New Orleans diaries
I came in on Continental Airlines on a Wednesday afternoon from LA and felt the humidity right as I stepped off the plane at the Louis Armstrong airport in New Orleans (to locals also known as NOLA ). My culinary and cultural adventure in New Orleans had finally begun and I could barely contain my excitement.
My friend Ben, a local and culinary expert had warned me of the high temperatures in the summer. What he didn’t mention was that I was going to have to spend planning my days around the heat the rest of my trip. 98F didn’t feel so hot in LA and I knew it was June but when you add 100% humidity you may find yourself gasping like a dog after walking only 2 blocks. Although I must add: you may experience the most amazing thunder storms in NOLA and run through some “monsoon like” showers almost every afternoon during July. The temperature here never gets below 85F during these hot summer months and as soon as the big rain clouds pass by you’ve got more sunshine and heat than you can wish for.
I learned quickly: stay away from the streets during midday till about 3pm and hydrate plenty all through the day and I mean with H2O. Good places to hang out in during that time is: the Canal street mall, the museums, coffee houses or your hotel room, basically anywhere close to the air conditioning. Funny I should say that since I grew up in Europe without sirconditioning or ice during the summer.
Rest plenty during lunch, that way you have plenty of energy to enjoy NOLA’s bustling nightlife.
If your schedule is tight, use the cable cars, wear a hat and walk in the shade during your sight seeing tours. Heat exhaustion and sunstrokes sneak up on you in no time and are no joke. I also made sure I had at least 50 sun block, especially after I had seen some lobsters (or was it tourists) walk around town.
The occasional dip in the pool helps if you are staying in a hotel.
I became a frequent visitor at the W hotel-, the Omni Royal-, Intercontinental- and Astor Hotel. All of these have small but nice pools where you can swim, get a drink at the bar and relax for a bit in the middle of the day.
New Orleans is a gorgeous city, easy to get around in, by foot or by cable car. Single rides are $1,25 or you can get a day pass for only $3. There are 4 major lines one of which one takes you uptown (St. Charles line), Riverfront Streetcar (takes you along the Mississippi river), Canal Street streetcar( up and down Canal).
The cabs are reasonable. You can get pretty much anywhere for about $6-12.
Areas to explore:
French Quarter (also known as the Vieux Carre= Old Quarter)- This is the city’s center and with its many shops, restaurants, hotels, boutiques and bars the most touristy area.
Sandra’s “10 Best Places in New Orleans” you must see:
1) Canal Street- is the main boulevard where you have lots of opportunity to get souvenirs like T-shirts, postcards, hot sauce and other trinkets. These stores are a bit touristy and over priced.
2) Royal Street+ Decatour- has the most amazing antique stores and art galleries that are open all day (10am-6pm) and are nicely air-conditioned. There is also an amazing Italian lingerie store and my favorite antique diamond jewelry store in case you wanted to get something really special.
3) French Market- French Quarters number 1 Flee market
4) Bourbon Street- known for it’s many bars, strip clubs and dives.
5) Hermann- Grima House on 820 St. Louise Street- the most significant and meticulously restored residence in the French Quarter. This tour is totally worth it. You’ll absorb the lifestyle of these wealthy Creole families in this Federal mansion.Tours are Mo-Fri.10am-3:30pm, closed major holidays.
6) Jackson Square- Take the horse carriage tour, trust me it’s worth it. I know it sounds a bit touristy but it will give you a little bit of a background on the cities history and architecture.
7) City Park- you must go there on a cloudy day. It is a gorgeous park and houses the oldest and most gigantic trees I’ve ever seen. You’ll see live Oak, Magnolia- and Cypress trees. Some have French moss on them and look like straight out of a fairytale. There is also a botanical- and a sculpture garden and a tree with chimes that will blow you away.
8)Creole Adventures- it is well worth the money! Go see the Bayou.
9) The Laura plantation- the only Creole plantation in the region. A wonderful tour filled with stories of the house, the inner workings of a plantation, it’s owners and their working slaves.
10) The Ogden Museum of Southern Art- a wonderful insight into artists of the South. 925 Camp Str. LA 70130. Closed on Tuesdays!
Now let’s talk about food- my favorite subject!
You are in for a treat if you stay away from all the touristy spots. All of the restaurants I picked are not in a tourist guide and there is a reason for this.
I was introduced to some amazingly delicious restaurants during my stay in Nola thanks to two of my friends, who had been living in Nola for some 10 years and gave me a culinary tour. I can tell you one thing: in all my travels I have always thought I will never find a place in the US that was comparable with its quality and prices of food as I was used to in Austria or Croatia growing up. Only to find that Nola is probably the first place in the US that continuously surprised me how good the food and the service were. Don’t be afraid to branch out into the different areas. The French Quarter has a few good restaurants but they are also a bit on the pricy side.
Here is a list of restaurants you have to try:
Sandra’s Restaurant Picks:
The Palace Cafe- on Canal Str.- amazing restaurant with old-world charm, serves exquisite food for lunch, Jazz brunch and dinner.
Andouille crusted fish, Duck special and the tuna filet w/ veggies, followed by a coffee and the berry cobbler dessert
Café Du Monde- serves decadent beignets w/ coffee day and night
The Bistreaux- lovely laid back, chic restaurant/bar with live pianist, Toulouse Lautrec paintings on the walls give it a French, old world flair.
Sandra’s picks: Truffel Mac& Cheese
drinks: Sazerac, Pimmscup, Mint Chulip, Hurricane
Sandra’s Restaurant picks:
The Butcher- the most delicious sandwiches+ meats in town, order the Ruben or any of the sandwiches and sausages.
Blue Plate on Prytania- try the Pork chops called Swine divine or the Fish called the Fat cat, it’ll knock your socks off!
Grand Isle Bar & Restaurant- Sandra’s picks: Oysters, Shrimp & Gritts
Rio Mar- Sandra recommends any fish+ seafood dish on the menu
La Boca- the best steaks in town
Bars: Lucy’s- $2 tacos and $2 beers, draws a very young crowd
Frenchman- this street is much better than Bourbon Street and it is a local’s hang out. This street has many great jazz bars and restaurants.
Adolfo’s- Creole Italian food (don’t get misled by its appearance)
The food is divine! I recommend the rack of lamb in a rosemary butter sauce and the Grouper with ocean sauce! You may never want to leave NOLA after you’ve tried this!
Magazine Street- a very residential street with lots of boutiques, bars and restaurants.
Also where the most amazing breakfast places are located:
Gott Gourmet-try the Apple pancakes w/ cinnamon crumble or the Irish breakfast
Surrey’s- blueberry waffles, steak& eggs
Stein’s Deli- Sandra’s favorite: Philly cheese steak sandwich
Sucre- desserts+ ice cream
Juan’s Flying Burrito-try the veggie tacos and order the cheese sauce
Coffee houses in NOLA:
Envie on Frenchman
Mojo’s on Magazine
Community is a chain like Starbucks only much better!