Lemon Twist in my Sazerac ~ New Orleans, LA (Road Trip Series, Pt 4)

Before I visited it, I’d associated New Orleans with events – from the celebrations of Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Now, having seen and felt it for myself, I have a better idea of what the vibe will be like at tomorrow’s Super Bowl. It’s a gutsy city, handsome and stoic, that isn’t afraid to eat, drink, dance, sing, and show you a really good time – whatever your mood.

Night

Outskirts of the French Quarter

Outskirts of the French Quarter

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Artists near Jackson Square

Artists near Jackson Square

Jazz in the French Quarter

New Orleans, or NOLA*, is a city that pulls you in by just ‘being.’ The architecture of its French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré, is reminiscent of Europe. Its 18th Century buildings, brushed with a paintbox of bright colours and decorated with intricate wrought iron balconies and cascading boas of green ferns, live and breathe their Spanish character. The streets still show the hurt left by the not-so-recent hurricane’s whirlwind – gutted buildings are still under construction, uneven roads hug cracked sidewalks – but, if it’s fair to say, this restoration only accentuates the old city’s resilience and adds to its charm.

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DSC_0836PSUpriver (from the Mississippi), the revitalization of surrounding neighbourhoods follows much the same sentiment. If the Terrell House Bed & breakfast on Magazine Street is anything to go by, this is what the city’s resurgence depends upon. This is gloriously renovated Italianate mansion in the Lower Garden District that whisks you away to another era while enveloping you in Southern hospitality. There was a real feeling of opulence, comfort, and Southern charm when breakfasting in the grand chandeliered dining room on traditional low maintenance fare: coffee, biscuits, and grits. While beautifully restored architectural details – a grand balustrade, the ornate wrought iron balconies – remain the focal points of the 1850’s home, the subtle modern day additions – WiFi, comfy bedsheets – only enhance its upkeep with the times. I think of it as comfort-in-elegance.

Our guest room in the restored Carriage House

Our guest room in the restored Carriage House

In the main part of the Mansion

In the main part of the Mansion

Dining and living areas

Dining and living areas

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet

Looking up at the Terrell House

Looking up at the Terrell House

With this in mind, much of Magazine Street seems to have followed suit. This neighbourhood is filled with passionate entrepreneurs and a creative community who have set up shop in the neighbourhood’s historic architectural framework; where a milliner doesn’t look out of place amongst the many antique stores, a barber shop, vintage clothing stores, media agencies, cosy cafes, modern restaurants and bars.

DSC_0778PSDSC_0783PSDSC_0796PSDSC_0802PSDSC_0803PSThe foodie, gourmand, and good-eater are well taken care of in NOLA. Menus offer the region’s traditional items: gumbo, po-boy, jambalaya, crawfish, Oysters Rockefeller, shrimp Creole, beignets, and the down-to-earth rice and beans. Don’t be deterred by the wild party reputation of Bourbon Street. Yes, it’s brightly lit and a little Times Square-esque, but it’s where we dined at the excellent Red Fish Grill; a casual restaurant that offers a twist on the originals such as Alligator Sausage and Seafood Gumbo, flash fried Oysters with a hot sauce spiked blue cheese dressing, and BBQ shrimp and Creole cream cheese grits with fried green tomatoes. Those dishes left a solid impression on me, as well as on my husband’s (picky) palate. “The best meal I’ve had in a long time,” are the words he’d uttered.

Elderflower Tincho - sangria, lime juice, over St Germain float

Elderflower Tincho – sangria, lime juice, over St Germain float

Flash fried Oysters with Blue Cheese Dressing

Flash fried Oysters with Blue Cheese Dressing

Gumbo with a twist

Gumbo with a twist

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Excellent coffee

Excellent coffee

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That said, the tourist must see, Café du Monde, known for its beignets topped with powdered sugar, left little to the imagination. What must have once been a classy spot now suffers from the perils of tourism. Think: powdered sugar and hungry pigeons, high on the white stuff, everywhere.  The cafe’s chicory coffee, however, was tasty even when served out of a Styrofoam cup.

