Hopefully you will arrive in the middle of the day and be ready for lunch. ACME offers great po-boy sandwiches and they fry shrimp and oysters in a way that is absolutely wonderful. You need to eat a sandwich and have a beans and rice poobah. This meal will make you impervious to all gastrointestinal dilemmas while on your trip. ACME is on Iberville between Bourbon and Royal. While having lunch you ought to decide about the evening meal and make reservations!!! We just don't recommend walking in - and as you approach the weekend the reservations become much more important.
Carole and Jamie from Australia suggest picking up a couple of the free maps of N.O. - available at the front desk - and ask about some excellent walking tours around the French Quarter and the Garden District. They also suggest the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve Information Centre in the French Market as also a good source of walks and places to visit. They write, We found the Grayline City Tour a great start for our first morning - gave a good overview and a potted history and got us to parts of the city we'd not have seen otherwise. Also enjoyed the Natchez cruise on the Mississippi but it's not as good value as the City Tour.
After eating take a STROLL DOWN BOURBON STREET in the daylight. There are a zillion t-shirt places (save your money for now - taking note of places that look special - and try the French Market Flea Market on Friday-Sunday for souvenirs). A special T-Shirt place that has some truly unusual and unique things is GUMBO HEADS (407 Bourbon) and You can't get their stuff anywhere else.
The KRAZY KORNER, right up the street, is also fun at night - a tourist trap it is, but fun. A common device house bands use is to ask everyone where they are from - if you are clever you can start a real funny gag at this time by saying you are from the Netherlands or Katmandu and it'll catch on - soon people will be hailing from Chad, the People's Republic of Oman or the Malagasy Republic- it's hilarious if you've been drinking (in other words, you can make a fool of yourself in here and nobody minds much). Look for places you'll want to come back to in the evening. There is nothing like Bourbon Street in at night, you'll see. It is one huge party in the streets.
The genuine burlesque shows of years ago are all gone - the story I got is that they were swept away in the sterilization that preceded the World's Fair in the eighties. There are still some remnants of the stripper days of old, especially the female impersonators, Big Daddy's and several other Gentlemen's Clubs - but this is really tame stuff and quite commercial.
Continuing down Bourbon - turn toward the river on St. Peter, then left on Royal to the back of ST. LOUIS CATHEDRAL. St. Anthony's Garden is right behind the church where duels are alleged to have been fought.
Facing the back of the church to the right there is a little alleyway - this is PIRATE's ALLEY. One story is that the alleyway is so named because Jean Lafitte and other pirates allegedly used to warehouse their booty in the rooms you are passing. Officially, the alley was named "Orleans Alley", until it was changed by the City Council in the mid 1960s. It is accepted, however, that Jean Lafitte may have operated the Blacksmith Shop at Bourbon & St. Philip to fence his booty.
William Faulkner also lived in this building when he first began to write. Note that it is highly unlikely that pirates would have gone into the alley, much less hung out there ... most likely, the name came from an expression, such as "to be taken down Pirate Alley" just like today's phrase "to be sent up the river", or "to the big house".
On one side of Pirate Alley is the St. Louis Cathedral, which was the 1st church in New Orleans, and has (all three structures) occupied that place from the beginning. Across the alley is the Cabildo, the official seat of government for all of Louisiana (before the Louisiana Purchase). Immediately behind and attached to the Cabildo is the old dungeon, and soldier's barracks. It was the location of civil authority, also.
As you move up into the square you'll notice two big buildings running the length of the square toward the river (shops on the bottom, rooms on the top). These are the recently renovated PONTALBA APARTMENTS, the oldest apartment buildings in the United States.
Flanking the church are the CABILDO and the PRESBYTRE. These buildings (almost as old as the church) house historical documents of Louisiana and are part of the Louisiana State Museum system. For a nice afternoon's activity, you can buy a combination ticket and see both these museums, the 1850 House and the Old U.S. Mint. The CABILDO was the site of the transfer of the Louisiana Purchase, and was the seat of government under France, Spain, the U.S. and the Confederacy. What is now JACKSON SQUARE with the statue of General Andrew Jackson sitting on a rearing horse, was a parade grounds for the French and Spanish troops known as Le Place D'armes. Surrounding the perimeter of the Square are stalls and areas for local street artists.
