Bourbon Street…Jackson Square..The French Quarter…Beignets…Creole/Cajun food…Mardi Gras parades. These were just a few of the visions that were dancing in our heads as we left Meaher State Park on Saturday, February 9th, headed for our next destination, the Big Easy, aka NOLA or New Orleans.
Now visiting New Orleans could fall into that “been there, done that” category similar to those in our recent posts since we spent four days here before we were RV’ers (pre-blog days) where we had a wonderful time visiting with our friends, Jim and Joan, at their time share in March of 2010.
We visited again in 2014, staying at Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego, LA. During that stay we ferried from Algiers to the city to meet Jim and Joan for the day but the majority of our time was spent exploring the surrounding area. We checked out the local critters while walking on the trails and boardwalk in the swamps of the Jean Laffitte National Park and as passengers on a Jean Lafitte swamp tour. When we grew tired of alligators, we headed further west to Avery Island where we took an interesting tour of the McIlhenny Tabasco Factory and visited the Jungle Gardens.
But this time, we were looking forward to our week long stay and having lots of time in the Big Easy!
Despite it being a Saturday when we left Meaher State Park, the highways were busy so our 2 hour drive along I-10W and US-90W seemed somewhat tedious. As we approached the road that would lead us to our next stop, I thought oh-no! Did we make a mistake? What we were seeing certainly was a very sharp contrast to the lovely greenery of Bayou Segnette State Park! Instead, run down, deserted warehouses in a somewhat seedy looking industrial neighborhood greeted us once we turned onto France Road. It was paved, but yikes, it was so full of ruts and potholes, everything inside the coach shook and rattled. But we, Sparky, our dishes and everything else survived. At least our destination, Pontchartrain Landing, had a nice entrance so perhaps that was a good omen of better things to come.
Located on the corner of the Intercoastal Navigational Canal and Lake Pontchartrain, the gated Marina Resort, Pontchartrain Landing, is just 12 minutes from the French Quarter which ended up being very convenient. Not only do they have RV sites, they offer vacation rental villas (including floating ones), tiny homes, a bungalow and camper rentals. Other amenities include a pool, hot tub, shuttle to the French Quarter, a boat launch and a 5 star restaurant, the Lighthouse Bar and Grill.
In the office we were greeted by Sean, a super friendly and very helpful young man. After we made a few comments about the lousy road, he assured us that they were going to be improving it very soon, although the process will take over a year.
Back in October of 2018 we had made a reservation here for a premium waterfront site which normally has a rate of $74-$82. However with Passport America, which was valid for up to a week (except on holidays or special events and not valid on their 11 “super sites”), our nightly rate was only $41. Good deal!
Sean reviewed the shuttle schedule with us explaining that it was $6.00 per person daily with departures from the resort at 10:00 a.m., 3:45 p.m.and 7:45 p.m. A return trip from the French Quarter back to the resort would be available at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Along with a map and various tour information, three small slips of paper were included in our packet of information. One had the gate code since the gate would be closed from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.; another had the names and phone numbers of a taxi company and Uber drivers if we wanted to return after 8:00 p.m. (cost would be about $20) and the third had the address of the resort in case we imbibed in too many potent “Hurricanes” (made famous at Pat O’Brien’s original speakeasy) and were too inebriated to communicate with the driver verbally. Oh and by the way, his last words were to be sure to adhere to the 7 mph speed limit because the dirt roads can generate a lot of dust! How true that was!
After checking in, we were led to our site by one of the staff members in a golf cart. Site #20 would be our home for a week. Our site was fairly spacious with plenty of room between us and our neighbors and a bit of greenery to provide some privacy. Oddly, not only were the utilities (including sewer) way at the front of the site, they were also uphill. Luckily we have a factory installed macerator system that can pump uphill and Rob was insightful enough to carry an extra extension hose for it on board. Other than that, not bad!
