‘New Orleans is world-famous for embracing an eclectic mix of styles. The city combines the welcoming acceptance of the Deep South and the Louisiana Creole culture and traditions, making The Big Easy one of the most unique experiences in the world…’
I’d originally scheduled to visit NOLA in 2005, but it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and I had to divert to Baton Rouge for a few nights. A mere 11 years later, I finally got to see the city I’d been reading about for all those years.
My husband and I found a room at the Hotel Empress on Ursulines Avenue, a quick 10 minute walk from Bourbon Street. We spent two nights in the city before moving on to Texas and these are the highlights of our visit…
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 performed the following night at a different bar. One can only assume that Aldean is very popular in New Orleans. Who knew?
Driving the Ponchartrain Causeway
Yeah, it totally doesn’t sound that interesting, but let me tell you this: the PC is in the Guinness Book of Records. It’s claim to fame? It is the longest continuous bridge over a stretch of water in the world. China has since tried to claim the title for one of their new bridges, but New Orleans is still clinging on.
Spanning 24 MILES across the water, the bridge is so massive that, for that 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 to speed limit, which is 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 AAAAAALLLL the way back to New Orleans.
Mercedes Benz Superdome
OK, so there wasn’t any sport on when we visited, but if there is, you should definitely go see it. Regardless of the no sports thing, it’s definitely still worth checking out. This is the stadium that made so many headlines (and not just for the success of New Orleans’ Saints NFL team), but for housing so many people during the aftermath of Katrina.
Reaching the Superdome is easy by car or public transport and there’s parking right outside. The gold dome shines brilliantly in the sunshine and it’s a magnificent spectacle. The massive gold stadium is the largest fixed structure in the world 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. ‘Rebirth’ is the name of the statue and how apt that title is. If there was ever a city that embodied this spirit, it’s New Orleans.
Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral
In the heart of the French Quarter, Jackson Square is a beautifully manicured park featuring a large statue of Andrew Jackson. The park was renamed in his honour after he was famously victorious in the Battle of New Orleans 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.
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 managed to resist as I’m not a fan of donuts. 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 French Market has not always been the location for the statue, but it now resides here permanently. We can only assume the smell of coffee and donuts was too much for her to resist. And who could blame her?
Have you visited New Orleans? What are your must-see sights?