NOLA

Photography by Yuri Krasov

If you fly to New Orleans, Louisiana a.k.a. NOLA, on a Friday afternoon, you might want to start your weekend in the French Quarter – the beating heart of the city – big, generous, full of life, and untainted by years of visiting tourists from all over the world, walking down Bourbon Street in huge crowds day and night in various degrees of public intoxication.

The real NOLA, in all its sublime beauty, Southern charm mixed with French chic, and over-the-top exuberance is still here, every step of the way!2. DSC_0429 copy

Have a lavish dinner at Kingfish, a popular casual joint on Chartres Street, serving mean cocktails (try the signature NOLA’s Sazerac or Vieux Carre), and new Louisiana cuisine by renowned Chef Nathan Richard.  You can’t go wrong with local specialties, like Louisiana BBQ Shrimp and Crispy Grit Cake or Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo. And if you consider yourself and adventurous eater, don’t shy away from Alligator “Wings” in Café au lait barbecue sauce. Served in a small cast iron skillet, they look just like your party chicken wings, but those are baby gators’ tender limbs (awww!) www.kingfishneworleans.com.

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A short walking distance away catch a Friday night special – Trixie Minx Burlesque Ballroom at The Jazz Playhouse in the lobby of Royal Sonesta Hotel on the corner of Bourbon and Bienville. The weekly show is performed by a rotating cast of New Orleans and international touring burlesque performers, who dance onstage and throughout the room to the sounds of live jazz and blues music with wonderful vocalists. Burlesque Ballroom is the only weekly show that accompanies burlesque with live music – just like it used to be during the original heyday of 1950s Bourbon Street burlesque culture.4. DSC_0511 copy

This intimate production that fills The Jazz Playhouse with a conspicuous speakeasy vibe, is extremely popular with tourist groups, bachelorette’s parties, foreign visitors, and just about anyone who’s lucky enough to be in NOLA on a Friday night! Trixie Minx, a classically trained ballerina-turned-burlesque performer, producer, healthcare advocate, and cultural ambassador – and a true NOLA celebrity – can be seen here making every show a late-night spectacular. http://www.trixieminx.com, www.sonesta.com/us/louisiana/new-orleans/royal-sonesta-new-orleans/jazzplayhouse.

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If your luck is with you all the way, you’ll stay two blocks from Bourbon Street, at the Maison Dupuy, “the French Quarter Hotel,” on Rue Toulouse. Overlooking a cozy courtyard with a heated blue swimming pool surrounded by lounge chairs and cabanas, from your room balcony you might see an elegant wedding happening right there, by the three-tiered marble fountain in the center. Maison Dupuy has on average 63 weddings each year, so the chances are pretty good you can catch one on any given weekend.

This historical hotel’s location originally was home to the nation’s first cotton press. Later, utilized for industry, the intersection of Rue Toulouse and Rue Burgundy housed sheet metal companies. Only in the 1970s the Dupuy brothers successfully turned the building into a posh hotel it is today. It’s the last hotel to have been built in the French Quarter, since in 1975 the Vieux Carre Commission banned the future development of the neighborhood to preserve its historic significance.

Spread out throughout five joined townhouses, made of red brick, Maison Dupuy hotel maintains the original architectural features – ornate French doors, long windows, wrought iron balconies, and 200 spacious rooms with all the modern conveniences, including pillow-top mattresses and flat screen TVs.

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For a leisurely breakfast, look no further than to the hotel’s own restaurant, Bistreaux. Festively decorated with wall murals that replicate Toulouse-Lautrec’s cabaret paintings, with sunlight streaming through the wide arched windows, the white-table-cloth venue serves Continental and American breakfasts, including a stuffed French toast with cream cheese, jam, and fresh strawberries to give you a great head start. www.maisondupuy.com.

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On a nice day like almost any day in NOLA, just strolling through the French Quarter is a treat on its own. Stop at the historic Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street – the grand dame of NOLA’s hotels. Here, in the lobby there’s a famous Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge, where you can sip a cocktail while suddenly noticing that the entire circular bar is revolving around the central stand like a slow moving carousel.

