The set up: My sister-in-law-to-be asked me to be a bridesmaid in her New Years Eve wedding to my little brother. Of course, I agreed. New Years in Louisiana? New Orleans? D’uh!
So, we headed down to The Pelican State for my little brother’s marriage.
Immediately, and excitedly, I began to make plans for my trip to Monroe and New Orleans. I simply couldn’t fathom a trip to Louisiana without a stop in New Orleans, that would be blasphemous. Having never been, getting that close, and not going? Well that would just be unforgivable in my eyes. Conveniently, I already had my dream trip itinerary all planned out. And, big plus, since this is my brother’s wedding, mom was my travel partner, and she let me drag her around and do all the stuff I wanted to do, on the condition that she got to see some of the architecture of the city – Mission accomplished!
Thus begins our New Years, welcome 2010!
It’s January. Unseasonably cold for this time of year, or so the natives tell us. And by “cold” I mean mid 50s during the day and dropping to 20-30s at night. Frigid. Wind chill makes it feel colder than it actually is. For a gulf coast state – this is ridiculous and not what i have been led to expect. I’m suddenly very glad I brought my wool peacoat… the coat I was convinced I couldn’t possibly need.
Anyway, we rented a car and followed my brother & new sister-in-law down to NOLA. The drive wasn’t terrible and went by surprising quick – well, not so surprising I guess when you’re speeding… As my sister-in-law so sagely advised me, “the police never pull anyone over in Louisiana!” Mmm-hmm… more on that later.
Sunday : The Royal St. Charles Hotel & Bourbon St
We’ve arrived and check into The Royal St Charles Hotel, on St. Charles Ave. Except for a minor parking issue, which was resolved quickly, we settled in to our room. A clean, single room, a soft full bed, a lovely carved armoire in the corner, a desk, closet space, and a good-sized bathroom. And, I’m always a fan of rooms that have installed coffee pots. The hotel desk staff was kind and helpful with directions, and had some good info on tours and sightseeing suggestions. And, thanks to a generous daily gratuity, we received exceptional housekeeping services.
For the next 3 days, The Royal St Charles would be home sweet home.
The Royal St. Charles Hotel is about a block and a half from Bourbon & Royal Streets. We were pre-warned before our trip, by anyone and everyone, of what we should expect to see in the French Quarter and what to look out for on our visit.
Useful Tips like:
- don’t carrying a big bulky purse
- don’t go to this section of town or that
- don’t go out alone.
- Watch for little kids coming up to you asking for money or directions, it might be a pick pocket scam
During the height of season, and Mardi Gras, these tips would have been a mandatory part of the trip. Thankfully, I can to say – all warnings heeded – we found them to be totally unnecessary for this time of year. Being a tourist and visitor in a strange town, one should always be on guard and well aware of their surroundings, but I didn’t experience any of the scenarios we were warned about before hand, (i.e. purse snatching and clever pick pockets) nor did I feel threatened or uneasy at all in the city, or on Bourbon Street.
In fact, New Orleans definitely deserves its name, The Big Easy, because that is exactly what it is!
Once we settled in our room and had a lie down, we ventured out to check out notorious Bourbon St. We walked down Common St. to Carondelet St., crossed Canal St., which still bore all it’s beautiful Christmas gear, and we strolled onto Bourbon St.
After dark, the NOPD has the amazingly intelligent common sense to block off all traffic on Bourbon St., I’m sure this brilliant idea came after some serious incidents and problems, but in my opinion, this is the smartest thing they could have done! Also, along the street there are these little green signs along the street that state “no bottles or glass allowed on street” this, along with the blocking off of the street was probably an excellent idea!
As we started down the street, the first thought I had after, “I cant believe Im finally, actually, here!” was, “I wonder if this much Neon can cause any really bad health problems?” It sounds corny, but I really felt like Alice in wonderland for a while.
First on the list for Bourbon Street:
- get a Hurricane!
We walked on, trying to decide on a place to stop and have our first cocktail. Suddenly, mom stops walking, arms akimbo, and listens… inside “The Famous Door” a live band is playing their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” (a.k.a. mom’s favorite song). Taking this as a sign – we go inside.
We gave the bartender a hard time, mostly about the pressure of serving us our first drink on Bourbon St, which she took in jest. And boy, did she deliver!
Hurricane Recipe :
1 oz white rum
1 oz Jamaican dark rum
1 oz Bacardi 151
3 oz orange juice
3 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 oz grenadine,
While I’m quite faithful to my Malibu & Diet Pepsi, The New Orleans Hurricane could easily take over its spot as my drink of choice – must be the special Pat O’Brien drink mix? I’m not positive on the recipe, most of the establishments had Hurricane mix readily prepared in a large cooler or mixer. Let me just say, I do not consider myself a lightweight or lush in the drinking department, by any means, but ONE Hurricane is enough, and I blame the 151.
After the Hurricanes, it became quite obvious that sustenance was a necessity before continuing onward, or the nice buzz I had going could get seriously out of hand.
Excuse me, ALLIGATOR SAUSAGE, really?
After the initial shock, remembering we were in the south, and that we’d already been drinking, we decided we had to try it. The waitress brought the plate over and set it in front of us, complete with tartar sauce for dipping. Color me surprised, but it was good! Different, it tasted like fishy chicken sausage, but really very good.
For my entrée I had a southern classic, “Red beans & Rice”. I’ve had this dish before – if we’re counting Popeye’s — but I’m going for the completely authentic experience on this trip. The Ember’s served their Red beans & Rice on a large oval plate, with a well cooked pair of sausages.
A few years ago, I read a book about Bonnie & Clyde. There was a story about them in a house hiding out, just days before their deaths. Police swarmed and surrounded the house, and they had to make a fast escape. While they were fleeing, Bonnie got very distracted and almost got them caught, because she could smell her red beans & rice burning and wanted to go back. I’ve never forgotten that, lol.
The Embers, while a little on the pricey side, served a great meal, and totally worthy of our first celebratory meal in NOLA. After dinner we continued down Bourbon St., it was cold, we checked out the t-shirt shops, some of the bars, and peeking in the nudie clubs. We didn’t stay out too late since we were both pretty exhausted from the whirlwind wedding/new year’s party, so we returned to the Hotel and collapsed.