I became interested in visiting New Orleans after I began watching The Originals a few years ago. The city seemed to possess a mix of traits unlike any found in other cities – historical elements and a culinary culture with a laid back atmosphere and an allure of the mysterious. I can’t say Jason was too thrilled with the choice initially, claiming I was going there just because of a TV show, but I appealed to the foodie in him and last spring we booked our trip for November. We felt this would be the best time to visit due to cooler, less humid weather with lower chances of hurricanes and no major festivals or celebrations to draw in crowds.
Sun. Nov. 3rd – Despite our alarm being set for 4:45am we were awake not long after 4am and used the extra time to shower before we set out for my parents’ house. Dad drove us to Harrisburg International Airport where we had a quick and easy check in and awaited our flight to Chicago. Upon arriving at Ohare International Airport we had about 4 hours to kill before our flight to New Orleans. We explored additional terminals and ate lunch and watched some Netflix on Jason’s phone. We departed and arrived at Louis Armstrong International Airport a little after 3pm. Somehow our suitcase arrived ahead of us on an earlier flight and was sitting near the baggage terminal, so there was no wait to pick it up. We joined the line outside to take a taxi, our first time using one, and had a relatively uneventful ride to the French Quarter where we checked into the French Market Inn. They provided us two restaurant coupons, and we used one to enjoy dinner at Oceana Grill. Jason ordered the house special redfish and I ordered a catfish platter. Both were very enjoyable as our first meals. Daylight Savings Time meant that darkness fell rather early, so we didn’t explore farther than about two blocks from the hotel. We were rather exhausted from a long day of traveling anyway, so we settled into our super quiet interior room and very comfortable king sized bed for the rest of the evening.
Mon. Nov. 4th – Our bodies were still on Eastern time and adjusting to “falling back” for Daylight Savings Time, so we were up very early and had to search Google maps for places that were open early for breakfast. We found Jimmy J’s Cafe was open. I ordered cinnamon french toast there, and Jason had eggs Benedict which I tried and was very impressed. After breakfast we worked our way west out of the French Quarter and into the Central Business District, stopping to take pictures along the way. One of the most surprising things to me was how historical the French Quarter architecture was compared to the NYC vibe of the CBD. It was as if we walked between two different cities.
We arrived at the National World War II Museum a little before opening. I’m glad we were there when it opened as the vastness of the museum merits as much time as possible to explore. I can’t say enough good things about this museum. It is so thorough and educational (I learned even more than I thought I knew about WWII) with a great balance of interactive elements, videos and displays along the way. We paid for tickets to the movie “Beyond All Boundaries”, a 4D experience narrated by executive producer, Tom Hanks, and which I would highly recommend adding onto a museum ticket. The pictures below are only a snipit of all there is to see at the museum.
We left the museum to get lunch at the nearby Flamingo A-Go-Go where we enjoyed sandwiches and drinks on the patio. Upon returning to the museum we realized we would have to start skimming some of the displays as opposed to reading them all in detail if we hoped to see as much of the museum as possible. The museum is spread out through a few buildings, and if we had another day in the city we likely would’ve returned to see the two buildings we had to skip. Upon leaving the museum we chose to head south to find a route back along the Mississippi River. We ended up walking through the outlets at the Riverwalk, but then found our desired trail along the river upon exiting it. Jason chose the Napoleon House as our dinner location, but I was so full of food from earlier in the day to the point of almost being sick, that I chose to share his muffuletta sandwich. After a long day of walking we again headed back to the hotel room for the rest of the night.
Tues. Nov. 5th – Prior to our trip we had booked a cooking demo at the New Orleans School of Cooking. This was scheduled to start at 10am so rather than eating a full breakfast, we ate some granola and protein bars in our room. The cooking school was just around the corner from our hotel and is ranked as a top experience in New Orleans. We were seated at a table with about 8 other people, and it was a very full class. Our instructor, Harriett, made the class fun and informative and we felt like we were watching the taping of a cooking show. The class featured jumbo, jambalaya, pralines and bananas foster. We also had the choice of various beverages including Abita amber ale, a beer that I found I enjoyed despite not being a beer drinker. We received recipes for all four courses, I have my doubts I could ever cook them to taste as amazing as Harriett did. I would definitely take another class if I ever visited the city again as $35 a person seemed like a steal for genuine New Orleans cuisine coupled with the instruction and entertainment of the class.
After the class we explored more of the French Quarter, passing through Jackson Square and watching a street performer before making our way to Bourbon Street. This was the only time we encountered someone saying “I bet I know where you got your shoes” (spoiler – the answer is on your feet and if you engage with the person you’ll end up being told you owe him money, a common scam in the area) and we ignored him and kept walking. Having no desire to experience the craziness of Bourbon Street at night we were content to just walk down it in the calmness of the afternoon. Jason said when he was younger he might have enjoyed that type of environment, but I can’t say anything about it seemed appealing to me and I walked it to simply say I was there. I much preferred other streets in the French Quarter that featured the older architecture and balconies I had become familiar with in watching the Originals. I did have some “fan girl” moments viewing them. Originally I wanted to visit Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District due its relevance in the show, but unfortunately I read in advance that it was closed for some renovations, so we never ventured farther than the Central Business District.
