Our trip to New Orleans started around 3:45…am…we had a 6am flight to catch! Ben was thrilled, clearly. ;)
After a brief layover in Chicago, we were off! (Oh, pre-vacation filled with jambalaya/beignets/biscuits/alcohol puff-free face – I miss you!) Anyways, I digress… ;)
As soon as we took off, nervous flyer Ben got a mini bottle of his favorite draaaank, Maker’s Mark, to help settle his nerves and get our vacation started a little early. Whee!
Isn’t that the cutest little bottle you’ve ever seen?! Presh. ;)
I opted for water. It’s the smart choice for flying, didn’t you know?
2 hours later – we arrived in New Orleans! As soon as we stepped off the plane, we felt the whoosh of humidity. “We’re in the bayou!” we exclaimed!
During the drive to the hotel we could just tell we were in the south. I don’t know how or why, but we just could. It was cool. I started feeling like I wanted to watch Forrest Gump for some reason. Wrong state, I know. ;)
At any rate, about 20 minutes later we arrived at our home away from home, for the next 5 days and 4 nights – the Best Western St. Christopher!
Located about 20 feet off of Canal Street (sort of the Las Vegas Boulevard of New Orleans) and 50 feet away from the French Quarter – we felt like we were in the middle of all the action, but since we were tucked off a little ways on a side street, it was actually very quiet!
The decor was opulent, yet charming,
and the details and finishings made it truly unique.
Behind the front desk was a big dining area where we had a full continental breakfast each morning, and fresh coffee and tea available throughout the day. Super fab.
We headed up to our room, shed our heavy coats, changed into our warm-weather outfits and hit the road!
We were beyond starving at this point, so we headed straight for the Napoleon House in the heart of the French Quarter. We had received several, good recommendations and knew it would be a perfect lunch locale.
The Napoleon House is located in a 200 year old building that once belonged to the mayor of New Orleans. He offered it as a place for Napoleon to stay during his exile – Napoleon never came, but the name stuck around!
The inside is very, very cool. With Beethoven blaring in the background, you soak up the almost saloon-on-a-ship like atmosphere.
A saloon-on-a-ship in the 1800s, mind you. ;)
Every seat has a view of the French Quarter outside and from our table we watched horse drawn carriages, carrying curious tourists, clop by every 5 minutes or so.
Enough people watching – we were there to EAT! :D
So many things to choose from! I stuck with the Napoleon House specialty though, and ordered the Italian Muffuletta with a side of Jambalaya.
SO EXCITED AND SO HUNGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!
About 5 seconds after the food arrived, I had my muffuletta in one hand and a fork for the jambalaya in the other – they were both outstanding!
My muffuletta was made from fresh bread slathered in a salty, marinated olive salad, then layered with ham, salami, pastrami, swiss and provolone cheese. Aka, the best sandwich known to man. And I didn’t have any other jambalaya while in NOLA, so I can’t compare it to anything else, but this stuff was BOMB. Tender rice with a light tomato-y flavor, spiced just right, with sliced sausage.
Ben ordered the Roast Beef Po’ Boy with Gravy. There’s a lot of sauce and gravy going on in New Orleans – but this gravy knocked it out of the park. Rich, thick and smothering this tender roast beef.
His sandwich also came with some Zapp’s – local, kettle-cooked chips that are available everywhere down there and come in a variety of flavors. Most of which we tried during our time in New Orleans – muwahahahaha! When in Rome.
We were sufficiently stuffed after lunch, so we hit the streets of the French Quarter to walk, digest, and take a look around. The French Quarter is the oldest and most famous neighborhood(s) in New Orleans. When NOLA was founded in 1718, it was centered around these very streets.
Located in the center of the French Quarter is the stunning Jackson Square!
Named after Andrew Jackson, the open park contains the St. Louis Cathedral, The Cabildo (old city hall) and The Presbytere (old priest housing turned courthouse turned museum.)