Have a quick lunch of Po’boy or Muffuletta sandwich (both local specialties) at Arnaud’s Remoulade on Bourbon Street.

Or take a tour of the French Quarter with Two Chicks Walking Tours, admittedly “based on what we would do with friends on an afternoon in the French Quarter.” The tours meet by the world-famous Café du Monde, where you can actually oversee through a side window the process of making those airy beignets covered in powdered sugar that are served with the NOLA’s favorite chicory coffee.

On a tour, you’ll see the mighty Mississippi River passing through the city on its way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. With 200 ft depth, it’s not your recreational body of water. NOLA residents have a lake for that. The major parts of the Crescent City are named in relation to the river – Uptown up the river, Downtown – down the river, plus there’s River Side and Lake Side.

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The tour will take you to Jackson Square with the iconic Andrew Jackson horseback statue and the St. Louis Cathedral – the oldest cathedral still in use in North America. Jackson Square is also the location of an open-air artist colony, where artists display their work on the outside of the iron fence. You might see the artists at work and perhaps have your portrait drawn by one of the many talents utilizing Jackson Square as their studio.

You’ll stop by the historic open-air French Market, reminiscent of its European counterparts. With abundant shopping, dining and live musical entertainment it’s a traditional gathering place in NOLA.

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Step into the oldest watering hole in NOLA, Tujague’s on Decatur Street, established in 1856, with the original 1700s wooden bar stand, delivered from France, and walk to the second floor balcony for a city view enjoyed by the locals.

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From Café du Monde to the bazaar at the end of Esplanade Avenue, there are five blocks of specialty retail shops and a community flea market with only the original, locally-made art, jewelry, clothing, and cuisine. www.twochickswalkingtours.com

You won’t notice how soon your little weekend will come to an end, but if spent in NOLA it might very well be the best weekend you’ll remember all year!

Additional information at: www.neworleanscvb.com, Facebook (Visit New Orleans), Twitter (@NewOrleansCVB) and Instagram (VisitNewOrleans).

 

Photography by Yuri Krasov

 

In America, the beautiful, not many cities have their own face, their unique character. In the majority of American cities an observant traveler often experiences a kind of déjà vu: street names start with Main and delve into a roster of Presidents, or just go through alphabetical and numerical orders; the same bank and retailer logos bookend every street in every town in every state, and similarly dressed folks buzz around, running their identical chores.  New Orleans, Louisiana (or NOLA, as its dwellers call their passionately beloved city) falls out of this routine like a golden nugget from gray sand.

Bourbon Street

NOLA is a constant celebration, for a reason or no reason, officiated by the motto, Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler! which means in French, “Let the Good Times Roll!”

The good times are mostly self-made by the suave, upbeat and resilient residents of New Orleans, since the fate is not always favorable, and the circumstances are often detrimental.

Garden District tour

Throughout its colorful history the city withstood yellow fever epidemics, floods and tornadoes, social and political turmoil, and not too long ago – the infamous Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath.

And yet, the city is constantly bustling with creative energy, attracting tourists and artists from all corners of the world, drawn to its indelible optimism, its legends and traditions, and its generous spirit.

live oak

house with terrace

A Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour on a double-decker bus by City Sightseeing New Orleans will take you to the Garden District, where the ancient sidewalks are blown up by the roots of century-old Virginia live oaks; their branches covered with bright-green sprouts of Resurrection fern and pale swaying moss beards… Here, the houses of native Cajuns and Creoles, and the newly arriving after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 American settlers, stand next to each other in stark contrast of architectural styles, daily habits, and life philosophy.

