Unfortunately every great trip has to end. So does this series. But not before I impart some final words and most importantly what remains on my itinerary for my next trip to The Big Easy.
I hope by now I have shown you how much there is to love about New Orleans and why there will never be enough trips to satisfy the happiness you find there.
Although it has been some years since I have spent any time in NOLA, I feel my love for it each and every day. In my mind it as if no time has passed at all. I know with certainty that I will return and while not having that date already scheduled I remain calm because I know when I have a will, I will find a way.
Writer Susan Sontag has famously said: “I haven’t been everywhere, but it is on my list”. I would like to add to that: “if I have already been there and loved it, I will surely return”. That is the only downside once you fall in love with places in which you do not currently reside; you have to add them to your travel list instead of crossing them off. I guess there are worse problems to have in the world but this does stress me out. I always worry about running out of time and especially money. That is why having a current to do list is a must!
I will begin where all good things begin in New Orleans; with the food. The restaurants below are the ones I MUST get to next. They are all the staples of the old school classic restaurants that mostly serve Creole or Cajun style food. Anyone that has ever Googled the words “New Orleans food” will have surely come across some if not all of these names.
- Tujagues - In existence since 1856, the go to items remain: brisket, shrimp remoulade, veal chop, and crab meuniere.
- Napoleon House - Around since 1944 visitors come here to have the European Pimm’s Cup beverage and a muffuletta sandwich among other Creole favorites.
- Antoines - Owned by the same family for over a hundred and seventy-five years the standard has remained high. Here you should treat yourself to the spinach-soaked baked oysters Rockefeller (INVENTED HERE), crab-topped trout Pontchartrain, and soufflé potato puffs. Be sure to take a look around the over fifteen rooms packed with memorabilia of their history. Got to love a restaurant with a built it museum!
- Mother’s - The lines outside of this popular gastropub has been known to wrap around the block, yet they all still wait to get in. That certainly provides all of the information I need to know. Here you go with Creole staples like jambalaya, po’ boy sandwiches, and red beans with rice and sausage. As Frommer’s Guides say: “Mother’s gets the haters who accuse it of being touristy, but hey, Paris is touristy.” And I believe as Audrey Hepburn did that: “Paris is always a good idea”, so Mother’s must be too.
- Commander’s Palace - This a la carte menu rotates pretty frequently but favorites include the spicy-sweet shrimp, pecan-crusted Gulf fish, gumbo, and bread pudding. I hear they even have martinis for twenty-five cents. This is a place just waiting for me to walk through the door!
- Galatoires - This place was a favorite of Tennessee Williams when he lived here and that should be all you need to know. But if you have to have more info you should try the shrimp rémoulade, crab maison, or the eggplant fingers. Any way you slice it fish is the entree you want to have here no matter what kind you prefer. There is now a sister restaurant next door, Galatoires 33, that knows its way around a steak.
- Domenica - This is the newest kid on the block on my list but I want to go here just as badly as the others. Not only is it seemingly named for my grandmother but it is the brainchild of Chef John Best and has gotten many rave reviews. Italian fare is served here and the Neapolitan pizza is supposed to be excellent.
- Old Absinthe House - Build in 1806 this was the site where Andrew Jackson planned out the War of 1812. As if you needed more, it is now a bar and restaurant. According to Frommer’s:
“The drink for which the building and bar were named was once outlawed in this country (certain chemical additives, not the actual wormwood used to flavor the drink, caused blindness and madness). Now you can legally sip the infamous libation in the bar and feel at one with the famous types who came before you, listed on a plaque outside: William Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, and Walt Whitman.”
Sure a food vacation sounds like heaven but I need to work up an appetite between meals. That is where these activities come in to play.
- WWII Museum - Visiting this museum is a top priority for me. I have been wanting to go since the first time I landed in New Orleans. With exhibits about the part Louisiana played during this war as well as rooms dedicated to the activities that took place in both Tokyo and Berlin. In particular I would like to see the special exhibit on the D-Day invasion of Normandy, another place I want to visit the next time I am in France.
- Pharmacy Museum - I have walked past this small old-timey looking building many times but never thought about going in until now. It has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and displays the personal collection of Dr. Louis J. Dufilho Jr., America’s first licensed pharmacist! Plus it’s down the block fro Hotel Monteleone.
- Hurricane Katrina Memorial - I have just found out about the existence of this memorial and I think it is a great idea. It is located in the former location of Charity Hospital which was lost in the storm. Anyone like me who read and was profoundly moved by Sheri Fink’s book “Five Days at Memorial”, will no doubt find a trip here necessary if only to pay our respects. The second season of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story will be primarily based on this book and the story it tells.
- Mardi Gras World - When I think of Mardi Gras I do not picture the drunk tourists flashing strangers for beads. Instead I picture a show on HBO that I was a big fan of; “Treme”. It tells the story of different people who live in New Orleans as they work to get their lives back on track after Hurricane Katrina. In the show there was a character; Indian Chief Albert Lambreaux (played by Clarke Peters) whose handed beaded elaborate costumes he wore in the parades were a thing of beauty. In this museum you can see the real thing up close, also the floats from past parades.
The talented cast of Treme had many names you will recognize like Melissa Leo, John Goodman, and Chicago PD’s own Jon Seda. But one of the best characters is that of trombone player Antoine Batiste, portrayed by Wendell Pierce. My favorite lines were always when his girlfriend Desiree would yell at him “Get a job Antoine!!”. Ironically Wendell Pierce was influential in rebuilding Lake Pontchartrain after it was destroyed in the storm. Like the neighborhood of Treme itself, they were primarily historic African American areas. Fans of the show can now cook like they are in N’awlins themselves using the Treme Cookbook.
- Voodoo Museum - In case you didn't get enough of legendary Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau in St. Louis Cemetery I, you can see some of her possessions here. You can learn the basics of the practice and a reading can be arranged if you so desire. I myself am curious about owning my own authentic Voodoo doll.
- Confederate Memorial Hall Museum - Nowadays our political climate has many feelings to consider. While the behavior of our people certainly needs to demonstrate equity for all, I for one do not believe that the moments that document our past, even the parts we should be ashamed of, need to go. I think they are important reminders of lessons we need not repeat. In that vein I want to visit this museum to see the personal effects of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, as well as a battle flag with over eighty bullet holes. This museum has the second largest Civil War collection in the country, the first being the museum of history in Gettysburg, PA. Yet another town on my to do list.
Now that I have bared my soul and my New Orleans dreams with you all I hope you begin planning your own adventures down south. There is no time like the present and you have so much to choose from. Happy trails.
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