Tag Archives: New Orleans

New Orleans Day Three

We had the morning to ourselves before our trip out to a plantation.  Neither Kate nor I had been sleeping very well – we couldn’t seem to get the temperature right in the room, and we spent half the night being too cold, the other half being too hot.  We were waking early every morning too, so we got up early, went out for breakfast (same place as the day before).  This time I tried the cheese grits with my omelette, which were far tastier than the ones I’d had at Maison Dupuy.

We dozed a bit on the way to the Oak Alley Plantation.  It was a lovely venue, although I can understand why the original owner’s wife, Celina, preferred to be in New Orleans. The plantation was owned by Jacques and Celina Roman, although Jacques was not the original owner, his brother-in-law was.  They decided to do a swap of plantations in 1837.

The plantation is named after the path (alley) leading up to the front of the house which is bordered on each side by Southern Oak Trees (nothing like our English Oaks).  It was originally named the Bon Sejour plantation, and grew sugar cane.

One of the things that struck me was the slave quarters.  I have no axe to grind about the Americans and slavery – the Brits were guilty of it too, as well as many other nations, and it’s as bad whoever does it.  It’s just that they had names of some of the slaves who had lived here, and they told the story of slaves by name as you walked around the slave quarters.  It was incredibly moving.  As in sickening. We walked around the slave quarters, reading about the lives of the slaves and seeing the conditions in which they lived.  Grim.

Life was a little easier for the house slaves and I know that, had I been a slave there, I’d have been a field slave (way too gobby to be a house slave).  Some of the house slaves were relegated to field slaves, some were promoted to house slaves.  It almost seemed that, as a slave, you were cast aside like an old sock when you got too old to do your job, or something else went wrong.

The dining room at the plantation. A slave would have had the task of moving the overhead fan.

What a hard life, they even had the women slaves digging for the levees, and other hard field work, although even working in the house would not have been easy in those days.  At least outside you’d get a bit of fresh(ish) air.

The climate in Louisiana is generally humid (seems we were very lucky during our stay, it was not even as humid as London in the height of summer) which must have been awful for anybody working in the fields.  Although it was a beautiful location, I was quite pleased to get back to New Orleans and away from the harsh realities of what life had been like for some people.

A complete change of tack, we tried a different restaurant when we got back, which was quite pleasant.  Kate had a salad for her dinner, which turned out to be a plate of lettuce with chicken.  Not quite what I had imagined although I discovered during our stay that is what passes for a salad in most of the States.  To the extent that there were adverts on the TV in New York advertising salads with other salads vegetables as though it was a real novelty.  Which it clearly was.  I had another local dish with beans and a special request for grilled – not breaded, fried – chicken.

We found a supermarket on the corner of Bourbon Street where we bought a bottle of Californian Champagne to take back to our hotel room, to assist with the packing for the next part of our trip.  (Apologies to the champagne region of France, but that is what it said on the bottle, and it was very palatable.  I suspect, although I didn’t check, that it was made from Chardonnay grapes too.)  Somehow, packing wasn’t quite so hard after that.

We had enjoyed our stay at Maison Dupuy and were now ready for the next part of our journey.

 

© Susan Shirley 2017

New Orleans Day Two

We ventured out of the restaurant for breakfast on our second day.  Although we didn’t know it at the time of booking, nor did we realise it when we first arrived, Rue Toulouse was in a very handy position – we could walk straight up to the Grayline tours leaving point and the Mississippi, past several bars and restaurants.  It was a win-win.

After our chat to Cathy the day before, Kate and I had decided on a trip to the Louisiana swamp and bayou.  It was a half day tour, which suited us as we had plans for the evening.

