Our hotel in New Orleans (N’Orleans) was at the edge of the French Quarter, in Rue Toulouse. Almost all the roads in the French Quarter are named in French, things like Rue Bourbon, although that’s more commonly known as Bourbon Street. It’s fabulous, grid system of streets, so it’s easy to follow a map and almost impossible to get lost (except for when you get to the micro level, looking for a particular street number).
Our hotel, Manson Dupuy, is made from five townhouses joined together, which makes it a bit of a rabbit warren inside, and with a beautiful courtyard, with a swimming pool. We were tired after all our travelling, so we ate in the hotel that night. One full quarter of the hotel on the ground floor is the bar and dining room.
We both chose a dish of grilled swordfish with an aubergine purée and vegetables, and some Cava, to celebrate our arrival. It was good, but all a bit more expensive than we’d been anticipating. It was the price of good London restaurant where this restaurant was more on a par with Café Rouge (not that there is anything wrong with that at all). The pound dollar exchange rate was not helping our trip at all.
The following day, we had breakfast in the hotel too. Kate had scrambled eggs, but I saw something new on the menu…. I had eggs, bacon and grits, a typical Southern dish made from corn meal. I’d heard about it so wanted to try it. It was interesting. Not unpleasant, if a little bland, with a texture similar to a dryish sago pudding. Not sure I’d rush to have it again.
Then we ventured out for a walk around the City. We walked up to Canal Street, which is the border of the French Quarter and the Warehouse District, and up to the Mighty Mississippi. We met a lovely lady, Cathy, at one of the Grayline tourist huts, where we picked up a leaflet about tours we could do while we were there – we’d already booked in for a couple but neither of us wanted to waste our time in this charming city. We’d already fallen in love.
After a bit more of a wander, we went to our appointed meeting place for our first guided tour, a walking tour of the French Quarter. Our guide, Robi, was very knowledgeable, and filled us with info, I’m just sorry I wasn’t writing it all down.
New Orleans is the largest city in the state of Louisiana. It’s also a major port, built on both sides of the Mississippi. The French Quarter is on the north side of the river. La Nouvelle Orleans, as it was originally known, was founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company. The man who was in charge was Jean-Bapatiste de Bienville, a name seen on street names. It was on Chitimacha land, a native American tribe. The French gave the territory over to the Spanish under the Treaty of Paris in 1763, at the end of the Seven Years War. Control reverted to the French for a brief period in 1803.
When Kate and I had been sitting in our hotel restaurant, we’d commented that the buildings across the street looked more Spanish than French. Now I knew why. In fact, most of the remaining architecture is Spanish, the most notable exception being the Old Ursuline Convent. Robi showed us various times of architecture through the ages. Something common in the houses in New Orleans is for the chimney to be in the middle of the house, so heating more than one room at a time.
Napoleon sold New Orleans to the Americans in 1803, and thereafter the city grew with immigrants from many places, including French, Creoles (people descended from colonial Louisianans during the periods of French and Spanish rule) and Americans. In later times, immigrants came from farther afield.
We had a wonderful afternoon walking around the city, taking in the sights, and finished our tour at the Cabildo, in Jackson Square, now the state museum but formerly the seat of Spanish government.
Robi had recommended a lovely fish restaurant for that evening, Evangeline, in Decatur Street. They had a live band – I’m not going to say it was jazz, some of it was soul, but it was great. The maitre d’ had been right to seat us inside though, if we’d been in the courtyard, it would have been way too loud for us.
We had a very good Creole meal – I had Creole Jambalya and Kate had Cajun Etoufee – and our first bottle of wine during our trip – a very good Italian Pinot Grigio. We made our way back to our hotel after that, to get ready for the rest of our trip.
© Susan Shirley 2017