Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Orleans

One of the things I am discovering about myself is that I love researching destinations and planning trip itineraries. We just got back this past week from New Orleans. So, I thought I would share an itinerary for a 3 day visit to New Orleans.

This was my first trip, but not my husband's. His previous trips were taken with colleagues who enjoy the bar scene. As a non drinking Latter Day Saint, that aspect of New Orleans did not appeal to him at all. I was really excited to try as many different types of classic Louisiana food as I could. And I wasn't interested in seeing stuff that I have/can see elsewhere. I wanted to see what was uniquely New Orleans. So, this itinerary skips the zoo, aquarium, WW II museum, etc. It focuses on good food, history, art, architecture and culture. It's my own trip guide that I converted to a pdf and loaded onto my Ipod and took with me. Now updated with things I learned while living it. If you get to go to New Orleans, take the time to talk to the locals about their experience with Katrina. It really humanizes the news reports we all saw to actually hear personal accounts and perspectives. The people of New Orleans are very friendly!


New Orleans 3 day Itinerary

DAY 1

Ask your hotel for map. (Drury Inn is a nice, reasonably priced hotel not far from the quarter. Elegant lobby, plenty of gated parking, rooftop pool and hot tub, marble and quartz in the bathrooms. The free breakfast is wonderful and the free appetizers and drinks in the evening are substantial enough to be a meal.)

Go on a French Quarter Walking Tour. A free one is available online at Frommer's website. You can also hire a guide. You can get a ride in a carriage from Jackson's Square to tour the quarter. We used the Frommer's self walking tour found on their website, which was a bit too comprehensive. Below is a shortened version (11 fewer stops), highlighting what was most interesting, arranged with addresses easier to find and my own notes added in parenthesis. Go as early in the day as you are willing to get up. Its easier to see the quarter when it's less crowded. Some of the tour suggests entering businesses to see the courtyards. These will likely not be open for viewing until after 10. The streets are so narrow that often crossing to the opposite side of the street is the best way to view a building. (Another reason to go early when there is less traffic.)

Enter from the Canal side of the French Quarter on Royal street. You'll finish in Jackson's square:

"The French Quarter, also known by the French name Vieux Carré, or "old square." The area is made up of just over 80 city blocks, and it's a living monument to history. Here, the colonial empires of France, Spain, and, to a lesser extent, Britain intersected with the emerging American nation. Still, somehow the place seems timeless, at once recognizably old and vibrantly alive. Today's residents and merchants are stewards of a rich tradition of individuality, creativity, and disregard for many of the concerns of the world beyond. This tour is designed to acquaint you with a bit of the style and history of this place and its important landmarks and to lead you through some of its more picturesque regions.

Head into the Quarter (away from Canal St.) along Royal Street. As you walk along Royal, imagine that streetcar named Desire rattling along its tracks. It traveled along Royal and Bourbon streets until 1948. (It was replaced by the bus named Desire. Really.) You can also imagine how noisy these narrow streets were when the streetcars were in place. Your first stop is:


1.
334 Royal St. Former The Bank of Louisiana. This Greek Revival edifice was erected in the early 1860s, and the bank was liquidated in 1867. The building has suffered a number of fires (in 1840, 1861, and 1931) and has served as the Louisiana State Capitol, an auction exchange, a criminal court, a juvenile court, and a social hall for the American Legion. It now houses the police station for the Vieux Carré. Cross Conti Street to:

2. 403 Royal St.
Former Louisiana State Bank. Benjamin H. B. Latrobe died of yellow fever shortly after completing designs for this building, which opened in 1821. At the time of his death, Latrobe was one of the nation's most eminent architects, having designed the Bank of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (1796) and contributed to the design of the U.S. Capitol. You can see the monogram "LSB" on the Creole-style iron balcony railing.

3.
417 Royal St. Brennan's Restaurant. Brennan's opened in this building, in 1855. The structure was erected after the fire of 1794 destroyed more than 200 of the original buildings along this street. From 1805 to 1841, it was home to the Banque de la Louisiane. The parents of Edgar Degas also lived here.

4. 437 Royal St. Masonic lodge meetings were held regularly in a drugstore here in the early 1800s, but that's not what made the place famous. What did? Proprietor and druggist Antoine A. Peychaud served after-meeting drinks of bitters and cognac to lodge members in small egg cups, whose French name (coquetier) was Americanized to "cocktail."

