As part of our 2018 Mardi Gras trip, I took a bike ride with Kelly’s bro-in-law and his wife. See the writeup here:
Follow this link to browse our trip photos on Flickr.
Because of the short nature of our trip, and the fact that I was there to attend a conference, we weren’t able to venture much beyond the French Quarter. However, I noticed right away that bicycles figure prominently in the transportation culture of the area. Sure, there were tourists on rented bikes riding around like idiots – wrong side, wrong way, ignoring stop signs, swerving around, etc. – many locals seem to use their bikes for commuting, errands, and just general getting around.
We saw almost every style of bicycle, including a double tall bike (sadly, no picture). The most common was the modern cruiser bike – no gears, coaster brakes, big fenders, wide handlebars, and upright posture. Perfect for the flat terrain and slow speeds in the Quarter.
At one restaurant, a couple at a neighboring table told us about a bike tour they took around the city. That is something I want to do next time we are in town.
Below, in no particular order (and with questionable quality) are some photos of bikes we took during the trip. Click on any photo for a larger version.
It can’t be time to go home already! Three and a half days isn’t enough to see the city.
Luckily, we found a top notch breakfast spot, the Camilla Grill at Toulouse and Chartiers. The wonderful diner atmosphere and friendly staff (except for the sleepy cashier) was topped only by the tasty food. I had a mushroom omelette with hash browns and sausage, while Kelly had what was the best pecan pie either of us had ever tasted.
After my morning sessions, we checked out of the hotel, left our bags with the bell captain, and set out for one more walk around.
The garden at Jackson Square centers around this statue of Major General Jackson.
Coop’s Place came highly recommended, and it the only place we had to wait in line for a seat. There was a Murphy Brown moment when another line waiter held open the door to peek inside and was chastised with a hearty “close the door”. On a warm day like today, I guess they want to keep the cool, air conditioned air inside.
I was in the mood for a hamburger, while Kelly ordered the Cajun fried chicken. Both were excellent. We had a nice chat with the couple from Philly at the next table.
After lunch, we took a pedicab back to Camilla’s so Kelly could have one more piece of that pecan pie (ala mode this time). Then it was back to the airport to head home. Already looking forward to the next trip.
Another conference day for me. But first, we ate Beignets – fried dough with powdered sugar. Yummm!
On the way back we caught some outdoor shots of our hotel. Our window is third from the left on the top floor.
No pics of supper tonight, which is OK because it wasn’t worth documenting anyway. The place we first thought about visiting was closed, and the next out of our budget range. So, we ended up at some joint with a name starting with ‘M’. The drinks were good, but the etouffee disappointing. This place didn’t seem to have any butter on the premises, and I don’t know how one can still call it etouffee with no butter. It was more of a crawfish stirfry over bland rice.
Another New Orleans tradition is to visit Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Touted as the oldset bar in the US, it uses candles instead of electric lights to illuminate the tables, and the furnishings and architecture convey an earlier time. However, the bright bulb over the bar and the wide screen TV on the wall, along with the cigarette machine and club music playing, kind of ruin the mood.
This is the place where we last year walked on to the set of “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter”. Now that we have been inside, it will be fun to watch the movie and look for our table.
Kelly convinced a few partiers on a balcony to throw down some beads. You can ask her how she did it.
View of the cathedral from our
hotel room at the Omni Royal.
Random photos of our first day.
Drinks and appetizers at a new place, Royal House on the corner of Royal and St. Louis, was one of our best meals in NOLA ever. Suggested by our concierge, its right across the street.
Open air table was great for people watching.
We saw a protest march.
I had oysters on the shell, (not raw), for the first time. Cooked with butter, garlic and parmesan. Mmmmm
We walked for an hour or so, checked out the sights, bought a t-shirt and some voodoo dolls for friends at home.
