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Trip Report New Orleans Trip Report - April, 2013

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New Orleans, LA – April 20 to 25, 2013

We decided to go back to New Orleans to celebrate my 45th birthday. We had originally been in November, 2004 and haven’t been back since. The first time, we stayed at the Holiday Inn French Quarter on Royal Street, which was a good hotel in a fabulous location. I had every intention of booking that hotel again just because of the location, but when I went to Southwest Airlines Vacations to book, the hotel did not appear as an option. From January, when we started looking until March, when I actually booked, the hotel name had changed to the Wyndham, which I didn’t realize that until later. So, we ended up booking the Bienville House on Decatur, which in hindsight I’m glad we did as the location was just as good and was much nicer than the Holiday Inn. It was also $300 less than the Wyndham.

Bienville House – Is the sister hotel to the Monteleon. I would have loved to have stayed there, but for the price, the Bienville House was just fine. Very cute hotel with lots of charm, history and architecture. I booked the second category room to ensure we got a room with windows. After seeing the hotel, I should have paid the extra and got a room with the balcony overlooking the court yard. We were given room 358, which was street side directly across from the firehouse and right by the elevator. We didn’t have any issues with street or elevator noise during our stay. Actually, we heard more from people talking in the hall as they passed our room, which was occasionally. The room was beautifully decorated with a 4 post king bed, desk, coffee maker and armoire for the TV. A walk-in closet with safe and nice bath/shower combo. It would have been nice if they had put a small frig in the room. We arrived at 2:00pm and we were advised our room wasn’t ready, so we dropped off our luggage and headed out to eat lunch. When we came back around 4:30pm, we checked right in and went up to our room. The offer a Continental breakfast in the morning between 7am and 10am, which consisted of coffee, juice, milk, pastries, sweet breads, cereal, yogurt and solid fruits. It is fine to get you started if you feel you have to have something right there. We only ate there one morning before an early tour. The staff we encountered was very nice and helpful. They always greeted us when we came into the lobby and was nice to take some picture for us. I would not hesitate to book this hotel again.

Felix’s Oyster House – We had intentions of going back to the Acme Oyster House, which we ate at twice our first trip. When we got there at 2:30pm, the line was way down the sidewalk. So, we took the advice of several posters and walked across the street to Felix’s. This recommendation is spot on and no line to get in. The people standing in line at Acme are really missing out here. We had the best meal and also ate here twice. Back in 2004, I don’t believe there was anything like char-grilled oysters. Again, I took several people’s recommendations and tried them. They are beyond awesome. I will have a very hard time ever going back to just raw oysters on the half shell. We also had the fried catfish plate and pecan pie. Their pecan pie was the best we had anywhere. The sauce is just wonderful. With beer, the first trip was $68 + tip. The second trip we had just the char-grilled oysters and a club sandwich with pecan pie and beer. It was $58 + tip.

Bombay Club – We ate there in 2004 and enjoyed it enough to go back. They have a band that starts at 9pm, so we made reservations for 8pm. However, the band started late at 9:30, so in hindsight I should have made the reservations later also. They set us at a table right in front of the band, which was great. I really didn’t want to sit in one of the alcove tables. They have an extensive drink/martini list. We had the jalapeno margarita, cucumber martini and champagne cocktail. For dinner, we had the gumbo, Caesar salad, fried quail and grilled pork chop. Crème Brulee for dessert. The absolute best cream brulee we have ever had. We actually had 2 servings a piece. Better than my favorites in Las Vegas and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The fried quail was awesome. I could almost swear my father was in the kitchen making it, who makes the absolute best ever. It was that good. The pork chop was good, except the sauce they poured on top was questionable and not necessary. We enjoyed our meal and the band. With several drinks, the price was $234 + tip.

La Pavilion Sunday Brunch – We did the Commander’s Palace Sunday Brunch last trip and it was OK. I had planned this trip to go back to CP for their .25 cent martini lunch, so we choose the La Pavilion mainly because they offer unlimited mimosas in the price. That hotel and their dining room are absolutely gorgeous. They had several buffet choices, an omelet/fried egg station, and dessert area. Their carrot cake was so good and we got our monies worth with the mimosas. $45.00 per person + tip.