It was one of the best tours I have ever done.  We were bussed to the bayou, waited for our captain and boarded our luxury yacht.  Just kidding, it was a custom-built swamp boat; a flat-bottomed boat, not dissimilar to the one in the link:

https://img.grouponcdn.com/deal/vBVuYbhbNYaSqH95KSY1rk/cajun_pride_tours-700×420/v1/c700x420.jpg

Our skipper was very knowledgeable, although I suppose they all are, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing that job, would they?  He started the tour with the usual health and safety announcements:

“if you drop your camera, tough, we won’t be going back for it.  Keep your arms inside the boat, some of these alligators are big enough to jump up to the job of the boat and if your arm is sticking out, it’ll eat it.”

Right then.

The bayou is surrounded by cypress trees and is basically a series of slow-moving streams or wetlands, often tidal.  Our skipper told us that there had been a bit of a flood a couple of days before, so the water was colder than usual.  I found that strangely comforting when a 12 feet long alligator started swimming around.

It wasn’t just alligators that we saw, there were some beautiful plants and birds, and soft-shelled turtles and opossum – the captain threw marshmallows to them when we saw them on the river bank.

It was the alligator that made it though.  Although we saw a few baby ‘gators, this big old boy kept swimming around us.  He’d swim for a few of the marshmallows, but didn’t really want to play.  Probably too cold.  I couldn’t help but see the similarities to the human skeleton as he was swimming around though.  I almost had a film script…

That evening, we went on a river trip on board the Mississippi Steam Boat Natchez, the last remaining genuine steamboat on the river.  (Yes, there are others that appear to be, but the Natchez is the only one that is a genuine steamboat.)

Natchez

The current Natchez is the ninth to bear that name, and there is a whole history to it, but that’s a story for another day.  We didn’t have dinner on board, I’m a fussy eater.  Just drinks, a bit of dancing and enjoying the ride up and down the river.  The jazz band was called The Steamboat Stompers.  I’ve done some of those Thames river boat cruises, but being on a boat on the Mighty Mississippi was different again.  It is a huge river and quite amazing to see the factories, and so on, along the river banks.

Sunset at New Orleans

We were glad to only have a short journey home after our boat trip.  We needed to be ready for the following day.

© Susan Shirley 2017

New Orleans (N’Orleans)

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 room in Maison Dupuy

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.

Canal Street

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.

Ursuline Convent

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

Heathrow Atlanta New Orleans

 

I met Kate at our hotel near to Heathrow, the day before we were due to fly out. Our flight to Atlanta, en route to New Orleans, was due to depart at 09.20, which meant being at the airport at 06.20.
 
Unfortunately, take off was delayed by an hour. I have no idea why. A couple of uniformed police officers come on board, but no-one was dragged off kicking and screaming. Once you lose your slot at Heathrow, there’s always a wait for a new one. That must have cost Mr Branson a fair few bob.
Our cabin crew were brilliant. Very friendly, very helpful and very chatty. The captain managed to make up much of the lost time, so we were only about 20 minutes late when we arrived at Atlanta. Atlanta International Airport was an experience. There was only one desk at customs for all of us who came in from outside of the US.
 
I’m not sure whether I had my criminal look about me again, or whether the guy who was checking my passport, etc, was being friendly without smiling. (I get stopped a lot at airports. Always have. I still blush when I remember the young customs officers holding up my scanties on my first trip abroad.) I do know he asked me a lot more questions than he asked my travelling companion.
We got a train from the international airport to the internal flights terminal.
It was cold and wet in Atlanta. It rains a lot there. You can see that from the surrounding countryside. That flight was delayed too. Another security issue.
 As we were boarding the flight, one of the flight attendants greeted us, and I returned a greeting.
“Oh, my, I just love your accent! Where y’all from?”
“London.”
“Oh, I am gonna come and talk to you just as soon as I get my passengers boarded. I LOVE that accent.”
She didn’t, of course. It was a fairly short flight and Kate and I were letting out the zs even before take off.
New Orleans is in a different time zone from Atlanta, as, of course, is London. We arrived in New Orleans at about 17.10 local time. Baggage reclaim and a swift cab to the hotel and we were ready to begin.
Sunset at New Orleans

© Susan Shirley 2017