Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Road Trip Diaries: New Orleans, LA

22 October 2012

At first glimpses New Orleans has already won me over - tight streets, old buildings, and latticed balconies will do that to me. 

 The different colour buildings remind me of Cape Town, each one a unique wondrous shade.

 It doesn't take us long to drop off our bags and head out into the streets.

Every new place takes a new adaptation, as you prepare yourself for a completely new thing. We are ill at ease to start with - we've been overly warned about crime in the streets, and each hawker and beggar that approaches sets us off. It's hard to know where to go, or what to do, and without a clear plan we find ourselves overwhelmed in the streets. Which is not overly surprising - this is a Monday night and New Orleans is already bustling.

Tourist map in hand, we finally manage to orientate ourselves (after a drink back at the hotel, and some good advice from the hotel bartender, Jennifer), we head out again. This time, we have purpose, and rush along Royal Street towards Frenchman - apparently this is one of the best 'off the beaten track' streets to be.

Turns out Jennifer was completely right. Frenchman is alive and buzzing. We stop off at a couple of fun bars for drinks, and finally have dinner at Adolfo's - peppercorn steak for Husband, shrimp and seafood scampi veal for me. Ace!

On our way out we encounter a dozen (at least!) musicians playing together - wind instruments, and drums - the street is on fire with their music. Everyone who walks past stops, stares, and starts to tap a foot. It's contagious.

 And completely delightful.

23 October 2012

After our hotel breakfast we're off to see more of New Orleans. We head to Jackson Square (smaller than I was expecting but pretty), the St. Louis Cathedral (grand in all shades of cream), Cafe du Monde (coffee and beignets - delish French doughnuts dusted in icing sugar), a walk along the riverside, and over to the Arts/Warehouse District. This area is highlighted on all the tourist maps, but umm... I don't know. It wasn't really anything interesting.

We did eat lunch at a really good restaurant in that area, but the surrounds were pretty dull. For reals.

Lunch sure was good though. We ate at Cochon (French for pig). We chose a few small plates to share - boudin (sausage and rice balls served with pickles and mustard), fried alligator (which Husband loved, and I couldn't stand - tasted like mutant farm animal - really), and hot skillet shrimp cooked with chorizo. A mini afternoon feast.
The rest of the afternoon was spent back in the French Quarter, venturing into a few of the touristy shops, in which you're faced with endless walls of beads, masks and curios.

And then, after a swim back at the hotel, we're out again. You can't miss the nightlife here.

But let's be honest now. New Orleans does still leave a lot to be desired. It's, well, dirty. I guess it's not called the City That Care Forgot for no reason. The streets are old and badly repaired, everything could do with a new lick of paint, and there is that tinge of disquiet, which makes you leave all valuables at locked in the hotel safe, and head out carrying as little as possible.

But still, it pulls you in.

We couldn't help but wonder why people continue to return to a city which is ravaged by hurricanes year after year, but when you really get in there you can understand. That city has such a beat, such a soul, such a vibrancy that it claws at you, pulling you later and later into the night.

I have these fantastically vivid memories from our night at Preservation Hall - we weren't allowed to take pictures, so I spent so long taking mental notes that I think it's truly stuck. I'm going to save this one, for it's own little blog post, when I have enough time to put it all down, and get it sounding just right. But trust me, we had a fantastic time.

After the performance, a little tipsy, and a little hungry, we caught a cab to La Boca - an Argentinian steak house that let's you choose your own steak knife from a cutlery tray. You got to admire that. And the steak. Magical.

I was falling asleep at the table by the time we were done though - what a day. Sun, drinks, sightseeing, soul tunes, steak...and now, bed.

24 October 2012

One more day in New Orleans (which is pronounced N' Awlins - don't pronounce it like a normal person, or you will be corrected - incessantly).

We go exploring today - grabbing an all day pass for the local transport. Unfortunately the street car is under construction in some areas, so we start with the bus, straight to the Garden District, and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. I'm fascinated by the above ground graves and tombs. Because New Orleans' water table is very high it is impossible to bury people below ground - the coffins just rise back up to the surface. So the city's residents followed the Spanish tradition of building tombs and vaults for their dead.
After that I lead us down to Magazine Street - another road packed with shops and restaurants. We browse an antique store, and wander into a few costume shops, still in search of Halloween outfits.

We were recommended Lillet for lunch today, and the recommendation was spot on. Our meal started with a shared apple-grape-blue-cheese salad, followed by chilled sweet-corn-crab-avo soup for me and chicken-broth for Husband. And as if that is not enough we follow it up with a cheese and meat platter. A surprisingly light and exceedingly satisfying lunch.
After lunch we stroll back through Audubon Park, and finally manage to catch a streetcar (thank gosh, because I'd been dragging Husband around for hours trying to find one!). The ride is short, but the windows are down, and it felt magical traveling on a trolley through New Orleans, just as residents here would have done as early as 1835.

In the evening we went out for one last night in New Orleans. Dinner was at Cafe Amelie - in a quaint faerie-lit courtyard, with a tinkering fountain. And after that we couldn't help but enjoy the lively, wonderful tunes of the 15-piece band at Snug Harbor. 
Restaurants in Review:


611 Frenchmen Street  New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 948-3800
Cafe du Monde
800 Decatur Street  New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-4544
930 Tchoupitoulas Street  New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 588-2123

La Boca
857 Fulton Street  New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 525-8205

3637 Magazine Street  New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 895-1636
Cafe Amelie
912 Royal Street  New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 412-8965

Accommodation in Review:

Hotel Dauphine
415 Dauphine Street  New Orleans, LA 70112
(504) 586-1800

Music in Review:

The Spotted Cat
623 Frenchmen Street  New Orleans, LA 70116
Preservation Hall
726 St Peter St, New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 522-2841

Snug Harbor
626 Frenchmen Street  New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 949-0696

[Map from Google Maps]


Dill said...

OK, N'awlins sounds amazing. Props, little one.

Reaching Robyn said...

N'Awlins is such a winner! You have to go Dill x