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Trip Report New Orleans Trip Report Nov 12

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I have cut and pasted the New Orleans part of my very long trip report on our trip to the US November 2012. This was posted in the lounge.

Thought some people might be interested in some of the tours, and things to do.

Day 1 New Orleans.

There were only a few people in New Orleans airport when we arrived, some cleaning staff, and a woman trying to find cabs for all of us. Thankfully there were still a few waiting to take us latecomers to our destination. I think the cab driver must have wanted to go to bed, as it was the fastest ride we have ever had. Warren was watching the speedo and he was doing 80mph most of the way. Thankfully we arrived in one piece, and finally got to bed about 2.15am.

After a bit of a sleep in, we made our way down to breakfast. We were staying at the Quality Inn & Suites in O’Keefe St, on the edge of the business district, but only two minutes from Canal St and about five minutes from the French Quarter. It has a two and a half star rating on Trip Advisor and is ranked 3rd out of 149 hotels in New Orleans. We booked a queen room but at check-in upgraded to a king. However if you read all the reviews on Trip Advisor it looks like everyone gets an upgrade. We were very happy with the room, the free breakfast and free Wi-Fi. The breakfast was plentiful, eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles,, toast, cereal, yoghurt, juice etc. The hotel staff provides excellent service, there is also a laundry in the hotel which came in handy.

We didn’t really have any definite plans for today, just to have a look around the city, go down to the waterfront, and perhaps the French Quarter. We walked the length of Canal Street and ended up at the River Walk. You had to watch where you were walking as the footpaths (sidewalks) were uneven, and not in a great state of repair. Down on the riverfront we heard the steam Calliope being played on the Natchez paddle steamer. This was on our to do list, we decided to go for the package that included the lunch. We thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour cruise on the Mississippi and liked the commentary about the places we could see from the steamboat, and also the facts and figures about the river. It was our first introduction to New Orleans food, and I was not that impressed. I did like the fried fish but not the red beans and rice. The coleslaw was okay. Warren had the bread pudding as well, which was quite dry. We chose to have lunch when the jazz band started playing from the turnaround point. The paddle steamer goes back the same way so the commentary stops and the band starts playing. The band was great to listen too and Warren videoed several songs.

When we got off the boat we made our way to Jackson Square, and heard before we saw, music playing. It turned out to be a high school marching band, We couldn’t get over the number of sousaphones being played. They are not a common instrument in New Zealand schools. Actually there are no marching bands at all in schools here. It was a warm day and the players looked very hot in their uniforms. We took some video of their music also. We then walked round the market, lots of artists displaying their paintings, and ended up at the French Quarter, which was rather quiet at 3pm. Loved the houses, and the way the doors and windows open straight out onto the sidewalk. We walked down Bourbon St, but knew we had to go back there later on in the evening. We then got lost trying to find our way back to the hotel.

We had come to New Orleans for the music, and I had read that Frenchmen Street was the place to go now to hear jazz music rather than Bourbon St. There are a lot of clubs/restaurants that have jazz/blues bands playing from about 4pm onwards. As we had done so much walking earlier in the day, and my foot was rather sore, we took a cab. Cost about $ 10.00. We spent a bit of time just going along the street listening to the bands, and the buskers on the street, but ended up at Maison, which had a 7 piece Dixieland band playing. Maison became our favourite place and we ended having dinner and listening to music on all three nights. There was a different band each night, we normally left about 9pm, when a new band came in. We stayed for two sets the first night, Warren did a lot more videoing. The singer came around with the tip jar and stood at the tables waiting for the patrons to give them money. I told our daughter and son-in-law this, (they are jazz musicians based in New York.) Adrienne said she is not brave enough to stand by the tables, if they did they may get more tips. We wandered our way back to the French Quarter by following the crowd. There are a lot of people out and about going between Frenchmen Street and Bourbon Street. We couldn’t get over how there was only one place playing jazz music in Bourbon St. it was mostly rock music. Warren plays in the Nelson big band, so had to have his photo taken by the Bourbon St sign.

New Orleans Day 2.

This morning we planned on goring on a walking tour in the Garden District. I had read on Trip Advisor about the Free Tours by Foot tours and they had great reviews so thought we would give it a go. You would normally take the St Charles streetcar but as the track was being redone had to take the bus which was replacing the streetcar. We got off at Washington Ave and met our tour guide by the entrance to the Layfette No 2 cemetery. There were about ten on the tour from all over the US, and also a couple from Australia and us from New Zealand. We had just made our way into the cemetery when the rain came down in torrents. We took shelter under a verandah on the opposite side of the street for about 15 minutes but it wasn’t looking good. The tour guide kept looking at the satellite picture on his cell phone and would say it is going to blow over very soon. Hmm it didn’t. The tour was eventually called off. The guide said he normally keeps umbrellas in his car during the summer, but had taken them out only a week or so ago.

