Crescent City (referring to the shape of the Mississippi River). The City of Yes (as opposed to the City of N.O.). The Big Easy. N’awlins. NOLA. For us, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, we were excited to be visiting this fun city again.
I say again because we had stayed at Pontchartrain Landing back in early February of 2019. During that stay we enjoyed Beignets, Buses and A Seance Lounge, we Stepped Out In of the French Quarter and the Garden District, we learned the meaning of Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler, explored the history of the infamous Lafayette Cemetery #1 and of course, sampled the local cuisine. Whew, we did so much, you’re probably wondering what else was there for us to see or do?We would once again be staying at Pontchartrain Landing, which normally has a rate of $74-$82 per day, but fortunately we were able to take advantage of the 50% discount offered through Passport America so our rate would be $41 per night. We had reserved premium site #17 for a week, which was a back in site. Note the pull in sites shown in the photo below are Supersites. Passport America is not offered on these sites. Our initial plan was to stay for only a week but with rain in the forecast on Friday, January 31st, our departure day, we were able to extend our stay through the weekend. Just think for 10 days, we saved $410! If you don’t already have PA, it’s well worth joining – a stay like this more than pays for the $44 yearly fee. If you do join, be sure to use us as a referral (membership type is “R”, our account number is 0238813).
Driving down France Road, the surrounding industrial area hadn’t improved at all, but thankfully they were working on the road. In fact, midway through our stay, they had repaved both lanes. Wow! What an improvement that has been over the rockin’ ‘n rollin’ we experienced due to all the pot holes last February.
On our way back from sightseeing one day, the construction equipment along France Road had been replaced by a few Mardi Gras floats. A parade along France Road, perhaps? Highly unlikely, must be a parade scheduled somewhere else in the city and they were just holding the floats here.
Pontchartrain Landing offers a shuttle for $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 is scheduled at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Concerned about the lack of flexibility with the shuttle schedule, we once again opted to drive ourselves. Over our 10 day stay, we would park several times at the French Market Riverside, entering the parking lot from St. Peters Street (exact coordinates for the entrance here). This lot is very conveniently located just steps from Cafe Du Monde (in case you need a sugar high) and Jackson Square. And by entering the lot before 10:00 a.m. and leaving between 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., the cost would be the same as the shuttle for the two of us – $12 – plus we could come and go based on our own schedule.
On the morning after our arrival, since it was a weekend we decided to use a different mode of transportation, the Algiers to Canal Street Ferry, which we had used back in 2014 while staying at Bayou Segnette State Park which is across the river from NOLA. Once we arrived across the river in Algiers, we managed to find a parking space on the street near the historical Algiers Court House so we didn’t need to pay for parking in the dirt parking lot.
Ferries (passengers only) leave Algiers to Canal Street every hour beginning at 6 a.m. daily. Last ferry from Canal Street back to Algiers is 10:00 p.m. Sunday thru Thursday and 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Back in 2010, it was free, but now it costs $2 ($1 for Seniors 65+). If you go, be aware, it is cash only and exact change.
The Moon Walk is a promenade next to the mighty Mississippi. And no, it wasn’t named for Michael Jackson. Instead it bears the name of Maurice “Moon” Landrieu who was mayor in 1976 when the Moon Walk was constructed.It’s the perfect place to stroll, to run, to sit and people watch or to be entertained by the passing huge tankers, barges, tugs and cruise ships making their way up or down the Mississippi. We spent quite a bit of time walking and just hanging out on the Moon Walk.
Being a Saturday, despite the fact that it was a little chilly, the city was bustling! Even though we have been in Jackson Square a number of times, we still had trouble taking it all in. Living statues covered in gold paint were standing (or laying) like mannequins, not moving a muscle or blinking an eye for long periods of time.
Local artists lined the sidewalks displaying their original artwork on the fences lining Jackson Square, many of them with paintbrushes in hand, quickly turning a blank canvas into a colorful creation.
Fortune tellers or tarot card readers had small groups of people surrounding them anxiously waiting to hear what their future might hold. Magicians wowed spectators with a variety of tricks. On every street corner, musicians, either in groups or alone, were hoping to earn tips playing jazz, blues and rap.
In front of the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, crowds were hooting and hollering while watching a show put on by a group of street performers. Whew, it was like America’s Got Talent on the street!
Hunger pains eventually told us that it was time for lunch. What a coincidence that we just happened to be so close to our favorite NO restaurant, Muriel’s Jackson Square. Being a Saturday, they weren’t offering the usual lunch menu, instead we would have to order from the Saturday Brunch Menu.
