I made the right call 🙂 It has been raining all day and I have been working since 6:30am…
Technically Sunday wasn’t my birthday but I decided I would do a swap and celebrate Sunday and work Tuesday so it felt like a special birthday day to me :). It ended up being a truly wonderful birthday. The whole trip really – but especially my last day in New Orleans.
It started when I met up with the new friend I had made on Thursday night (another lovely Southern gentleman even if he was originally born in the north :). We went to a place called Café Beignet. It’s something you will want to remember 😉 It’s at 334 Royal Street and is a charming European style café. But what is even more exciting is that apparently its beignets were featured on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”.
The first time I went in I hadn’t yet learned about beignets so ended up with carrot cake. But I read the Food Network advertising and thought I would have to go back to have a beignet.
By Sunday, I had already been to Café du Monde, another place you must go when you come to New Orleans. Café du Monde is next to the French Market. It is open 24/7 and all they serve are beignets and beverages. It is apparently one of the most famous places in New Orleans and you will wait in line to buy donuts. I remembered fondly my trip to Voodoo Donuts in Portland as I was standing in line…
Having a beignet at Café du Monde is an experience and I would encourage everyone to do it once. But the beignets at Café Beignet are much better! And the line is shorter.
My friend had to catch his plane so I took him to see Jackson Square and the Mississippi en route back to his hotel. By then I was a bit of an expert on what to see in the French Quarter and he had been in business meetings for most of his visit. I then strolled around the Quarter a little more and tried to get some better photos for this blog!
Eventually I got to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar. It’s one of the oldest bars in New Orleans and another stop you should make on your visit. Apparently Jean Lafitte operated it as a blacksmith shop as a cover for his pirate enterprises. Not quite Pirates of the Caribbean but….
The drinks are the same as anywhere else but the ambience is special. You can imagine you are drinking with pirates 🙂 I also went to Pat O’Brien’s because it’s very
famous but I would give it a miss. Maybe the courtyard… but there are lots of more charming places to check out.
I then went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner – and sober up 😉 I planned to go to the Palace Café for dinner. I am sure it is a fine place but it’s famous too and it seemed impossible to get a place to sit.
And serendipity kicked in again! I was actually headed for K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen (which was recommended by the bartender at the restaurant I actually ate at so certainly worth checking out) but before I got there I spied something that looked like home 🙂
Generally I like to go with the local culture and not just do things I could do in Vancouver but supposedly this was one of the top 10 new restaurants in Louisiana in 2012. And I thought it might be a nice change to have a meal without rice or beans on the plate.
It is called SoBou and is unlike anything else I saw while I was in New Orleans. It’s a place for hipsters :). My guidebook mentioned some spots for hipsters but I think she isn’t too familiar with what hipsters really do… They would definitely be right at home at SoBou, which stands for South of Bourbon. A little piece of hipster Manhattan in the heart of the French Quarter.
Definitely go to this place! The bartender mixed me up a lovely cocktail. Unfortunately I can’t remember what he called it – but it’s the kind of place you can trust the bartender to just make you a cocktail 🙂 And the food was divine!
I was a bit obsessed with crawfish due to a random conversation I had had with some locals on Friday. I’m still not totally sure what a crawfish is and I know I need to eat more of them but I will be back in New Orleans :). Apparently this is crawfish season so definitely look for some crawfish if you come in March.
They didn’t have any crawfish on the menu so I had to settle for a crawfish bisque with crawfish popcorn, which was divine! And then I had some Gulf shrimp that had seen some mesquite to go with my apple and pear salad since I was craving some greens – and not collared ones. It was an exquisite meal and a wonderful birthday present – happy birthday to me 😉
They didn’t have any music though and I wanted more jazz since it was my last night in town so I headed back to the Maison Bourbon where I had had a fleeting visit on Friday night. Since it was Sunday, it wasn’t too crowded and I actually managed to score a seat at a table.
The house band was playing and they were fantastic! And they were playing the great jazz of the 50s with lots of solos and improvisation. I had hit the jackpot. There was only one small problem. The ladies room was out of order. So I decided it was time to find a place with a functioning restroom and went up at the break to buy a CD since the band was so good and I wanted to support them.
Jamil is a modern day Louis Armstrong. He plays a mean trumpet, has a booming voice that doesn’t need a mike and is a showman with charm to spare. I mentioned New Orleans was a birthday present to myself and he was determined I should stay for the last set so he could play “happy birthday”. I told him about my ladies’ room problem. So he got someone to escort me the ladies in the bar next door so that I didn’t have to leave.
It really is something to have “happy birthday” played by a jazz band! I highly recommend it. Apparently the Maison Bourbon is dedicated to the preservation of jazz. It really felt like I had stumbled into a different era. Since I was at a table all by myself, they asked if I would share with another couple. It ended up the lady was from Switzerland and had been to New Orleans to hear jazz 40 years ago!
A lot had changed, for course, so I wrote down all my best recommendations for her to try and get a good experience of the music scene in New Orleans. I didn’t want her to be a random tourist on Bourbon wondering if all had been lost… it really hasn’t… but you need to know where to look.
One of the most poignant moments during the performance was when Jamil and the band did “It’s a Wonderful Life”. His voice is very close to Louis’ so you really feel like you are listening to the real thing. I had to fight for it but it was the song we played to close my father’s funeral and I thought it was a great representation of his attitude toward life. The last time I talked to him was on my birthday so, needless to say, my eyes were moist listening to the song, but in a good memories sort of way.
You would think that would be enough to make it a perfect birthday. And that was almost the end… I really wanted to hit the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone before I left town as it was one of the few things left on my list I hadn’t yet done.
But it was really late by then and it was Sunday night so when I first arrived it looked like the bar was closed. But then I spied a side entrance that was still open and there were people sitting at the bar so I managed to order a shot of bourbon just before last call.
The Carousel Bar is pretty cool… it actually rotates just like a carousel, so it’s not that you think the room is spinning – it actually is!
What a way to finish my birthday – a glass of bourbon on Bourbon Street at a spinning bar. Made even more special because my wonderful 49th birthday in Portland courtesy of the US Air Force all began because I was drinking bourbon – and they were intrigued by my bourbon flight… that story may make it onto the blog sometime…