There was a little coffee shop just by the cemetery so we had some lunch there, and then took a cab back to the hotel. It took awhile getting a cab, as there were a lot of tourists trying to get back into town. The rain kept up until 4pm or so and was very heavy. We ended up buying some cheap umbrellas at the discount store. As our shoes had got rather wet we decided to stay put for most of the afternoon. We had also been keeping an eye on Hurricane Sandy as we were heading to NYC on Tuesday. The rain eased off though by the time we wanted to go to Frenchmen St at 5.30pm. We also planned on going to Preservation Hall, to the 9pm set. We had another great meal at Maison, and the band that was playing Sunday night was excellent.

We left about 8pm so we could queue up for Preservation Hall. There were about 50 people in front of us but the time went by very fast. It was fun chatting with the others in the queue. The Dixieland music that is played at Preservation Hall is fantastic. Warren said when he came out, that is the music I wanted to hear in New Orleans. The musicians were very skilled, and the aim is to preserve the traditional type of jazz music that used to be played in New Orleans. The room the band plays in is small; there are a few rows of wooden seats, and standing room at the back. If you pay $ 30.00 you get a guaranteed seat along the side of the hall, but the normal ticket price is $ 15.00. A set only lasts for about 45 minutes, but the wooden seats and the size of the hall doesn’t matter when you hear the music that is played. There was a trombone, trumpet, clarinet, piano, double bass and drums. All acoustic, including the singing. The trombone player was a large African American and he was a great player, jiggling around in time to the music. The levels were great, first song was In The Good Old Summer Time and last song was Margie (Warren plays both of those). We ended up buying a DVD and got a CD thrown in for free. The band on the DVD was not the same as we had seen, but was playing the same style.


New Orleans Day 3.

We made another attempt to do the tour of the Garden District in New Orleans. This time it stayed fine, and we completed the whole tour. It took about two hours but we only walked about a mile, so not very strenuous. We had the same tour guide as yesterday and he was very knowledgeable. He was telling us about what he had to do to be a registered guide. His regular job was teaching accounting!! Learning about the history of the Garden District was very interesting, and we were told how the Americans wanted to build big houses with large back yards whereas the French were happy with smaller houses, with inner courtyards. The French were also predominantly Roman Catholic and a different culture to the Americans. Being told how the dead were buried in the Layfette cemetery was a bit of an eye-opener also. The houses in the Garden District were very large a lot of them built in the Greek style with lots of columns. We took lots of photos including one of Sandra Bullock’s place. It’s great that a lot of places have been renovated after they fell into disrepair. We also walked past Commanders Palace and were told that if you want a great meal that won’t break the bank to go there for lunch rather than dinner!!!!

After the tour finished we walked up to the start of the St Charles streetcar, a few blocks up. We stayed on until the end and got off and had a walk around Carrolton, but there wasn’t a lot there. We decided to go back to the Riverfront and try and find Café Du Monde, so we could try the beignets. We had passed it the previous day so roughly knew where to find it. It was about 3pm so a lot of people there but we were served straight away, and we LOVED the beignets. We only ordered one plate and two half and half coffees originally, but soon put in anther order for more beignets. They were superb. Lots of icing sugar!!!!! (powdered sugar). We got lost walking home again and came across the Louis Armstrong Park. We decided to explore and loved the different statutes that were there, especially the one of Louis. We walked around there for awhile but then it started raining again. By the time we got back to the hotel it was starting to thunder.

Well you will probably never guess where we went for dinner tonight!!. We ended up at Maison again, another fantastic band, more videoing, and a great meal. The rain came down in buckets while we were there and had to take a cab back to the hotel. When we checked our e-mails we discovered there had been a change in our flight to Atlanta and we were going to miss the connecting flight to New York. After a frantic call to the airline we got it sorted out. We also had to pay extra if we wanted to be seated together!!

New Orleans Day 4.

As our plane was leaving at 12.30pm today we didn’t have a lot of time in the morning to do very much. However one of my Fodors friends had posted on Facebook that we needed to try a muffaletta. We just had enough time to go to Central Grocery on Decatur. By this time we had worked out the buses and street cars, and had bought a three day pass early on in our stay, which was very economical. We caught the bus on Canal St to Riverwalk, then took the street car, and got off close to Decatur. There was a queue of tourists lined up to buy muffalettas. We bought one and took it to the airport to eat while we were waiting to board. There were too many olives for me, I have very bland taste-buds, Warren liked it but couldn’t eat all of it by himself.

Next stop New York,

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