Sunday, June 14, 2009
United States - New Orleans
Last weekend I spent five days in New Orleans for a conference. I wasn't looking forward to the trip until I read both the Frommer's and DK travel guides for the city. The history of the people, the culture and food is intense. There's exiled Frenchies, Pirates, Voodoo Goddesses and Napoleon. The architecture is a hidden jewel of American and French heritage and the food is a culinary adventure akin to one's taste buds hiking Kilimanjaro.
My quick recommendations for a hotel: The St. Louis Hotel in the French Quarter, and ask for a room without a balcony. (It's quieter.) Average $150 when not fully booked. If there for business, the best located hotel near the convention center, but only a ten minute walk to the French Quarter is the Renaissance Arts Hotel (Marriott) at 700 Tchoupitoulas between Poydras and Julia. Average $250. The downstairs bar and restaurant are fabulous and Tommy's is on the corner. Tommy's has the best oysters, duck and sezarac cocktail in New Orleans.
I admit these hotels are not exactly budget. There are less expensive hotels in New Orleans, just be cautious of your location. Don't stay North of Bourbon street, and anything East of the convention center can be risky after dark. However, the food can be budget if you eat at places like Napoleon's House (excellent) or Johnny's Po-boys (huge!). Avoid Cafe Maspero, it was very disappointing.
Great activities -
1. Wandering the Garden District while waiting for your reservation time at Commander's Palace Jazz Brunch. (Sat & Sun brunch range from $27 - $35 for appetizer, entree and dessert.)
2. Taking a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking. (10am - 12:30pm everyday, $27, and you get free lunch.) I learned to make crawfish etouffe, shrimp & artichoke soup, bread pudding with a whiskey sauce and pralines. I also learned how horribly fattening ALL the food is in New Orleans.
3. Cemetery tour or a swamp tour.
4. Beignet's at Cafe du Monde is a must! ($1.85)
5. Listening to live music at Preservation Hall. ($9)
6. Riding the free ferry across the Mississippi River. (free)
7. The Esplanade and John's Bayou. (free)
Overall - New Orleans is an amazing city to visit. But admittedly, it's not for those on a tight budget. Two people for five days will cost about $1300 for hotel, food, some drinks, a tour and some music. And then prepare to diet for at least two weeks after your return.