It’s also a hangout for local artists to showcase their artwork, musicians to gather for a jam, street performers to show off for a buck, and tourists to wander around and soak it all in.
Jackson Square is also right across the street from CAFE DU MONDE!
My number one mission for our New Orleans trip was to go to Cafe Du Monde, which has been serving fried, doughnut-like Heaven cakes Beignets, 24/7, since 1862.
My sweet tooth demanded that we order some on. the. spot.
About 5 minutes after we sat down – they arrived.
Piping hot, fritter-like, light as air Beignets mounded high and cascading with powdered sugar. OMG – we literally started giggling!
Then we stopped giggling and demolished. In about a minute. I’m so sorry that I didn’t even get to take a picture of the insides of the beignets so you could see how light, airy and fluffy they were. I was too busy stuffing my face. Life changing I’m telling you!
Soon enough, it was time to head back to our hotel, clean ourselves up, shake the powdered sugar from our hair (literally, it gets everywhere!) and head out for our first evening in New Orleans.
First stop – Harrah’s Casino!
I know, I know – however, it was close to our hotel and seeing as how we love Las Vegas, we wanted to see how it compared.
Mmmm it didn’t, really. We went through the front door and walked straight out the back door.
And got down to business – BOURBON STREET!
Bourbon Street runs the length of the French Quarter and is home to many, many bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and cough, strip clubs, cough. What you’ve seen and read about Bourbon St. is all true – however, on that Thursday night, as we were strolling down the street, we found ourselves totally into it!
Just turn your head as you pass by the Hustler Club… ;)
Seriously though – the lively, brass tunes, jazz and club beats permeated the street and you couldn’t help but get into the excitement. Because that’s what it was – exciting!
Per a recommendation from my Dad, we stopped at the Royal Sonesta Hotel’s Desire Oyster Bar for a bite to eat, and a beverage to drink!
The Royal Sonesta is a gorgeous hotel right on Bourbon, that actually has several restaurants and bars associated with it.
The Desire Oyster Bar features fresh Louisiana seafood and Creole dishes.
All the bars and restaurants in the French Quarter have floor to ceiling French doors that they open up during the day so everyone can see in, and out. It makes for the best people watching. ;)
We took up residence at the bar.
And after hours of flying, walking around and exploring – it was finally time to partake in the fun. You know I got myself a Hurricane!
New Orleans is credited with inventing the Hurricane, so I had to give it a try. Sweet, tropical and oh-so refreshing!!
Then we dug in, again. :) A gentlemen sitting to Ben’s right had just received a big bowl of Red Beans and Rice when we arrived and I almost asked him for a taste, it looked so good! I did the next best thing, and ordered it myself. Rich and spicy, big hunks of sausage and shrimp, and topped with fluffy white rice. One of my very favorite meals of the entire trip!!
Ben opted for another Po’ Boy Sandwich! He couldn’t decide between a catfish or crawfish po’ boy so our waitress hooked him up with one of each. Can you say southern hospitality? This was as big as it looks and amazing. So fried, but SO AMAZING! We popped those crawfish tails like popcorn!
Then we got to walkin’. The thing about the French Quarter is that you can take your drink with you anywhere, and there are little stalls on the street that you can order drinks from whenever you run out. We got some more hurricanes at this little stand, and were on our way.
We strolled through the French Quarter, peeking through the gates of the narrow homes lining the streets, to view the fountains bubbling away in their quaint courtyards. Admired the iron work on the intricate balconies adorning each home, and basically had the most perfect night ever.
Oh, and we drank beer. Huge Ass Beers to be exact.
And they were good!
Finally, we headed to The Royal Sonesta’s Le Booze Bar and settled in for a couple drinks. A Pimms cup here, a Mojito there…we had a blast. :mrgreen:
After several other stops to listen to some music and refill our cups – two weary travelers returned home, 100% satisfied with our first day in good ol’ New Orleans!
Stay tuned for recaps of of New Orleans’ historic Garden District, a Plantation Tour, a trip to Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant NOLA and many more pictures of the French Quarter! :D