December 6, 2010

Good Food, Good Times...New Orleans, Louisiana

The Big Easy, The Crescent City, NOLA, N'awlins, however you want to call it, New Orleans certainly is an interesting city full of contrasts and flavor. To experience a bit of what this city is about, we spent several days at the French Quarter RV Resort just blocks from the French Quarter. It is a perfect location and well secured with high walls, gates with barbed wire, and a security guard.

The weather was a bit crazy since arriving. First it was nearly 80 degrees with an onshore flow off the gulf and humid/cloudy conditions. Then the cold-front hit and temperatures dropped by nearly 40 degrees. When we woke up Tuesday, it was still 74 degrees at 6am. By 5pm the temperatures were in the 40's. Then it got sunny again with nights in the 30's and days in the 60's.
The mix of old and new in New Orleans

I'll have another post dedicated to the French Quarter and the history of New Orleans and Lousiana in general later on. So, for now I'll keep it vague and just give you an overview and some initial impressions of the city.

We've been roaming the French Quarter, seeing the sights, and eating the food! Gumbo, Jambalaya, Crawdad Etoufee, Blackened Catfish Decatur, Shrimp Creole, and Crawdad Po'boys. It's all good! I have decided that I will be the family specialist in cooking Cajun/Creole food and have already bought all kinds of ingredients to begin the process once we settle down in Arizona for the winter.

Crawdad Po-boy on my side, Crawfish Etouffee for Linda, and French toast for Hilina.
The etoufee won the battle...this time.

This city certainly is an eclectic mix of the old and new, as well as, cultures ranging from old Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and Americana. The city is also an ecclectic mix of people. Young and old, poor and wealthy, college kids looking to drink and drunkards who've been that way for years. It is full of contrast and contradictions. Some might say they could clean this city up more, but there is something about it that also adds character.

St. Louis Cathedral built in 1794

At the core of the French Quarter down by the river is St. Louis Cathedral. It is definitely reminiscent of the great cathedrals of Europe. To the left (Capildo) and right (Presbetere) are the colonial era buildings that served as the site of Spanish and French governmental rule. The Capildo was where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. Today, they are together the Louisiana State Museum and will be detailed in a future post.

Inside St. Louis Cathedral

Wanna hear about a scam? We were told, as well as, read on a brochure to never venture into the famous above-ground cemetaries without a tour because of the high crime in the area "day or night". But, when one of these cemetaries is across the street from our RV park and it is a bright sunny, but cold morning and only 9 am, we figured there probably wouldn't be boogey men hanging out behind the coffins. Well, upon entering the cemetary walls, we quickly figured out why they say that. They want you to pay for the tours! There were no creepy people in the cemetery, just several tour groups.

But, ain't no way we'd go here at night!
New Orleans is definitely full of crime. The police sirens go all night.

The waterfront along the Mississippi River isn't the most spectacular area, as the levee and seawall seem to separate it from the rest of the city. But, it has its good sights to see. We ventured over to the Aquarium of the Americas, because Hilina loves her animals. There are also some nice shops to peruse and its fun watching the paddlewheel boats and barges heading down the river.

Hilina's first (and only) taste of Mardi Gras

The city has several street cars that run around the downtown areas. There is one across the waterfront, one going through the heart of downtown, and a 13-mile route down St. Charles street through the Garden District.

Canal Street and the streecar in downtown

There is of course the world famous Cafe du Monde coffee house that was first opened in the 1860's. They claim to be one of the oldest coffee houses in the world. Their unofficial motto is "keep it simple". All they serve is cafe au lait and beignets (french donuts). It is also very popular and always packed.

Hilina enjoying a French Beignet at Cafe du Monde. Well, at least the powdered sugar part.
Cafe du Monde

There is much more to be said about New Orleans in the posts that will stay tuned.

A view of downtown New Orleans from the French Quarter RV Resort

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