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New Orleans trip report - 1/21/03

Old Jan 29th, 2003, 07:43 AM
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New Orleans trip report - 1/21/03

Just got back from a chilly but fun New Orleans vacation. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, especially the inexpensive restaurants near Bourbon Street, and my hotel questions. I did end up booking with the Andrew Jackson for $149 directly, and $105 over the internet. Called them directly and they said they could not match the internet rate, so I cancelled the direct - and we had absolutely no problems with the internet booking (and saved ourselves a lot of money!)
The weather was in the 30's to 60's and downright cold at nights, so I think that kept some people away, it was not very crowded at all. When we got there we went to one of our favorite little restaurants, The Alpine, for delicious bloody mary's and blackened shrimp fajitas. The corn and crab soup was great also. Then it was off for a walk through Jackson Square. They are currently renovating the cathedral so there was a lot of scaffolding up blocking most of the view. Also a TV show, Good Day Live, was filming so there were a few big trucks in the square. That evening I had my first "Hand Grenade" (how did I miss those last year) and got to catch Big Al at the Funky Pirate. He is a very good entertainer and the crowd was really into it. I would highly recommend seeing him. Another notable bar was The Dungeon, which opens late, plays some great heavy music (if that's your thing) and has a neat atmosphere. A slice of Dante's Pizza on the way home hit the spot.
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Old Jan 29th, 2003, 07:44 AM
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Part 2:
Friday was lunch at Acme, we split a bowl of very good gumbo, and I had the 'taste of New Orleans' which was gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and a piece of sausage. It was a good sampler dish and not very pricey. After that we took the free ferry to Algiers and did the tour at Mardi Gras World. I don't know if it was worth the $11 admission, the tour seemed very short - but I did enjoy wandering around by myself afterwards checking out the floats. The guy that drove the shuttle from the ferry to Mardi Gras World was half the fun - he was really nice and gave us a mini tour of Algiers, pointing out different types of houses and such. Harrah's was our next stop - just a nice break in the day to play a little roulette and hopefully win some dinner money! We had dinner that night at Remoulade's and the Shrimp Arnaud appetizer was a highlight.
Saturday we enjoyed ar take-out cafe au lait from Cafe du Monde. We skipped out on the bengiets because we tried them last trip and didn't think they were anything special (sorry all you bengiet lovers!). Lunch was a muffeletta at Central Grocery - we each got a half and none of us could finish it. These sandwiches are big, tasty, but slightly overbearing in their saltiness, which is why a quarter would have been enough for me. After lunch I met friends at a great little dog park called Capini park, tucked right in the upper right corner of the French Quarter. What a nice surprise.. and lots of fun. We also did a free walking tour of the French Quarter, which I think is offered by the Haunted History company if I'm not mistaken. It was really nice and informative. This tour is just a little teaser to get you to purchase one of their other tours, but they do give you a voucher for $8 a person off, so we did buy another tour for the next day. Our dinner was at a place on Decatur called Cafe Marsepo or something close. We were told that the whole place was run by bikers and that the seafood platter was the best choice - both accounts were correct.
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Old Jan 29th, 2003, 07:45 AM
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Part 3: Last one!
Sunday's lunch was at the Gumbo Shop and I had the best roast beef po boy I've ever encountered. It dripped with sauce and their wasn't too much bread. Perfect! My friends each had the gumbo and really enjoyed it. That night we did our other tour, a 7:30 pm Voodoo and Witchcraft tour. We really didn't care for it that much. What our tour guide told us about voodoo and witchcraft could have been said at a coffee shop. There was really not that much that tied into actual New Orleans sights or points we stopped at. It was also kinda long winded, and I guess they usually stop at a bar half way through, but since it was freezing we stopped at Krispy Kreme for coffee instead. I could have done without the break, and the card tricks, and the general wasting of time that stretched this tour into a very long two hours. The advertisement said we would meet voodoo practitioners and witches - but unless you count the tour guide, we didn't meet any. The final stop is a shop on Royal where you are dropped off so you can purchase oils and crystals and stuff...I have a feeling the owners are associated with the tour company. Next time I'll do the Ghost tour, which had a group quadruple in size and seemed to be the most popular option. Our late night, last minute dinner was at Patout's on Bourbon which was terrible. Cold food, poor service, and a really loud band that made talking impossible. This was the only place we stopped into without knowing anything about it before hand, and we were punished for it!
Monday morning we had breakfast at Petunia's where I tried to eat the biggest crepe of my life. Wonderful, but I definitely recommend sharing it, I couldn't even make a dent in it.
That was about it, we left Monday afternoon just as it was getting warmer... Of course we hit a lot of crazy Bourbon Street bars (we saw Mario Van Peebles and I didn't know who he was!) during the trip, but I wanted to mention some of the other things in this very long winded report. If you stayed to read the whole thing, thanks!
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Old Jan 29th, 2003, 09:26 AM
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Thanks for the report! The Shrimp Arnaud was good, wasn't it? I've been experimenting to try and recreate it at home, but I haven't been able to. I usually don't care for cold seafood, but this was good.

