We’re currently on a road trip seeing a small part of the Deep South USA. We flew into New Orleans on Saturday and spent 2 days there, before picking up a rental car and heading north. New Orleans has always been on my bucket list. ‘The Big Easy’, the birthplace of jazz, the creator of cocktails and creole comfort food, what is not to love?!
Arriving late afternoon, we checked in at the Prince Conti Hotel in the heart of the French Quarter. It’s a traditional hotel and had all the character I was looking for, in an ideal location. Keen to explore, we dropped off our bags and headed out. The hotel has a bar, The Bombay Club, with a classic British theme (although far from a ‘Brit Pub’) and we were tempted in by the happy hour and the gin cocktails!
We then took a walk down the famous Bourbon Street, although I have to admit it’s really not my kind of place – bar after bar selling frozen daiquiris, packed with drunk people and probably the ideal spot for a stag party.
In search of something a little more authentic we were recommended by our Uber driver (the NICEST guy I’ve ever met, I just wanted to give him a cuddle) to head to Frenchman Street. Laid back, relaxed, bar after bar playing live jazz, much more what I was expecting from NOLA. We settled on Cafe Negril, found a little table to drink our beer and watched the band.
We were up fairly early the next day as it was our only full day in NOLA. I’d read about The Grill on this lovely blog, a classic diner in the French Quarter, so we made our way there for breakfast. The pecan pancakes were amazing, and it was so cheap too. I think I paid about $6 for the pancakes, and $2 for coffee, but you could get eggs and hash browns for less than $4 if you wanted.
As is typical with an American breakfast, you feel the need to walk it off after, so we spent the rest of the morning wandering the streets of the French Quarter, taking pictures of all the beautiful buildings. I love the style, so different to anything you see in California.
One thing I was surprised by was how big the French Quarter was. I find usually if somewhere has a lot of character it is only one or 2 streets, but this was area was huge. You could spend all your time walking around here and not get bored.
New Orleans is famous for it’s pecan pralines, among so many other culinary delights, so I had to have one (or two).
In need of a little break from walking, we sat by the Mississippi River and watched the Steamboat Natchez come into dock.
Another NOLA institution is the Cafe Du Monde. Famous for the chicory coffee and beignets (a deep fried choux pastry, absolutely smothered in icing sugar, pronounced ben-yay) there is always a huge queue outside, although we probably only waited about 10 minutes for a table so don’t be put off.
After this little break we hopped on the street car to the Garden District. An area about 3 miles from the French Quarter, the Garden District comprises of street after street of Louisiana mansions. If you like looking at beautiful houses (I do) then this is a must. I could have spent hours here, but wandering around looking at others peoples houses isn’t my husband’s favourite activity…
We also visited the Lafayette Cemetery which is in the area. Typical of New Orleans cemeteries, all of the tombs are above ground. The city is actually built on a swamp, so dig down and it is very wet, you don’t want anything buried rising to the surface! It was very eerie and I’m sure I’ve seen places like this in a movie, although I couldn’t tell you which one.
After taking the street car back to downtown we found the famous Carousel Bar at the Hotel Montelone. The bar is made from a childrens carousel, and actual moves round a full 360 degrees while you are sat at it. It takes about 15 minutes to get all the way around, and is definitely unique. Everyone here was so friendly and we got chatting to a lot of locals which was fun. I also tried a Ramos Gin Fizz cocktail, one of the many cocktails originating in New Orleans. I loved it so much here, I forgot to take any photos *bad blogger – slap on the wrist*.
That evening I really wanted to try authentic gumbo, so after googling ‘best gumbo in New Orleans’ we headed to The Gumbo Shop. It was a cute casual restaurant, with gumbo and other Creole classics like jambalaya, red rice and beans and blackened shrimp on the menu. We both went for the chicken andouille sausage gumbo and it was delicious.
For our last evening here we went back Frenchman Street, finding a spot at the bar at ‘The Spotted Cat’, the quintessential jazz club of New Orleans, and spent the rest of the evening listening to live music. The perfect way to end a short stay in the Big Easy.
This morning we picked up our rental car and drove to Birmingham, Alabama, stopping off at the Honey Island Swamp for a tour. I’ve got a lot of pictures, and this post is already far too long, so I’ll write that up in my next one.