I used to live just outside of the New Orleans area in my twenties & never get tired of returning.
My first stop when I visit New Orleans is always the Metairie Cemetery. Metairie cemetery has some of the most beautiful statues and elaborate tombs in the US. The cemetery founding is almost as notorious as some of it’s residents. During its days as a horse track it was known as Metairie Race Course and held famous horse race called “the North against the South race.”
The story of how it went from famous race track to a cemetery is this. There was a man not of the right background meaning not Creole at the time, but considerably wealthy was turned away when he wanted to become a member of the jockey club. Eventually the track fell on hard times and this man an opportunity to buy the track, so he did and closed the track forever. He told his partner he wanted to be buried in the middle. You can still see the outline of the horse track from aerial pictures of the cemetery.
Everything I did once I got to my hotel was in the French Quarter and on foot. I never needed a cab until it was time to head to the train station at the end of my visit.I stayed at a hotel in the French Quarter mostly because I did not want to rent a car. There is very little parking in New Orleans. My hotel was a bit of a nightmare not at all what was advertised, dirty, and unwilling to make good on what was described (that is a whole other story I will update later).As I said you must be prepared for things to go wrong when traveling. I don’t suggest staying at the St. Helene when staying in New Orleans or either of their other hotels, you will be disappointed at best. It is also very common for the hotels here not to have parking available. The closest parking to my hotel charged $40 for 24hrs.
I will warn you New Orleans is not a city to be taken lightly even though it is a big tourist town. Stick to the main tourist areas, don’t walk around alone at night try to stay off the side roads or alleys, and most certainly don’t make yourself a target flashing valuable or leave anything such as bags unattended. Pick pockets and crime are not unusual here. I general dress down when traveling and leave flashy jewelry at home. I carry a backpack or shoulder bag with the intent of putting anything I buy in it and keep my cash or cards on my person. If you ever feel uncomfortable the best rule is go back the way you came. If you travel by car leave nothing in the open either put your stuff in your hotel room or trunk. That all being said lets get into my trip!
I had lunch at the Napoleon House (500 Chartres St). Home to a local drink favorite known as the Pimm’s Cup, this is not a heavy or boozy style cocktail perfect for a light lunch. This is a lovely place with old world charm that serve great muffulettas that can be ordered from full size to a just ¼. The original owner Mr. Joe Girod, who lived to be 100 bought the establishment in 1916 and lived above the restaurant.
My next stop was the Pharmacy Museum (514 Chartres St.), a few doors from Napoleon House This museum is small but home to the first licensed pharmacy in the US and they give a wonderful and rather dark tour! This tour is a great way to kick off your visit. Sadly, tour is only given once a day, so if you can fit it in, it’s worth scheduling into your trip. The Pharmacy Museum is on few blocks off Jackson Square.
Next was the Faulkner Bookstore on (624 Pirate Alley), the bookstore is named for William Faulkner the writer who lived there when he first started writing. They have a nice collection of rare books for the books. The bookstore is next door to Pirate Alley Café (622 Pirate Alley) where I stopped for a glass of Absinthe later in the evening. I’ve never tried Absinthe before so it’s been on my bucket list for years. I’ve got to say it’s not a taste I will forget soon or probably order anytime soon. If you like black licorice you will love Absinthe!
Being a book collector, married to a book collector my next stop was Acadian Bookstore (714 Orleans St) just around the corner from Pirate Alley. Acadian is a bookstore dream or mess depending on how you look at it reminding me of a bookstore in France I saw years ago.
I walked down Bourbon St. after dropping off my goodies at the hotel. Bourbon St is not nearly as rowdy in the day as it gets at nigh, but its still not a place to take kids. There is always a chance of nudity or “flashing” which is the custom on this street year-round. I stopped at the famous Marie Laveau House (739 Bourbon), once the home to the most famous voodoo priestess in New Orleans now it’s a gift shop with a voodoo shrine.
Dinner was at the Bourbon House (144 Bourbon St), my favorite drink this trip was the Voodoo child and served here. They also have some killer charbroiled oysters
I also ate at Johnny’s Po’boy’s (511 St. Louise) opened since 1950’s and local favorite, Felix’s (739 Iberville), & stopped for gelatos more than once at Sucre (622 Conti St). I stop at Sucre every trip, they make beautiful gourmet desserts along with a variety of French macaroons I never pass up. I also braved the rain to visit by Aunt Sally’s (810 Decatur) next door to café Du Monde on Jackson Square for warm just cooked pralines. There are several great shops for pralines, but I’ve been stopping here since I lived in the area twenty years ago.
This may not seem like much but I only had a day & half, flew in at 3 pm on a Wednesday about 3 hrs. trying to fix the hotel problem along with it rained most of the only full day I had. My train departed at 7 am the second morning. So this trip was about eating, drinking, & enjoying what I could fit in. Plus I’ll be heading back in May for my birthday!
A little background on New Orleans.
New Orleans has been owned by France (twice), Spain, & the US, who bought the territory from Napoleon for a song, so he would have more money to continue taking over the world. When New Orleans was founded there was almost no one who wanted to settle this new territory, so much like Australia’s humble beginnings the first settlers were prisoners and prostitutes who were given the choice to live out their sentences in jail or settle in New Orleans. When New Orleans was owned by the French none of the buildings that were constructed survived to this day. There were two fires, one in 1788 the other in 1794, during the early years of the Spanish occupation that burned basically all New Orleans to the ground. The lovely homes and building of the “French Quarter” that you see today were all constructed by Spanish architects and builders. It was also during the time of Spanish rule New Orleans began to flourish due to strict governing all but wiping out the overwhelming amount of crime that came with the early settlers. Later when the US took control of New Orleans settlers from the other American states started moving to the area much to the dismay of the current New Orleans residents known as “Creoles”. There was so much fighting between the Creole and what was considered the American settlers that congress was forced to make an act that set a neutral area in the city. That boundary line today is known as Canal street.