5. 400 Royal St. New Orleans Court Building. Built in 1909, this courthouse covers the length of the block across from Brennan's. The baroque edifice, made of Georgia marble, certainly seems out of place in the French Quarter -- especially considering that many Spanish-era structures were demolished to make way for it. Originally home to parish and state courts, the building was laboriously renovated over many years and is now the home of the Louisiana Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Cross St. Louis Street to:

6. 533 Royal St. The Merieult House. Built for the merchant Jean François Merieult in 1792, this house was the only building in the area left standing after the fire of 1794. Legend has it that Napoleon repeatedly offered Madame Merieult great riches in exchange for her hair. (He wanted it for a wig to present to a Turkish sultan.) She refused. Nowadays, it's home to the Historic New Orleans Collection -- Museum/Research Center. (Go inside. There may be a nice, free exhibit.)

7. 627 Royal St. Walk through the entrance of the Horizon Gallery to the back to see another of the French Quarter's magnificent courtyards. This 1777 building, the former home of the Old Town Praline Shop, is where opera singer Adelina Patti first came for a visit and then lived after becoming something of a local heroine in 1860. The 17-year-old girl's popularity as a last-minute stand-in lead soprano in Lucia di Lammermoor saved the local opera company from financial ruin.

8.
640 Royal St. Le Monnier Mansion. This structure, currently towering above every other French Quarter building as the city's first "skyscraper," was all of three stories high when it was built in 1811. A fourth story was added in 1876. Cross St. Peter Street to:


9. 700 Royal St. The LaBranche House. This is probably the most photographed building in the Quarter -- and no wonder. Take a look at the lacy cast-iron grillwork, with its delicate oak leaf and acorn design that fairly drips from all three floors. Turn left at St. Peter Street and continue to:

10.
718 St. Peter St. Pat O'Brien's. You've probably heard of this famous New Orleans nightspot. The building was completed in 1790 for a wealthy planter and was known as the Maison de Flechier. Later, Louis Tabary put on popular plays here. It's said that the first grand opera in America was performed within these walls. The courtyard is open to visitors and is well worth a look.

11.
726 St. Peter St. Preservation Hall. Scores of people descend on this nightly to hear traditional New Orleans jazz. A daytime stop affords a glimpse, through the big, ornate iron gate, of a lush tropical courtyard in back. Check it out in daylight, plan to come back later. Continue up St. Peter Street until you reach Bourbon Street. Turn right onto Bourbon Street. At the corner of Bourbon and Orleans streets, look down Orleans Street, toward the river, at:

12.
717 Orleans St. Bourbon Orleans Hotel. This building was the site of the famous quadroon balls, where wealthy white men would come to form alliances (read: acquire a mistress) with free women of color, who were one-eighth to one-fourth black. Look at the balcony and imagine the assignations that went on there while the balls were in session. The building later became a convent, home to the Sisters of the Holy Family, the second-oldest order of black nuns in the country. Their founder (whose mother was a quadroon mistress!), Henriette Delille, has been presented to the Vatican for consideration for sainthood. Turn left onto Orleans and follow it a block to Dauphine (pronounced Daw-feen) Street. On the corner is:

13. 716 Dauphine St. Le Pretre Mansion. In 1839 Jean Baptiste Le Pretre bought this 1836 Greek Revival house and added the romantic cast-iron galleries. The house is the subject of a real-life horror story: Sometime in the 19th century, a Turk, supposedly the brother of a sultan, arrived in New Orleans and rented the Le Pretre house. He was conspicuously wealthy, and his entourage included many servants and more than a few beautiful young girls -- all thought to have been stolen from the sultan. Rumors quickly spread about the situation, even as the home became the scene of lavish entertainment with guest lists that included the cream of society. One night shrieks came from inside the house; the next morning, neighbors entered and found the tenant's body lying in a pool of blood surrounded by the bodies of the young beauties. The mystery remains unsolved. Local ghost experts say you can hear exotic music and shrieks on the right night. Turn right on Dauphine Street.

14. 632 Dumaine St. Madame John's Legacy. This structure was once thought to be the oldest building on the Mississippi River. Recent research suggests, however, that only a few parts of the original building survived the 1788 fire and were used in its reconstruction. The house was originally erected in 1726, 8 years after the founding of New Orleans. Its first owner was a ship captain who died in the 1729 Natchez Massacre; upon his death, the house passed to the captain of a Lafitte-era smuggling ship. It has had no fewer than 21 owners since. The present structure is a fine example of a French "raised cottage." The aboveground basement is of brick-between-posts construction (locally made bricks were too soft to be the primary building material), covered with boards laid horizontally. The hipped, dormered roof extends out over the veranda. Now a part of the Louisiana State Museum complex, it's open for tours. Take a left at the corner of Dumaine and Chartres streets and follow Chartres to the next corner; make a left onto St. Philip Street and continue to the corner of St. Philip and Bourbon streets to:

15. 941 Bourbon St. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. For many years this structure has been a bar, but the legend is that Jean Lafitte and his pirates posed as blacksmiths here while using it as headquarters for selling goods they'd plundered on the high seas. It has survived in its original condition, reflecting the architectural influence of French colonials who escaped St. Domingue in the late 1700s. It may be the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley, but that has not been documented. Unfortunately, the exterior has been redone to replicate the original brick and plaster, which makes it look fake when it's actually not. Thus far, the modern-day owners of the building have resisted interior invasions of chrome and plastic, which makes this an excellent place to imagine life in the Quarter in the 19th century. Head to Royal St and look for:

16. 1140 Royal St. The Lalaurie Home. Many people simply refer to this place as "the haunted house." Here's why: When Madame Delphine Macarty de Lopez Blanque wed Dr. Louis Lalaurie, it was her third marriage -- she'd already been widowed twice. The Lalauries moved into this residence in 1832, and they soon were impressing the city with extravagant parties. One night in 1834, however, fire broke out and neighbors crashed through a locked door to find seven starving slaves chained in painful positions, unable to move. The sight, combined with Delphine's stories of past slaves having "committed suicide," enraged her neighbors. Madame Lalaurie and her family escaped a mob's wrath and fled to Paris. Several years later she died in Europe, and her body was returned to New Orleans -- and even then she had to be buried in secrecy. The building was a Union headquarters during the Civil War and later was a gambling house. Through the years, stories have circulated of ghosts inhabiting the building, especially that of one young slave child who fell from the roof trying to escape Delphine's cruelties. Turn left onto Ursulines Street, toward the river.

Take a Break -- If you need a little rest or sustenance at this point, you can stop in the popular Croissant D'Or, 617 Ursulines St. (tel. 504/524-4663). The croissants and pastries here are very good, and the ambience -- inside or out on the patio -- even better. (And they have a bathroom!) At the corner of Ursulines and Chartres streets is the:

17.
1113 Chartres St. Beauregard-Keyes House. This "raised cottage" was built as a residence in 1826 by Joseph Le Carpentier, though it has several other claims to fame. Notice the Doric columns and handsome twin staircases.

18.
Across the street, the complex at 1112-1114 Chartres St. The Archbishop Antoine Blanc Memorial. Was completed in 1752, includes the Old Ursuline Convent and the Archiepiscopal Residence.

Turn left on to Chartres Street and continue walking until you get to Esplanade (pronounced Es-pla-nade) Avenue, which served as the parade ground for troops quartered on Barracks Street. Along with St. Charles Avenue, it is one of the city's most picturesque historic thoroughfares. Some of the grandest town houses built in the late 1800s grace this wide, tree-lined avenue. The entire 400 block of Esplanade is occupied by:


19. 400 Esplanade. The Old U.S. Mint
. This was once the site of Fort St. Charles, one of the defenses built to protect New Orleans in 1792. It was here that Andrew Jackson reviewed the "troops" -- pirates, volunteers, and a nucleus of trained soldiers -- he later led in the Battle of New Orleans. Follow Esplanade toward the river and turn right at the corner of North Peters Street. Follow North Peters until it intersects with Decatur Street. This is the back end of:

20. The Old French Market.
This European-style market has been here for well over 200 years, and today it has a farmers market and stalls featuring everything from gator on a stick to somewhat tacky souvenir items. On most days the Esplanade end of the market houses a "flea market," which is really just a collection of stalls of jewelry, T-shirts, and knockoff purses, though more than one excellent souvenir or bargain has been found therein. When you leave the French Market, exit on the side away from the river onto:

21. Decatur Street.
Not long ago, this section of Decatur -- from Jackson Square all the way over to Esplanade -- was a seedy, run-down area of wild bars and cheap rooming houses. Fortunately, few of either remain. Instead, this portion of the strip has fallen into step with the rest of the Quarter, sporting a number of restaurants and noisy bars. The stretch of Decatur btw. Ursulines and Esplanade sts. has retained more of the run-down aesthetic, with secondhand shops that are worth taking a browse through and smaller, darker bars. (This is where we encountered the most panhandlers.)

Take a Break -- If you're walking in the area of 923 Decatur St. around lunchtime, pop into the Central Grocery, 923 Decatur St. (tel. 504/523-1620), and pick up a muffuletta sandwich. You can eat inside at little tables, or you can take your food and sit outside, maybe right on the riverbank. Decatur Street will take you to Jackson Square. Turn right onto St. Ann Street. At the corner of St. Ann and Chartres streets, turn left and continue around Jackson Square; you will see:

22. 751 Chartres St. The Presbytère This, the Cabildo, and the St. Louis Cathedral -- all designed by Gilberto Guillemard -- were the first major public buildings in the Louisiana Territory. The Presbytère, was originally designed to be the rectory of the cathedral. Baroness Pontalba's father financed the building's beginnings, but he died in 1798, leaving only the first floor done. The building was finally completed in 1813. It was never used as a rectory, however, but was rented and then purchased (in 1853) by the city to be used as a courthouse. It now houses wonderful exhibits on the history of Mardi Gras. $6 entry fee. Open: Tues.-Sun. 10-4:30 Next you'll come to:



23. St. Louis Cathedral The building standing here today is the third erected on this spot -- the first was destroyed by a hurricane in 1722, the second by fire in 1788. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1794; the central tower was later designed by Henry S. Boneval Latrobe, and the building was remodeled and enlarged between 1845 and 1851. On the other side of the cathedral, you'll come to Pirates Alley. Go right down Pirates Alley to:

24.
624 Pirates Alley. Faulkner House Books In 1925 William Faulkner lived and worked here on his first novels, Mosquitoes and Soldiers' Pay. This is a great stop for Faulkner lovers and collectors of literature. To the left of the bookstore is a small alley that takes you to St. Peter Street, which is behind and parallel to Pirate's Alley.

25.
632 St. Peter. Tennessee Williams House Have a sudden urge to scream "Stella!!!" at that second-story wrought-iron balcony? No wonder. That's because this is where Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire, one of the greatest pieces of American theater. He said he could hear "that rattle trap streetcar named Desire running along Royal and the one named Cemeteries running along Canal and it seemed the perfect metaphor for the human condition." Return to Jackson Square. On the left side of the cathedral on the corner of Chartres and St. Peter streets (with your back to the Mississippi River and Jackson Square) is:

26. The Cabildo
In the 1750s this was the site of a French police station and guardhouse. Part of that building was incorporated into the original Cabildo, statehouse of the Spanish governing body (the "Very Illustrious Cabildo"). The Cabildo was still under reconstruction when the transfer papers for the Louisiana Purchase were signed in a room on the second floor in 1803. Since then, it has served as New Orleans's City Hall, the Louisiana State Supreme Court, and, since 1911, a facility of the Louisiana State Museum. One further note: If you think those old Civil War cannons out front look pitifully small and ineffective by modern standards, think again. In 1921, in a near-deadly prank, one was loaded with powder, an iron ball was rammed down its muzzle, and it was fired in the dead of night. That missile traveled from the Cabildo's portico across the wide expanse of the Mississippi and some 6 blocks inland before landing in a house in Algiers, narrowly missing its occupants.


Winding Down. You've finished! Now go back across Jackson Square and Decatur Street to Café du Monde, 813 Decatur St. (tel. 504/525-4544), in the French Market -- no trip to New Orleans is complete without a leisurely stop here for beignets and coffee. (If it is busy crazy, Cafe Beignet on Royal street is another great, and quieter place, to get a good Beignet. You can hit it on your way back.) Be sure to hike up the levee and relax on a bench. Too many visitors come to New Orleans and never even look at the river!

Leisurely head back up Royal Street. Look for street performers, who can sometimes be quite good. Take a walk to Mother's to eat.

Mother's, 401 Poydras St. at corner of Tchoupitoulas Street.
Many call it the best po-boy joint in town, home of the "Ferdi Special": piled high with their baked ham (the best anywhere), roast beef, gravy, and roast beef "debris" (the little tiny bits that fall off the roast beef and float in the gravy as it cooks). Fantastic breakfasts (try the ham biscuits), jambalayas and gumbos, and the best turtle soup in town (better than Galatoire's). Worth the wait in line, anytime. (Which line moves much faster than you expect. This is counter service dining with a quick moving line and tons of seating.)

After a rest at your hotel,

Catch one of the live jazz performances at Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall - $12 cover charge. No food or drinks or bathrooms. 45 min set. Line up outside an hour early for the best seating. Benches and a few floor cushions. Much of the audience is standing. Doors open at 8 pm. 3 sets till 11 pm. 726 St. Peter street, French quarter If it isn't too busy, they'll let you stay for more than one set. Its worth it to do your standing time outside waiting so you don't stand inside. You feel much more part of the action up front where the musicians can smile at you and the trombonist can slide right over your head.

DAY 2

Take the St. Charles Streetcar to Washington Ave (stop no. 16) to see the Garden District.
For just $1.25, the St. Charles Avenue streetcar is a unique way to view national historic landmarks while riding in a national historic landmark. Runs over 13 miles. Note that this is NOT the streetcar that runs down the middle of Canal Street. Look for tall, thin yellow oval signs marking pick up stops. You put in $1.25 (have exact change) when you board and pull the cord above the windows as you near your stop. The St. Charles route goes from Canal Street along St. Charles, through the Garden District, Loyola, Tulane and out to the Audobon Zoo before looping around and heading back.

