December 4, 2013: NEW ORLEANS, LOUISANA
I have flown to New Orleans, a city that exceeds its hype. It truly is beautiful and unique. NOLA is hundreds of years of history, antique stores, boutiques, brand stores, gambling, music, restaurants and bars all packaged within a relatively small area. Oh, and I can also mention Lestat and the Mayfair witches, thank you Anne Rice.
The paradigm for travel has changed. Adapt or stay home. I once could catch an early flight, make a short connection and be across the country in time for a late lunch. Oh, and there were peanuts, leg room, and space for bags. Today, I reach the airport a couple hours early, stroll through security, preferably using TSA pre-check, and budget for a beer. I say budget because the beer costs double what I normally pay. If in the airport long enough, I use UA Club passes: drinks, plugs for charging devices, nibbles, and comfortable chairs. Then I read, relax and wait for the Priority Boarding call so I can stow my carry-on before the rollerboards fill all the spaces. I am getting used to these perks and they make flying, once fun, at least bearable.
Missed connections are painful experiences. SFO had terrible winds and all flights late. Once again, United Airlines came thru with an automatic rebooking. Meant I slept in the Houston airport. Alas, no offer of overnight hotel but I had my morning reservation to NOLA and no need to rush to the airport.
The French Quarter, Garden District, World War 2 Museum, Jackson Square, cemeteries, streetcars, Riverwalk, architecture, historic homes and streets are a traveler’s dream. I walked for hours through the streets of the Crescent City listening to music, inhaling the food smells, enjoying the decorated balconies and trees as locals prepare for the Christmas season. Mule-drawn carriages roam the streets. Streetcars roll past. There is little car traffic, many bicycles and pedestrians, few trucks. It is an uncrowded time of the year and the weather clear and cool. The streets are washed every morning and the walks are generally spotless. The city is clearly expressing pride of place.
I loved my short visit. The WW2 Museum should not be missed. Check online for discount coupons. The streetcars are slow and allow a glimpse of history and the wonderful neighborhoods along their routes. You may purchase an inexpensive all day pass or reduced senior fare. Walk along the Mississippi River noting the Holocaust Memorial, city memorials and parks, perhaps take a ferry across the river to Algiers, the last LA passenger ferry still running. Walk to one of the many historic cemeteries, browse the names and dates to witness New Orleans’ history. Or, sit in Jackson Square, spotlessly clean, listen to the street bands, enjoy the sun and views of the Cathedral and people watch. It is a great city for just rambling and sitting.
The food is all NOLA’s reputation purports it to be. I am not saying all meals are perfect but I was never disappointed in anything. Seasonings and cuisine are unique, food well-prepared and tasty. The choice of seafood exceptional. I had probably the best overall meal I have ever eaten anywhere in the world at Irene’s on St. Phillip. Everything was perfection, from the people and service to the wine, Crevette to Cremé Boulee. Had to try the muffuletta at Central Grocery. Yes, Steinfeld’s “soup nazi” cousin does work there but the sandwich and a beer are perfect picnic supplies along Ole Miss, watching trains and streetcars on one side and barges and ferries pass by on the other.
Busy days visiting museums, historic houses like the manse of Beauregard-Keyes, strolling colorful streets with recognizable names like Bourbon, Canal, Decatur, Chartres, and St. Louis. Evenings enjoying the wonderful food and drink. Music everywhere one turns.
I stayed at the Chateau on Chartres, just three blocks off Jackson Square. Our room’s balcony overlooked what seemed an NSA headquarters but in reality was a “museum” office. Did provide entertainment as we watched the coming and going over our afternoon cocktails. As did the Cathedral’s bells and mule carriages clopping down our street, and the passing of everyday life in this wonderful city of New Orleans.