Even before our arrival in the Big Easy, visions of blackened catfish had been dancing in my head. But I was thrown into a tizzy when I saw “pecan crusted puppy drum”. Huh? Puppy drum? Is that a pooch or a musical instrument? Actually neither, it’s a fish, a juvenile red drum fish. Described on the menu as “pan sauteed with oven roasted pecans and a Louisiana crawfish relish, laced with a lemon-butter sauce”. Not sure if it was the pecans or the lemon butter sauce or the waiter that convinced me to order this dish but whatever it was I’m sure glad I did. It was soooo delicious! Hmmm, wonder if it would be tacky if I picked up my dish and licked it???
Rob ordered the blackened catfish ($17) with roasted new potatoes, sauteed spinach, dill and red onion laced in a Crystal hot sauce butter. For dessert, we shared Pain Perdu Bread Pudding ($8) with candied pecans and rum sauce. Oh, my, so good!
After stuffing our faces, we stopped by to say hello to their resident ghost but he was no where to be found, or perhaps he was upstairs in the seance room?
Darn, no ghostly apparition here either, unless we can call a couple of teenage girls ghostly!
Bienville Street, Bourbon Street, Basin Street, Chartres Street, Decatur Street, St. Peter Street, Toulouse Street – the list of famous streets is endless.
Each one has it’s own character and history. And each one is dotted with an assortment of bars, dining establishments, music halls, souvenir shops, foot massage parlors and voodoo shops. Whether it’s your first, your tenth or your twentieth visit, strolling along these streets is a must do.
During our visit last April, Bourbon Street was torn up while undergoing some major construction, making it difficult to capture any good photos but not so this time! Dating back to 1718 and named for a royal family in France (not the liquid stuff), the street is known for being noisy, raucous and full of party goers. Maybe at night but we didn’t see any evidence of it during the day.
Strolling along Canal Street, we saw the remains of the Hard Rock Hotel which collapsed in October of 2019, killing three and injuring dozens of others. On the local news, there was talk of imploding the hotel but after much discussion it was decided that would be too dangerous and risk damage to adjoining buildings and infrastructure. Instead it will be demolished. What a tragedy! Guess it’s fortunate that more people weren’t killed. Makes us concerned now every time we walk near a crane or under scaffolding.
History abounds everywhere in New Orleans. With over 45 museums, visitors can spend weeks (and possibly max out their credit cards) exploring each one. In Jackson Square, the Cabildo showcases the rich and colorful history of New Orleans and Louisiana and the Presbytère houses an elaborate and exquisite collection of Mardi Gras artifacts and memorabilia. The New Orleans Jazz Museum celebrates the history of jazz in all its forms and the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, located on Chartres Street at the site of the first licensed apothecary shop, circa 1823 includes cures for anything that ails you including voodoo potions and other weird medicines. Unfortunately we haven’t been to any of these so we can’t offer any recommendations, perhaps someday in the future.
But you don’t need to go to a museum to see some of the history, sometimes researching a church, a house, a building, a restaurant or a historical marker can unearth a fascinating historical fact. Remember the movie “12 Years A Slave” which was based on the real life memoir of a free man of color who was kidnapped in New York, shipped to New Orleans and sold into slavery in 1841? While driving around, we stumbled across a historic marker at the corner of Chartres Street and Esplanade Avenue at the former site of the notorious slave pen (demolished after the Civil War) where Solomon Northup, the man who wrote the memoir, was sold into slavery. Another marker explained that more enslaved people were sold in New Orleans than anywhere else in the United States. Certainly not an accolade that any city wants to brag about!
On Decatur Street, anyone interested in a decent, somewhat different breakfast should dine at French Toast (not the breakfast entree but the restaurant). Even though it was a Monday morning, it was crowded so there was a wait. Darn, we didn’t realize until after we arrived there that they have a wait list on-line. Oh well, not a big deal – they would text us when our table was ready so we were able to kill some time (about 15 minutes) walking across the street to the French Market.
Spanning six blocks from Cafe du Monde to the flea market at the end of Esplanade Avenue, the French Market is an open air market that was founded as a Native American trading post predating European colonization, making it the oldest of its kind in the United States. Local produce, specialty art, handmade crafts, jewelry, clothing and other items are all offered for sale. People who enjoy shopping could probably spend hours browsing all the goodies. More interested in having breakfast than shopping (not my area of interest), I was happy that we had barely enough time to quickly peruse one of the aisles before the text arrived indicating our table was almost ready.
