Exploring New Orleans
We checked into our hotel, the Blake Hotel, and quick made our way into the city center and the French Quarter. The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood of New Orleans, with a number of historic buildings dating back to 18th century when the Spaniards rules the city.
We wandered along Bourbon and Royal St., admired many of the characteristic balconies and windows, and hopped in and out a number of art shops. We made our way to Jackson Square and peeked into Cathedral St. Louis.
New Orleans Jazz, Bars and Beignets
Taking in the New Orleans culture, Sarah and I decide to visit a jazz concert at Preservation Hall, established in 1961 to preserve, perpetuate, and protect traditional New Orleans Jazz. They play 45-minute concerts 3 times a day: at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm. You can pay ~$40 to get a reserved seat, but we thought that a bit much for 45 minutes, so we joined the queue outside. We had hoped to get in for the first show, but alas; we had to wait for 2 hours. The show was totally fantastic; it felt like I was sucked back in time a few decades when they started playing. The All Star Team is clearly extremely talented and used to entertaining crowds. What a blast!
As always, Sarah had done her travel homework. Next stop: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, built between 1722 and 1732 and reputed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. The bar is candlelit as candles are the only source of lighting, which gives it a romantic and historic vibe. As everywhere in New Orleans, live music was being played in the background.
We would end the day by trying some of the world famous beignets from Café du Monde, which featured in numerous works of art and music, and served as a backdrop in many movies and TV shows. I’m not usually a fan of dessert-like food, but I must admit – these beignets were pretty darn good!
New Orleans – day 2 (30)
After a good night’s sleep we got on the St. Charles Streetcar Line, the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world as it has been in operation since 1835. It would bring us into the Garden District, where you can find some of the best-preserved historic mansions. It will forever be a life goal for me to live in such a house. They are huge, stately, and they looked even better with Christmas decorations.
We then visited Lafayette Cemetery #1 (yes – there’s more than one), which has around 1,000 tombs and 7,000 buried people. The cemeteries in New Orleans are special because they are built above ground. Especially in older days when the area would flood – New Orleans is largely located below sea-level – around conventional graveyards, coffins would tend to pop up and float around. The result is a village of graves. Additionally, many of these structures contain rather detailed life stories. Some of them were pretty sad – more than once did we read about parents that must have had to bury their kids, or that lost all children in WWI or WWII.
Oak Alley Plantation
Next on the list was the Oak Alley Plantation, at a 30-minute drive from New Orleans. The Oak Alley Plantation is a historic plantation located on the west bank of the Mississippi River. It is named and famous for its distinguishing 800-feet alley of southern live oak trees, planted in the early 18th century. The trees are absolutely breathtaking, centuries old and so majestic – they are worth the trip by themselves. If I won the lottery and could choose between a sports car and one of those trees in my back yard, I’d go for the tree. No doubt.
We walked around the grounds for a bit, and then took the tour of the house, escaping the rain. The house is wonderful – not everything dates back to when it was built, but lots of it does. I loved the wooden floors and stairs, squeaking under every step.
The tour of the house was great, actually. The guide spoke very clearly, gave interesting facts – not the whole rundown she could have given – and the length was just about right. Just wonderful!
We drove back to New Orleans and refreshed ourselves at the hotel (short nap for me). We then proceeded to Bayona, one of New Orleans’ best restaurants, for our anniversary dinner. The dinner was delicious and we had a good time listening to a table of hilariously tipsy older women.