[Amtrak trip] 24h in New Orleans (2)

 9:00 AM Plantations Tour

After eating surprisingly good free breakfast (with warm sausages, egg scrambles, grits etc.) at the Drury Inn, I went for a tour to a couple of plantations in Louisiana. There are several plantation tours offered by tour companies. I made a reservation the day before to go for Gray Line (one of the biggest tour companies it seemed) Double Plantation tour ($88.) You could choose two plantations among three on the list (Laura, Whitney, and Oak Alley.) I googled some pictures and basic info, and picked Laura and Oak Alley plantations. The tour was from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM and the pick-up area was near the French Quarter, right beside the Mississippi pier.

The big coach bus was about 2/3 filled with tourists. 1.5 hour bus ride itself to the plantation was quite fun. The New Orleans native bus driver (interestingly without the accent though) was also a very good tour guide, telling us various interesting stories about New Orleans with his headset microphone (something like that New Orleans people call an avocado ‘alligator pear.’) The view of Mississippi river, the second longest river in the world after Nile (according to the driver, fourth longest river according to Wikipedia,) through the bus window was stunning.

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Mississippi River from the tour bus to the plantations

The first stop was Laura plantation. About 10 minutes after the bus dropping us off, the tour guide walked us through the plantation. Laura plantation is a typical creole sugar plantation that was happened to be run by women most of the time. I had been confused about the word ‘creole’ that was being used everywhere in New Orleans, from food to housing, and the guide finally made it clear for me. The term means people who are ‘French speaking (doesn’t need to be a French), Louisiana born (regardless of ethnicity), and Catholic.’

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Laura plantation

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Laura plantation

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A pot that was used to purify sugar in Laura Plantation

After about 1.5 hours at Laura plantation, the bus drivers picked us up again and headed to the next plantation, Oak Alley (15 mins drive.) Oak Alley plantation is one of those very photogenic spots that make you shout out ‘OMG, I must go there!’ The real thing was no less than the pictures in the internet. Big oak tree branches were making a beautiful entranceway to the front door of the main building.

There was a restaurant in one of the buildings inside the plantation complex, so I had a quick lunch there. They served mostly traditional Louisiana meals in a cozy atmosphere.  We had chicken+smoked sausage gumbo ($9.95) and fried oyster poboy royale ($14.95.)

After the lunch, the tour guide of the plantation walked us through the main house. Contrast to the beautiful scenery, we of course learned about the painful history of slavery embedded in the plantation. It was also a little bit sad to learn that the family who owned this beautiful plantation couldn’t hold it for more than two generations due to mis-judgement on some investments.

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Oak Alley plantation

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Oak Alley plantation

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Lunch at Oak Alley. (top) Poboy and (bottom) Gumbo

5:00 PM Dinner at Pier 424 Seafood Market

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(top) Boiled jumbo shrimp and (bottom) alligator fries at Pier 424 Fish Market

After coming back to New Orleans by the same bus, it was a time for an early dinner. The day before, I reserved the famous Natchez steamboat cruise ($48, without dinner) that goes up and down the Mississippi River and the boat was to leave at 7:00 PM. There was an option to eat dinner on the boat ($83, including the cruise) but eating something on the boat wasn’t my thing, so I went for a dinner before the cruise. There were still several things left on my list of ‘ten things I must eat in New Orleans’ and I was to leave the day after, so I felt like I should hurry.

I went to Pier 424 Seafood Market for the dinner because they had boiled crawfish on the menu. However, I was disappointedly told it was not the season. I tried boiled jumbo shrimp with potatoes and corns (MP, around $30 I think I paid) and fried alligator ($12, tasted like chicken)  instead. Big dishes of fresh seafoods were satisfying enough.

7:00 PM Natchez Steamboat

After the dinner, I finally headed for the cruise, the famous steamboat that had been hosting various people since 1823. The current boat is the ninth generation of Natchez, cruising since 1975. The jazz band was already playing on the boat. The vibe was lively while the boat cruised into the sunset. My last night of New Orleans was passing with the tune of jazz and the sound of the steamboat foghorn.

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Natchez steamboat (panorama)

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Natchez steamboat (panorama)

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Jazz at Natchez steamboat

9:30 PM Jazz at Musical Legends Park

The boat brought us back to the land at around 9:00 PM. For the last sprinkle of New Orleans, I headed to the casual outdoor jazz bar in the middle of French Quarter. Cafe Beignet at Bourbon St. was located in the Musical Legends Park. The tiny park is famous for the three statues of jazz legends standing near the gate (Al “Jumbo” Hirt, Antoine “Fats” Domino, and Pete Fountain.) And of course, there was a live jazz being played in the middle of the courtyard. The wind was still warm as the sound of live jazz danced through the night air.

