dat" with a toothy smile, they're not asking the name of the person you're with.
Written by MilwVon on 08 Feb, 2010
There's a lot to see and do throughout the city. During my last visit (June/July 2009) we were closer to the French Quarter and did quite a bit there. We also rented a car for a day and went out to see several…Read More
There's a lot to see and do throughout the city. During my last visit (June/July 2009) we were closer to the French Quarter and did quite a bit there. We also rented a car for a day and went out to see several of the beautiful plantations along the Mississippi River.On this trip I was down by the Morial Convention Center so most of what I did was a bit different than my last trip to New Orleans. I did make a lunch visit to Mother's, however, which is a "must do" for me anytime I am in the city. Fortunately, it was convenient and within walking distance of my hotel (Hilton New Orleans Riverside). I enjoyed a roast beef poboy, which really was (still) as good as I remembered them from last summer. For more information on Mother's, check out my IgoUgo review here http://www.igougo.com/review-r1362594-Just_as_Good_as_I_Remembered.html.The US Soccer Federation hosted an evening aboard the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler. We boarded at 6:45pm for a buffet dinner at 7:00pm. For those who chose to stay, there was a two hour cruise up the Mississippi River. Plenty to eat and an open bar couldn't keep everyone on the boat however. I think a lot of people wanted to get out and see a bit of the city. After all it was Friday night during Mardi Gras season, with a couple of parades in the area not to mention the activities out in the French Quarter.For those who did stay, we were also treated to an outstanding jazz band, that kept the lower level hopping throughout the cruise.For those interested in taking the public riverboat trip, check them out at http://www.creolequeen.com/. They offer afternoon and dinner cruises.At the Riverwalk Marketplace there are a number of shops featuring the work of local artists as well as New Orleans' themed souvenirs and gifts. Of course with the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl, many shops had Saints' gear and apparel. Prices seemed about the same as you'd see in any other retail store or mall in a tourist area.For more information including stores and restaurants that may be found there, go to their website http://www.riverwalkmarketplace.com/.Can't make it to New Orleans during Mardi Gras season? No worries, you can head out to Mardi Gras World (http://www.mardigrasworld.com/) to experience a bit of the festivities. Tours are available every 30 minutes from 9:30am until 4:30pm. Ticket prices are not posted on their website (poor marketing in my opinion) but I believe I heard they run about $15 for adults. The website suggests that you call in advance to make a tour reservation and purchase tickets (504-361-7821).Close
A little more about New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. "Krewes" (pronounced like crews) are clubs or groups that organize the various parades. Largely social in nature, they often have a chosen king and queen who also ride in the parade on one of the…Read More
A little more about New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. "Krewes" (pronounced like crews) are clubs or groups that organize the various parades. Largely social in nature, they often have a chosen king and queen who also ride in the parade on one of the lead floats. Many Krewes are named for mythical characters such as Thor, Isis and Zeus. Others are named for historical places or people. Examples include Napoleon, Caesar, Sparta and the one I attended, Pontchartrain."Throws" are the beads and trinkets the float riders toss into the crowds along the parade route. Most are the cheap novelty style of beads, but some do have some nicer bead items including doubloons (a two side dye cast metal alloy) or those with the Krewe’s name and logo. I saw a couple of the later, from the Krewe of Kent, but didn’t see any such items from the folks of Pontchartrain. I did score some of the plastic cups commemorating the parade which I will keep as a souvenir of the experience. (The beads will most likely go to some of the kids of friends who like those types of things.)There are some parade tips that will help to make your experience more pleasurable. The first and foremost (although this wasn’t an issue for the area I was in) is that you should never reach to the ground to pick up anything as that would be a good way to get some broken fingers. Had our area been a bit more crowded, I can see this being good advice. Another bit of advice that should go without saying, is to not be rude or pushy in order to snatch up the beads and other throws offered. There will be many floats with lots of stuff available. If the stuff is important to you, you can also attend other parades to get different types of items.I did find not having my purse with me to be a very good caution. It is just easier not to worry about keeping up with your stuff, or having someone lift your wallet or other valuables. I was told to wear stuff with pockets and to keep cash, credit cards and an ID in my jeans out of view and reach. My camera and cell phone fit nicely inside my hoodie pockets, which was perfect. I did wish that