If you go to NO again, try the Historic New Orleans Walking Tour Co. We took a cemetery/voodoo tour from them and it was great - very informative, our guide really knew her stuff. Next time we are there, we will definitely take another tour with that company.
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Old Jan 29th, 2003, 10:04 PM
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Thanks for your tips - especially the warning about the Voodoo tour. We were going to try it on this trip to New Orleans (which will be our fifth). Now we won't bother.
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Old Feb 6th, 2003, 07:36 PM
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I always recommend that folks avoid the NO Ghost Tour, as this company sends people onto travel sites (including this one) to advertise for them despite rules to the contrary.
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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 08:04 AM
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I thought advertising wasn't allowed on Fodors forums.
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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 09:57 AM
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Like Dan, I'd advise you to steer clear of the New Orleans Ghost Tour. I've heard of people who were told to show up at the Morgue (the origination point of this tour) as much as 45 minutes early and then pressured to buy drinks until the tour began. Others complained that the tour was more theatrics than fact. Add to that the continuous ads on this board...that's enough!
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Old Feb 8th, 2003, 09:02 PM
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Dan -- in response to your comments, I do not work for any of the local tour companies.... and no one sent me here.... but I have been on several of the major local tours.... NOGT, HHT, and Gray Line. I'm a local with an interest in ghosts and the legends of our city. I found the guides at NOGT to be the most professional and polite, while still remaining entertaining. Now, this is just my humble opinion! I'm also one of those people who will go out and check your facts after a tour..... I found documentation of everything I was told on the NOGT tour. I used the public library and the Williams Research Center on Chartres. Oh, and NO ONE pressured me to buy drinks before the tour. I showed up about 20 minutes before the tour was supposed to start, although when I called to reserve I was told to be there only 15 minutes before. So, I'm not sure where you're getting your facts from. Dan, have YOU ever taken any of the tours we're talking about? From ANY local tour company? Just curious.
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Old Feb 9th, 2003, 03:45 AM
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Rest assured I have taken just about every walking tour available at least once! I and I'll stand by my statements.
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Old Feb 10th, 2003, 09:42 AM
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Dan (or anyone else who can help),

Which ghost tours do you recommend? Also, do you (or anyone else) recommend any particular swamp and plantation tours? Thanks.
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Old Feb 10th, 2003, 09:55 AM
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When we were in NO, we took a 1/2 day plantation tour with Spinato Tours and really enjoyed it. I have heard that Spinato Tours and Tours by Isabelle are very similar. Both pick you up at your hotel in small vans so there are only about 10-12 people on each tour. Our guide was really great - very informative and gave us all kinds of information on the ride out to the plantations. We went to Laura and Oak Alley - both were very interesting, I enjoyed Laura a little more. It's a creole plantation, so it's not the typical white house with the big columns. A lot is known about the families who owned the plantation, which makes it all the more interesting. Also, it is in the process of being restored and I thought it was great to see the work in progress. We also stopped along the river as part of our tour climb up on the levee to take pictures and relax a bit. On the way back, the guide gave recommendations for several restaurants in town.
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Old Feb 10th, 2003, 10:19 AM
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I'll second J Correa's idea. Laura and Oak Alley are great options and provide a nice comparison/contrast.