If you travel much at all you are no stranger to street musicians and performers, so be sure to tip the BUSKERS (street performers) and blues players if you stop to listen for a tune. It is also common to tip a character, such as a mime or other person, if you wish to take their picture ($1 a picture).
Spend some time in Jackson Square - tip, buy stuff, and go visit the museums (there are four right on the square). The whole Jackson Square area is just a blast - but be sure to go visit the river at this time or you will have bad luck - there is a nice area called the MoonWalk you can use for this purpose. In fact, the MoonWalk sort of collides with the Riverwalk (the piers, not the shopping mall). This is a very nice river front park.
Two streets not to be missed are St. Ann where Marie Laveau's house once stood at #1022 (It was torn down in 1903, but I felt something - still), and St. Peter where you will find Le Petit Theatre (616 St. Peter). Built in 1789, the building housed an array of shops and businesses, becoming a community theater in 1922. It remains the oldest nonprofessional/community theater in the country. Our friend Liz recommends seeing a show there as an alternative to an evening of bar-hopping. If you can't get a play in your schedule, she also recommends a visit on one of the quarter "ghost tours" - it is supposed to be one of the most haunted sites in the city.
This might be a good time to take a buggy ride around the French
Quarter. I think many of the cabbies are licensed tour guides who will
show you around and help you get your bearings.
Besides, what could be more romantic than cruising the Veux Carre in
own carriage! Prices vary by season - in Nov. '99 they were $10 per
for 30 minutes. You will see a line of carriages in front of Jackson Square on Decatur St. Just go to the front of the line and ask for a price.
After your buggy ride, make your way back to your hotel using an alternative route via ROYAL STREET and walk down it back toward CANAL. There are many world class art, jewelry, and antique shops all along this street (often residing next to poster shops and tinker stores). You will want to take one of your long mornings and leisurely visit each one. You can find nearly priceless art from the 16th century to comtemporary work for sale just hanging on the walls. . We walked right up to a life size Wyeth oil painting of a scene from Ivanhoe - the price was $50,000. More accessible pieces, lithographs and plenty of posters can also be had. The interesting thing is that the shop owners and staff are so happy for you to browse. If you will bone up a little before your trip, and be prepared to ask some interesting questions of the shopkeepers, you will find they almost always match your level of interest with their helpfulness. Take notes of the locations of
shops you want to revisit - and buy something
You should be getting hungry about now so don't forget Lunch in the Quarter.
Whatever you do, do not miss Bryant Galleries. Their staff is possibly the most helpful we've ever seen. Stunning original art that you may never see anywhere else. Vive la France
at 823, rue Royale is a shop that caters to francophile tastes but adds
genuine New Orleans hospitality at no extra charge. Vive la France was
one of Susan's favorite shops - porcelain, home decor, nice fragrances
in a service oriented, intimate little shop - a real find that stands out,
even in the French Quarter! Nice people work there.
A note to husbands - if you cannot find your romantic side in New
Orleans there may be no hope for you. N.O. shopkeepers are
willing to come to your aid. There are items for sale on this
street that you simply will not find anywhere else. So encourage
your true love to pick something out, follow that with a nice dinner
and a walk back to your hotel. Reall good things can happen
Other interesting establishments were A Gallery for Fine Photography at 421 Chartres Street, which specializes in photography and rare photographic books (You can purchase a book of E.J. Bellocq portraits of Storyville prostitutes here). At Hurwitz-Mintz (211 Royal Street ) browsing for high quality new and antique furniture is expected by the sales people, who couldn't have been more helpful or friendly. Bryant Galleries (316 Royal) always seems to have something exciting to offer. This time around they had several pieces by Gary Patterson and Marion Barnes, who do some wonderful collages of jazz, blues, and folk music in the folk art tradition. My favorite was "Bad Vices" ($3300) which incorporated a portrait of a female blues singer, some old shot glasses, half a Stella guitar, a deck of cards, and an exaggerated pack of Kools - well, it spoke to me! Friendly, knowledgeable personnel in this gallery make it fun to browse.
