‘I planned to visit New Orleans in 2005, but it hit by Katrina and I had to simply drive through. I was thrilled to finally get to visit the Crescent City recently…’
On my drive through in 2005, I was aghast at the upturned vehicles; people crammed into hotel rooms; flattened billboards, and an entire bridge completely blown away across the Pontchartrain. A little more than a decade later, I finally had the chance to go back. I was so looking forward to getting back to Louisiana and spending some time in New Orleans. We found a room at the Hotel Empress on Ursulines Avenue, around 10 minutes walk from Bourbon Street. We had two nights to spend in the city and these are the highlights of our visit.
|FINALLY made it!|
Rooftop Terraces on Bourbon Street
Grab a beer and a menu at any of the great eateries along the main drag and enjoy the action. I love a bit of people watching and it’s even better when done somewhere are beautiful and lively as New Orleans‘ French Quarter. Indulge in some local crawfish or gumbo, have a few drinks, and watch the street performers.
We spotted a guy flipping around like Michael Jackson and he was drawing in quite the crowd. We were also treated to some karaoke from the bars below and a pretty decent version of a Jason Aldean song. Interestingly, we heard the same song being sung the following night at a different bar. One can only assume that Aldean is very popular in New Orleans. Live and learn, folks: live and learn.
|A busy evening on Bourbon Street|
|Billie Jean is not my lover….|
Driving the Pontchartrain Causeway
Yeah, it totally doesn’t sound that interesting, but let me tell you this: the CP is in the Guinness Book of World Records are being the longest continuous bridge over water on the planet. It’s not that new one the Chinese have built. Oh no: it’s in New Orleans and that’s that.
Spanning 24 MILES across the water, the bridge is so massive that, for the first 8 miles, you can’t even see any land. You just drive very very carefully and completely within the speed limit. I actually drove under the speed limit, which must be a first for me. This was partly due to the fear of flying off the road and into the lake, but also because it’s difficult to see stuff when you’re driving too quickly. Once you get to the other side, you can go explore the lovely town of Mandeville. Or, you can do what I did and simply hit up the Subway, grab some coffee and go AAAALLLL the way back to New Orleans. What can I say? It’s a long drive and I needed caffeine.
Mercedes Benz Superdome
OK, so there wasn’t any sport on when we visited, but if there is when you’re there: go see it. Regardless of the no sports thing, it’s still worth a visit. This is the stadium that made so many headlines (not just for the success of the Saints), but for housing so many people during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The Superdome is easily reached by car and there’s parking right outside. The gold dome shines brilliantly in the sunshine and it’s a magnificent spectacle. It’s the largest fixed dome structure in the work and can hold more than 76,000 people. So, you know…it’s pretty big. Outside, the stadium has a 10 foot high statue of former player, Tom Gleason, who famously blocked a punt against the Atlanta Falcons in 2006. However, the statue isn’t really about blocking a kick; it’s about showing resolve and strength in the face of adversity. If there was ever a city that embodied this spirit, it’s New Orleans. The statue is called ‘Rebirth’. How apt.
Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral
Jackson Square is a beautifully manicured park featuring a large statue of Andrew Jackson. It’s located in the French Quarter. General Jackson was famously victorious in the Battle of New Orleans and the park was named in his honour. Well done, Sir. On two sides of the square, there are various shops and cafes, while the Mississippi and St Louis Cathedral dominate the others. St Louis is one of the oldest cathedrals in the US and it looks a bit like it should be in a Disney theme park. I mean that in the sense that it’s completely magical, not plastic and ugly. No offence, Walt.
The interior of St Louis is equally impressive and is free to enter. The Old Ursuline Convent Museum is next to the cathedral and is also open to the public, for self guided tours. The Convent is the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley. The Square and cathedral are lovely areas to hang out and we were lucky enough to see a small 4-piece band having a jamming session in the park They didn’t play a single Jason Aldean song, though. Maybe he’s not quite as popular as I first thought.
|The stunning Jackson Square|
|General Andrew Jackson statue.|
|See? It could totally be out of a Disney movie!|
Coffee and Beignets with Joan of Arc at Cafe du Monde
We stumbled upon Cafe du Monde by accident, on our way to Jackson Square to meet General Andrew. We quickly decided we’d have coffee with Joan first and visit him later. As well as being famous for its fabulous milky coffee, Cafe du Monde is also legendary for its donut-like beignets. I’m not a donut fan, so I managed to resist. However, Les is never one to shy away from food, so he went for it. They smelled amazing, if that makes any difference. I’m lead to believe they tasted that way, too.
Just next to Cafe du Monde is a rather large statue of Joan of Arc. Gifted to New Orleans by the people of France, The Maid of Orleans stands proudly at the French Market; all gold and shiny. She’s quite an impressive size and comes complete with her weapon of choice: the cannon. Actually, she comes with two cannons, so I guess they’re a bit like shoes; you can’t really get by with just the one, can you? Exactly. The statue hasn’t always been located at the French Market, but one can only assume the smell of coffee and donuts was too much to resist. And who could blame her?
Have you visited New Orleans? What are your must-see sights?