A message from the Paul and Julie Committee to Promote Post-Katrina New Orleans Tourism
We are going to the Jazz and Heritage Festival this year. Unfortunately, we
are going the second weekend. Our friend Rusty is going to be there the first
weekend-- not for the festival but as part of a work training thing. This is
the info that we sent him as kind of a New Orleans primer.
The most useful thing we found while we were in Nola in 2006 was the "Quarter
Crawl" pocket guide. They publish a little pocket-program every two
weeks that you can get at your hotel -- it has a really complete listing about
what is open and what's going on. So, one thing you can do is compare older
listings about what's cool in New Orleans (from your used Lonely Planet or whatever)
and see what's still open in QuarterCrawl.
The three main touristy areas of Nola (Paul insists on calling it N'Awlins)
are: French Quarter, Marigny, and Garden District. The French Quarter is where
every frat boy in America goes to party. It is 48 city blocks bounded by Canal
St., Water St., Esplanade, and Rampart St. Every block is cool, from an architectural
standpoint if for no other reason.
Marigny is where people who actually live in New Orleans go to party. It is
right next to the Quarter -- on the other side of Esplanade. Both are an amazing
concentration of food, booze, music, and scantily-clad women. You can pretty
much just wander down the street and stop to do whatever takes your fancy, and
have a good time.
The Garden District has beautiful, beautiful homes. So you want to go there
during the day. Maybe take a walking tour. The inspiration for The Witching
Hour by Anne Rice is a house in the Garden District. (There's a
picture of the house here.)
If you like cigars, buy one at the Cigar
Factory. They actually roll 'em there, and, a cigar smells better than Bourbon
Our favorite bar is Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, which is at, I think, Bourbon
and Dumaine. It's the oldest, and possibly darkest, bar in North America. (Built
New Orleans has touristy places with a silly retro 50s vibe that I find rather
charming. Pat O'Brien's is
probaably the most entertaining. Their courtyard has a fountain that's on
fire, which is the sort of thing drunk people find very amusing. The building
is a maze of five different historic bars, each one with a slightly different
atmosphere. But don't have more than one of their giant hurricanes. They will
give you the worst hangover you have ever had.
Bourbon Street has a very definite shift in tone as you head from Canal to Esplanade.
The Canal section has all the places with woo-hooing frat boys and neon lights.
It gets darker and less frat-oriented as you head toward Esplanade. Jean Lafitte's
is in this darker section. The first time I was in New Orleans I thought it
was fun just wandering from one end of Bourbon Street to the other. There's
a lot of great music just sort of -- you know, happening. And street theater,
of course. And architecture. And drunk girls flashing for beads. And gay boys
gyrating in the windows. And I find wandering down the middle of the street
with a drink is kind of entertaining all by itself.
If you like seafood, Louisiana seafood is the best in the world. Paul and I
Oyster House. Diner-style food and prices, but very well done. And they
have the best raw oysters available anywhere.
We loved our food at Arnaud's
Remoulade, the lower-priced offshoot of Arnaud's restaurant. I had seafood
gumbo. I'm planning to get it again. It was that good.
The Court of Two Sisters
has a fabulous, but fairly pricy, brunch buffet. It's worth it, though. About
$25 last year for all the boiled shrimp and crawfish you can eat. (For a contrast,
I had the "breakfast buffet" at the Doubltree during Norwescon last weekend
-- it was $15 for barely acceptable potatoes, industrial scrambled eggs, bacon
and sausage, a few juices, uninspired pastries, and indifferent oatmeal. I was
kind of shocked they could charge $15 for that without cringing in embarrassment.
The experience annoyed me so much that I refused to go back to the restaurant
for anything the rest of the weekend.)
I liked everything I tried at Two Sisters except the "ceviche." I
think they made it with vinegar instead of lime juice. If you go, sit in the
courtyard. The courtyard is really, really nice.
The Quarter Master, 1100 Bourbon Street, has great and pretty cheap deli food
after other restaurants close. The French Market is like a mini-version of Pike
Place Market (no flying fish). That's where you will find Cafe
du Monde, which has a very limited menu of coffee and beignets (a cheap
hit of sugar and caffeine) and the cafe is a fun place to people-watch. Beignets
are one of very few doughnuts I like. When I heard people raving about Krispy
Kremes, I pictured something like beignets, and was very disappointed by the
actual item.They are covered in powdered sugar. If you wear black while you
eat them, be prepared to be covered in powdered sugar.
