The Whitingtons Invade New Orleans

The French Quarter may never be the same (we definitely won't be)...

Day 1: Thursday 03/13/97

We landed at New Orleans Int'l Airport about 10:40, and by 11:00 we were in front of the Hertz stand asking for our car. Tami is great at finding the best deals for auto rental, so when planning the trip she started calling all the usual places; when Hertz found out we were AAA members they quoted a great price and we took it. We didn't find out until Thursday morning that we couldn't pick up the car until noon under some special regulations associated with that rate... even though that wasn't part of the deal from our point of view, Hertz was immovable and so we had to sit at the airport for an hour. We weren't happy campers. The lady at the Hertz stand felt bad about it, though, and upgraded our car to a loaded Altima.

We drove to the B&B, the New Orleans Guest House, and found this hot pink two story on Ursulines street just north of North Rampart. The neighborhood was a little frightening, but we parked and went inside. After registering, the fellow at the desk gave us a little map with the "recommended" path for getting into the quarter from the B&B (North Rampart to where Dumaine crosses it, then down to Bourbon). He assured us that it was most likely safe during the day, but we'd probably want to taxi it at night.

After unpacking and settling in, we walked down to Bourbon St. and looked around - pretty tame in the day. We just kind of wandered around getting our bearings, and then walked down to Decatur St. and ate at the Crescent City Brewhouse. It was a wonderful brewpub, where we enjoyed both the food and the beer. The best thing to do is go in, get a sampler, then order your favorites.

From there we walked down to the river just to get a feel for the magnitude of the Mississippi. It's not a particularly beautiful river, but it is powerful. We strolled along the walkway just soaking it all in. There is a walkway named the "Moon Walk", a nice walk that allows you a spot to take in the mighty Mississippi.

Finally we walked over to Cafe du Monde across from Jackson Square. We were luckily enough to find a table, and the chicory coffee and beignets were unbelievable... we knew we'd be back before the trip was over. If you've never had a beignet, they're kind of like square donuts without the hole, piping hot and covered in powdered sugar.

As evening set, we visited the New Orleans institution Pat O'Brians, where we sat in the courtyard and enjoyed their world-famous Hurricanes. The fountain was beautiful at night, a combination of fire and colorfully lighted water (it reminded us of the volcano at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas). It wasn't crowded yet, so the courtyard was very relaxing and the waitstaff was exceptional.

The Gumbo Heads shop was recommended to us for the best tee shirts and such. When we walked past it, we saw what they meant and had to go in and look around. What we found were the most unique tee shirts that we'd seen, and of course we couldn't leave without purchasing one for each of us. The shop is on the western end of Bourbon Street, so don't fail to make this one of your stops!

For dinner we went to the Creole Kitchen at 530 Bourbon St., where Mitchel had alligator and Tami had roasted chicken (both were delicious). The restaurant bills itself as "famous creole and french cuisine", and we both enjoyed our meal and visit. We were able to dine out in their courtyard and enjoy the open air, and watch the chef periodically come outside and boil up a tub of fresh crawfish.

Walking down Bourbon St, we ran across a giant talking hand grenade on the corner of Bourbon and Orleans. The place was called the Tropical Isle, and since there was a live band playing some great tunes we went inside. It was a lot of fun; the band was good, the hand grenade drinks were good, and in the course of things we somehow got caught up in a bachelorette party. The bride-to-be was wearing a sandwich board, with a list of things that she had to do that night (click here to see the list). We ended up spending the rest of the evening here, and finally took our innkeeper's advice and took a taxi back rather than walking through the neighborhood of our B&B.

Day 2: Friday, 03/14/97

We set out from the B&B and walked down to Royal, then over Canal St. to Carondelet where we caught the street car for the St. Charles line (bound for the Audubon Zoo). We got a seat up front, and enjoyed a trip through the Garden District. The ride was only a buck each, and the only trouble that we had was finding the initial streetcar stop on Carondelet. We finally asked someone, and it turned out to be at the southwest corner of Carondelet and Canal.

The Garden District homes are *beautiful*; we had a local sitting behind us that was narrating the trip for a couple of ladies, so we enjoyed the impromptu tour. There was one house that he said was called the "Wedding Cake" that was really impressive, and there were many others that took our breath away. The house in the photo is just one that is representative of the many that we saw.

The streetcar let us off at Audubon Park; in the center of this photo you see a sign that informed us we could either wait for a shuttle bus or take the one mile walk through the park. If you're at all interested as to what we did, click here to see which one we chose.

The Audubon Zoo is an fascinating place. There aren't any stereotypical zoo cages; the animals are provided with natural habitats to roam around in, so you get a chance to see them in their typical surroundings. In the photo, you'll see a habitat built specifically for the sea lions - the Roman columns surrond a huge pool built to allow them a lot of play area. Our favorite of all was an exhibit where you walked through a butterfly habitat - an indoor rain forest with thousands of butterflies flying all around you. The Louisiana Swamp was also interesting, with some albino alligators and other native wildlife roaming around. Tami was intrigued by the reptiles, especially the Komo dragon... but she kept a clear distance fifteen feet from their cages.