Napoléon House – We stopped in for a quick lunch before our Restaurant Tour. We had a sandwich and Caesar salad, which were good. However, the French bread on the sandwich was a little too hard and crusty for me. There is a beautiful courtyard for dining in the back. Price was $37 + tip

Margaritaville – Went for dinner just because I had to have the obligatory photos. We have been to every Margaretville in all the destinations that we’ve been to where there was one. We had the jerk chicken, which was OK. The jerk chicken at the one in the Montego Bay airport was awesome and so far cannot be beat. We also had the key lime pie, which cannot compete with what we have gotten in Key West. I was disappointed that by the time we were through with dinner, their shop was closed. The Story Bar was smaller than the photos on-line and completely full. Price was $60 + tip.

Pier 424 Seafood Market - Located on Bourbon Street. We had dinner of fried mushrooms, char-grilled oysters, shrimp skewers and pecan pie with 3 beers and 1 martini. It was all good especially the oysters. Their balcony dining area was hosting a private party, so we couldn’t go up there. Price was $85 + tip.

Oceania – Popped in due to the band playing. Had a couple of beers and crème brulee, which was a huge serving and pretty good, and listened to the band. Price was $35 + tip.

Commander’s Palace – I chose their .25 cent martini lunch for my birthday. When I made the reservation on-line I noted it was my birthday and for seating in the Garden room. What I meant was the Garden/Patio area, so I was surprised when we headed upstairs. My mistake. The table was decorated with 3 balloons and they gave me a paper chef’s hat that said “Celebrate”. We ordered their 3 course pre-fix menu of gumbo, grilled stuffed quail and chocolate soufflé. I substituted the soufflé for pecan pie. $32.00 per person. Total cost was $72 + tip. The .25 cent martinis included the Commander Palace, Melon, Cosmo and Original. DH got 4 and I got 3. I could have sworn the quail had the breast portion removed and replaced with the stuffing. I just couldn’t find it, only the legs and stuffing. The sauce on top of the quail was not great and not necessary. We had better pecan pie elsewhere. The service is impeccable though. How could it not when we had 3 waiters and a manger hovering over us. They were very nice in taking several photos for us. However, I have to say CP is really over rated and over recommended. I really liked the food better when the CP was in Las Vegas. Too bad they closed that restaurant. It will not be on our return list in the future. Antoine’s offers at pre-fix .25 cent martini lunch, which is less expensive and easier to get to. We will try that next trip.

Arnaud’s Bistro – Had dinner after our bar hopping tour, which was still the day of my birthday. We were able to get right in. We were wearing shorts and tennie shoes, so I was hesitant that we were dressed appropriately, but in the Bistro section it was OK, just not the main dining room. Their food was really good and I’m sorry, but it put CP’s food to shame. We had the gumbo, shrimp bisque, almond crusted white fish, crème brulee and pecan pie. The pecan pie wasn’t as good as others, but everything else was excellent. As part of the restaurant tour we did, we got to see all the dining rooms. Arnaud’s has the most beautiful dining rooms I have ever seen. Just gorgeous. I was quite taken in by all the wonderful architecture. Price was $100 + tip.

The Crazy Lobster – Located on the Riverfront. We ran in to get out of the rain one afternoon and decided to eat lunch. We both had the New Orleans special, which consisted of gumbo, Jambalaya and red beans with rice. The red beans and rice were good, but the others were just OK. Way too much rice from me on one plate. I decided I do not like jambalaya. Tasted like Spanish rice with bits of sausage in it. I have never liked Spanish rice to begin with. We were able to wait out the rain and be on our way. Price was $45 + tip.

Mr. B’s Bistro – Had dinner of salad, soup 1-1-1, which consisted of Gumbo Ya-Ya, Seafood Gumbo and pepper soup. The Gumbo Ya-Ya was the best gumbo of all the places we’ve been to. We also had the bacon wrapped shrimp with grits and the bar-b-cue shrimp. The waiter asked me if I knew what I was getting into with the barbecue shrimp, which comes with a mandatory bib. It’s a bowl of whole shrimp with the head, tail, shell and antenna’s still attached in the yummiest broth I have ever tasted. I have a thing about food being intact like that and it was very, very, very messy, but the broth made it worth it. Chocolate cupcake with raspberry sauce for dessert. I could have lived without the raspberry sauce. DH didn’t care for the grits. With 2 beers price was $120 + tip.

