Upon leaving Florida we made a beeline to New Orleans! We stayed at Bayou Segnette State Park which is actually South of New Orleans in the town of Westwego. It was a nice park with large sites, showers and FREE laundry! Only power and water at the site but there was a dump station on the way out. It was on the other side of the river from New Orleans and occasionally there would be traffic but mostly it wasn’t a big deal to get in to town.
We like to take in a bus tour in larger cities to get a lay of the land before we dig too deep on our own – we decided on the Southern Pride City Tour. Our tour took us through numerous neighborhoods (french quarter, ninth ward, uptown, garden district and warehouse district). There are specific Katrina tours you can take but the general one includes it as well. We saw where the levees broke and were rebuilt, where Brad Pitt has built new homes for some who lost theirs, famous peoples houses in the garden district such as Sandra Bullocks and the Manning’s, areas famous for jazz, the beautiful city park and even one of the large cemeteries. Being in New Orleans it’s almost mandatory to go to a ghost tour and so we did. We like the ghost tours because you usually get some history and some juicy rumors of the past and this one did not disappoint. We also wanted a more in depth look at one of the older cemeteries so we did a “pay what you want” tour of St. Louis Cemetary no. 1. This cemetery contains the tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau and even Nicholas Cage’s gaudy (in our opinion) Egyption revival tomb. This was a fun tour! The last tour we did was a plantation tour with Cajun Pride of the Laura Plantation. There are multiple plantations and multiple tour companies to choose from. You also should shop around for pricing. Some people on the same bus with us paid over $100 for what we paid $45 for. We still feel like we got fooled though. These tours are basically just transportation to the plantation – if we would have just drove our jeep there we could have got the same tour for $20! If you have your own transportation that is the way to go for sure. Despite the cost the tour was very interesting. Not only do you get to see a creole style plantation but also learn a lot of information about the family, creole life and slave history in the area. It was quite fascinating to put the history in context while walking through the rooms of the plantation and slave quarters.
We were about a week prior to Fat Tuesday but definitely in the height of Mardi Gras season so there were parades every day and, on the weekend, multiple times a day. Some we went to intentionally but some we got stuck in by not paying attention to the routes in relationship to where we wanted to go! This is something to be aware of if you’re visiting during this time. There are parades with huge multi-float trains pulled by large tractors and those with a more home grown feel like the Chewbakkas (Star Wars themed) or Barkus (dog themed) where people make their own little pushed or pulled floats. If you’re looking for a more family friendly parade you should definitely stick to a day time one. If you don’t mind drunken craziness try a night time parade. They can be fun but beware. Megann had someone burn her shirt with a cigarette and we nearly got barfed on! They throw beads at all the parades of course and you don’t have to do anything nasty either. We also took a tour of the Mardi Gras World to get a behind the scenes look at float making and the history of Mardi Gras parades. We highly recommend this tour for the information and a chance to see the artists in action creating and painting props for the floats.
The French Quarter
We spent a lot of time in two areas of the French quarter: Bourbon street and Frenchman street. Bourbon street is the place for drunken debauchery. Every morning it smells like stale beer and who knows what else, they have to hose down the street haha. We never saw it after about 11pm but I can only imagine what it must be like about 2am. Maybe this would have been my scene when I was in my 20’s but not now! They do have live music at different places but not much jazz. It’s an experience you have to have if you go to New Orleans at least once but there are funner places to hang out in our opinion. An area that is much more our speed is Frenchman street. This is where you will find most of the good live jazz. And they have places that steer towards traditional jazz (the fun upbeat stuff) instead of the “intellectual” jazz as our tour guide called it. We spent a morning listening to different bands after our jazz brunch (mentioned below). We just wandered down the street and popped in if a band sounded good!
Looking back we had very good food the entire time we were there. We almost always check reviews before we spend money eating out but still get burned sometimes. We did really good here, spent too much money of course, but enjoyed the eats! Our first meal was at Pierre Maspero’s where we tried their delicious fried alligator appetizer, shrimp and grits and Jambalaya. Along with this Megann tried the Hurricane, a famous New Orleans drink, that the bar tender said was the only “real” Hurricane in town, made with real fruit juice. It was a good drink if you’re in to fruity. Now, after tasting a Hurricane on Bourbon street I would have to agree with the bar tender. What you get on Bourbon street tastes like off-brand fruit punch with bottom shelf vodka – something a high schooler would get wasted on and puke in your car. If you want a real Hurricane go to Pierre Maspero’s. One place we stumbled upon by chance because the hostess helped us decipher the parking signs was called Chartres House. This was a little cheaper and had an amazing house burger with a thin hot sausage patty on top of the burger. Another “must” while in New Orleans and Beignets and cafe au laits (coffee). We tried them at a couple places but by far the best (including the coffee) were at Cafe Du Monde. We also went to a “jazz brunch” at Buffa’s. There are a lot of expensive jazz brunches around town but this one we just wandered in to and sat up at the bar without reservations. The food was delicious and the music was lively and fun! The last place I want to mention is actually between Baton Rouge and Lafayette called Crawfish Town USA. This is where I got my first experience with boiled crawfish, spicy of course! It’s a process, like cracking a plate of crab, but worth it and fun. They even have a bunch of condiments at the table for you to make your own dipping sauce which the waitress helped me with. We ate at more places than I listed but these are the ones that stood out.
Something we did off the beaten path was visit Villalobos rescue center. This is the rescue featured on the TV show Pitbulls and Parolees. One day we did a tour but returned so we could help with walking the dogs. We both got to walk – or be pulled along – by one of the pitbulls around the neighborhood. We love dogs so it was a blast!
We spent a lot of money and gained a few pounds but had a great time in New Orleans! We were even welcomed by a friend we made while “workcamping” in California who lives in Louisiana. Shout out to Capri – thanks for making time to come spend an evening with us! This city is so much more than beads and beer. There is so much history and culture to take in we could easily make another trip and have all new things to experience. From here we headed to Texas to visit friends and explore.