The coffee in New Orleans is French, rather than Italian, in influence. So,
I don't like it was well as Seattle coffee (which is more Italian) but it is
better than a lot of places in the country.
If you like olives and Italian deli meats, go to Nor-Joe Import Co at 505
Frisco Ave off Metairie Ave. Get a muffuletta. Share it with three other people.
Heck, get whatever you want there. I love Nor-Joe.
If you do go all the way out to Nor-Joe, go to the Metairie
Cemetery. It is the most fabulous cemetery in North America. (Okay, I haven't
been to every cemetery in North America. But I've been to a lot of them, and
I'm pretty sure this is the best.)
(Interesting side note: the film Easy Rider played fast and loose with the
St. Louis #1 cemetery, which offended people who recognized their family crypts
being, uh, trifled with. So, Interview with the Vampire was filmed in Metairie
Speaking of cemeteries, I think this is the cemetery/voodoo walking tour that
Paul and I enjoyed: http://www.tourneworleans.com/cemetery_set.html
You can go to St. Louis #1 without the tour and it's still cool, but the tour
gives all sorts of neat trivia, and also takes you to another must-see, Our
Lady of Guadalupe Church. It is the home of the St. Jude Shrine, and also
Expedite, the most tenuous and suspect of all the sort-of maybe saints,
and also the only supernatural entity which I am absolutely convinced
We found the best t-shirts and general tourist swag at Toulouse Royale, 601
Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral (where George W. Bush rolled up
his sleeves) are gorgeous, and there are street artists,
galleries, and museums around there. (Plus, last time, a guy playing a hauntingly
Another thing we've actually done -- Canal Street Ferry, a free foot-passenger
ferry to Algiers (across the river from New Orleans and home of Mardi Gras World),
most recently blown up in the movie Deja-Vu.
There are also specifically post-Katrina tourist opportunities, such as this
tour offered by Gray
Last year we drove to a place called Violet (in St. Bernard Parish) and just
wandered around looking at ruined stuff.
There's a tourist information place in Jackson Square where you can get free
maps and all. When I was there in 2006, I overheard the nice ladies behind the
counter giving Katrina info to some foreign tourists -- you know, drawing x's
on a map where the levee breaches occurred.
Yeah, humans have morbid curiosity.
Let's see. New Orleans, like Las Vegas, exists in part to cater to the seedy
underbelly of vice that always coexists with a quasi-puritan society like ours.
So, if you want to gamble -- there's a Harrah's. If you want to get drunk, there's
Bourbon Street. If you want to see nudity -- there's Bourbon Street. If you
want to act like an idiot -- Bourbon Street. Cellphone camera shots of topless
women -- oh, you know.
And don't forget Lucky Dogs,
the cheap, great-if-you're-drunk hot dogs immortalized in the Pulitzer-Prize-winning
Confederacy of Dunces. (Hans made Paul read this book. It's hilarious,
and really puts you in the mood for New Orleans. You can read it on the plane
on your way there.)
While you're there, find out what's happening in Pulitzer-Prize-winning
newspaper The Times-Picayune.
The Battle of New Orleans site in Chalmette was closed when we were there in
2006, but it might be open now. Paul enjoyed it in 2000. There's also a NASA
facility in Chalmette where they assemble space shuttles.
Also, we like Abita beer and Zapp's
Chips for first-rate local junk food.
Paul says, drive across Lake Ponchartrain. It is the longest bridge in the
Julie says, wake up before noon sometimes. You see cool stuff. Bring a camera.
Or buy a disposable one at the A & P.
A few cautionary notes: When you are drunk, you are a target for scammers,
pickpockets, and other tricksters. Remember this when you take money out of
your wallet. Or invite people back to your room. Or whatever.
Don't park on the street in the French Quarter. Actually, just don't park
on the street.
There's better things to do in New Orleans than be sick (ask Julie). There's
better things to do in New Orleans than go to court (ask Paul).
If you go to a strip club, don't go to Hustler's. Same girls for a higher cover
Oh, and, if cute girls try to sell you shots of alcohol that they put into
their own mouths and then sort of tilt into your mouth -- don't buy more than
one. They're more expensive than you think.