The Carousel Bar at the Monteleon – We tried to go on Saturday night, but they were having an after party after a wedding reception and we couldn’t even get in the door. We returned later in the week on a Wednesday night at around 7pm and it was still pretty crowded, but we did get a table for two. We had a round of drinks and about 15 minutes later 2 spots at the rotating bar opened up so we grabbed them and had 2 more drinks a piece. 3 beers and 3 crown and cokes were $45 + tip. There is a band playing in the back. We had been here before on our first trip and it was not this crowded. That was also before the remodel. I liked the old bar better. It was more quiet and intimate. Now it‘s a tourist attraction. It’s too crowded and people are talking over each other and over the music. Drink prices are a little stiff. Again, another place that is over rated and over recommended. It won’t make our return list.

Entertainment:

We went to the Audubon Zoo and the Aquarium. We had been to the Aquarium before and really enjoyed it, but both exhibits are very nice. There were tons of people including screaming, unruly kids at both places. We hurriedly went through both and left.

The Riverwalk Mall – We went the afternoon we got caught in the rain. Nice way to get out of the rain and wait it out. There are 3 floors and many of the stores are gone. They are revamping it to become an outlet mall, which should be fully operational late fall according to the bill boards.

French Quarter Culinary History and Tasting Tour – There was just us and another couple on this tour. We went to Antoine’s for seafood gumbo, Arnaud’s for shrimp Armaud's, Tujague’s for beef brisket with creole sauce, Desire Oyster bar for turtle soup, Creole Delicacies for red beans and rice, La Davina Café Gelateria for muffuletta and gelato and Leah’s Pralines for pralines. This was a very good and educational tour. We enjoyed all the tastings we had as well as the history of the places and New Orleans. It’s a good tour to do early in your vacation so you can go back and try some of the restaurants on the list and get a good idea of the area.

Crescent City Walking Bar Tour – I decided to do this on my birthday. It was just us and a man with his son. We’ve been on many tours like this in other destinations and really like them when there are several people. It’s just more fun with more people. We met in front of Arnaud's restaurant and walked over to their Remoulade Restaurant. The first drink was included in the tour, but at all the other stops, we had to pay for drinks if we wanted one. DH got a fruity drink with blue Curacao in it and I got a beer. The next stop was Antoine’s and we both got a side car, which was like a sweet martini. It was very good. We were given a tour of all the dining rooms, which we had already seen on the restaurant tour that we took the day before. Next we went to the Court of Two Sisters. I had the Pimm’s Cup, which was very good and DH had something that tasted like Sangria. It was OK. Their court yard is quite large and very pretty. We shied away from eating there due to questionable reviews and comments, but I would definitely try their jazz brunch our next trip and make the determination for myself. Next we went to the Pirate’s Ally Café and Absinthe bar. We have never tried Absinthe before and found we do not like it. It tastes like black licorice, so if you don’t like black licorice, you won’t like Absinthe. I had another Pimm’s Cup, but the one at the Court of Two Sisters was much better. Our last stop was the bar at the International House hotel. DH had the Sazerac, which was very, very strong. I had the chartreuse door, which is made with several spices. It was excellent. Loved it. One of the best mixed drinks I have ever had. This tour was $29 per person plus drinks. Drinks averaged about $10 per person with tip, so it cost us another $100.

City Tour – We did a 3 hour bus city tour. We should have done this on our first trip so we could have really gotten a good feel for the entire area. We went through the French Quarter, St. Roche area, District 9, the Garden District, the Warehouse District and the New Orleans City Park. All beautiful areas with lovely homes and architecture.

Summary – We had a great trip and will be back eventually. We found that most everything seemed exactly the same as it was when we were there in 2004. However, it was a lot more crowded this trip than when we went in a November. We usually do all inclusive vacations, so we had sticker shock regarding all the food and drink prices. The drinks were about $3 to $4 more and the food was about double what we pay at home in our local bars/restaurants. However, the food was so good and nothing like anything we can get at home. We brought $2,000 spending money for food, drinks and some light souvenir shopping and came home with $5.00. All tours were booked on-line with a credit card before arriving.

I have pictures of our trip including everything we ate/drank at:

http://kvrlvnphotogallery.shutterfly.com/pictures/7495

Click “all” to just scroll down through all of them. If you do the slideshow or click on each photo it will provide a title for each picture.

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