New Orleans – Nawlins – it’s all in the name

We were excited to arrive in New Orleans, Louisiana’s most talked about city!

Our first lesson was about the pronunciation.  Saying New Orleans ‘took some practice but we got it in the end!  Once we could say ‘Nawlins’ in a slightly Aussie sounding, Louisiana southern drawl we were ready to hit the streets!

Staying in the French Quarter meant we were within walking distance of more than 100 restaurants and entertainment venues.  Our hotel was just off Bourbon Street, but close enough to enjoy the fun … and there was always fun going on!

What we loved

Frenchmans Street is where the music is at – be sure to go to the “Spotted Cat”

  • Harmonious acceptance of people of all cultures and heritage living alongside each other.
  • Respectful way everyone treated each other.
  • Genuine fun loving disposition of the people.
  • Music everywhere – musicians and street performers playing for the love of it.
  • The variety of Creole and Cajun dishes.
  • The original cocktails that had been dreamed up – you must try them all.

Recommended Tours

We took several fun tours in New Orleans.  Experience has shown us that it’s the tours that are the best way to get the ‘inside grit’.  Tour guides are fantastic storytellers and really love their job!

Haunted French Quarter Walking Tour

Our tour guide Ernie was one of those great storytellers!  He told the tale with the perfect amount of pauses and trailing sentences to add the right touch of mystique.

Ernie was born and bred in New Orleans and clearly knew all the dark and chilling secrets of the French Quarter.

We were assured that all tales were based on fact and would provide us with a vivid history lesson as we visited some of the city’s most legendary hauntings.

Reputed to be the most haunted city in the United States, New Orleans Haunted Tours shares tales about the disastrous fires and epidemics, suicides and murders.  One of the most eerie evenings we spent on our travels.

The Cemetery, Hoodoo and Voodoo History Tour
Visiting St Louis Cemetery, the oldest active ‘City of the Dead’ we learnt about New Orleans and it’s history, about Voodoo and Hoodoo and visited the tomb of infamous Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau and a number of other New Orlean’s notable celebrities.

The day started out gloomy with dark clouds in the grey skies somewhat appropriate for a Cemetery Tour.   With impeccable timing it bucketed down with rain when we visited the gravesite of the infamous Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau!

Gwen was our tour guide for this fascinating morning.

Tombs are built above ground in New Orleans as the water table from the Mississippi River is close to the surface.

Heavy concrete tombs are provides a natural cremation process using the heat of the day to naturally cremate the bodies so that passing family members can share the tomb.

Death in New Orleans is both a respectful and celebratory occasion with everyone celebrating the life of the person passed.  People talk about singing and dancing at their funeral – and in Nawlins, they do!

Taste of Nawlins – a Culinary flavours tour

A culinary walking tour taking us through the Cajun & Creole cuisine and history of New Orleans.

This tour provided historical facts about some of New Orleans oldest restaurants, the secrets behind Louisiana’s traditional food and talked about dining options across the city – including the best places to go and the history of the food styles.

Armed with a cocktail of choice we walked through the streets of the French Quarter and nearby areas to visit some of the most famous New Orleans kitchens.

We sampled traditional Nawlins dishes like Jambalaya, Gumbo, Muffaletta sandwiches, Po’ boy sandwiches to finish with deliciously sweet freshly cooked pralines.

A great tour which gave us some great dining suggestions to take away!

Louisiana Swamp Tours

Airboating through the swamps of the Louisiana Bayou is a fun way to learn about the alligators!

We chose to go with Louisiana Swamp Tours as they offered small group trips of 6 which we thought would be more personal.  It was!

Our tour guide Mardy was a wealth of knowledge about the waterways and the wildlife.

In his Southern drawl, he did preface it all with “if I don’t know the answer, then I will lie to you” which set the scene for a fun tour!

Mardy grew up in the swamp lands all his life and shared his knowledge about the swamps, and the wildlife.

I was surprised to learn that the guides feed the alligators marshmallows to entice them to the boats … and even more surprised to learn that the alligators really do eat the marshmallows!

These alligators are not as large or ferocious as the saltwater crocs that we have in Australia however if they are startled or feel threatened then you really will be in danger.

Laura Plantation

Louisiana’s Laura Plantation tours were a great opportunity to learn about the early days of the French occupation, slave labour and the opulent lifestyles that were led in that era.

This plantation was run by Creole women and it was the family stories that we enjoyed the most.  Scandals in the family made for a colourful tour and framed the story of the old plantation days well.

Laura Plantation was where the fable ” Br’er Rabbit” was first told.  The story has it that one of the older slaves would tell these folk-stories to the youngsters on the plantation.

Author, Joel Chandler Harris collected the folktales of Southern African Americans and retold them as stories of Uncle Remus, a fictitious old slave who spun stories to a boy from “the big house of a plantation.”

This tour was one of our highlights.  Highly recommended!

Restaurants and Bars that we loved

  • Cafe Beignet – very trendy little cafe with great coffee and freshly cooked Beignets
  • Mr B’s Bistro – good gumbo and blacked redfish with fresh crab meat .. delicious!
  • 21st Amendment Bar – muso’s playing every night and great cocktails
  • French 75 Bar – old french style bar with amazing cocktails
  • Paddy O’Briens – try one of their Hurricane cocktails, and visit the piano bar
  • Spirits on Bourbon – dueling piano duo for a bit of fun
  • GW Fins for a special night out – great service and fabulous food

 A solemn moment

In one heartfelt moment, one of our tour drivers offered thanks to all of us on his bus for coming to New Orleans.

He explained that after the destruction in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, there were no tourists for at least two years which meant livelihoods were lost and many left Louisiana to find word in order to feed their families.

The greatest damage to New Orleans was when the man-made levees of Lake Pontchartrain burst and flooded the city.  What we weren’t aware of was that New Orleans is mostly flat-lands and floodplains.

Most of the city is below water level and protected by natural levee banks that run down each side of the Mississippi River and around Lake Pontchartrain.  When they burst, thousands of homes were flooded or destroyed and many lives were lost.

Where we stayed in the French Quarter

We stayed at the lovely Mazarin Hotel in the French Quarter, just off Bourbon Street.  This hotel is in a great location, close to everything and has the appeal of the old world, french history and a luxurious feel to it.

Named after a French-Italian cardinal, diplomat and politician this hotel was one of our favourite hotels whilst traveling through the United States.

A delicious breakfast was included in our fare and served in the covered courtyard every morning by the fountain.

Staff were friendly and couldn’t do enough for us while we were there.  A great place to stay if you want to be close to the action and enjoy a touch of luxury!

We loved our time in New Orleans and will plan to stay longer next time.  Have you visited Nawlins?  What was your favourite experience?  Tell us about it.

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