Tour Lafayette Cemetery
Established in 1833, this "city of the dead," on Washington Avenue between Prytania and Coliseum streets, is one of New Orleans's oldest cemeteries. It has examples of all the classic above ground, multiple-burial techniques and features a number of interesting Anne Rice-related sites (the Mayfair witches' family tomb is here, for example). Be careful in this and all cemeteries, as predatory crime is a possibility. A guided tour is an alternative. Save our Cemeteries Tour is a non profit option that supports cemetery preservation. Check their website for days~ 10:30 A.M. ~Meet at the Washington Avenue Gate. Get off St. Charles Streetcar at Washington Ave. Head towards the river, past Prytania Ave. Gate will be on the right. 1400 block of Washington Avenue No reservations needed - lasts approx. 1 hour Space limited - first come, first served. Tour Prices: $10 for adults (This tour is definitely worth it. Our tour guide told us this cemetery tends to be safer than the St. Louis cemeteries. I felt comfortable exploring alone after the tour with a few other people present in the cemetery. This is not the cemetary with the legendary tomb of the voodoo queen. That is in one of the St.Louis cemeteries.)

Garden District Self Walking Tour from Frommers online again, edited with my comments added. Start: Head back up the street from the cemetary to Prytania Street and turn right. Your first stop will be on the right on the corner of Prytania and Fourth Street.

Walking through the architecturally phenomenal Garden District, you could get the impression that you've entered an entirely separate city from New Orleans as defined by the French Quarter -- or, perhaps more specifically, entered a different time period. Although the Garden District was indeed once a separate city (Lafayette) from the Vieux Carré and was established during a later period, the fact that this neighborhood was created by a different group of people most profoundly distinguishes it from the old section, the French Quarter.
The French Quarter was initially established by Creoles during the French and Spanish colonial periods, and the Garden District was created by Americans after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Antebellum New Orleans's lucrative combination of Mississippi River commerce, regional abundance of cash crops, slave trade, and national banks fueled the local economy, resulting in a remarkable building boom that extended for several square miles through Uptown. Although very few people from the United States lived in New Orleans during its colonial era, after the Louisiana Purchase, thousands of Americans flooded the city and clashed with the Creoles. Friction arose between the two groups due to mutual snobbery, a language barrier, religious division, and, most significantly, competition over burgeoning commerce. Americans were arriving at the brink of a boom time to make fortunes. With inferior business experience, education, and organizational skills, the Creoles worried that les Americains would work them out of business. Americans were, therefore, kept out of the already overcrowded French Quarter. Feeling snubbed, the Americans moved upriver to create a residential district of astounding opulence. The Garden District is, therefore, a study of a cultural clash reflected through architecture, with Americans creating an identity by boldly introducing styles and forms familiar to them and previously unknown in colonial Louisiana. Note: The houses described on this tour are not open to the public. (Except one!)

Start on Washington Avenue, 1 block toward the river from St. Charles


1. 1448 Fourth St. Colonel Short's Villa. This house was built by architect Henry Howard for Kentucky Colonel Robert Short. The story goes that Short's wife complained of missing the cornfields in her native Iowa, so he bought her the cornstalk fence. A revisionist explanation supplied by a recent owner is that the wife saw that it was the most expensive fence in the building catalog and requested it. Second Civil War occupational governor Nathaniel Banks was quartered here. Continuing down Prytania, you'll find the:

2.
2605 Prytania St. Briggs-Staub House. This is the Garden District's only example of Gothic Revival architecture. Because this style reminded the Protestant Americans of the Roman Catholicism of their Creole antagonists, it did not become popular. Original owner Charles Briggs did not hold African slaves but did employ Irish servants, for whom he built the relatively large adjacent servant quarters.

3.
2523 Prytania St. Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. Once an active Catholic chapel, this sitewas owned by Anne Rice, as was the Marigny-Claiborne House on the other side of the block at 2524 St. Charles Ave. It's the setting for her novel Violin. The former chapel is now owned by actor Nicolas Cage. (Although his name is not the one on the box.) The author's childhood home is down the street at 2301 St. Charles Ave.


4. 2504 Prytania St. Women's Opera Guild House. Some of the Garden District's most memorable homes incorporate more than one style. Designed by William Freret in 1858, this building combines Greek Revival and Queen Anne styles. Now owned by the Women's Opera Guild (and carefully restored after serious Katrina damage. This home is available for tours that are worth the small fee.)

5. Prytania St. Toby's Corner. The Garden District's oldest known home dates to at least 1838. Built for Philadelphia wheelwright Thomas Toby, it is in Greek Revival style, which was then very popular throughout the United States. Although the home represents an American attempt at creating a non-Creole architectural identity, this Anglicized style required Creole building techniques such as raising the house up on brick piers to combat flooding and encourage air circulation.