I had my larger DSLR camera with me, but not having it around my neck was also a bit of a relief.Dressing in layers was also a wise suggestion. When I left my hotel that morning, it was sunny and warm. Well warm is relative. It was in the 50’s and the sunshine radiated heat especially on my black denim and long sleeved tee shirt. Later in the day, however, the wind picked up and scattered clouds were in the sky making the air cool to outright cold. I was happy to have my hoodie along which was good to break the chilly wind. Later at my viewing point, I found a building wall to cop a seat on. I was in the sun, with the rays keeping me very toasty warm. Within about 90 minutes, however (and long before the parade reached me) the sun was behind the building and I was in the shade. While in the sun I didn’t need my sweatshirt, in the shade I was happy I had it.Last and certainly not least was taking care of bodily needs, specifically hydration and rest rooms . . . which obviously go together. Carry bottled water or something to drink. Along some of the parade routes there are "blue room" porta-potties. In the area I was at and along St. Charles Street, there weren’t any. I scoped out my spot directly across from a pub which even advertised and promoted their bathrooms for parade goers. The buck it cost me was well worth it having sat out there after lunch for over three and a half hours.I had a great time attending my first Mardi Gras parade and look forward to perhaps returning to New Orleans when business will not keep me away from enjoying more of the celebration and festivities. Who knows, I may even pay the $600 to participate as a rider on a float, in full costume, doing the throws to others.Close
The first thing I did when I learned that I would be part of the Wisconsin delegation to the US Soccer Federation annual meeting, I checked out the calendar to see when Fat Tuesday would be. Disappointed that I would be missing it by…Read More
The first thing I did when I learned that I would be part of the Wisconsin delegation to the US Soccer Federation annual meeting, I checked out the calendar to see when Fat Tuesday would be. Disappointed that I would be missing it by a little over a week, I put the thought of Mardi Gras out of my thoughts in terms of things to do while in New Orleans. What I didn’t know is that the Mardi Gras parade season leading up to Fat Tuesday actually starts a couple of weekends before the big event.The weekend of January 30 & 31 saw just two parades one on Saturday and another on Sunday. The weekend of our trip to the Big Easy, however had parades Friday, Saturday and Sunday . . . 17 in total, at several different locations (or routes) around the city. The Hilton New Orleans Riverside was about five blocks from the "Uptown" parade route or a deviation of it. We could head out to Canal St. to the end of the route, or straight out of the hotel to St. Charles Street.On Friday night I tried to catch the end of the Krewe of Ocean parade on Canal Street after our dinner cruise. Unfortunately I missed it by more than an hour. But the trip over there wasn’t for naught as I learned that this is probably not the best place to catch an Uptown route parade as most floats would be out of "throws" by the end of the route. I met some local residents and other longtime Mardi Gras attendees who gave me some great advice as to the best vantage points for spectators, particularly those from out of town.My Saturday schedule had the annual meeting on the itinerary, scheduled to go until 1:00pm. With a 2:00pm start for the Krewe of Pontchartrain Parade, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t get up to St. Charles Street early enough to stake out a nice curbside location. My worries were over nothing, especially since this particular weekend wasn’t the "big" weekend, which is the weekend immediately prior to the actual Mardi Gras Day.The meeting ended early so I was able to take a leisurely walk up Poydras Street to Mothers for lunch. MMmmmm good as always! From there I continued up Poydras to St. Charles, which is where I thought I might take in the parade. I was surprised that at 12:00noon there were no people around and no chairs in place saving places for folks later. Everything I read had me ready to have to deal with finding a front row spot. Heck even in Wisconsin, our parade routes are staked out the night before for curbside viewing along the main parade routes.The other surprise I found at the corner of Poydras and St. Charles was the row of bleacher style stands. I asked a passerby who told me that tickets were available online for those looking for the comfort of a grandstand. A later internet search found them on TicketMaster and another local ticket broker website for $25. I also saw a set of stands in front of the Intercontinental Hotel, which I was told was for their hotel guests who purchased the "Mardi Gras" package.Once I decided this wasn’t where I wanted to be, I headed down St. Charles Street towards Lee Square, known to be one of the feature viewing areas. I knew I didn’t want to be among larger crowds, but I also hoped for a nice area to take in the parade. I walked some five or six blocks; coming upon what I thought was the perfect spot. Perfect because there were few people saving their spot in a pretty open area with some nice sitting places