IMG_3377Today I am finishing my little virtual tour of one of my favorite cities...New Orleans! All this talk of the Big Easy this week has me reliving my trip there for my birthday celebration two years ago! I hope you will join me for some good food and some sightseeing in the place that, for me, is as close to Europe as I can get without a major case of jet lag!

Need a little virtual vacation in the French Quarter of New Orleans? I’m back to tell you more about my recent visit to the Big Easy! I was there for a special occasion…my 60th birthday! Once again, I must tell you that I am no expert, but this is my third visit, so I’d like to share my favorites with you! (If you missed the first post and would like to read it, click here.)

page3 You cannot come to New Orleans without having breakfast at Brennan’s! Be prepared to eat until you nearly pop and skip lunch and maybe dinner that day! I ordered my favorites, which also happen to be the traditional breakfast/brunch favorites on the menu! Why? Most of these dishes were invented by their chef who has been there more than 40 years! Start with milk punch, followed by their thick and creamy Creole onion soup, and then as a main dish, Eggs Hussarde, a Brennan's original…eggs Benedict with marchand de vin sauce added. Yummy!

page4 And you absolutely must order dessert…yes, dessert with breakfast! It’s a Brennan’s tradition. And a must-have…a dish that was invented here…is Bananas Foster! It’s breakfast with a show...your waiter will make it for you at the table! The bananas are sautéed in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and banana liqueur and then flamed in rum! Dish it over vanilla ice cream and you have a heavenly treat! Yummy! (Find a link to Bananas Foster, Eggs Hussarde and many of their famous recipes here.)

IMG_3457 After breakfast, walk down Royal Street and pop into some of the wonderful antique shops! But be prepared…the prices are on the high side! All I was able to bring home was this photo of my favorite style of frenchy lamp…a bouillotte lamp! lol It was about $800…actually not too bad! That’s me reflected in the shade! (Cick here to see my post about the history of bouillotte lamps.)

page3 If you are still digesting and want a little tour without the walk, try a buggy ride through the French Quarter with narration by your driver. If you don’t mind riding with other folks, it’s only $15 and lasts 30 minutes. Not only will you see the fabulous wrought iron balconies, but interesting spots such as Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, which served as a cover for the pirate’s illegal activities and is now a piano bar, and the Cornstalk Hotel with a fabulous wrought iron fence shaped like…yes…cornstalks to pacify a homesick wife from Iowa!

IMG_3353 Head on back to Jackson Square, the heart of the French Quarter, and check out the famous wrought iron balconies of the Pontalba Buildings dating from the late 1840s. They are publicly owned and the upper floors are actually apartments that may be rented. In the middle of the Lower Pontalba Building is the 1850 House…part of the Louisiana State Museum.

page4 Here you will find a townhouse filled with period furnishings, including a fabulous half tester bed and a sweet baby’s room with an adorable tea set and a little half tester crib! And what a fabulous set of china!

IMG_3311 But perhaps the most interesting room was the bath…complete with this innovative tub that warms its own water and then empties easily! And check out those fabulous legs on the drop leaf table...I want it!

page3Also on Jackson Square is Saint Louis Cathedral…whose silhouette has come to represent New Orleans! However, it has not always looked like this. In the inset is the cathedral in 1838, prior to a major makeover in 1850. Is that an amazing metamorphosis? How different Jackson Square would look if the changes had not been made!

IMG_3375 Next door to the cathedral is The Cabildo, another part of the Louisiana State Museum. Inside, you will find three floors of exhibits retelling the history of Louisiana. My favorite displays were the death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte, pictured above…a real look at his face!…and the room where the Louisiana Purchase was signed! (You can take the virtual tour by clicking here. Click at the bottom of each page to continue.)

page Have you walked off that big breakfast? Then let’s go down Decatur Street to the Central Grocery, a real Italian-American grocery store, for their world famous muffuletta! It’s a huge sandwich filled with piles of Italian cold cuts and cheeses and topped off with their signature marinated olive salad. You can easily split one with a friend! Are you getting the picture that food plays a big part in a visit to this wonderful city? lol We sat at the counter and enjoyed a conversation with some charming locals.  Don't expect a Southern drawl here! The New Orleans accent is a port city accent..almost like New York!

page5 Music is also an important part of the atmosphere in the French Quarter! Street musicians set up everywhere  to entertain you, hoping for a nice tip, of course. We found a terrific jazz band performing outside the Café du Monde! A grandmother and her little granddaughter began to dance and the customers clapped along with the music. What fun! And of course, they played When the Saints Go Marching In!

734 Or you can walk along the Moon Walk……the wooden promenade in front of Jackson Square...named after New Orleans mayor Moon Landrieu. The riverboat Natchez is anchored here and you can hear the jazz band playing in the evenings before they depart on their dinner cruise! Have a seat on a bench overlooking the mighty Mississippi River and drink in the atmosphere! It's free!

IMG_3524 The crying shame is that there is only so much room in your tummy! lol You cannot leave New Orleans without a trip to the Gumbo Shop to have their famous gumbo…what else? I had the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. I might also add that the French bread in the French Quarter is almost as fantastic as in France! Can you say that three times fast? lol

731I followed the gumbo with the Creole sampler, which included (left to right) shrimp Creole, jambalaya and red beans and rice! We actually had this meal on the last night of our trip…an appropriate and delicious ending!  (You will find a link to their recipes here.)

IMG_3303 I have to add here that one of the most important aspects of my trip was the people of New Orleans! They were so welcoming and friendly! They are so proud of their city and were always eager to help us find our way or suggest places to eat or great jazz clubs where we could enjoy their music! They have had a rough time in the last few years, between Katrina and the Gulf oil spill, but that didn’t stop them from opening their arms to us and making us feel at home. The food was fabulous and the accommodations were amazing. If you are planning a vacation in the near future, you may want to give New Orleans a try. The people will appreciate your being there and you will not be sorry that you went! As the Cajuns say...Laissez les bons temps rouler! Let the good times roll!

Click here if you missed part one of the tour and are in the mood for some calorie-free virtual beignets and a little jazz!

See you next time! A la prochaine!