6. 2343 Prytania St. Bradish Johnson House and Louise S. McGehee School. Paris-trained architect James Freret designed this French Second Empire-style mansion, which was built for sugar factor Bradish Johnson in 1872 at a cost of $100,000 (that's more than $1.6 million today). Contrast this house's awesome detail with the stark classical simplicity of Toby's Corner across the street -- a visual indication of the effect that one generation of outrageous fortune had on Garden District architecture. Since 1929 the building has been the private Louise S. McGehee School for girls. Turn down First Street (away from St. Charles) and it's less than a block to the:

7. 1420 First St. Archie Manning House. This house is the home of former New Orleans Saints superstar quarterback Archie Manning and the childhood home of his sons, who football fans may have heard something about as well: Peyton, the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts; and Eli, the quarterback for the New York Giants.

8.
1407 First St. Pritchard-Pigott House. Greek Revival double-galleried town house. As fortunes compounded, the typical Garden District house size grew. Americans introduced two house forms: the cottage (as in Toby's Corner) and the grander town house (seen here).

9.
1331 First St. Morris-Israel House. As time passed, Garden District homes moved away from the simplicity of Greek Revival and became more playful with design. By the 1860s the Italianate style was popular, as seen in this double-galleried town house. Architect Samuel Jamison designed this house and the Carroll-Crawford House two doors down on the next corner (1315 First St.); note the identical ornate cast-iron galleries. The Morris-Israel House is reputedly haunted. Follow Coliseum Street along the left side of it less than half a block to:

10. 2329-2305 Coliseum St. The Seven Sisters. This row of "shotgun" houses gets its nickname from a story that a 19th-century Garden District resident had seven daughters whom he wanted to keep close to home, so he built these homes as wedding gifts. That story is not true. If you count the "Seven Sisters," you will find eight. (They were actually built on speculation.) An explanation for the name "shotgun" is that if you fire a gun through the front door, the bullet will go right out the back. Also, a West African word for this native African house form sounds something like "shotgun." The shotgun house effectively circulates air and is commonly found in hot climates. Its relatively small size makes the shotgun house a rarity along the imposing streets of the Garden District, but it is extremely popular throughout the rest of New Orleans. Now turn around and go back to First Street and turn left. At the corner of First and Chestnut, you'll see the:

11. 1239 First St. Brevard-Mahat-Rice House. Designed in 1857 as a Greek Revival town house and later augmented with an Italianate bay, this house is a fine example of "transitional" architecture. It was historically called Rosegate for the rosette pattern on the fence. (The fence's woven diamond pattern is believed to be the precursor to the chain-link fence.) This was the home of novelist Anne Rice and the setting for her Witching Hour novels.

12.
1134 First St. Payne-Strachan House. Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, died at this house. Davis fell ill while traveling and was taken here, the home of his friend Judge Charles Fenner (son-in-law of owner Jacob Payne). A stone marker in front of the house bears the date of Davis's death, December 6, 1889. (Davis was buried in magnificent Metairie Cemetery for 2 years and then was disinterred and moved to Virginia.) This house is a classic antebellum Greek Revival home. Note the sky-blue ceiling of the gallery -- the color is believed to keep winged insects from nesting there and to ward off evil spirits. Many Garden District homes adhere to this tradition. Turn right on Camp and go less than a block to:

13.
2427 Camp St. Warwick Manor. An example of Georgian architecture, this house is one of the few homes in the vicinity that's not a single-family residence. Note the buzzers, which indicate rented apartments.

14. 1137 Second St.
This house on the corner to your left is an example of the type of Victorian architecture popularized in uptown New Orleans toward the end of the 19th century. Many who built such homes were from the Northeast and left New Orleans in the summer; otherwise, it would be odd to see this kind of claustrophobic house, normally intended for cool climates, in New Orleans. Note the exquisite stained glass and rounded railing on the gallery. Turn right onto Second Street and go 2 blocks to the corner of Coliseum, where you'll see the:

15.
2425 Coliseum St. Joseph Merrick Jones House. This house was the home of Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor. When he moved in, more anti-noise ordinances began being introduced into city council proceedings. Could it be a coincidence that his next-door neighbor was City Councilwoman Peggy Wilson? The house is now the home of actor John Goodman. Turn left onto Coliseum Street and go 1 block to Third Street. Turn right:

16. 1415 Third St. Robinson House. Built between 1859 and 1865 by architect Henry Howard for tobacco grower and merchant Walter Robinson, this house is one of the Garden District's most striking and unusual homes. Walk past the house to appreciate its scale -- the outbuildings, visible from the front, are actually connected to the side of the main house. The entire roof is a large vat that once collected water and acted as a cistern. Gravity provided water pressure and the Garden District's earliest indoor plumbing. Continue down Coliseum Street 2 blocks to the corner of Washington Avenue. There you'll find:

17. Commander's Palace Restaurant. Established in 1883 by Emile Commander, this turreted Victorian structure (a bordello back in the 1920s), at 1403 Washington Ave., is now the pride of the Brennan family, the most visible and successful restaurateurs in New Orleans. Commander's is perennially rated one of the nation's top restaurants, and the jazz brunch -- a tradition that originated here -- is extremely popular. Commander's had enough rain damage within its walls to require a to-the-studs stripping, both inside and out, but it looks once again as it always did! (Doesn't open for dinner till 6 pm. Plan on coming back later for dinner, if you would like.)" Continue up Washington, past the cemetery and back to the corner of Washington and Prytania. Cross the street at the light to go to:

18. The Garden District Book Shop. Inside the historic property known as the Rink, you will find this store is an excellent starting point for a Garden District tour. Built in 1884 as the Crescent City Skating Rink, the building subsequently acted as a livery stable, mortuary facility, grocery store, and gas station. This is Anne Rice's favorite bookstore, and she usually holds her first book signing here when a new book is released. (The shop stocks a supply of her signed first editions.) The Rink also offers a coffee shop, restrooms, and air-conditioning. (This is a good place to hit the bathroom and get a bagel to chew on the streetcar ride back, and get a local fiction or cookbook from the bookstore. The coffee shop also has free wi fi.)

Walk to St. Charles Avenue to pick up the streetcar (there is a stop right there).

After a rest at your hotel, take a Walk on Bourbon Street

Dusk is a good time to do this. The action has started, but it isn't too rowdy yet. There is definitely an energy to the place and occassionally the live music pouring out of the doors will be pretty good. But, its definitely gaudy, raunchy in places and can be a bit aggressive. During a light rainy evening is nice. The neon lights are beautiful reflecting in the black pavement and an umbrella can be handy to block unwanted views.

Hit Remoulade for dinner.

Rémoulade

Address: 309 Bourbon St., French Quarter, New Orleans, LA, 70112 Phone: 504/523-0377 Cuisine: Creole
Operated by the owners of the posh Arnaud's, Rémoulade is more laid-back and less pricey. It serves the same Caesar salad and pecan pie, as well as a few of the signature starters: shrimp Arnaud in rémoulade sauce, baked oysters, turtle soup, and shrimp bisque. The marble-counter oyster bar and mahogany cocktail bar date from the 1870s; a dozen oysters shucked here, paired with a cold beer, can easily turn into two dozen, maybe three. Tile floors, mirrors, a pressed-tin ceiling, and brass lights create an old-time New Orleans environment. It's open daily until 11 pm. (Try the oyster appetizer - 5 different types including the New Orleans invented Oysters Rockefeller. All of them delicious. The red beans and rice and bread pudding are also fabulous. )

After dinner, ride the Canal Street Algiers Ferry. Free ferry on foot ($1 for car) to get over the Mississippi to Algiers. Pretty homes in a historical neighborhood on the other side. Pretty at night.

DAY 3

Mardi Gras World: tour of warehouse where Mardi Gras floats are being made. Open 7 days a week from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Tours are offered every 30 minutes, with the last tour starting at 4:30 PM. Free hotel shuttle from your hotel or a nearby one. Call them and they'll show up in a few minutes. Tours last approximately one hour. Tour prices are $18.50 adults, $14.50 seniors and $11.50 children (3-11). Phone: 504/361-7821; 800/362-8213

Shopping: Then walk down Royal Street and admire the antiques. There are many art galleries along Royal, as well. Head around the corner and drop in at the new Chartres Street address of A Gallery for Fine Photography; it's like a museum of photos, many of which relate to local culture and history. Swing by the shops toward the Esplanade Avenue end of Decatur Street, where the objets d'art are a lot cheaper than the goods on Royal Street. But watch for panhandlers. There are some nice shops on the other side of the French Market as well. Including an artist co-op and Aunt Sally's Praline Shop, where they are the cheapest in the quarter, you can see them being made and taste free samples of the different flavors. Be sure to pick up some creole seasoning and/or beignet mix if you want to try some New Orleans style cooking when you get back home.

Or, alternatively, head to City Park on the Canal line. Take the 48-City Park/Museum Streetcar on the Canal Street streetcar line. Depart the streetcar at the end of the City Park Line at Lelong/Esplanade and Carrollton Avenues and walk into City Park. Connecting Service is also available with a transfer to the City Park Line from the St. Charles Streetcar.
City Park is full of all sorts of sights, from the Spanish moss-draped giant live oaks to the New Orleans Museum of Art ($10), to the Sculpture Garden (free), to the lake to wander around, to the kids' amusement park and Storybook Land. The Botanical Gardens include the Train Gardens, a sort of melted Dr. Seuss replica of the city in miniature, complete with model trains. There's a lot to do here, and it's rarely as crowded as it deserves to be, except maybe on weekends. See St. John's Bayou. Just outside the gates of City Park lies this former canal turned useless, if scenic, body of water. A stroll here is one of the lesser-known delights of the city. Stand outside the Pitot House and imagine owning one of the surrounding neighborhood's former plantation homes, back in the days when the main entertainment would be sitting on the upper verandas, watching the boats go by. Keep your eyes peeled for herons, pelicans, and other local birds.