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Mental note: We did pass by the French inspired Napoleon House that I continue to mull over. Having peaked through its doors, noting its old school bistro décor – I knew it was a place I’d love to come back to and dine in. But it was upon learning that this – the former home of mayor, Nicholas Girod – had been the place of refuge offered to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1821 in a plot to rescue him from exile – well, that was the lemon twist in my Sazerac. I’ll definitely be returning to NOLA…

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TIPS

When to Go: October was an excellent time to visit. It was manageably busy, the temperature was pleasant, and the sun was shining. Oh, and Halloween meant many a home was decorated with skeletons and pumpkins.

DSC_0808PSDSC_0829PSStay: I highly recommend staying on Magazine Street or in the Garden District – an area known for its oaks, gardens, and stunning homes. At Terrell House on Magazine Street, the proprietors really take care to see that their guests are comfortable and feel welcome. Guest rooms look onto a brick courtyard – a beautiful spot to sit in, with its fountain and beautiful gardens, perhaps accompanied by the household’s sweet tortoiseshell cat.

DSC_0746PSDSC_0675PSDSC_0775PSEat:  A recommendation to dine at Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street comes from personal experience; for Napoleon Café, it comes from onlookers lust. If you go, let me know.

Hickory Grilled Redfish- tasso and wild mushroom Pontalba potatoes, sautéed Louisiana jumbo lump crabmeat & a lemon butter sauce

Hickory Grilled Redfish topped with sautéed Louisiana jumbo lump crabmeat & a lemon butter sauce

It was the season for Pecan Pie

It was the season for Pecan Pie

Do: On this road trip, time was limited. We didn’t take a horse ‘n carriage tour to see the Cities of the Dead**, but getting lost in the French Quarter meant peaking into boutiques and jewelry stores, admiring the beautiful buildings, and passing by many bars decorated in Mardi Gras beads and serving Hurricanes (a rum, fruit juice, and grenadine drink served in a hurricane-lamp-shaped glass, and made famous here by Pat O’Brien’s in the 1940’s).

Jackson Square is a great spot to watch artists at work on their paintings, and to listen to jazz by a band-in-passing. Definitely check out the up and coming Magazine Street for that ‘new’ creative vibe.

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Looking onto the Washington Artillery Park

Looking onto the Washington Artillery Park

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*NOLA is short for New Orleans, Louisiana

**Cities of the Dead: New Orleans cemeteries. Because of the high water table, afterlife are buried above ground instead of six feet under. Elaborate monuments cluster together like small communities. www.neworleanscvb.com

35 thoughts on “Lemon Twist in my Sazerac ~ New Orleans, LA (Road Trip Series, Pt 4)

  1. Fabulous post Marina. I can’t believe the Café du Monde is serving coffee in styrofoam cups :-( The photos are amazing. A very professional and interesting article. I just love those wrought iron balconies. :-)

  2. Marina this post is perfection I had so much fun reading it! One of my favorites of yours so far. Your writing and photography are beautiful you are very talented, can’t wait to read more :)

  3. Wonderful post Marina, just up to my alley how to discover a great city with the camera. Through your images I felt like taken back there when I visited New Orleans, some many years ago. Thank you for putting out your wonderful work. How is Life in L.A. treating you? I am going to Annenberg Space of Photography on February 21st , with a friend, to see that great exhibition there as well hopefully attending a great lecture of their Iris Night lectures. Maybe we can meet up there??

  4. What a lovely, colourful set of images. the visual flavour of the city. It comes across as very vibrant (as one would assume it to be). Nice to see so much colour on a white winter day. : )

  5. Absolutely amazing Marina! The pictures are fantastic! My kind of place to visit – lots of character, lots of colours, good food, great ambience, vibrant and all that! :) Thanks for sharing! Another great lunch break spent travelling with you :D

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