Nighttime tours (ghost, vampire, etc) are coming under attack locally and are probably looking at new regulations which will dictate how loud they can be, how large, etc. Some locals are downright hostile to the tours. (I don't live in the Quarter, so it's not me being hostile!) I've taken most of the tours and I liked Haunted History but they're all similar.
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Old Feb 12th, 2003, 11:15 AM
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The only other thing I can add about the tours is that Haunted History Tours seemed very popular...lots of people were on the 2 Ghost tours that leave at 8:00. I don't think they are a bad company in general - just the Voodoo tour we did was boring.
The one tour I will not take is the Ghost tour where the "tour guide" thinks he is a vampire, and at the end of the tour he bites his own wrist and all this fake blood gushes out. It was the dumbest thing I have ever seen...we were just passing by as that spectacle happened - but I would avoid this idiot and whatever company he is with.
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Old Feb 13th, 2003, 04:24 AM
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Why is it weird for locals to participate in a travel board? In fact, locals are the ones who SHOULD be active on this board. Otherwise, you get info that sounds like it just came out of a tour book. Because of MANY N.O. locals on this site, visitors to the city can get beyond Emeril and Paul Prudhomme, if they choose to do so.

It's all about choice. Readers will make their own decisions about where to stay, what to eat and when to go. What I enjoy doing is giving them the resources to make those calls. Local Fodorites have helped me with trips to their hometowns of London, Paris, and Vancouver in the past couple of years and I want to do the same for people visiting N.O.
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Old Feb 13th, 2003, 06:55 AM
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I couldn't imagine this board without locals giving their advice on places to travel. I know I've depended on the people from New Orleans to get great advice and thank Dan (and the man named John that used to post frequently) especially for all they've done. Please keep up the good work!
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Old Feb 13th, 2003, 07:05 AM
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My husband and I plan to visit NO next week and Angie just about answered all my questions. Thanks. I would like to ask any of the locals if they know anything about The Rathbone Inn on Esplanade - that's where we are staying. Are we safe to walk to the French Quarter and is there anything I need to know about safety in the area. All my friends that have either lived or visited there - have not been in a while and I understand that the crime has really been cleaned up. I am so excited to go and want to have the best experience. I also would like to stop in at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop and the Carousel Bar - any comments or suggestions? Thanks.
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Old Feb 13th, 2003, 08:52 AM
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Hi Alex1, The tour that I enjoyed most during my latest trip to New Orleans (I've been there 5 times) was New Orleans Ghost Tour with Chaz. He was very entertaining and knowledgable. I felt like the entire group (about 40 of us) was hanging on to every word until it was over. Some of us even went back to a bar with him for drinks afterwards. It was a really fun evening! Respectfully, Leslie
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Old Feb 13th, 2003, 08:56 AM
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Hi pdavis, I think you will really like Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. It s avery interesting place. It gets kinda crowded when the Haunted History tours come thru there a few times per day but just go at a different time and it won't be so tight. It's a cool place because it doesn't use electricity, just candles. Makes you feel like "old New Orleans" or something. I also like an Irish pub on the same cross street (St Philip) called Flanagan's, and a coffee place also on that street called CC's. Usually, what I do is drinks at Lafitte's, then food at Flanagan's, then more drinks at Lafitte's and it the sun comes up before I go home, I stop at CC's for coffee and breakfast. Respectfully, Leslie
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Old Feb 13th, 2003, 05:39 PM
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PDAVIS, here's a list of places where us locals hang out (some are near your B&B): Checkpoint Charlie's, Dragon's Den, Buffa's Lounge, Port Of Call, Flanagan's Pub, Mythique, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (not to be confused with Lafitte's In Exile or you will be in for a surprise), Pirate's Alley Cafe, DBA, The Spotted Cat, and Harry's Corner. I hope you have a wonderful time in my city!
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