Exploring: New Orleans – The Garden District

It’s been so cold around here lately, I thought we could head back to a time when there was bright blue skies, very warm temperatures and a need to cool down with 32 oz of frozen cocktail! Yep, we’re heading back to my birthday trip to New Orleans back in June of last year.

Exploring New Orleans

We maybe didn’t pick the best time of day to take a stroll around the Garden District of the city. If you were playing spot the Europeans heading out into the midday sun you would have hit the jackpot with us two! Yep, despite having a guide book that suggested you miss the midday sun, we strolled straight into it!

This area of the city is just beautiful and definitely a spot not to be missed. The Garden District is the area of New Orleans where wealthy newcomers built their majestic homes in the 19th century. It’s the perfect area fir architecture buffs and gardeners with some extremely grand, beautiful and pretty homes, including a lot of Greek Revival mansions.

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Exploring: New Orleans – The French Market

Exploring New Orleans
It’s another Travel Tuesday in New Orleans people – I still have so much to write about when it comes to this amazing city! Today, it’s the French Market. If you ever find yourself dumped in New Orleans for the weekend then you cannot leave without visiting this place, if you don’t go there you’ll be seriously missing out.

Perched on the edge of the Mississippi in the French Quarter of the city is the French Market, a place to get your tourist bits and bobs (if you really need them), taste some amazing local delicacies and just soak up the atmosphere of the market. We headed down here on a Sunday morning after a stroll along the banks of the river, it was so hot and we were in desperate need of some water and some shade. Our first stop was breakfast where we tucked into some spicy alligator meat (more on that in my guide to the best places to eat in New Orleans) with eggs, Cajun potatoes and bread – definitely something different but a good start to the day!

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As you head into the market you are hit by a variety of smells and surrounded by little food stalls, cafés and sno-ball outlets where you can buy and eat everything from alligator to crawfish, oysters to po-boys and everything else in between, if you’re after a little snack to help you on your exploring way then this is the place to be. There are praline stalls, hot sauce shops with hundreds of different varieties and places to get a cooling drink, oh, and it’s all underneath a canopy so you can escape the sunshine too – in the height of summer that’s a must!

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As you walk further into the market you come to the non-food stalls, we’re talking the stuff of dreams if you’re after every tourist gift under the sun at a much cheaper price than the tourist shops on and around Bourbon Street. There are mardi-gras masks and beads by the billion, t-shirts with New Orleans on the front, magnets, postcards, books, artwork – you name it, it was there. I will admit to picking up a mardi-gras mask for both myself and the German – they were so pretty and so cheap, you never know when you’re going to need a mask for a masquerade ball!

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Oh and we can’t forget the nearby beignets – this place is super close to Café Du Monde and if you read last week’s post on where to eat you’ll know exactly why you need to stop off there!

Exploring: New Orleans – The Food

Exploring New Orleans

Life has been so hectic lately I still haven’t managed to tell you all about our trip to New Orleans back in June for my birthday. So, for Travel Tuesday this week, I thought we’d take a trip back to the deep south to check out the food.

NoLa is famous for various different delicacies and I wanted to try all of them, in the space of 3 days. I had a list and I was going to tick them all off…and I just about did! I think there was one item I didn’t manage to try so I did pretty well, and came home a few pounds heavier! So, here’s my definitive list of what you need to try (and where!) whilst in New Orleans.

1. A Po-Boy from Killer Poboys
This place is seriously tucked away, so tucked away in fact we had to ask someone where it was after strolling up and down the street it was supposed to be on at least three times. We were told to go into the Erin Rose Bar on Conti Street, walk all the way to the back as if you’ve gone too far and you’ll find it – it was a little strange but sure enough, at the back of the Erin Rose Bar we found some Killer Poboys! A po-boy was just about at the top of my list and I wasn’t disappointed. I chose the shrimp with the Germany tucking into a meatloaf po-boy – just amazing! It was loaded with huge coriander lime shrimp, salad and special sauce, it may even have been one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten! Po-boys are everywhere in New Orleans but f you want a good po-boy when you’re in NoLa, you have to go there – it may look a little strange but it’s worth venturing into the deep dark depths of the Erin Rose Bar for!

