The planned activity for our last day in town would be a guided walking tour of the French Quarter and then a lazy crawl through the lower quarter and a visit to Frenchmen Street. First up though we devoured an excellent egg scramble Lyndsay put together using the remnants of her Dream Burger from the night before.
We requested a ride from Uber to get us to the French Quarter and as I’ve found with this service, and that of its direct competitor Lyft, our driver came quickly and delivered us at our destination in short order, this time free because of a local promotion. We did some window-shopping on Royal Street before heading to the Royal House for a snack prior to our tour.
Not starving due to having enjoyed the egg scramble earlier, we split an order of a half dozen Chargrilled Oysters (Louisiana oysters, fresh shucked, and topped with Parmesan butter cheese filling) and a bowl of Chicken and Andouille Gumbo (with chicken, Andouille sausage and white rice). Joanna ordered their Cajun Bloody Mary while I washed my food down with an Abita Amber.
The gumbo was delicious, hearty and with just a bit of zing from the sausage. I’m not a big fan of oysters, but prepared in this fashion even I had a couple. It was a gorgeous day, not too warm and we sat in the upstairs dining room (they have tables on the narrow balcony outside, but they only seat two persons) and we all felt a little sorry that the meal couldn’t have been a little longer and have contained more of the very good food served at the Royal.
Finished with our snack, we walked up Royal to St. Peter Street and then to the river to pick up our tickets at the Grey Line booth where we waited until the start of the tour. Our guide Daniel would turn out to be an excellent host, providing us with a compelling narrative full of history, anecdotes, and local lore. One piece of advice given at the start of the tour as we stood facing the Mississippi was to forget about using compass points (N, S, E, and W) for directions, as it would be useless. Instead do as the locals and refer to “upriver, downriver, this way and that way”.
Over the course of the next two plus hours we visited the French Market and Jackson Square,
the Old Ursuline Convent,
stopping at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, built between 1722 and 1732 and reputed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States and according to out guide, still operates without any electricity.
Along the way we were schooled on the difference between a balcony and a gallery, that is:
A BALCONY is a narrow platform projecting outwards from the wall of a building. Balconies, unlike galleries, are not supported by posts or columns reaching to the ground. A balcony can be small and boxy (think: Juliet’s balcony in “Romeo and Juliet”), or stretch the length of the building.
A GALLERY is wider than a balcony. Most galleries overhang the width of the sidewalk, and are supported by posts or columns reaching to the ground. (Pedestrians caught in a New Orleans downpour can appreciate the wide overhang of French Quarter galleries!)
Finally, after walking up Pirates Alley, we ended the tour at the Cabildo, built under Spanish rule in 1795-1799, and the site of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. We’d visited here a number of years back and so a bit tired from two plus hours of standing and walking slowly, we passed on spending more time there, which is a shame as it is a good museum, featuring exhibits on Louisiana’s early history, and its role as a city hall, a courthouse and a prison.
The rest of the afternoon and evening would be spent pursuing shop browsing, drinking, and eating, activities right in our wheelhouse. Our first and best stop of the day was at Cane and Table, a recommendation Lyndsay had heard about. The food is highly recommended here but reservations were needed and with dinner out of the question, we found three seats at the bar, ordered a drink apiece and a special to share, the Crispy Avocado.
This dish was completely unique and one of the best things I’ve eaten in some time, avocado cut into chunks, dipped in a panko coasting and then deep friend just enough to make the outside crispy and to heat the interior, then drizzled with a Russian style dressing. For drinks I ordered a Bourbon Manhattan Joanna the El Presidente (rum, curacao, vermouth, and grenadine. Invented in Havana, Cuba during the 1920s and named in honor of President Gerardo Machado) and Lyndsay the Monkey Gland (gin, orange juice, grenadine and absinthe and named after a surgical technique of grafting monkey testicle tissue into humans). These were handcrafted cocktails and it was a delight watching the bartender prepare them, the best drinks we would imbibe during our entire stay and an absolute steal at only $6.50 apiece.
We continued our quest on Decatur, deep into the lower Quarter, stopping to browse, grab a beer at the Balcony Music Club and listen briefly to a very good three piece blues band, then turn the corner at Frenchmen Street, checking out the various restaurants and music venues located along there. We put our name in for a table at The Three Muses, but the wait was long and we had no expectation that we would end up eating there.
In one of the last blocks where entertainment venues thrived, between Chartres and Royal, we noticed Café Negril and marked it for later, stepping across the street to spend some time looking at booths in an open air market there.
Finished we returned to Café Negril and finding the band performing to be quite good, completed our evening there, eventually settling for a pizza from the in-house restaurant as we knew a good meal wouldn’t be in the cards for us that night.
We left the bar and hailed a ride from Uber, Lenette picking us up not long after we placed our call, and quickly taking us back to the house for $7. We’d arise the next morning and take our time leaving as our drive to Mobile; our next destination wouldn’t take long. It had been a great weeklong visit, one full of activity, fun, drinking and eating. The beauty of it was that we felt like we had barely tapped the surface of this vibrant town and knew that we would return in the future to sample some more of what NoLa has to offer.
Royal House: http://www.royalhouserestaurant.com/
French Quarter Tour: http://www.graylineneworleans.com/all/tours/french-quarter-tour
Ursuline Convent: http://www.stlouiscathedral.org/convent-museum
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop: http://www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com/Homepage.html
Cane and Table: http://caneandtablenola.com/
Café Negril: http://www.cafenegrilonfrenchmen.com/