Superdome

The bus rides past the gilded statue of Jeanne d’Arc, the city’s patron saint; around the French Quarter, stops at Jackson Square with St. Louis Cathedral – the oldest in the United States (since 1794), and visits sites as diverse as The National World War II Museum, Louisiana Superdome, Mardi Gras World (the largest in the world workshop of carnival floats and costumes), and several historic cemeteries.

cemetery

Those are called “cities of the dead” for a reason. Spectacular crypts and mausoleums form streets and squares lined with palms and elms. The city dwellers learned to bury their dead above ground long ago, after Mississippi floods washed out the coffins from the graves in the below-the-sea-level areas of New Orleans… Since then people were carefully choosing their “last real estate” to accommodate families, social circles, and professional associations. A whole fire brigade is buried in a vault at Lafayette Cemetery. In times of mass disasters the demand was overwhelming the supply. According to the historical chronicles, a record number of 37 family members were buried in the same grave during the yellow fever outbreak of 1878.

Napoleon House

The history is alive on the streets of the Big Easy. Napoleon House Bar and Café on Chartres Street is located in a 1797 building erected by the then city mayor to meet and greet Emperor Napoleon in New Orleans. That plan was destroyed by the Louisiana Purchase, but the Mayor Girod House is a National Historic Landmark, and while on the first floor you can indulge in the house specialties like Pimm’s Cup cocktail and mufuletta sandwich, the second floor, almost completely intact since its construction, is now open for weddings and other special events.

Napoleon muffuletta

Although the nearby Bourbon Street is crowded with boisterous out-of-town revelers day and night, Hotel Le Marais around the corner offers a quiet respite to a weary traveler. This chic French Quarter boutique hotel features cozy, well-appointed rooms with contemporary design, four-star amenities, included breakfast, and friendly personable service.

Le Maraisle marais courtyard

The hotel’s lively bar Vive! opens into a courtyard with a heated swimming pool, and serves signature cocktails; the first one upon your arrival – complimentary!

Sucre macarons

There’s a number of great eateries in a short walking distance from Le Marais. On the second floor of the classic Parisian patisserie Sucré with colorful macarons and eclairs in the shop windows there’s a newly-open upscale haute cuisine restaurant Salon by Sucré. In addition to select international wines, artisanal beers, and creative cocktails, one of the brand founders and the acclaimed chef, Tariq Hanna offers its guests a refined menu of enticing French-inspired dishes. On the Amuse list there’s an amazing combo of Belgian fries of thrice-fried potato with chive cream and American bowfin caviar elegantly served in a porcelain egg shell. Another amazing creation is called Corn Pups and presents “lollypops” of Mortadella in corndog batter with honey mustard.

On the Savory part of the menu there’s a not-to-be-missed Foieklawah – a whimsical and delightful construction of seared foie gras, pistachio, fig jam and yogurt in Phyllo dough.

Brennan's interior

The Brennan’s Restaurant was originally opened on Bourbon Street in 1946, but later moved to the Royal Street location into a historic building constructed by the great grandfather of Edgar Degas! Now, after a thorough restoration, the restaurant is one of the city’s best, with positively Impressionist atmosphere, impeccable service, and Creole cuisine with staples like turtle soup, fried squab, and classic steak in brandy sauce.

Cafe Beignet

Cafe du Monde

Breakfast at Café Beignet on Bourbon Street is bound to be festive – even at an early morning hour a jazz singer is entertaining the fans of music and delicate, crisp, generously covered in powdered sugar beignets, served hot from the oven. A non-stop 24-hour service is offered at the world-famous Café du Monde known for NOLA’s traditional chicory coffee and beignets, beignets, beignets!

Great jazz musicians play nightly at the Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse inside the posh Royal Sonesta Hotel. Dim lights, cozy tables for two, red curtains and velvet armchairs immediately transport you into the golden era of classic jazz.

Frenchmen street

street musicians

The best evenings in New Orleans are spent on Frenchmen Street, just down the Mississippi river from the French Quarter. It’s a hotbed of jazz clubs, bars, cafes, and various street musicians, tirelessly performing the most romantic, most profoundly-touching, most popular music in the world! The majority of places ask you to buy just one drink and revel all night. That’s what I could’ve done many more nights, vaguely daydreaming about the good times, if it weren’t for my too short visit to the golden NOLA.

Downtown NOLA

Find all necessary information about traveling to New Orleans, LA at: www.neworleanscvb.com.