We ended up walking along the river again and went into the Riverwalk outlets to try beignets at a Cafe Du Monde location. They really are a can’t be missed treat while visiting New Orleans. We then headed to the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium. We were debating visiting there or the Museum of Death, but having enough somber moments in the WWII museum the previous day, we decided to choose something more fun and uplifting. There weren’t a lot of of visitors that afternoon which meant we could take our time reading and looking over the displays. Jason is more of an insect person than I am, but I’m willing to try anything especially if it means learning new things. That said, Jason also suffers from arachnophobia so when a worker asked if we’d like him to take out of a box the world’s largest species of tarantula to view, we quickly declined. I was tempted to point out that a spider is not an insect, but kept quiet while being grateful that Jason would not suffer a panic attack at the site of the creature that we were told can “span 12 inches from end to end”. The butterfly garden was my favorite part. Jason enjoyed trying samples of treats made out of insects such as a chocolate chip cricket cookie.
After eating so much heavy cuisine earlier in the day we wanted to find a restaurant for dinner that offered lighter fare. Jason found Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant which was a really upbeat spot that seemed to draw in more locals than tourists. We enjoyed more Abita brand beer and Jason had a turkey burger while I had a cheese quesedilla. While far from traditional New Orleans fare, it really hit the spot of what we needed. The walk back through the CBD at night reminded me of walking in NYC without the crowds or weird smells, and it was really pleasant. We would’ve liked to take in some live jazz music, but it seemed all the shows began at 9pm or later. Unfortunately we aren’t the night owls we were in our 20s and are used to being asleep by 10pm.
Wed. Nov. 4th – Not too concerned with finding another location for breakfast, we headed back to Jimmy J’s Cafe again. Unfortunately we didn’t find the meals as satisfying as we had Mon. morning. Jason’s salmon and cream cheese bagel didn’t have the salmon sliced as thinly as we’re used to seeing, and my eggs Benedict just didn’t have the same “wow” that Jason’s had previously.
We had booked a bus tour to Oak Alley Plantation through Gray Line Tours prior to our departure and a little before noon we headed to the check in area. We boarded a comfortable tour bus and departed the city. The hour drive was a nice way to see more of Louisiana and the bus driver made sure to point out various features such as some cemeteries with their above ground caskets and the trees that grow in the marshes. We stopped first at the Whitney Plantation to drop off some people then continued to Oak Alley. This plantation is highly photographed and has been featured in TV and movies including Interview with a Vampire and Days of Our Lives. Upon arrival Jason and I chose to do the “Big House” tour first. The guide led us through the house telling the history of the plantation owners as well as two of the slaves who lived there. We snapped some photos outside of the house then grabbed sandwiches and a piece of sweet potato pie at the cafe for lunch. After lunch we explored the slave quarters and more of the grounds before having to board the bus again. It would’ve been nice to have at least another half hour to finish exploring the plantation, but we saw the majority of it.
The traffic going back into New Orleans during rush hour caused us to arrive about a half hour later than originally planned. Jason and I were too hungry to look up new restaurants and after calling GW Fins and hearing their next reservation time for two would be 9:30pm, we decided to go back to the Napoleon House. We enjoyed its ambiance which is that of a higher end restaurant, but with a casual dress code and very reasonable prices. I tried a sazerac, a local cocktail, and we enjoyed sandwiches. We also shared a dessert of bread pudding to complete our list of must-eat foods. The only food we missed out on trying was a po-boy simply due to running out of time and being too full to fit in any more food.
Thurs. Nov. 5th – Our final morning in the city started with breakfast at Daisy Duke’s Cafe, a spot visited by locals and tourists alike. We filled up on pancakes before heading to Jackson Square to relax and take in the sights. I eavesdropped on a tour guide speaking to a group and heard some history on the founding of the city. Then we went back to the hotel to pack up and wait for the taxi to arrive to take us back to the airport. The new terminal at Louis Armstrong had opened the previous day and all week on the local news we heard about the traffic issues it was expected to cause. For that reason we allowed even more time than usual to arrive, but we experienced no issues and ended up with over 4 hours to spend in the airport. The new location was laid out very well with lots of shops and restaurants. We ate lunch at Panda Express and watched some more Netflix before flying back to Chicago. We ate dinner there and waited for our flight home which was delayed a half hour due to the plane arriving late. We finally touched down in Harrisburg after 11pm and were back home and in bed by 1:30am.
Overall – For those looking for smaller crowds and mild weather I would definitely recommend visiting New Orleans at the beginning of November. The French Market Inn was a wonderful hotel, central to everything in the French Quarter but very quiet at night and away from the craziness of Bourbon Street. I did spook myself the first few nights as we had an interior room with no windows, and I swore I heard “spooky noises” during the night such as a sweeping type noise. I’m fairly confident it was just the noises of an older hotel and my vivid imagination, but there have been reports of haunted happenings there so who knows? Three full days in the city seemed to be perfect amount of time to see and do all that we wanted, though a fourth day could’ve been utilized. New Orleans’ food is amazing, its people are decent, its walk-ability of everything is very convenient and it allows you to experience the charm of the “old world” with the modernness of the “new world”.