James H. Cohen & Sons - 437 Royal - has antique guns, coins, old weapons, and Mardi Gras doubloons for sale. Bergen Galleries - 730 Royal - has a wide selection of posters, prints and lithographs. The Historic New Orleans Collection is the shop part of the Museum and Photo essay display located in a storefront on Royal. If you tend towards the tribal/spiritual side of things, you might give Barristers a try. They specialize in African artifacts and carved masks.
The Merieult House (533 Royal) is a museum also operated by the society. Finally, don't miss the Gallier House. Gallier was an innovative architect around 1820 and designed some of the more historic parts of the city. This is evidenced by his home, now dressed for display as a museum. Interestingly - on a Nov. 99 Garden District Tour provided by a member of Save Our Cemeteries (SOC) we had a couple of additional New Orleans myths busted for us. The major architects of New Orleans made their fortunes, not by building residences and government buildings, but by designing tombs for the rich!!
We also learned that the old chestnut about burying the dead above ground
because of the low water table was also a myth. I have always been
told that caskets would simply float to the surface if buried below ground
- thus the burial above in crypts and tombs. The real reason is that
1) land is at a premium and the crypt/tomb idea affords more efficient
use and 2) tombs are a prestige factor. So there! Now don't you want
to know how they get so many bods in one of those tombs? Finally, don't miss the many local artists and many bayou painters that
have their pieces for sale in shops and on the street.
It is getting to be late afternoon - time to go back to the hotel and freshen up for
dinner. Afterward, you'll want to hit some of the clubs.
Decatur, North and South Peters are humming these days with House of Blues, Howlin
Jimmy Buffet's Margaritavile. Bourbon St. at night is a hoot
(sometimes literally). You'll easily find your way musically, but a note to the purist - try the Preservation Hall on St. Peter Street (they are back open in April 2006) for original New Orleans Jazz and Mulate's in the Warehouse District for Cajun dancing and spicy food.
As the evening wears on, watch your time and
hit Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets - chances are there'll be a street musician offering sweet music to go with those square doughnuts.
The Second Day
After breakfast, catch the St. Charles Street Car Route. You spent the 1st day in the French Quarter, and this is your chance to see the American side of the city. To get to the streetcar line, just walk out of the French Quarter on Bourbon or Royal St., cross Canal Street to the CBD side, being careful to notice busses and streetcars running down the middle of Canal!!! That middle part of Canal is known as the Neutral Ground because "it was the place where the French and the American constituencies exchanged business interests without finding themselves in the other side's territory - standing on neutral ground now means standing in the median or middle of the road. Anyway, once across Canal St. walk up St. Charles to the Commons Stop (about two blocks - clearly marked). The fare is $1.25 for as long as you want to ride, one way, for 14 miles to the end of the line in Carrollton. If you are going to be using the street cars often, you might consider a day or multi-day pass.
There are two other street car lines operating in the city - new,
RED streetcars run the length of Canal Street to City Park and back,
and new, RED streetcars make a short run from the river side of the
French Market to the Convention Center and the Riverwalk shopping area. But you want to ride the St. Charles line, which is the oldest continually running street car system
in the U.S. (San Francisco has cable cars, other places might have trolleys, but these are electric street cars). The
streetcars on St. Charles are old, noisy,
grinding, bumpy cars that have hard wooden seats and are illuminated by
bare light bulbs. They have their own smell, sound, and distinctive
look and feel It's like riding inside
a history lesson.
Some etiquette - board in the front with exact change,
try to move toward the back as you move toward your destination while
holding on for dear life until a seat is vacated. Once seated,
always give your seat up to someone who needs it more than you do.
Keep watching the action while looking for your exit, and exit the
street car in the back - the doors are spring
loaded and will close on you !!).
It is a good idea to get off at Audubon Park and walk around before
reboarding on a return car to ride to the Ramada Plaza on St.
Charles. Here, you may want to take a walking
tour of the Garden District ($14 and worth it). The tour lasts about 2
1/2 hours and ends in Lafayette Cemetery. Tours are at 10:00 am and
pm daily (except Sundays).
For your $1.25 you can ride all the way from downtown to Carrollton passing Lee Circle, the Historic Garden District (about the 2100 2500 blocks - great old houses from the mid-1800s), Tulane and Loyola Universities, and Audubon Park. Audubon Park is picturesque - ask the conductor to call out the Zoo stop and get off there. Also, if you love antiques, try Magazine Street and grab a bite to eat at Casamento's on the corner of Magazine and Napoleon Sts. (across from the uptown NOPD). It is a little hike but worth it - Cassamento's offers something called an Oyster Loaf that is unique - even to New Orleans cuisine.