When we were finally seated, it was tough deciding what to have. Aebelskivers (puffed pancake with confectioner’s sugar and a choice of sauce)? Their specialty stuffed French Toast? Crepes? Or an Omelette? At the recommendation of our server, it was a mushroom, spinach, onion, pepper and goat cheese savory crepe ($10) for me while Rob had a bacon, onion and gruyere crepe ($10.50). Both were served with fruit (our choice) or a salad. Oh, so yummy!
For a less filling breakfast, an order of beignets (3 pieces for $3.40) covered in powdered sugar accompanied by a cup of black coffee (regular or decaf) with chicory, Cafe au Lait (regular or decaf), a hot chocolate, orange juice or a soda at Cafe du Monde might hit the spot. A small cup of any of these is $2.94; a large cup is $3.40. Cash only.
Of course, be prepared to get covered in powdered sugar (especially if the curtains are up and it’s windy) and to deal with the subsequent sugar high. The plethora of pigeons milling about at your feet would also appreciate your sharing of any crumbs. Cafe du Monde will certainly meet your full daily nutritional requirements for the four major food groups (starch, grease, sugar, and caffeine). HA! So worth it though – boy, are they tasty! If you walk around the back of the building, you can see the beignets being made.
Cafe du Monde on the Riverwalk which has been the original New Orleans coffee stand since 1862 is open 24/7, every day except Christmas and whenever the occasional hurricane blows in (it was closed for two months after Katrina). Since it is always packed, we wondered how many beignets they make in a day? And how much powdered sugar do they sprinkle? This article estimates 30,000 beignets are made per day. And another article states that “a worker said they replace the powdered sugar machine each hour with 50 lbs of sugar. So 50 lbs x 24 hours = 1200 lbs of sugar!” Yikes! Imagine how many beignets and how much sugar that is in a month or a year!
Check out this YouTube video to see how they are made!
Continuing on with our foodie experience, our friends had recommended the fried chicken at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant to us last year but we never made it there, but we did this time! The restaurant has an interesting history. Opened initially in 1939 as a sandwich shop and lottery ticket office, it quickly blossomed into a restaurant in 1941 becoming a hot spot not only for its food but also as a meeting place for music and entertainment, civil rights, and culture in New Orleans. Thanks to the efforts of Dooky’s wife, Leah, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was the first art gallery for black artists in New Orleans.
Today, although both Dooky (died 2016) and Leah (died June, 2019) are gone, the restaurant is still a family owned and operated. After Hurricane Katrina, it was closed for two years, but despite that Dooky retained her “Queen of Creole Cuisine” title and the restaurant remains the premier restaurant for authentic Creole Cuisine (although I’ve read that the food isn’t as good now that Leah is no longer in charge). Both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, as well as Hank Aaron, Ernest Gaines, Quincy Jones and a list of others have eaten here. Interesting that the menu from 2007-2014 is on exhibit at the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.
Located in the 7th ward, it is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (2:30 p.m. on Fridays) and for dinner on Fridays from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. It is closed on Mondays and Saturdays. The restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside but inside it is very classy. White linen tablecloths and napkins, crystal chandeliers and colorful local artwork adorn the walls along with photographs of Dooky with celebs including President Obama.
At lunch they have a buffet ($19.95) with a salad, soup, fried chicken and a variety of other Southern dishes which change daily and peach cobbler for dessert. Not wanting that much food, we ordered their fried chicken ($15.95) off the menu. It was quite good, a little on the spicy side although we can’t say it was the best chicken we’ve ever had – we both think the Broasted chicken we have had several times at the Alva Diner near Riverbend was a bit more juicy and tender. Leftovers still tasted good the next day tho.
Once again in search of a decent and reasonable morning meal, we found that all day breakfast is served at Daisy Mae’s on Poydras Street.
Arriving there close to noon time, however, the lunch menu had more of an appeal to us. Glad we made that decision! Although they are known for their fried chicken, we opted instead for their combo specials – half a po’ boy with a cup of gumbo or red beans. A shrimp po’ boy ($9.95) for me and a fish po’ boy for Rob ($8.95). We both had their delicious gumbo. So good!
After reading this, you can probably understand why, with its rich history, unique culture and so much to see and do, New Orleans has become one of our favorite cities. Maybe it will become yours as well!
But we weren’t quite done with our visit yet, more about that in our next post. The best is yet to come….