The French Quarter

New Orleans Travel Blog

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The French Quarter in New Orleans

 

Writing about the French Quarter has turned out to be a difficult and confusing task.  My mind spins and twirls with facts, history, myths, legends, ghosts, tours, food and more.  There is a plethora of architecture to enchant the mind and leave the soul spell bound.  Do I start on the atmosphere and smell of the Quarter which is unlike any location I have ever experienced?

After a few moments of deliberation I thought of using coins, too many to keep up with, finding a dice with many faces, it is snowy and cold outside, and finally I will turn on the travel channel and whoever is on I will take a leaf out of their book and that is where I will start in the Quarter.

  Ah, it is Anthony Bourdain who I love to watch but brings me to another dilemma he is about food and alcohol so which to chose?  I shall start with food and second I will share the alcohol.

The restaurants and treats to temp your palette are plentiful every corner and every little path in the Quarter.  The first one that I will focus on is a place that is a land mark in the Quarter; it has been in the background of almost every movie shot there and is known by the locals and tourists alike.  A familiar site in the wee hours of the morning after the night life starts to settle and folks aren’t quite ready to sleep.  Its green and white awning and inviting lights lour all of those meandering around Jackson Square.  The patio is large with many tables that are usually full, the line wraps down the sidewalk, a mixture of excitement, anticipation, and the standard noise of the boisterous crowd feels the air.

  This description fits none other than the Café Du Monde.  I guess there are those who visit the Quarter and do not make their way to the Café to sip coffee and enjoy munching on the powdered sugar delicacies they are known for; we will make fun of them later.  Café du Monde is a coffee shop on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, it is best known for its café au lait and its French-style beignets.  The coffee is sudily blended with chicory and its gives it a unique taste that melts in your mouth.  The location at the upper end of the French Market and the original building was established in 1862.  For over a century it was one of two similar coffee and beignets places in the market, the Morning Call which was the other moved to the suburbs in 1974.

The café is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, except for Christmas Day and the occasional hurricane passes too close or makes contact.

  Due to hurricane Katrina the Café closed on August 27, 2005 due to mandatory evacuation and didn’t re-open until October 19, 2005.  The Café suffered only minor damage.

This Café’s most popular movie scene is in the movie Runaway Jury with Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, Gene Hackman and John Cusack.

If you want to be in and out the best time to go is around lunch or in the early afternoon, the prices are reasonable and the tasties are fantastic.  As a side note Aunt Sally’s Pralines and collectibles is a couple of doors down and has some of the best Pralines money can buy.

There are tons of other restaurants for breakfast and lunch some with traditional food and others with a Cajun twist, such as crawfish omelets.

  A few popular and delightful lunch establishments include Galatoire’s Restaurant where lunch can last all-day, Arnaud’s Restaurant, Tujague’s Restaurant and one of my favorites Muriel’s.  Muriel’s is an awesome establishment for lunch and dinner, lunch being the best time to go because dinner is packed with long waits.

Muriel’s in Jackson Square is a provocative dinging destination in the heart of the Quarter on landmark Jackson Square.  The restaurant is on the former site of Chart House and has recently been restored to its 1800’s splendor.  Inspired by the moods and textures of New Orleans with contemporary Creole cuisine, old world French Quarter opulence and jasmine scented nights filled with the hum of the city’s jazz artists.  Muriel’s promises to deliver a provocative sensory experience that exceeds the thrill of traditional dining out.

  Guests will be immersed in a world of refinement and revelry that reflects the rich historical, cultural and culinary character of New Orleans that was.  Certainly one of the most outstanding restaurants in the French Quarter it too has the ghost stories that make this area legend.

The Séance Lounge in The Soiree on the second floor is named as such because of the prominent ghost, Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, who is rumored to reside there most of the time.  He has been seen and described as a long cylindrical luminescence with sparkles on the outside as he glides thru the Séance, it is alleged he has been spotted at least 50 times in the last 5 years.  Where I did not see a ghost, I did truly enjoy the red room on the second floor.  If you find yourself enjoying the cuisine at Muriel’s don’t forget to head up stairs for the decoration and perhaps a meet and greet from the past.

While I have written a great deal alone on the food I would be doing you and the restaurant a true disservice if I didn’t mention it.  The one place that all have to go if they want to truly experience the ambiance of New Orleans is hands down, Desire Oyster Bar on Bourbon Street.  This restaurant exuberates all that is New Orleans and Cajon food, the prices are inexpensive and the service is first rated.  The traditional Creole dishes, oysters, seafood, and for those who don’t like swamp roaches the roast beef poor boy, with cuisine for even the pickiest of eaters it is a great stop.  While you are there don’t forget to get one of their world class drinks, “The Hurricane”.  Yeah, I realize you can have tequila, beer, rum or a combination of thousands of other drinks but, live a little and drink what the area is known for.

  Have a hurricane or two and start the hurricane adventure at the Oyster Bar.