Although it was waterfront, our view wasn’t as spectacular as hoped since it was obstructed by a dock with three of their floating villas, partially blocking our view. None of these were occupied for the majority of the week so at least it was quiet. Wonder how noisy it is during busy times of the year. Besides the floating villas, the marina has 40 slips available for both shallow and deep draft boats – there were a number of boats tied up to the dock. Across the water was a not so picturesque huge Yacht Repair building, To the left, however, we had a great view of several picturesque paddle boats.
Once settled in, our task for the evening was to figure out our plans for the week. Our initial thought was to take the shuttle into the French Quarter on Sunday morning. But then after doing some research I found out that it was the Humana Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon weekend. What? Not again – first it was the marathon at Disney and now NOLA! Knowing that roads would most likely be closed and there would be massive hordes of people in the city, we quickly decided to cancel those tentative plans.
So what did we do instead? Well, it didn’t take long for hubby to find a breakfast place and come up with a suggestion for something to do.
Off we went to Russell’s Marina Grill the next morning for breakfast/brunch. Being a Sunday, it was tough finding a parking space because it was pretty crowded but fortunately we only had to wait about 1/2 hour for a table.
Eggs 9th ($15) was my choice – two lump crab cakes topped with two poached eggs and smothered with shrimp hollandaise sauce. Except for the eggs which were slightly overcooked, it was very good. Rob had the Eggs Pontchartrain – an English muffin with fried green tomatoes, smoked pecan bacon, two poached eggs topped with hollandaise. It tasted good but he wasn’t happy that it was difficult to cut. Perhaps on a less busy day, the food might have been better.
So what sightseeing opportunities did Rob plan for us and good to do in the somewhat dismal weather? Why, one of his favorite past times – visit a local distillery for a tour, of course! Seven Three Distillery in Treme (a NOLA neighborhood) offers a 45 minute tour and tasting for $15 per person but Rob had searched on Groupon and found a two for one deal so the cost for the two of us was only $15. We ended up driving there and were able to park for free in the small lot next to the main building.
Our tour guide was Casey – she was great! At the beginning of the tour, she explained that the distillery was founded in 2017 by two couples, the Bivalacquas and the Rogers with the goal “to make distinctive distilled spirits that celebrate New Orleans while teaching others about this beautiful city’s past and present.” They recruited Erik Morningstar as their head distiller whose role is to source locally farmed grains, fruits and botanicals, create new recipes and mash bills, and oversee all aspects of production. Erik produced a full line of award-winning whiskeys, gins, absinthe and vodka at at Two James Spirits in Detroit and trained under Dave Pickerel, former master distiller at Maker’s Mark (we visited there in 2015). And has already done the same thing at Seven Three – their St. Roch Vodka has already won a bronze medal at the American Distilling Institute’s national spirits competition.
So why was it named Seven Three? Because the name incorporates the 73 officially recognized neighborhoods in NOLA, each with its own colorful history, landmarks and residents, that make up New Orleans. Currently today, each of their spirits is named for a neighborhood – Gentilly Gin, St. Roch Vodka, St. Roch Cucumber, Black Pearl Rum, Marigny Moonshine and Irish Channel Whiskey. Bywater Bourbon is currently in the works.
Casey was very knowledgeable about the history of the area and the history of their celebrated neighborhood, Old Treme, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States which is often referred to as “the birthplace of jazz” and Storyville, the former “red light district” of New Orleans from 1897 to 1917.
That was followed by Black Pearl Rum, the Marigny Moonshine and the St. Roch Cucumber vodka. This particular one probably would have tasted better in a mixed drink – it definitely wasn’t our favorite..
At the end of the tour, everyone was invited to order (at an additional cost of course) one of the distillery’s signature drinks at their copper bar which is open to the public even without taking the tour. Since we weren’t interested in that, we left. Amazingly our credit cards stayed in our pockets the entire time! Although we really liked the Gentilly Gin and figured we would pick some up at a local store where it might be cheaper.
Over the next few days we waited for the weather to improve before heading to the city. When the sun finally appeared on Wednesday, more exciting sightseeing excursions began. To be continued….