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By Jeannette and Dan Dudek
When in the hub of the vibrant city of New Orleans something magically transports you to a different dimension and you readily accept the transition – one in which time and space do not matter. You find yourself floating down Bourbon Street absorbing the jazz, inhaling the aromas and sipping on your “traveler”. This is not your home town, it is not like any place in the world — this is the Big Easy — this is New Orleans!
While special events such as Mardi Gras or the Super Bowl may have put images of this city in your mind you really need to experience this exciting, vivacious and historic city for what it offers every day and every night of the year – not just on Fat Tuesday!
The atmosphere of this unique American city has a rich and historic history that commands a well-deserved reputation as a convention and party city. So let your hair down and have fun – if you cannot have fun in New Orleans you probably cannot have fun anywhere!
Let’s start the adventure… You might want to start your day with a café au lait at Café du Monde. This famous establishment specializes in beignets, the “official state doughnut of Louisiana”.
Next we have an obligatory stop at the French Quarter, the heart of New Orleans, and Jackson Square. Dating back to 1721 the Place d’Armes (original name for the square) was renamed in 1815 after Andrew Jackson to honor his victory in the Battle of New Orleans.
From Jackson Square you can visit a number of historical venues including St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere and the Cabildo (where France on December 20, 1803 turned over New Orleans as part of the Louisiana Purchase).
Not far from the French Quarter you will find Riverwalk and the Riverwalk Marketplace. For the past 20 years this area has attracted and excited tourists. Time paces quickly as you enjoy people watching, listening to the street musicians, gazing at numerous shops and stopping to sample some of the local cuisine from an array of food establishments.
Along the river you can observe a couple of riverboats that provide afternoon and dinner cruises. By the way, did you know that the term “Bridge” on a boat is believed by some to be derived from Paddle Steamers on the Mississippi River? In order to see Forward and Aft, as well as Port and Starboard on the river boats with large paddle wheels, a “bridge” was constructed over the wheels.
To relive some of New Orleans’ gambling past you might what to try your luck at the land-based Harrah’s Casino located at 8 Canal Street (very close to Riverwalk). They have 2100 slot machines, many live table games and a great night life for you to enjoy. The state of Louisiana does not allow gambling so to circumvent the law the city offers gaming facilities for your pleasure.
You owe it to yourself to dine at least one night during your visit to New Orleans in one of its special restaurants. There are many to choose from but we chose Ralph’s on the Park, an upscale dining facility located in the Mid-City area adjacent to City Park. Ralph’s Executive Chef Chip Flanagan believes in developing dishes based on “Globally Inspired Local Cuisine”. Chef Flanagan also appears to have somewhat of an eccentric, if not flamboyant, approach to his creations.
An outstanding appetizer Dan chose at Ralph’s on the Park was the Fried Smoked Oysters based on the recommendation of our waiter, Brian. Being from Baltimore, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, Dan knows when oysters are prepared correctly and the set of ½ dozen large oysters were absolutely prepared to perfection!
One of the main dishes we particularly enjoyed was a unique Surf-n-Turf dish of Rib-Eye Wrapped Scallop with port wine sauce, foie gras, cauliflower puree and roasted heirloom potatoes. The combination of perfectly prepared rib-eye steak engulfing a large succulent scallop provided one of the best meals we have ever enjoyed!
Great shopping can be found at Wish (at 400 N. Peters Street), a trendy clothing store with decent prices, original cute dresses and accessories.
As for night life, The Cats Meow (at 701 Bourbon Street) has been highly recommended. They have karaoke and other areas with music (upstairs has balconies overlooking Bourbon Street).
Other things you might want to do while visiting New Orleans include:
New Orleans – a fabulously unique city that you must visit at least once. And once you do, you will want to return!
If You Go:
Read more articles from Jeanette and Dan’s New Orleans trip:
Note: Jeannette and Dan were hosted for dinner at Ralph’s on the Park.