New Orleans is a city with true spirit, home of “keepin’ it weird.” It’s “the” city that never sleeps. New York, L.A., and Chicago have nothing on this place. It can be wild, fun, and adventurous if you let it, but I’ve seen its corrupt and dangerous side, too. Luckily, over the two nights we stayed in New Orleans, we had a great experience and sampled a little of everything from meeting famous Top Chef Michael Sichel at Galatoire’s to being a part of a live street show and checking out some of the cool local “to-do’s” and shops.
We found a quiet place to stay called Hotel St. Pierre located right in the French Quarter and pretty close to the pier where we would leave for a Caribbean Cruise later that week. The hotel rooms were not big and all faced a private courtyard, small pool, and garden area. The staff we interacted with were very friendly and always helpful.
Although we did a bit of exploring on our own, we did manage to meet up with a few family members who call this place home. Cousin Jimmy brought us to a cool city park devoted to New Orleans blues and jazz music. He also made sure to take us to see some of the more eclectic sites including a toilet-themed bar called “The John.”
The French Quarter was busting at the seams with a combination of Mardi Gras and Christmas decor, on account of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) kicking off just before we got there, and the holidays not yet out of memory. This also meant that the notorious “King Cakes” were in season, so you know we had to make a stop to get a fresh one for the whole family to try. I’d have to say it’s a lot like a huge, dense doughnut covered with colored frosting and sugar.
As for the food, the only thing better than Eat New Orleans’ savory Eggs Benedict with homemade biscuits and thinly sliced baked ham (pictured in the gallery) was the Coop’s Place’s fried chicken and their Pasta Jambalaya, a dish with shrimp, smoked sausage, and tasso cooked in olive oil and flavored with spicy creole sauce. Umm, yeah!
We found it amusing to wander around the city people-watching and enjoyed a few street magicians, because they’re everywhere. Only thing we saw more of than magic was live music. We heard it playing on every street, in most bars and restaurants, and it’s even in places you didn’t think it would be, like a book store. Some other touristy things we did included eating beignets, window shopping at a masquerade shop, hitting up a club for live music, and we even got some beads from the locals (thanks, Dean and Linda).
What I personally found surprising, aside from the scene that played out with “cousin Jimmy,” involving several “whiskey-flavored whiskies” and my soon-to-be father-in-law, were the little cultural differences. The first example was seeing apartment “for rent” signs that had to disclose if they were “haunted” or “not haunted.” Then there was the level of dirty that was acceptable in restaurants, some of the dirtiest being the best-reviewed. And, finally, the willingness of the tourists to take random photos with other drunk tourists.
As far as I’m concerned, the city of New Orleans is one of the most entertaining adult fun a person can have. The Cajun, French, American influences bring on a sense of mystery and intrigue. I’d place this in the top ten places you must experience before you die category.