After the zoo we were too exhausted to walk much more, so we taxied over to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe to eat lunch. We're both big Buffett fans so we had to go there! The food was good, and the walls were covered in Buffett-related pictures and decorations. The Margaritaville store is located next door where you can pick up tee shirts and other doo-dads.

We walked back to Jackson Square, and just behind the church we went straight for the Blue Dog gallery. We discovered George Rodrigue's Blue Dog paintings several years ago, visited his gallery in Carmel last year, and finally purchased our first Blue Dog on this trip.

A trip highlight was the Hauntings Today expedition. This is given by a paranormal research firm, and you get to visit several sites that are currently under investigation. We are both generally skeptical of this kind of stuff, but a couple of things happened on the expedition that really gave us pause (click here to read about them). This isn't a tour of the French Quarter; these are actual places being investigated by the firm. We had a great time and talked about it the rest of the trip.

Looking for a place to sit down, talk about everything that had happened and possibly write a few post cards, we passed Pat O'Brians and went back in to find a place on the patio. The place was packed, and the atmosphere was festive. We ended up sharing a table with some great folks from Rhode Island that we spent the evening visiting with.

To close out the day, we stopped by an authentic old-time diner, the Clover Grill for a late-night supper. This is a place with a hand full of tables, and seats along the bar where you can watch your meal being cooked. Even though we went at night, this photograph is a daytime shot just to give you a look at the place; even the "Clover Grill" sign is on a Coca-Cola shingle hanging out front. Every burger is grilled underneath a Cadillac hubcap, and tastes as good as any burger you'll ever put in your mouth. It was only a few blocks from our B&B, so we braved the night and headed back.

Day 3: Saturday, 03/15/97

The morning started out with a stroll down to Cafe du Monde for coffee and beignets. There was a long line for seating, so we went to the take-out window, got our breakfast and sat out across from Jackson Square to enjoy it. We could identify with the words of Jimmy Buffet, "The coffee is strong at the Cafe du Monde, the donuts are too hot to touch. But just like a fool, when those sweet goodies cool, I eat 'till I eat way to much!" This was our view of Jackson Square as we ate breakfast.

Following that and a short walk down to the Jackson Brewery building, we were at the day's first stop, the New Orleans School of Cooking. This was another high point of the trip - the three hours we spent there were entertaining, the food was delicious, and we did actually learn something. The chef could have been a cajun stand-up comic he was so good; he prepared jambalaya, gumbo, bread pudding and pralines... and we got to eat everything that he cooked. To graduate and get our diploma, we had to prepare one of the dishes at home, take our photograph doing it, then send it in to the school (click here for the photo we're sending and the recipe that we prepared). This was quite an experience.

After that, we explored the Jackson Brewery which is basically a mall full of speciality shops (no Sears, Dillards, etc.) We walked off the great food from the school, then decided to take in the aquarium.

When we walked out of the Brewery building to the river, we had the choice to take the trolley or walk - we chose the walk, and were again happy that we did. The river walk park was beautiful, and it gave us a chance to spend some time along the Mississippi.

The Aquarium of the Americas was enjoyable, featuring species from North and South America. It also had an exhibit of Louisiana and its bayous, including albino and regular alligators. It took over an hour, and was very interesting... we saw a lot of cool fish. There is currently a jellyfish exhibit that ends the tour and it's one of the best parts.

Walking though the French Quarter, we ran across a St. Patrick's Day parade. Seemingly there is very little criteria for having a parade or celebration in the French Quarter, but the one we saw was immense. Leading the whole thing was Senator Sonny Bono, who you see here in the lead car - he was the grand marshall of the parade.

For supper we had made reservations at the Court of Two Sisters. When we made them, we asked about the dress code and they said only "no cut-off shorts or tank tops". We set out in tee shirts and jeans, and after encountering the parade where we collected several stings of beads, we showed up at the restaurant greeted by more than a couple of stares. Most people there were in suits and dresses, even a couple of tuxes. The waitstaff was very attentive, though, and our Filet Mignons were exquisite.

It was getting late, so we walked down to Jackson Square and found a buggy and driver who gave us a tour of the French Quarter. For $40, we got about 45 minutes of history, trivia, probable fiction and a really good time. There's also a lot to be said for being driven around through the evening streets in a buggy... we loved it.

Once the buggy ride was over, we went back to Bourbon Street for some more fun and music at the Tropical Isle. This time we went up to the second floor, which was dedicated to Jimmy Buffett featuring memorabilia, fan club photos, and all sorts of parrot-head decorations. If you're into Buffett, this is probably a better stop than the Margaritaville Cafe. We also spent some time on the balcony overlooking Bourbon street, watching all the craziness.