to wait. By this time, it was around 12:45pm which meant it would be more than two hours before we’d see the first parade activity in this block. A nice tall step to sit and wait was welcomed.I scoped out both sides of the street, trying to figure out the sun and shade, as well as the backdrop that would be in my photos. I opted for the side that would give me the best opportunity for decent photos with my small point-in-shoot Canon SD600. I did think I would have loved to have had my good DSLR but lugging it around would have been inconvenient. Bottom line however, was that parade viewing and photography were not on my expected schedule of weekend activities. I am still so very happy that it worked out that way.As for the parade itself, it was a great family day. There were lots of families along the parade route. I read that other than the nighttime parades in the French Quarter, they all are intended to be great family fun. They are promoted as "The Best Free Entertainment in the World". The French Quarter is filled with adult entertainment venues and it is there that you may hear the "show me your breasts" for beads by tourists who don’t know any better. Nudity or exposure of breasts is not acceptable and will land the female offender in the local city jail.Anyway, with the parade scheduled to start at 2:00pm others around me said to expect them in our area around 3:00pm. It was around 3:15pm when the lead police escort appeared. It was awesome when the motorcycles and mini cars made their way towards us. Once the roar of the engines died down, we could hear the beat of the marching band as they approached. One of the first bands was the Drum & Bugle Corps from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Very cool!The parade floats were designed based on the Krewe’s theme for the year. For the Pontchartrain, it was "Can You Name That Idiom?" Mmmmmm idioms you ask (I know I had to). Idioms are sayings or proverbs so each of the floats represented some that are well known such as "drinks are on the house" . . . and "don't cry over spilt milk". The floats were well done. Each has eight to ten masked riders, all throwing beads along with some more prized items such as stuffed animals (typically saved for the kids). In order to get something nice, parade viewers are encouraged to shout out "Throw me something Mister" although many were tossing stuff out into the crowds with or without the encouragement.While this parade had plenty of floats, it wouldn’t have been much of a parade without marching bands and pom pom squads. With the New Orleans Saints playing in the Super Bowl the next day, there were plenty of the local football spirit songs being played, including the one with the chorus chant "Who dat going to beat our Saints? Who Dat?" Yes, the Who Dat Nation was out in force all along the parade route. There was another marching band that played the obligatory "When the Saints Go Marching In" . . . I’m sure a local parade favorite for locals and visitors alike. The dancers, cheerleaders and pom squads also added to the festive atmosphere of the parade.It took about 35 minutes for the entire parade to pass by our section of the route. For those looking for additional beads and trinkets, there were two more evening parades scheduled for the Uptown route at 6:30pm. For me, the opportunity to participate in one was enough, not to mention I had a dinner function to get to that night.(To be continued in Part 2)Close
Written by Mark McKirdy on 02 Oct, 2009
When Hurricane Katrina called on southeast Louisiana on August 29, 2005, it didn’t knock first. The wolf-wild winds simply huffed and puffed and destroyed more than 350,000 homes. Almost 2000 people lost their lives in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods. New Orleans…Read More
When Hurricane Katrina called on southeast Louisiana on August 29, 2005, it didn’t knock first. The wolf-wild winds simply huffed and puffed and destroyed more than 350,000 homes. Almost 2000 people lost their lives in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods. New Orleans didn’t escape. Unlike the immovable house of bricks in the fairy tale, the city’s metropolitan area was battered then lost under fifteen feet of water, resulting in over 200,000 homes and apartments being damaged beyond repair. In the years following, New Orleans has undergone a remarkable makeover. Streets and buildings have been cleaned and refurbished, hotels reopened, parks replanted and businesses reestablished. The Garden District is again blooming and families enjoy the exhibits in the Aquarium of the Americas and Audubon Zoo. On the fences surrounding Jackson Square, paintings have reappeared and the fortune tellers have been allowed back after taking a hit for not predicting the disaster. ‘It was impossible to strike a happy medium,’ a local artist told me, ‘so instead we told the unhappy ones to stay away. The rest are good for business.’ Hotels like the Maison Dupuy on the corner of Toulouse and Burgundy Streets continue to offer guests French Quarter luxury at affordable prices while the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau maintains the city’s enviable reputation for providing advice and generous assistance. Riverwalk, on the shores of the Mississippi, is justifiably popular with both tourists and locals. The shops and food hall are conveniently located within one building and value for money is assured. Guaranteed also are the unforgettable images that simply appear in, and around, the central courtyard. On a bench, a pipe-puffing woman sits with her back to Paul G. Allen’s 301-foot yacht ‘Tatoosh’. It’s difficult to determine which of the two is the more mesmerising. Today, the city largely mirrors its former glory and its attraction is again strong. However, the real attraction of New Orleans is not in its constructs or culture, even though they are formidable. For me, the quality and spirit of a home, town, city or country are not measured by the architecture, art, music, food or fabled reputation. They are measured by those who create these elements – the people. The lifeblood of a place is in those who animate it and in New Orleans, the blood group is universal and joyfully obvious - be positive.If there is a single element that epitomises the animated spirit of New Orleans it has to be its music, and while Bourbon Street is the artery through which the beat and pulse constantly flow, Jazz Fest becomes the city’s heart once a year. For two weekends in April and May, the Fair Grounds Race Course literally throbs to the sounds of as many styles of music as there are smiles from the thousands of visitors who fill the various tents and stage areas. From 10 in the morning till 6 at night, people flow from one sound to the next as horns wail, hands wave and fans whistle. Every sound is featured; rhythm and blues, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country, bluegrass and of course jazz. Outside, every mound of grass is crammed with joyful music lovers, each one swept up and away by the cadence and colours, and while choice of venue is exercised, the impulse to dance is not a conscious decision. Like a fit of the giggles, it becomes irresistible and spreads quickly. Singles, couples, groups; men, women and children. The happy infection is universal. There is no self-consciousness or hesitation. The mood mellows and the mass moves. Uninhibited undulations under the Louisiana sun. It’s a sensational sight and an unforgettable experience.Most people visit more than one performer and the areas are generally small enough to allow close viewing. Even the gospel tent, although able to hold a couple of thousand, is surprisingly intimate. This is because the performances, like the sounds, are enveloping. The joy of the Lord is on every face and in every note. And it’s not the ethereal choirs heard in staid cathedrals. These witnesses for Jehovah jump and shimmy and fill the tent with a spirit of unity that even atheists would find uplifting. ‘I wish someone would give me a hand,’ the host shouts as he waves his prosthesis above his head. And the audience does. That’s the delight of Jazz Fest; tons of talent and instant response.The biggest arena draws the largest crowds because the stage belongs to the headliners. In recent years, many stars have appeared, among them Wynton Marsalis, Joe Cocker, the Kings of Leon, Earth, Wind & Fire, Pete Fountain, Tony Bennett, Bonnie Raitt, Bon Jovi and James Taylor. The festival is one of the few events where major acts appear within close proximity to each other and at almost the same time. If your taste is eclectic, you can wander. If it’s specific, just sit and appreciate. But whatever your inclination, when the beat begins to drive, you’d better hope that your airbag works.While the ‘stars’ undoubtedly shine, the twinkle belongs to the fans. Clothes are loose and rainbow-bright, hats broad, feathered and flouncy and sunglasses mirrors in which the whole excitement of the festival is clearly visible. Strangers become instant friends, linked by a love of music, and conversations follow naturally. In the time it takes for a set to be completed, you might have clapped with a rapper, rapped with a happy-clapper, laughed with a cop, sung a duet with a girl in a cap or even danced the conga with an Elvis look-unlike. Jazz Fest is essentially a shared experience, and the more you give the greater your gain.Sight and sound are not the only senses to be seduced. Taste is also tantalized. Scattered around the enclosure are lines of booths and stalls that offer an array of delicious local food. Even the names have a musical quality; Cajun Jambalaya, Muffuletta, Shrimp Etouffée, Catfish Almondine, Sweet Potato Pone, Andouille Gumbo, Snow Crab Sushi Roll, Praline Shoe Soles, Huckabuck Frozen Cups, Jazzy Cupcakes. The list of treats is as long as the queues of eaters but the sense of anticipation that builds during the five-minute wait for your crawfish is worth much more than the small sum handed to the vendor.Between the two weekends, the festival continues in the bars and clubs of the French Quarter, with Bourbon Street being the euphoric epicentre. Bands and singers appear nightly, and for the cost of a drink, you can enjoy hours of fabulous music. Walking to the clubs can be just as rousing because on every corner, crowds collect to marvel at the brass groups, guitarists and lithe black kids flash-tapping under street lights. Even with the bustle and noise, there is no sense of apprehension or threat to safety. It’s simply a ton of fun in a town of friendship. About ten miles out of town is a venue unique to the city – the Rock ‘n’ Bowl. Here, pins tumble as piano keys