We spent a fabulous time in New Orleans over the week of Christmas to New Years Eve. Forgetting for the moment the hassles, delays etc. of the airlines, it is a sight to behold.
We planned our holiday pretty much before we even left here. We googled and booked a couple of the tours and a dinner cruise on the Natchez. We missed out on the levee Christmas bonfire tour because we didn’t book ahead. They were sold out one month before.
We took the Plantation/Bayou tour. This is an all day affair and so worth it. To see the splendour of the old homes (only 16 left out of more than 300, and 12 are in disrepair and the remaining 4 of these wonders are open and used for tours. ) We toured the Lara plantation and our guide, Stephen, is a walking tome of information. These guides are not allowed to embellish any information or stories they tell and stick to the history as it was.
You simply cannot grasp the size of these plantations, the hardships endured and yet, the pride in their history is apparent everywhere. From here we went to the Oak Alley Plantation. All I can say is “WOW”. This is so beautiful. The trees in the front are about 200 years old and the ‘alley’ at the back stretches a quarter mile to the levee and are 300 years old. No one knows the reason why they were planted (long before the plantation was put together) but so beautiful.
The family that lived here lived really well, considering the time in history.
They have re-constructed 4 of the slaves quarters to show how they lived and with so little. On the site is a restaurant and gift shop. We all had lunch in the restaurant (part of the tour) and it consisted of a salad, red beans and rice and crawfish etouffee, Buttermilk pie was the finishing highlight of the lunch. I will be sharing that recipe, it was beyond fabulous. OMG!
Back in the van and we are off to the Bayou swamp tour. Our guide was a wonderful older gentleman who has never left the bayou. He tells us his siblings left but he stayed and he can tell so many wonderful stories it made the very chilly ride most bearable. We saw a real live armadillo and some critter called a nutrarat (spelling??) pronounced nootra.
Another extreme highlight was the cooking class we attended in the New Orleans School of Cooking. Our cook was a wonderful lady, Sondra, and we had a super time. We ate what she made us for lunch and again, she claims that in the South they make no apologies for how they cook or what they eat. The do not eat to live, they simply live to eat. That says it all. Truth be told, this food was almost the only food we ate in New Orleans that didn’t bite you in the butt for being so hot spice-wise.
We went to the Cafe du Monde. Now, unless you saw the pictures we posted or have been there yourself, no one can really give you the picture of what this place is. Besides, pure goldmine would be an under-statement. The line up to just get in to try and find a seat is long. The line up to the take-out is a block long and longer if the day is nice out.
They feed about 600 an hour. Yup, that is right. You get 3 very large beignets ($2.42 for 3) and a coffee (2.oo+) and tax. They put on a good half to three-quarter cup of icing sugar on top, on the plate, on you and the floor. It is everywhere.
The best time was the dinner cruise on the Natchez. The food was really good but the dixieland band “The Dukes of Dixieland” were so phenomenal. You could not sit still….feet tapping, hands clapping to the beat, singing any of the songs you were old enough to remember. What a wonderful, truly happy place to be.
Before I get into the restaurants we were in, let me mention you cannot believe the politeness of anyone you talk to. The clerks in the stores, the cab drivers (well, except for 1 really bad one) is wonderful. One server we had said it was just “plain ol’ Southern hospitality”.
We ate in three of Emeril’s restaurant….The NOLA, Delmonico (really nice) and the wonder of all restaurants, Emeril’s. This restaurant has been on the same spot for 24 years and never, ever have I been in a restaurant where three servers attended to your every want or need. Alan, our main man, was a wonderful personality. We had our picture taken with him. This was part of our Christmas gift from our children and we say thank you.
Another part of our gift from our children was a dinner at Tujague’s. Uh, let me be fair here, they did serve over 1,000 people this day (Christmas Eve), but it really was a disappointment. The only thing that came out hot was the cranberry sauce on the plate. Everything else was cold….the sweet potatoes, turkey, oyster dressing, soup,….yeah, it was simply a cattle call on steroids. Very few restaurants were open so they got the crowds. Too bad. It has quite a great history.
We have great kids and they sure know what pleases the ‘old folks’.
Shopping galore…..souvenirs of every kind and description and lots to choose from. As a word of caution…for me…Bourbon Street is not the place to go to, walk through or try to get a taxi from. It is wall to wall young people – for the most part- drinks in hand, and I would not recommend it. In the daylight it isn’t quite so ugly and there are far better places to be.
As an important feature for us…on Christmas day we attended the Trinity Episcopal Church and were blown away. This Church is so large, you would think it was a Cathedral. We were in the Chapel for the service. This is large and it was packed to the gills and poured over in to the next room and hallway. A young lady sang a solo before the service started and it made people dry their eyes. What a gift! The minister, Rev . Hudson is a real delight…funny, great speaker and so excited with the Christmas music.
Then, on Sunday, we went back to the same church and this time into the main Church. Oh my gosh…it is beautiful, huge and so much wood carving- the altar, the choir section, etc. and the stained glass windows were approximately 30 feet high and so many of them. In the middle of the service, the choir director comes out of the choir section and simply stands in front of the people and begins to sing a solo. (this woman is probably only 5 feet high, but……when she is done, everyone was wiping the tears from their faces and broke out in applause. I get emotional just thinking about it. Her voice was so ….perfect. She hit notes so high you waited for the glass to break…so full of depth and powerful yet not a weak sound. Unbelievable.
Also,before we left, we booked reservations at the Four Points Hotel just across from the airport. You get a breakfast for $1.00 and parking for the week for only $17.00. Good deal. The morning we were leaving to come home, we had the breakfast in Ric’s Grill at the Hotel. Huge servings…far too big for the average person to even get half-way through. I had been teasing Don about the New Orleans charm he bought me and the one server only got part of the conversation. It led to about 20 minutes of raucus laughter, even after we left the restaurant. Everytime she looked at us, she broke up. We still laugh about it when we remember it even now.
Lovely holiday…so enjoyed it….but planning ahead makes it so much nicer. New Orleans you are a real gem in the history of America and the deep south.