As we left, we couldn't resist the temptation to try the famous "Lucky Dog" hot dog sold by street venders around the quarter. It was as good as advertised; we finished it, and being as late as it was (and wanting to keep safe) we grabbed a taxi back to the B&B.

Day 4: Sunday, 03/16/97

Sunday morning we taxied over to the the House of Blues, where we'd made reservations several weeks ago for their Gospel Brunch. The food was unreal - everything from barbecue chicken to custom omelets. Mitchel grabbed four crawfish, and asked our waiter how to go about eating them. He explained how, then chastised us for only getting a few. He disappeared and came back with a whole plate of them. They were great and we ate them all. About 11:00am, the gospel music started and we really enjoyed the "Zion Harmonizers" - enough that we bought their CD. This ranked right up there as one of the favorite things that we did on the trip.

After walking over to Jackson Square, we discovered that we'd missed our walking tour of the cemeteries through a mix-up on times, so we just wandered through the shops and finally ended up back at the B&B. We rested a while, then decided to go down to Cafe du Monde and get coffee and sit down on the Moon walk (overlooking the river, named for a governor or mayor or something). By the time that we got there, however, it was raining. We got coffee at the to-go window, then walked around the square staying under awnings when possible. The photo is Jackson Square in the rain... luckily, it didn't last long.

For dinner, we selected Desire, An Oyster Bar (associated with the Royal Sunesta Hotel on Bourbon St.) where we really enjoyed the meal. Their jambalaya was especially good. The restaurant has several doors open to Bourbon St., so while we were eating we didn't miss any of the sights and sounds.

Following dinner, we walked over to the rendezvous point for our last walking tour, the Millennium tour. We can't say enough about the Millennium walking tour; it covered the french quarter, and was part history, part legend, part fact and part sensation. This was another one of the things that we'll be recommending that people do - it's a great way to get acquainted with the quarter. That's Ken the tour guide in the photo with Tami. After a couple of hours the tour wrapped up and we headed back to Bourbon St. to take a final look.

We figured that there was no better place to watch the crowd than to head to the only place in the Quarter where we could listen to Buffett tunes, the Tropical Isle. We went upstairs, but before we went out to the balcony we *had* to stop for the benchmark tourist Buffet-fan photo spot that was set up in the Tropical Isle. After that, we went out on the balcony for a final look at Bourbon St. then taxied back to the B&B for our final night in New Orleans.

Day 5: Monday, 03/17/97

This was plantation day, and our innkeeper recommended an order to see them in (given that we were on a tight time schedule). We said goodbye to the New Orleans Guest House. All in all, it had been a pretty good bed and breakfast. We took this photo from the secured parking area - the balcony that you see was right off our room; we sat out there one night and just listened to the French Quarter.

Grabbing our map we set our course for the first stop, the Houmas House plantation. The drive was well over an hour, but it was certainly worth the trip. The plantation house was built in 1840, survived the Civil War, and is now beautifully restored. The tours are given by guides in southern belle costumes.

Next we visited the Nottoway Plantation, another house that we took the walking tour of. They said that it was the largest plantation house in the states, and the tour was very interesting. This house is nicknamed "The White Castle", and escaped destruction during the Civil War when an officer on the Union gun boat that was firing on it realized that it was a place where he had visited and was welcomed by its owners. This plantation house is also a bed and breakfast.

When the tour was over we were hungry, so we had lunch at the Nottoway Plantation Restaurant and had a tasty creole meal. We happened to be there when there was a large tour group that had various people jumping up to sing and play the piano, so we were serenaded during our lunch.

From there, we drove over to the Oak Alley Plantation; while we didn't have time to take the tour, the house and grounds were beautiful. The twenty-eight live oak trees are 300 years old, and correspond to the twenty-eight columns around the house. This plantation also features a restaurant and overnight cottages.

With a rushed dash to New Orleans International Airport, we turned in the rental car and climbed aboard the plane back to Dallas. It was a memorable trip, and we're already making a list of things that we want to do on our next trip to New Orleans!
We got a lot of the information to plan our trip from one of the best New Orleans pages on the net, Dave and Susie's Guide to New Orleans. Be sure and check it out.

We're no experts on New Orleans, but if you're planning on visiting you may want to scan through the tips we discovered from our first visit there.

To check out some of our other trips, or see some of the other info that we have on our homepage, just click here!

Here are the links to some of the places that we visited:
the New Orleans Guest House
Cafe du Monde
The Tropical Isle
Audubon Park
Audubon Zoo
Blue Dog Galleries
The Clover Grill
Aquarium of the Americas
Houmas House plantation
Court of Two Sisters
House of Blues
New Orleans School of Cooking
If you'd like any other info, addresses or opinions please drop us an email (our addr is at the bottom of our main page).
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