Head back to your hotel to get cleaned up for a nice dinner. Ironically, you can get a beer in the quarter before five, but most restaurants don't open for dinner till 6. Some options: Commander's in the Garden District or Brennen's in the quarter if you feel like dropping the cash. (Try the bananas Foster - Brennen's own invention.) Or Louisiana Bistro, if you are feeling adventurous.

Lousiana Bistro
Fun Chef Feed Me option where you pick the number of courses and the chef surprises you after talking to you about your allergies and preferences. Comes out with each course and tells you all about it. Cream Cheese Ice cream is famous. Be there right at 6 pm when they open, or make reservations. The place is small with only about 12 tables.
Cuisines: Cajun & Creole, French, Seafood
337 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112-3129
(504) 525-3335 | www.louisianabistro.net/


Have more than 3 days?

OTHER FUN POSSIBILITIES

New Orleans School of Cooking. two and a half hour class, featuring 4 food items, is held daily from 10am-12:30pm. Advance reservations. Monday Red Beans & Rice, corn bread, pecan pie, pralines Tuesday Gumbo Jambalaya bread pudding pralines $29 per person. 524 St. Louis Street, 1-800-237-4841

Tours by Isabelle Toll Free Reservations: 1-877-665-8687 (8 am - 9 pm daily) They pick you up in a 13 pass van and return you to your hotel after.

Katrina Tour. Combo city and effects of Katrina tour. See levy break locations and areas being rebuilt and not. 8:30 AM to NOON or 1:00 PM to 4:30 PM This tour runs any day we reach a minimum of 4 people. Cost: $65 PER PERSON This is NOT the traditional city tour of New Orleans, 90% of this tour is about The Storm's impact.
New Orleans Combo City Tour. 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM or 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM $70 per person Includes tour of Longue Vue Mansion and gardens.
Airboat Bayou and Plantation Tour*This tour runs any day we reach a minimum of 4 people.9:00 AM to 2:30 PM or 11:00 AM to 4:30 PM $135 per person
West Bank Plantation Tour. 2 plantation tours, drive by others. 8:30 AM to 2:00 PM or 12:30 PM to 6:00 PM *This tour runs any day we reach a minimum of 4 people. Cost: $86 per person

MORE RESTAURANTS
Acme Oyster and Seafood Restaurant 724 Iberville St., French Quarter
A rough-edge classic in every way, this no-nonsense eatery at the entrance to the French Quarter is a prime source for cool and salty raw oysters on the half shell; shrimp, oyster, and roast-beef po'boys; and tender, expertly seasoned red beans and rice. Table service, once confined to the main dining room out front, is now provided in the rear room as well. Expect lengthy lines outside, often a half-block long (trust us though, it's worth it). Crowds lighten in the late afternoon.

Mandina's, 3800 Canal St.
In a city renowned for its small, funky neighborhood joints as well as its fine dining establishments, dis is da ultimate neighbahood New Awlins restaurant. Tommy Mandina's family has owned and operated this restaurant and bar since the late 1800s, and the menu hasn't changed much in the last 50 years or so. This is a good thing. Mandina's gets crowded for lunch, so try to go a little early or late to beat the crowd. And don't be afraid of your waiter -- surly or gruff as he may be, his advice is always good. Standouts among the appetizers are the greasy but yummy fried onion rings, an excellent, tangy Shrimp Remoulade, or the tremendous Crawfish Cakes. Their soups are always fine as well, especially seafood gumbo and turtle soup au sherry. Go for the wonderful red beans and rice with Italian sausage (but only on Mondays, of course), trout meunière or grilled trout, and always look at what's on special (I go for the specials whenever I can). If you're in the mood for fried seafood, you can't go wrong with the shrimp or oyster loaves, or soft-shell crab when in season. Finish up with the rum-soaked Creole bread pudding, and you'll have a such taste of New Orleans you'll feel like a native, from da old neighbahood. Fantastic, hearty, and very affordable.

Lilette. Owned by one of the most interesting and creative chefs in town, Lilette is a charming -- and popular -- spot for lunch. 3637 Magazine St. tel. 504/895-1636.

Creole Creamery
, sample some of the myriad flavors concocted including lavender honey, red velvet, and pepper. 4924 Prytania St. tel. 504/894-8680.

2 comments:

  1. It sounds like you had a fun trip. We surely didn't do much sightseeing when we went there. I doubt that you remember going there when we lived in Mississippi.

    ReplyDelete