tinkle and those not bowling are either dancing, drinking, talking or tapping as live music echoes around the hall and along the lanes. Visitors come from the local area, interstate and overseas. The affable American sculptor Jimmy Descant, sharp as a tailor’s scissors in black and white, is a regular and the band he watches will be seen by thousands at Jazz Fest the next day. That’s the performers’ pattern; a bar, club or restaurant during the week, the festival stages on the weekend. During the day, groups also perform in outdoor cafes, making a coffee and beignet at the Café du Monde an even more pleasurable experience. Along N. Peters Street, which leads to the 200-year-old French Market, most restaurants showcase trios or quartets during lunch and dinner. The music is relaxed, the food inexpensive and the atmosphere informal. Or you can just walk around streets like Toulouse, St Louis and Royal, listening to the buskers who belt out numbers freely.Pete Fountain once said, ‘If I had grown up in any place but New Orleans, I don't think my career would have taken off. I wouldn't have heard the music that was around this town. There was so much going on when I was a kid.’ For the thousands of people who experience Jazz Fest each year, it’s still going on.Close
Written by MilwVon on 05 Jul, 2009
The French Quarter of New Orleans is really not very French at all. While discovered and initially settled under French rule, most of the buildings here today were built during the Spanish era in Louisiana. This is due to two significant fires that…Read More
The French Quarter of New Orleans is really not very French at all. While discovered and initially settled under French rule, most of the buildings here today were built during the Spanish era in Louisiana. This is due to two significant fires that took place during the 18th century.The ornate decorative buildings are wonderful examples of the architecture of the period and today are protected under the designation as a National Historic Landmark. Additionally, there are many buildings (like St Peter House Hotel where we stayed) that are designated as National Historic Sites.Many of the buildings are colorful and have beautiful balconies and "galleries" on the exterior that add that well known look to the houses, restaurants and other buildings throughout the area. Today, many house antique shops, artists' galleries and other businesses catering to locals as well as the tourist trade. You'll want to head away from main tourist areas within the French Quarter, however, to find these little treasures.Overall, the French Quarter is approximately two-thirds of a square mile and can be easily traversed end to end or corner to corner. The entire area is flat making it a very easy walk . . . if you are sober and can avoid the cracks in the sidewalks and nastiness in the street gutters.I mention the "nastiness" as I must say, New Orleans and particularly the French Quarter is not a very clean or nice smelling city. In the summer it is hot and there are a lot of trash cans and city garbage trucks leaking on sidewalks and streets. Admittedly, we did see the street cleaners on Saturday morning, but they really didn't help to take the stench out of the air. I have heard some comment about the very nature of the area, especially Bourbon Street. Given the amount of drinking that takes place it is reasonable to expect a fair amount of puking to take place too.Anyway, enough of that ugliness, which I might add is probably the worst or most negative side to being a tourist in the French Quarter.For us, we did enjoy our evening walks after dinner or the time spent on Saturday walking around before and after our cooking demonstration class. Unlike so many other cities, walking here you can really get a feel for the people and culture of New Orleans. The area around Saint Louis Cathedral is especially eclectic with the musicians, artists, tarot card readers and fortune tellers.Because I'm not a big shopper, I'm not a good reporter on such activities. I will say that along Royal and Bourbon Streets there are a lot of shops that cater to the tourist trade and folks from out of town. Of course beads are a popular item to buy, especially if you're a guy hoping to get a look at boobs. Not sure where that tradition began or why women would show off theirs for a cheap string of colorful mardi gras beads, but with enough booze, I suppose anything can happen.If you're not coming here to eat or drink, then perhaps the best reason to come to the French Quarter is to enjoy local music . . . either jazz, zydeco or blues. There are also some places that offer Latin and disco for those seeking what might be considered non-traditional New Orleans offerings.There seems to be a little of something for everyone here but be careful if you are planning a family vacation to the Big Easy as the Quarter does show a different side after dark. I don't think I would bring my kids down here after dark especially on Bourbon Street with places like The Penthouse Club and Déjà Vu Showgirls.Von's top five things to do during your family trip to the French Quarter:5. A horse & buggy tour of the area4. Brennan's three course breakfast3. Dinner and jazz at a nice restaurant2. Enjoy an afternoon at the Louisiana State Museum1. Take part in a cooking demo at the New Orleans School of CookingClose