Now for the drinking and alcohol section, if you enjoy your fine adult beverages you have come to the right town.  There is a bar, vendor or restaurant every five feet who specializes in one drink or another all of which are guaranteed to make the average person go blind or at least sleep well that night.  The French, Cajon, Creole, and other heritages are well known in the French Quarter, what is not known is the amount of Irish blood that flows through the area.  There are many delightful Irish pubs including, yet not limited to the following:

Most of the clubs require musicians to play classic or known New Orleans music, the Kerry Irish Pub is known for its talented people who play non-traditional music on the open stage.

  Kerry’s also has a fine beer list if you are in the neighborhood and wanting something different.  Just down the street from Kerry’s is the notorious unassuming picture of tranquility Ryan’s Irish Pub.  It is fitted with cozy booths and a beautiful antique bar, it is wonderful to slide in one of the booths and take in the décor and enjoy a cold one.  At night this quiet unassuming bar turns into a bousterous party house and is usually packed.

Now if it is local atmosphere that you crave head to Fahy’s Irish Pub where a stable of regulars are willing to share plenty of stories and swap lives little tales.  While you are in Fahy’s they will temp you with a local tradition and well know drink, the Mind Eraser which after a few of these you will be wondering things like where did my top go, who are these people and where is my hotel.

  Not to worry after a little sleep, a quick drink, and shaving your tongue the results of the Mind Eraser will be gone.

This town provides too many bars to mention them all by name.  There is one that must be listed and that is the historic bar at the corner of Bourbon and St Phillip, it doesn’t look like much and is a little off the beaten path.  The history of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, one of the all-time favorite tourist attractions of the Quarter, it was built sometime before 1772, and is one of the few remaining original French architecture structures left in the Quarter.  Two devastating fires, one in 1788 and the other in 1794, all but destroyed New Orleans, these fires caused the Spanish style city to emerge and the crudely built French port and trading post to be replaced.

Tradition has it that the Lafitte brother operated this blacksmith ship as a legitimate appearing business, serving as a front for their privateer enterprises.  One of the brothers was the infamous Jean Lafitte, privateer, and co-hero of the Battle of New Orleans.

At night when Bourbon Street is packed this is a nice bar to slip off to and enjoy the atmosphere of a smaller and quieter establishment.  Don’t fear they still have fierce drinks, great prices, and lovely décor especially the large rock fire-place right next to one of the tables.

I have finished with the food and drink so I guess it is time for entertainment and tours.  Let’s start with the tours in New Orleans and especially the French Quarter.

  The more popular tours include: Haunted buildings and houses, History, Ghosts, Vampires, Bars, Voodoo, Swamp, Plantation and Garden, Cemetery, Alligator and River Cruises with dining and drinks.  This is only to name a few of the tours; the guides provide theatrical entertainment as they explain the history of the Quarter.  They dress up in costume, they are knowledgeable and they seem to really enjoy what they are doing.  You will even find the cemetery tours and guides in full costume and ready to perform.  If you are having a hard time deciding what to do, you can always head over to Jackson Square and have one of the hundred fortune tellers or psychics show you the way.  They are set-up most of the night and are reasonably priced, are they accurate no idea, never been.
  The Quarter is also full of performers on almost every corner, most are in costume performing, you will see a couple like the snake guy who prefer sitting on their ass with a pet, drinking and expecting money because they are there.

Now here is a small warning label, while I joke about drinking and shaving your tongue.  You should take caution especially if you’re alone and wasted.  So, basically if you are going to put yourself in a compromising position simply hire a guide, it will cost about $40 for the night and they will make sure you end up in your bed safe and sound.

As for accommodations one of my favorite places to stay is Plaza de Armes, which exuberates all that is the Quarter and the hospitality.  The rooms are spacious, cool ac, comfortable beds and reasonably priced.

  I have stayed out 5 other Quarter hotels but always go back to Plaza de Armes, I have been told they serve food in the morning I have never been up early enough to confirm this.

Whether you lounge at the pool at your hotel, sip wine in the resort, wander aimlessly throughout the Quarter, saddle up to the bar, dabble with the local cuisine, tour the cemetery or other local attractions or make a brief stop prior to boarding a Carnival Cruise you will find entertainment and enjoyment wherever you go.

bkretzer says:
What a great read! I really enjoyed this blog!
Posted on: Feb 01, 2008
viciousv04 says:
I miss Nola. Every year in the 90's I went 2 or 3 times a year and always for Mardi Gras. I met wonderful people there so after years of the touristy stuff we got to chill and hang out and BBQ on St. Charles in the Garden District and watch the parades go by and that was so much fun...rather than than catching beads in the French Quarter..(not saying it was not fun) and the chance to meet Anne Rice. I love that city.....catching rays in Jackson Square and eating at my favorite local place on Veteran's Blvd called "the HARBOUR" THE BEST SEAFOOD and watch out the locals wait outside the door for this special yummy eats!! It's a must! :) Thanks for bringing back 10 years of memories for me! :)))
I want to go back when I return. I was very sad when Katrina came through.
Posted on: Jan 30, 2008
vulindlela says:
Great blog!
Very well written and fun to read.
Posted on: Jan 29, 2008
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