When I travel to a different city I always ask a lot of questions before arriving. How is the food? Does the city have a reputation for bizarre foods and if they do is there a good hamburger joint? What are the people like? Do they speak English? Are the people friendly? What is the night life like for live music? What is the history of the city?
Every city has an image. Washington, D.C. brings to mind power, lobbyist, and dysfunction. New York is a tossed salad of different cultures and everyone moving at full speed. When I travel to Paris my mind is filled with romance, cafes, and art. If Paris is the city of romance, then New Orleans is the city of passion.
New Orleans has a couple of nick names: “The Big Easy,” “The Crescent City,” “The City that Care Forgot,” and NOLO. I can say a couple of things about these nick names, the locals are fairly carefree and finding great music and food in the city is quite easy. That's my take on these nick names and I'm sticking to it.
This year three epic events are taking place in New Orleans, the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, and Kscope13. New Orleans is uniquely qualified to host these three events. The Super Bowl and Mardi Gras are taking place the same week, warming The Big Easy up for Kscope13.
Our trip started when the Ravens beat the New England Patriots. So my wife and I decided to travel to New Orleans for the Super Bowl, visit our daughter who just got a job down there, and check out what the city is all about. This way, when I get there for Kscope, there won’t be many surprises.
There are a number of things that stand out about New Orleans and none of those are represented on reality shows like Gator Boys and Swamp People. There was really no reason for us to have a car in the city, everything from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter to The Little Gem Saloon on Poydras Street is easy walking distance. The people of The Big Easy are easygoing and love visitors. Candy and I spent a lot of time walking around the city, getting directions and recommendations from the locals. Every local we ran into from the musician on the street corner to the mounted police men and women were pleasant and full of information on where to go and what to see. Don't be afraid to stop someone and ask them where the best gumbo is, you may get five different answers from five different people but I guarantee you, the gumbo will be great.
The Big Easy is a blend of American, Spanish, and French culture on the Mississippi Delta. Being on the Mississippi Delta, most of the local specialties involve seafood. I strongly recommend trying gumbo and crayfish. If you are eating crayfish have something to eat along with it. You will burn more calories getting to the meat than you will ever consume. Besides, eating crayfish is more of a socializing event then actually sitting down to dinner.
You can get free walking tours of the French Quarter from the National Park Service located at 419 Decatur Street. The world famous Bourbon Street extends thirteen blocks starting at Canal Street and is known for rowdy Mardi Gras parties. The architecture along Bourbon Street and Royal Street is beautiful with iron lace balconies overlooking the streets. You will frequently see people on these balconies sipping sweet tea or something a little stronger. On Saturday night (and I assume other nights), sections of Bourbon Street can become quite crowded. You don't so much as walk down Bourbon Street as look at the direction the crowd is moving then throw yourself in the crowd and be carried along.
For a less crowded section of Bourbon Street we found Lafeete's Blacksmith Shop (941 Bourbon Street) http://www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com. The oldest continuously operated bar in the United States built between 1722 and 1732. I can personally attest the hurricanes there are very smooth. As the evening wore on and the hurricanes kept flowing, I swore that the floor was not quite level in this old building.
You must go to Café Du Mondue (800 Decatur Street) http://www.cafedumonde.com for beignets and coffee. I will warn you that beignets would cover you in powered sugar. After eating, a bus boy stopped at our table to give us wet paper towels to get the powered sugar off us. Café Du Mondue is now in my top five places to go in The Big Easy for breakfast or when I just need to get my blood sugar back up.
Moving out of the French Quarter and into the Warehouse arts district is the Little Gem Saloon, http://www.littlegemsaloon.com/. This place has been there since the early 1900's and is known for live jazz and great food. If you are having dinner they prefer you make reservations; however, we showed up with eight people and they worked with us to get a nice table. The seafood, music, and service here is great. The Little Gem Saloon is a must visit.
Breakfast, lunch, or dinner at The Ruby Slipper http://www.therubyslippercafe.net/ is a treat. We had breakfast there a few times. They recommend you call ahead for seating because there is always a crowd. I asked the proprietor how they got the name, “The Ruby Slipper.” He told me that after hurricane Katrina they wanted to return home to New Orleans because there's no place like home.
If you are looking for the local art, there are over twenty-five art galleries, mostly on Julia Street. We did not have a chance to get over to Julia Street; however, my daughter tells me the galleries are quite nice.
The music! There is live music in the streets and there is live music in the clubs for every taste.
Oh, the Ravens won!!!! After the game when Candy and I were leaving, the BBC came up to interview us about the game. I know we made a good impression, dressed in Ravens jerseys, covered in Mardi Gras Beads, and hoarse after over four hours of screaming.
There is so much to do in The Big Easy you should not plan on sleeping; you will have plenty of time to sleep on the flight home.
See you at Kscope!