Walk the 1 mile sidewalk around the park all the way to theAUDUBON ZOO. The price is $7.50 (discount coupons are everywhere) and is one of the top five zoos in the country. They have all the typical zoo stuff presented in the modern school of zooship, but they have something you won't find anywhere else in the world. The have created an authentic SOUTH LOUISIANA SWAMP with egrets and gators and a cajun boathouse. You get a very good feel for life in the bayous. Maybe 10 years ago, someone found five baby albino alligators and donated them to the zoo. I saw them when they were about six inches long and they are well over six feet by now. If you see them, say hello from Dave and Susie.
You can also eat lunch in the Zoo in the Cypress Knee Bayou cafe - traditional cajun cuisine - try a crawfish pie. If you do get the chance to eat boiled crawfish, you break 'em in half and suck the part that isn't the tail. This place makes an okra-based chicken and andouille gumbo that'll stand up with the best of 'em. The Zoo will take the middle part of the day, so you'll probably be ready to rest up for the evening by freshening up at your hotel. You might want to ride back out here tonight.
In Carrollton and thereabouts, you'll find a lot of good music. This is a popular
college-like bar and restaurant scene. The MAPLE
LEAF BAR is becoming pretty well known for having blues bands
- famous and local. There are other sights to see out in Carrollton, but
it almost all happens after about 10pm, so save some money for a 2:00 a.m.
cab ride back to your hotel.
Eating out is also fun - try Uglesich's for adventures in good eating. Muddy Waters is also a place to hear local talent. The streetcars
run all day and all night last we heard, but are MUCH slower (every hour)
after about 10:00 pm. If you plan on staying into the evening outside the
quarter, ask the driver how long the cars run and think hard about putting some taxi money aside!
Other Live Music Action in the French Quarter
Victor & Linda recommend O'Flaherty's Irish Channel Pub at 514 Toulouse St. (off Decatur) which has great Irish folk music sung by Danny O'Flaherty and Friends. $3-5 cover and an added bonus if you don't smoke; Danny doesn't allow smoking in the pub. Look for the four leaf clover on the sign outside. Warning: there may be happily besotted folks hanging around outside this place.
Preservation Hall - We don't have to describe this one, do we?
The House of Blues (225 Decatur) is a coming thing - reservations for the Sunday Gospel Brunch is highly recommended! $25 each for about three hours entertainment and great food. Concert line: 529-1421 Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org - The food is good, though it runs toward the soul food end of things. They make a little catfish appetizer that is just wonderful, and the beans and rice does it for us.
The local paper, the Times-Picayune runs a feature/insert, I think on thursdays or fridays, called the LAGNIAPPE which is creole French for "a little something extra". In it there are listings of who is playing and where. It is also a good idea to pick up a copy of GAMBIT, a free weekly guide to entertainment in the city. OffBeat magazine is almost completely music oriented for the area - Also - check our N.O. Links page for many online musical venues and listings
Also Visit TOWER RECORDS in the
French Quarter not far from the Hard Rock Cafe. They usually have a bunch
of local listings and publications about what to see and do nightlife-wise.
Storyville District has some really good contemporary people playing
If you like the theater, you might want to try Le
Petit Theatre - off Jackson square. (Victor & Linda,
Feb. 98 write:. It is a wonderful old theater that does plays with local
talent for $15 a ticket. We saw "Arsenic and Old Lace," and they did a
wonderful job. We had no trouble buying tickets the day of the performance
on Saturday night.
We recall somebody telling us (maybe it was Becca from Tulane) that Le Petit Theatre was the first community playhouse
in the U.S.of A. Maybe one of you readers has the scoop on this old house!
Carole and Jamie suggest that, for an evening of sheer enjoyment listening
to classic jazz in a 1920's atmosphere, you should try the Palm
Court Jazz Cafe - 1204 Decatur Street. Restaurant opens
at 7pm and the music is 8-11pm Wednesdays through Sundays. Different bands
and guest artists each night. We heard the last remaining one of the
Inkspots - Lloyd Washington! These musicians play at Preservation Hall.