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2. Beignets at Café Du Monde
You can’t got to New Orleans without dropping by this place and trying some beignets. They’re a kind of doughnut that is covered in powdered sugar. This place is world-famous for them, people head to Café Du Monde, order a cafe au lait and beignets and indulge in a little people watching whilst trying to avoid being covered in powdered sugar! This place is always packed and once you taste the delights they sell you’ll know why! We decided to go for the take away option:

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3. Oysters Rockefeller
This dish was invented in New Orleans so it would be pretty rude to not chow down on some oysters rockefeller whilst you’re there. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of oysters, in fact before eating these I’d only ever tried them once and they were a little too slimy for my liking but, after hearing lots of good things about this dish I thought I’d give it a try – the German was a little more wary though and opted for something much more sensible (I can’t remember what but it definitely wasn’t oysters!). So, oysters rockefeller is served on the half shell, topped with various chopped herbs, a butter sauce and breadcrumbs and then baked or broiled – that’s grilled if you’re in the UK! I have to say I was pretty surprised by the outcome, they were very tasty. I may even indulge in oysters more often:

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4. Sno-balls
This is the perfect treat to cool you down when you’re in the midst of the New Orleans heat and humidity. It’s basically shaved ice-covered in cane sugar syrup. Because the ice is so thin, the syrup is absorbed into it and you can get them in every flavour imaginable, seriously. There’s the usual like strawberry, pineapple, cherry and lemon and then there’s the less traditional flavours like cake batter, peanut butter and silver fox – whatever that is! We went for a mango sno-ball and it cooled us down perfectly:

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5. Pralines
Another New Orleans staple is a praline. Again influence by the French settlers, this treat is sure to tickle your sweet taste buds. These are basically sugar, butter, cream and pecan nuts cooked together until most of the water has evaporated and it reaches a thick, creamy substance. They’re then dropped onto a wax paper sheet and left to cool – they taste amazing! No other words needed. You have to try some when you hit NoLa!

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6. Gator Meat
Ok, so this isn’t necessarily typical of New Orleans but alligator meat is huge here. It’s everywhere, whether it’s gator sticks, gator fillet, fried gator, you name it, they do it. The German decided he wanted to try it so we tucked into a gator breakfast at the French Market. To me, gator is a little like a mixture of chicken and pork, it’s light coloured and not too chewy, it’s actually pretty tasty! Ours was laden with the typical NoLa spices and definitely hit the spot!

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7. Stein’s Deli
We actually stumbled upon this place whilst navigating our way around the Garden District and it was definitely a good find! Stein’s Deli is a Jewish and Italian deli that’s serves up some of the tastiest sandwiches ever! We didn’t really know where we were going to grab some lunch but after passing this beaut and noticing it was busy we headed in. The menu was just immense with everything from a traditional Reuben to the Southern Animal Foundation. I settled on the Rachel (I wonder how I made that decision?) which consisted of hot pastrami, swiss and sauerkraut on rye with Russian dressing, three words – oh, my, lord. It was out of this world:

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8. The Ruby Slipper Cafe
If you’re in the market for breakfast The Ruby Slipper Cafe is the place to go. We found this one through the joys of TripAdvisor and headed there to kick off my birthday celebrations. This place was inspired by the sense of homecoming felt following Hurricane Katrina, as Dorothy and her ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz said ‘there’s no place like home!’ Being my birthday I obviously started with a bloody Mary before chowing down on the chicken St. Charles – hey, I’d been stuffing my face all weekend, no use stopping now! It was delicious! The German opted for the Costa Rican with breakfast chorizo and I can assure you that was very tasty too!

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9. Hot Sauce
Louisiana is famed for its hot sauce, lets face it, with dishes like gumbo, creole and other spicy creations these people need it! They add it to almost everything to give it the kick they’re looking for and, if you’re in the market to stock up and buy some you’re in luck. In quite a few shops in New Orleans there are hot sauce bars where you can try loads of different types of the stuff, and by loads I’m not talking just 10! We bobbed into one before dinner one night and checked a few of them out. I think I managed about 3 before my mouth was on fire and I couldn’t take it anymore the German however went a few steps further and tried so many of the sauces that his eyes were watering and it looked like he was crying – typical boy would not be beaten by the hot sauce. Obviously some a milder than others and some are majorly strong, so strong in fact they actually tell you to just try one little drop – I steered very clear of those ones!

