It took about 24 hours to get to New Orleans so when we did arrive at 10pm, although the party was at full volume outside, we all went straight to bed. The next morning though we were awake at 6am (thank you jetlag) and went straight out to Cafe du Monde for coffee and beignets (French doughnuts). Beignets were at the top of my dishes to try list and Cafe du Monde is open 24 hours a day so it was the perfect place to start.
We walked through Jackson Square, past St Louis Cathedral and on to the Mississippi riverside. It was only 7.30am but already getting really hot and humid. I had expected rain and thunderstorms though and we were really lucky not to have any rain the whole time we were there.
Shaun and I walked back to the hotel to pick up Michelle and Mike and we walked two blocks to the Clover Grill for breakfast. I had a traditional Southern biscuit and sausage gravy, which is a soft scone like spongy biscuit topped with a creamy white sauce flavoured with sausage, complete with a side of bacon. Completely unnecessary after the beignets but hey, it’s just one of those holidays!
We walked from there up to the top of the French Quarter and tried to get in to Cemetery No. 1 but from March you now need a guide to enter. It was a shame really as this was on my list but we ran out of time in the end and couldn’t fit in a minimum 2 hour tour. I’m not sure why they have done this but maybe there was just too many people going in. We walked down the road instead and got on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, the green tram that is always in movies.
After a trip up and down we dropped some bags off at the hotel and continued on to the French Market for lunch, with shopping stops along the way. We tried some amazing crab cakes for lunch and some interesting sausage stew called Maque Choux. It’s a traditional dish from south Louisiana and was full of flavour, topped with some Andouille sausage, a favourite around here.
I tried to go to the Food and Beverage Museum in the afternoon but unfortunately it closed 2 years ago – it sounded like it would have had a fantastic shop (including a book just about coleslaw according to the guide books) but now it’s just a shopping mall.
In the evening we all headed out down Bourbon Street. It’s a little bit tacky in some places, especially on one end where there are a few strip clubs but there are pockets of lovely bars and restaurants too. We stopped at the Music Legends Garden and had a beer while listening to some live jazz and then ended up having dinner in Channing Tatum’s restaurant, Saints and Sinners.
We didn’t get up so early this morning but had a late breakfast at the Old Coffee Pot and walked down towards the port to catch the Natchez steamboat morning cruise. On the way there we found the exact replica of the fortune telling machine in the film “Big” (with Tom Hanks) – ‘Zoltar Speaks’. I got my fortune (it was definitely plugged in) but it didn’t really mean anything.
The Natchez Steamboat is the only proper steamboat still running out of the Port of New Orleans and we boarded at around 11am and cruised up and down until 1.30pm. Downstream there was some excellent narration about the sights along the river and then the boat turned around and you can have lunch while listening to the live jazz band. It was a great couple of hours and we had a good look around the boat’s steam engine room and the dining rooms.
We decided not to have lunch there and instead went to the legendary ‘Johnnie’s Po’ Boys’ for a local sandwich. A Po’ Boy is a baguette filled with deep fried shrimp and dressed with salad and mayo. Shaun had one with a side of shrimp gumbo and I had an amazing ‘muffaletta’, focaccia style bread filled with Italian meats, cheese and a majorly garlicky carrot and olive salad. You pronounce it muff-a-larter.
We tried to get it to the Voodoo Spiritual Temple in the afternoon but there was a reading going on inside so it was closed. I went to the Voodoo Museum instead but it was a bit disappointing. It was a small museum anyway but filled with a load of dusty old stuff.
In the evening we took a cab through the city to Upperline restaurant, a really quirky fine dining restaurant out of the French Quarter. Here we ticked off more of the dishes I wanted to try including Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade, Turtle Soup and Louisiana Pecan Pie, all amazing.
Next stop, Memphis baby