Food was good but not exceptional - very much traditional New Orleans cuisine
(entrees $15 - $17) with a three course Creole menu at $25 There is a $5
music cover charge.
There are many old houses that you ought to tour:
The BEAUREGARD-KEYES HOUSE 113 Chartres was the home of both writer Francis Parkinson Keyes and General Pierre G.T. Beauregard.
Near the French Market is the OLD U.S. MINT, which is an actual old mint for the U.S. treasury restored to a museum (at Decatur and Esplanade). Built in 1835 it produced coins for the U.S. and Confederacy. Among the collection is a nice history of jazz in New Orleans, some Mardi Gras memorabilia. On the "barracks side" of the Mint was the STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (actually one car from the Desire Line - you know - "-Stel-la!").
Clear on the other side the Quarter, almost to the end of Canal St. is the RIVERWALK - this is a mall (yikes) and the stores are really upscale. I'm sure it is a beautiful Place, I'm just not wild about malls, even ones selling dishes with little crawfish swimming on them. In this area, the AQUARIUM OF THE AMERICAS can be toured and has an IMAX theater - and it is a pretty neat place if you are the nature study type - It is new, and they've organized the fish around the major ecosystems - Mississippi Delta, Caribbean, Gulf Coast and Rain Forest. There's also casinos (boo!) around here.
If you find you have an afternoon free - you might be interested in
New Orleans Museum of Art
in City Park.
It is a taxi ride from the Quarter - and there is a cost (If you plan on seeing a combination of museums you should check into buying combination tickets).
You'll have to go through the Jax Brewery complex of shops - a little too "mallish" but there are some uniquely New Orleanian things for sale here.
How'd you like to get a degree while on your trip? You can enroll in the New Orleans School of Cooking located in the Brewery (make reservations early - by calling 1-504-525-2665). The class ran from 10 am to 1 pm, and we watched Joe prepare 4 Cajun traditions: Gumbo, Jambalaya, Pralines, and Bread Pudding - all to the tune of delicious patter. The course culminates in Lunch! To complete the course, enrollees must go home, cook up a dish and send Joe pictures. In return you'll get a diploma suitable for framin'. Laura & J - We did the NO Cooking School thing. What a bargain - $20 for cooking lessons, great food, and unlimited beer. I'd definitely do that again. (The unlimited beer part is new to us - an unnecessary but welcome addition to the course). Carole and Jamie - What a fun morning Carole and Jenny had! It appears that it is now owned by Kevin Belton, but still run on the same lines with lots of patter and laughter, and a fund of information on Lousiana was dispensed along with the Cajun-Creole cooking. Kevin told us that if you are the first to enroll for any day you can request a change of menu if you already know enough about Gumbo,Jambalaya, Pralines and Bread Pudding.
If you have resisted making your souvenir purchases so far, now's the
time to do it.
Be sure to take in the French Market and the associated flea market early on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning - save it for the end of your trip if you can, because you will find millions of souvenir ideas and cheep t-shirts for your family and friends. You might not want to carry all that stuff until the end of your trip. On the other hand, a bargain is a bargain and you might not want to miss any primo purchases. BTW - There are a couple of postal services in the quarter that will mail your stuff for a surcharge.
All along South Decatur and the streets surrounding the Market - from one end to the other - all the way to Canal Street - there are shops and more shops.
The Central Grocery is located here, as is Progress Grocery (915 Decatur) where you can buy a jar of olive salad to take back home (after having a muffaletta once, you'll want to try to make one at home - the secret ingredient is that olive salad!). Laura and J. had a great idea - they bought a muffaletta at Central Grocery on their last day in town, and had it for lunch during their flight's layover - extends the trip a little!
There is Santa's Quarters (1025
Decatur) that carries plenty of unique New Orleans flavored Christmas ornaments
(and pepper lights for yo' tree).
Beckham's Bookshop (228 Decatur - thousands of old books!). Of course, the reason for going to New Orleans is The FOOD (see our restaurant guides!).
One note of warning about food - DO NOT EAT anyplace until you've
either read up or talked to someone. Your hotel Concierge will level with
you and so will most Bell Captains and Cab Drivers. I urge you to read
up on the city and all it has to offer.
That ought to do it.