I’m finally getting around to sharing our trip to New Orleans, Miami and Cayman Islands from back in November; Chapter 1 is NOLA and I’ve outlined where we stayed, everywhere we ate and everything we did below!
Where We Stayed
This was a historical hotel located between the Warehouse District and the French Quarter; we chose it mainly because of that reason, its mostly positive online reviews and that it was a Starwood hotel (we are members of the program). We had an interesting stay here; on the positive side it was in a great location; about a 5-minute walk to the French Quarter, 10 minutes to Bourbon Street and a couple blocks away from the streetcars. They appointed us a corner room which is a little larger than their normal room and was nicely appointed with everything we needed.
The hotel had an interesting setup – the lobby, restaurant and bar and some of the rooms were in one building, and there was a whole other section of rooms in a building next door about 10 steps away. That made the check-in/check-out process a little annoying but otherwise, this wasn’t a big deal to us.
On the cons side, our room faced the street and it was loud – not only from traffic but there was a flag right above our window and it clanged all night long (it was windy during our entire stay). I also felt like the room could use a good deep clean – there was a build up of dust and dirt in the vents and on various surfaces and which made me just want to break out a duster when I looked at things too closely.
The biggest issue I had with our stay occurred about halfway through our stay; we were at the hotel bar/restaurant (located on the main floor) and we had just ordered drinks. We were looking at the food menu when a mouse ran across the floor. A few of us saw it and I brought it to the attention of the waitress whose response was baffling: “It’s a 100-year-old hotel”. She then shrugged and walked away. We’re pretty sure that the guy next to us went up to the front desk to complain and about 10 minutes someone who looked like a manager went up to the waitress and she came by to tell us our drinks were comped. We left after that and needless to say, I did not sleep well for the remainder of our stay. After we left I did a little googling and found a couple reviews on Yelp that also mentioned mice in the bar/restaurant area so this seems to be that they are not dealing with and that’s concerning. As a result, I would not recommend staying here, nor would I stay here again.
What We Did
Bourbon Street/French Quarter
Exploring these areas was the first thing we did after we arrived. The French Quarter is cool and quintessential New Orleans – older buildings with plant-lined balconies and an assortment of restaurants and boutique shops. Bourbon Street was….interesting. It was dirty, smelly and basically consisted of back-to-back bars with a few restaurants and shops sprinkled in between. It can also get loud and rowdy in the evenings on weekends and to be honest, it’s appeal was kind of lost on us. We spent a day bar-hopping but that was more than enough for us and we were happy to check it off our list.
The National World War II Museum
This was listed as one of the top things to do in NOLA and I was a little skeptical that it would be something we’d enjoy; as it turns out, we actually ended up spending several hours here. The museum is filled with a ton of information, artifacts, and exhibits; we both left feeling much more knowledgable about the war, the world in general and with a greater appreciation for veterans and their sacrifice.
There is no shortage of interesting bars and lounges in NOLA and we hit up some interesting ones including Carousel Bar which is literally a bar with a working carousel around it (it moves – but slowly!).
We also enjoyed Bourbon O Bar (interesting and delicious craft cocktails); Bourbon Street Drinkery (new, clean and had Skittles-infused vodka) and Johnny White’s Hole in the Wall (for the sole reason that they had a “dog maid” named Janet who could care less about me – despite the fact that I LOVED her. I’d like for this to be a requirement at every bar.)
NOLA is known for its jazz music scene so we decided to venture to a Jazz Club to take a listen. We stopped in at The Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street which was recommended to us; we appreciated the talent behind the music but I just don’t think we’re jazz music-type people. Also, we visited on late on a weekday afternoon and the area felt a little sketchy; there weren’t many people around aside and the ones that were around made me feel a little nervous. I’m sure it was fine but I think I’d stick to visiting this area when it’s busier on weekends.
NOLA is unique in that it’s basically below sea level so they can’t bury their dead underground. Instead, everyone is buried above ground tombs and mausoleums and that, paired with the fact that it’s an extremely old city, makes for some very interesting cemeteries. You can actually do guided tours of them (Mr. PRL is kind of freaked out by cemeteries so we didn’t do one) but I think it would have been nice to learn more of the history behind them. Maybe next time!
Riding the Street Cars
On our last day, it was so cold and windy so we just rode a streetcar through some of NOLA’s most beautiful and upscale neighbourhoods. It was a good way to waste some time and see some beautiful architecture.
Where We Ate
Unfortunately, my pictures here didn’t turn out but I’d highly recommend this restaurant! We enjoyed pork belly to start along with entrees of braised beef cheeks and shrimp + grits and everything was delicious! Really cool ambience here too!
We only sprung for breakfast one day and this was touted as one of the best places for it. I ordered the Coconut Cream Stuffed French Toast and Mr. PRL an omelette (he’s boring like that) and both were delicious.
Emeril has several restaurants in New Orleans so we knew we had to try at least one. This was such a good decision. I’m not really a huge shrimp fan but I had heard rave reviews about his BBQ Shrimp and I’m so glad I tried them because they were amazing! I also ordered the Andouille Crusted Gulf Drum (a mild white fish) and it was equally delicious; we really enjoyed our meal here and would highly recommend it!
We stopped here on our last day; it was chilly and blustery and all I wanted some comfort food. We shared their short rib poutine and pimento grilled cheese with spicy creole tomato soup which was exactly what I needed to keep me going for the rest of the day!
We knew we couldn’t leave without trying some oysters while we were here and many recommended Felix’s for exactly that. The raw ones didn’t really appeal to us so we thought we’d give the chargrilled variety a try – they’re grilled in a garlic herb butter sauce and topped with cheese. I feel like you could put almost anything in that sauce and it’d be delicious! It came with a side of jambalaya which we also really enjoyed (and wish we had more of) and we shared a catfish po’boy which I could take or leave – I found the catfish a little fishy for my taste.
We stumbled across this gastropub that had the look of a dive bar one night and figured it was worth a try – it most definitely was! We devoured their mac n cheese with bacon and Shrimp Po’Boy – both were scrumptious!
Beignets from Cafe Du Monde is basically on any list of must-do things on New Orleans so my expectations were pretty high going in. Honestly, I was kind of disappointed. To me it resembled a piece of fried dough loaded up with powdered sugar – in my opinion they didn’t really have any flavour plus they were super messy to eat. I paired mine with a cup of their chicory coffee and I found that okay too. Overall I was just meh on the whole experience.
Aside from the mishap at our hotel, we really enjoyed New Orleans. If you’re into jazz music I definitely think you’d enjoy yourself – there are musicians on every corner (literally sometimes) and it had amazing food which is VERY important to us. It actually reminded me a lot of Nashville – just swap the jazz music for country and seafood for bbq. A few thoughts:
- Wear closed-toe shoes, particularly on Bourbon Street. There are lots of mysterious puddles everywhere and the streets are dirty – you want your feet covered.
- At least at this time of year, prepare yourself for all kinds of weather. When we arrived it was in the mid-’20s (celsius), the next day we got caught in a torrential downpour (I’ve never seen that much rain in such a short time) and the rest of our stay was blustery and freezing cold (the definition of damp cold). I know it’s hot and humid in the Summer months (which is probably worse) but given that we were not prepared, the cold weather made us a little miserable.
- We spent 4 full days here and I think we could have done everything we wanted to do in 3 or less. Obviously, it depends where your interests lie but for us, it’s a place to eat and drink well, wander around and listen to music for a couple of days and then head home.
Have you ever been to NOLA?