In about a week’s worth of time we hit much of what spicy, saucy, New Orleans has to offer. As much as I wanted to dig into the town and do a sort of rock n roll/haunted Halloween insider’s guide, my stomach started to hurt after about day 2…and I have a toddler. The two main things to do in New Orleans are eat, and listen to jazz all night. The former two prohibited the latter two, so instead, I bring you the same New Orleans guide brought to you by most. What sets it apart from the others can only be Michael’s fabulous photography and of course…the Little Man.
This crazy place was the first neighborhood built in New Orleans in 1718, which we can most likely agree, was a LONG time ago. Since the whole neighborhood is a protected, historic landmark, it is really enjoyable just to wander around and ogle the (mostly colonial Spanish) architecture. Any place with a tucked away garden courtyard, will transport you.
Our favorite spot in the Quarter is the Napoleon House. They built this house for the man himself in hopes of sheltering him while he was in exile. Alas, that never happened, but I think he’d be pleased to know the restaurant–now in his house–pays homage to him by using his image as the only form of decoration. We love this place, not just because it has great rice and beans, and is steeped in history, but also because it has the only vegetable in New Orleans–the cucumber in my Pimm’s cup. The Pimm’s cup is their specialty cocktail, by the way. What would Napoleon think about that? I wondered. But then I realized they say Pimm’s is their speciality to throw you off the scent of their real, and most likely Napoleon approved, specialty—The Sazerac.
The other French Quarter classic is Cafe du Monde. Beignets doused in powdered sugar. Chicory flavored coffee. It’s always packed. Why wouldn’t it be?
The Steamboat Natchez takes you for a ride on the Mississippi and is about as touristy as you can get, and also about as fun. G explored all three levels of the ship, but was mainly mesmerized by the giant paddle wheel. He was then the only dancer on the dance floor when The Dukes of DixieLand played live jazz in the ship’s dining room. He was having so much fun they dedicated a song to him…The Muskrat Ramble.
THE GARDEN DISTRICT
What a treat to visit New Orleans’ poshest neighborhood on the day of Halloween. This part of the town was built when people wanted to get away from the French Quarter and have a little (a lot) more room to breathe. The area is famous for its huge Victorian mansions (some haunted), which were mostly decked out for potential trick-or-treaters.
Below are just a tiny handful of examples of the grandeur of the period.
The Commander’s Palace is the restaurant to go to in the Garden District. We did not plan to dine here that day, as you need reservations, no T-Shirts, no shorts and close toed shoes. But we decided to throw caution to the wind and try our luck. Not only did we get a table in the garden, a mint julip and the Commander’s Luncheon, we also got to watch ladies who lunch have their annual Halloween luncheon in the glass enclosed patio. They wore embellished witch hats and grew more and more exuberant as their 25 cent martinis (limit 3) took effect. Fantastic entertainment. My luncheon was delicious, expertly prepared and probably contained more cholesterol than I’ve ingested in the last 3 years.
Directly across the street from the restaurant is the Lafayette Cemetery, which is a big draw (partially because they filmed scenes here for Anne Rice’s very popular Interview With a Vampire). Cemeteries are not entirely my thing, even the glamorous, old Père Lachaise in Paris wore me out after a bit, BUT…it was Halloween, so when in Rome. As we walked in I heard a woman say under her breath, but loud enough for me to hear, “That’s strange to bring a little boy into a cemetery.”
This surprisingly elicited a giggle from me.
Is it?, I wondered? I hadn’t really thought about it. I actually thought guided tours of cemeteries (like the one this woman was a part of) as an adult, when you didn’t personally know anyone buried there, were strange. But, maybe it was a little strange to take him to a cemetery, and perhaps the skeleton shirt he was wearing didn’t help our case.
THE WAREHOUSE DISTRICT
While this area is primarily filled with businesses, it is also lined with beautiful art galleries and houses the best restaurant you could ask for in New Orleans, Cochon. It’s worth going for the atmosphere alone. It has sort of a steamy, swampy, Streetcar Named Desire feel to it…yellow light…shadows of slow moving ceiling fans. The food is delicious, cajun, southern cooking. Pork, dumplings, rabbit. Turnips, alligator, mac and cheese. It’s not so good because they do anything outrageous to it, it’s so good because it tastes like it’s not just made with expertise, but with love. I mean it. It tastes like whoever made your dish made it for you because they absolutely love you. Has anyone ever made you homemade chicken noodle soup just because they love you? Cochon tastes like that.
And of course, right on our street, like a gift from up above was the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Yet another incredible playground for the little guy. When and if we ever settle down somewhere again, I will have to build a house inside a Children’s Museum. Louisiana has a great one, I’ll tell you that. It was so big and so much fun we had to go twice. We had to. Someone made us.
As I write this post I’m nestled in bed in Houston, Texas with horrible indigestion. When this post publishes, we’ll be en route to Chicago.