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Sadly we didn’t tuck into any gumbo or jambalaya, another New Orleans staple but it was the middle of June and so hot outside that I think chowing down on something hot and spicy may have finished me off! Another typical dish that we didn’t eat was crawfish. I was pretty sad about this because it was close to the top of my ‘must-eat’ list but, with just a couple of days in the city I think we did pretty well at tasting most of the dishes!

Exploring: New Orleans – The French Quarter

Exploring New Orleans
When you think of New Orleans, you instantly think of jazz music, crawfish and the French Quarter right? When we headed to NoLa last month I was excited to check out what it was all about, I’ve heard and read loads about the place and it was always on my bucket list. New Orleans is in the state of Louisiana, known as the deep south. It’s located on the Mississippi River, is surrounded by swamp land and believe me, it is VERY hot! Hotlanta has nothing on this place!

Our first stop was the French Quarter. This place is just beautiful, the French influence can be seen on just about every building in this part of the city, from the detailed, extremely pretty balconies and small, narrow streets to the intricate iron work and colours, the French colonists who founded the city certainly left their mark. I could look at those buildings again and again and would still find something new to see on them.

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Bourbon Street is at the heart of the French Quarter and it’s definitely an experience! This is where the party is at, it’s where Mardi Gras takes place, it’s where you can stroll down the street with a hand grenade (a famous type of cocktail in NoLa, not the actual weapon) in your hand, or in my case, a 32oz frozen cocktail, it’s where, if you’re there at the right time, a naked bike ride passes through (more on that one later!) and it’s where a million different smells culminate together to make some pretty disgusting ones! As the German put it, ‘there are many different smells in New Orleans, most of them are horrible!’ The heat mixes with things like stagnant water from thunderstorms, disinfectant from bars, alcohol, rubbish, half eaten food and let’s face it, probably human sick (this is the party street after all) and turns pretty nasty. There are areas where you actually have to stop breathing until the smell passes! Don’t let that put you off going though…this place is amazing! Nearly every bar has live music of some sort, there are drinks offers everywhere (including Huge Ass Beers!) and the party goes on until the wee small hours of course! You simply have to visit Bourbon Street, even if you only walk up and down it once during your stay, at least you can say you’ve been!

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Strolling around there’s music playing on just about every single corner – this was the birthplace of jazz. There’s just about every street performer you can imagine from traditional jazz and blues singers to those people statues that don’t move (I seriously have no idea how they do that, especially in the NoLa heat!) and some very inventive young children who literally crushed empty Coke cans and stuck them into their shoes with something like a drawing pin, effectively turning their trainers into tap shoes, and they were pretty darn good at the tapping too!

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You also can’t hit the French Quarter, or New Orleans in general, without taking a ride on a streetcar. These things are famous in these parts, even if you don’t need one to get to your destination, you should just take a ride on one to say you’ve done it. We took one from the French Quarter to the Garden District, they cost a couple of bucks each and are definitely worth it, even if it’s just to save your legs or get you to that next cocktail quicker!

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And, you just have to check out the Cathedral. St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest in North America and sits in Jackson Square. It’s one of those places you have to check out, it’s beautiful both inside and out. The outside isn’t anything out of this world but it fits its surroundings perfectly. The cathedral was damaged during Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, it’s organ bore the brunt of the damage after water flooded through the roof. But, it’s all been fixed now and it’s looking pretty darn lovely!

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Oh, and I can’t let you go without telling you more about THAT naked bike ride…turns out we were in the city and our Bourbon Street at just the right time! This naked bike ride thing is happening all over the world (I’ve heard of one taking place in London), people literally get on their bikes and ride them through the streets naked, simple as. It’s definitely a sight to see…

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Ok, so not everybody was naked but I couldn’t really be putting naked boobies and willies on here now could I?!