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Musical Legends Park

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Jazz at Musical Legends Park

***Amtrak trip: Full List***

[Amtrak trip] 24h in New Orleans (1)

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Be nice or leave! Motto of New Orleans

 

10:30 AM The oldest tram in the world

I started the second day in New Orleans quite late. It seemed it was the way everybody was doing it in New Orleans. After taking a good rest, I went for a lunch at Carrollton Market in the west side of the city (Carrollton) beside the Mississippi river.

It was about 4.7 miles from my hotel. I decided to try the historic New Orleans tram #12, oldest streetcar in the world! I could buy the ticket very easily with the smartphone app ‘RTA Go Mobile.’ One day unlimited ride ticket (Jazzy pass) was $3.00.

The tram was made with wood and rattled as it went slowly. There was no window glass on the driver’s seat so the driver could announce whatever he/she wants (like “take the next tram!”) by shouting it out loud to the streets. The tram took the historic St. Charles Ave, which was filled with beautiful/huge houses and large trees.

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The oldest streetcar in the world

12:00 Lunch at Carrollton Market

Carrollton Market was reported in Forbes magazine as one of the four restaurants that you shouldn’t miss today in New Orleans. And the owner/chef Jason Goodenough had been named the chef of the year by New Orleans Magazine last year. The food was very elegant and interior was cozy. I had Oyster Goodenough French Omelet ($17) that was very unique and rich in taste.

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Carrollton Market

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Oyster Goodenough French Omelette at Carrollton Market

2:00 PM Waking around Magazine Streets

Magazine Streets are 6 miles stretching streets in the west side of New Orleans filled with local shops. The streets are abundant of vintage shops, antiques, and various local products. I was not planning for shopping but ended up buying a leather pencil case at Box Paper Scissor (beautiful stationery shop) and two vinyls (SP) of Quincy Jones and George Harrison at Peach’s Record.

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Kaweco fountain pens at Box Paper Scissor

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Peach’s Record

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Very very interesting coloring book at Peach’s Record

4:00 PM Cocktail time

We took the tram again to come back to the French Quarter. It was now sizzling and impossible to stay outside for too long. So like everybody else in New Orleans, we went for cocktails. At first, we just grabbed any seat at the bar Famous Door that was playing live music (something like Irish country songs…?) and drank a big cup of Hurricane cocktail that so many people were drinking (rum+passion fruit juice.)

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Famous Door at Bourbon Street

It was a bit early for a dinner and too hot to walk around, so I decided to go for… another cocktail, thinking it must have been weather that made New Orleans a birthplace of cocktail. My next stop was Carousel Bar at Monteleone Hotel. The bar is the only rotating (yes, spinning slowly like a carousel) bar in New Orleans and according to its website it had been spinning for 65 years now! I had Vieux Carre ($12.00), signature cocktail created in 1938 (Rey Whiskey+Sweet Vermouth+etc.) which was strong enough for a hot summer day

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Vieux Carre cocktail at Carousel Bar (minions not included :-P)

7:00 PM Seafood Dinner at Felix

I had this list of ’10 things that you must eat in New Orleans,’ from USA tourism site and felt like I was running out of time to eat them all in three days. So to check out several menus at once, I went to Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar. It was very casual restaurant that served New Orleans style seafoods. We had half shell oysters, char-grilled oysters, Crawfish Etouffee, and Jambalaya. The waitress recommended seasonal local draft beer which was watermelon (!) beer. It was perfect for the weather and the food.

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Char grilled Oysters at Felix

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The list of ‘ten things I must eat’ in New Orleans

After the dinner, it was cooler than before so we walked to the next spot, Frenchmen St. On a way, I encountered a wonderful shop (Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen & Hot Sauce Bar) that had hundreds (or thousands) kinds of hot sauce. They even had hot sauce tasting bar (“Taste at your own rick”) to feel the different tastes of hot sauces. I couldn’t resist but to buy one Louisiana ‘original’ hot sauce, although for me it was almost impossible to tell the difference among various kinds.

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Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline Kitchen & Hot Sauce Bar

 

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Hot sauce tasting

 

9:00 PM Jazz time

The main street for New Orleans jazz is Frenchmen St, about 15~20 mins walk from the crazy Bourbon St.  According to the website, Frenchmen St. is “the capital of live music in New Orleans. With 20+ bars, venues, and restaurants all within a 2 block area, each hosting various live music events 7 days a week.” So how could I skip it?

The first jazz bar we hopped into was the Maison where the band, Smoking Time Jazz Club, was playing. We sat at the bar and nobody asked for a cover charge. (Later I found out the show is all free unless otherwise specified.) The show was great and so jazzy, quite different from something like $50.00 cover charged live in New York.

After the show and a glass of local IPA, we headed to another jazz bar nearby, the Spotted Cat. This time we had to pay $10.00 entrance fee but the didn’t have to order anything. We were standing in the crowd so it was not easy to drink anyway. The night was turning deeper and so was the music. It was getting warmer from heat of the crowd, but nobody seemed to care and nor did I.

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The Mason

 

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The Spotted Cat