Â Then we popped into the Oceanna restaurant for dessert. Dan loved his pecan pie and Hurricane made from actual fruit juices instead of the powdered mix used at Pat O’briens. I was disappointed with my bread pudding and brandy milk punch. Neither was very tasty. Antoines bread pudding last yr is hard to beat.
We won’t go back…there are much better places to eat in New Orleans.
Tired, but delighted to be back, we head to the Omni for some sleep. Several good street musicians serenaded us on our way.
New Orleans presents an assault on all of the senses, from the feel of the cobblestones underfoot to the tastes of the wonderful food. But nothing catches my attention more than the myriad of smells in the air.
I rarely notice smells back in Indiana. Maybe I’m just used to them, but I also think we don’t have the variety. However, the French Quarter offers many unfamiliar scents.
First thing in the morning, we notice the flowers on the trees and the soap from the street washers. Men with garden hoses are spraying down the sidewalks to rinse of the debris from the previous night’s revelry. Fresh benoits are being fried in the many food shops along the streets.
There don’t seem to be any alleys in the quarter, so trash cans and bags block the sidewalks, and as they cook in the sunshine emit pungent odors – something we mostly notice only near the dumpsters behind restaurants back home.
Down at the banks of the Mississippi, one notices what can only be called river smell.
Another common street odor is that of sweaty people. It is hot and humid, so people of all walks of life can really work up a funk. I’m thinking that my attempts to stay fresh with twice-a-day showers, deodorant, and cologne are futile attempts to stave off the inevitable.
In the evening, the restaurants fire up their grills and ovens to let loose some of the best food smells I’ve ever experienced. Countless cuisines are available, with Cajun and pub food the most common (two of my favorites).Â
Bourbon Street at night puts forth another set of aromas.Â In addition to the best and worst mentioned above, stir in a good dose of overapplied perfume/cologne, the smoke of countless cigarettes, the stale leaf pile stench of pot smokers, and the unmistakable odor of stale beer that has soaked into every inch of the many bars up and down the street.
Understand that I’m not complaining about any of these smells (except maybe the cigarettes).Â They are all part of the New Orleans experience.
This was kind of a weird day for me, since I had a full schedule of conference activities. After a great breakfast at Red Gravy, I was holed up the hotel until 5:00.
Kelly said “Don’t sit on the fire truck!”
We had dinner at a steak place called Star Steak and Lobster. Although the lone waiter was a little rushed and overwhelmed, we still had a tasty supper. I had steak, and Kelly had a whole lobster. Good stuff!
The entertainment at the restaurant was this guy playing sax, keys, and flute with MIDI backing tracks. I’m not sure which came first, the odd posture or the tiny spot he was stuffed into. Either way, he was wedged in like a puzzle piece. Between songs, he would try to tell stories about the songs, but no one was really listening. His vocals were a cross between Louis Armstrong and Tom Waits. When I asked Kelly why he was singing that way, she said “because he is insane”. Regardless, he was part of the unique ambiance of the establishment.
Kelly was looking for the perfect T-shirt.
And I found a snazzy hat.
We topped off the evening with a Pims Cup at the Monteleone.
After a quick consultation with the concierge, we walked across the street to the Royal House Oyster Bar for appetizers and drinks. Kelly tried charbroiled oysters (delicious), while I sampled the crawfish cakes (also delicious). Our table was placed in one of the many doors open to the sidewalk, which gave us a prime location for people watching, as folks were walking by just a couple of feet away.
While we were eating, a scruffy hippie looking dude stopped in front of our table and looked around nervously while he reached into his bag and pulled out a shirt that was just as ratty looking as the one he was wearing. He changed shirts next to my plate of crawfish, and then took off down the street. He must have been running from someone.
We spent some time walking down Royal Street and visiting art galleries, before ending up at Oceana for dessert. I had a hurricane that was much better than the powdered drink mix thy serve at Pat O’Brien’s.
Kelly and I leave Tuesday for a short trip NOLA where I’ll be attending a conference. Kelly’s job during the day is to shop, sightsee, and find great places for supper.