Festivals in New Orleans

Saturday 20 to Tuesday 23 April

The drive to New Orleans through causeway between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne along miles of raised motorway fascinated me. So many miles of raised motorway.

We were in New Orleans for Easter and accommodation was at a premium. We booked into the Wyndham Garden Baronne Plaza, very close to the French Quarter but in the Central Business District – perhaps a little safer.

Our introduction to New Orleans was Bourbon Street on a Saturday night. There was lots of music, from young kids playing a variety of tin cans on the street to music in every second establishment. People were drinking on the balconies and in the street. Saturday night was party night.

We made our way down to Andrew Jackson Square and the St Louis Cathedral, a popular hang out for anyone and everyone.

Bruce had found a craft brewery to eat at. We were served to Michele, a local with a harsh view of life. We shared a risotto that was without style and without salad. Very ordinary.

We stopped at the Drinkery after dinner, a typical New Orleans bar where the Steve Mignano Band was playing. It was good music and we felt like we were in the swing of the city.

Easter Sunday was sunny and there were at least three parades – the Children’s Parade, the Easter Hat Parade and the Official Gay Easter Parade.

We skipped the Children’s Parade – much too early in the morning for us.

Of course, the city was full and people were dressed up in summery dresses and colourful suits but there was also lots of costumes.

The Easter Hat Parade was fun with some extraordinary hats on display. It was crowded and we were peering over a lot of heads to get a decent look at the floats and the hats.

We set ourselves up in a better position to watch the LGBTQI parade. We loved the amazing costumes, and as expected, lots of cross and weird dressing. The parades were unorganised rather than disorganised. There were lots of carriages and horses and carts. There were people dancing on the streets. There appeared to be no theme, just fun.

Each of the floats that came by tossed trinkets and coloured beads to the crowd. I didn’t think I needed to collect them, but was soon shouted at for not joining in the fun. I ended up with a heap of beads and Bruce scored some interesting beer coolers.

Between parades we wandered through the French Quarter and into the Fabourg Marigny district. Some of the buildings are beautiful – terraced houses with iron balconies and little colourful wooden houses. On our way we checked ourselves into a cruise down the Mississippi on the Paddle Steamer Natchez, complete with lunch for the next day. It will be interesting to compare it to our little trip down the Murray last year.

We were recommended to try restaurant Coterie on Decatur Street for a real Cajun meal. Unfortunately, it tasted like a watered down version of what we are used to cooking at home. Suited more to the tourists?

With time to spare in the morning we hopped onto the dark green Saint Charles Streetcar to see a little more of New Orleans. It was a popular tourist attraction and there was a lot of anxiety amongst the tourists to get on to it.

This is claimed to be the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world, having been in operation for more than 150 years.

It rumbled along St. Charles Avenue through a tunnel of massive oaks and passed dozens of antebellum mansions, Loyola and Tulane universities and Audubon Park. It turned out to be a very long journey. There was no way we could stay on the tram for the return trip without missing our paddle steamer ride, so we grabbed an Uber to return.

That turned out to be a bonus because we had time to try the very famous Louisiana Beignet. I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but it turned out to be a square choux pastry that was deep fried, rather like a donut, with heaps of icing sugar on top. I couldn’t handle the Café Au Lait that is traditionally served with it, water was just fine.

Queuing in America is a part of life, and we had to queue for a long time to get onto the paddle steamer. Then it was a scramble for the best seats, well at least until the food was served. We then moved into a prime position until the late lunch sitting.

Much to Bruce’s delight, the beer served on board was a very decent Natchez IPA. But I was chastised when I went to refill my plate – I was told that I needed a clean plate each time I returned to the buffet. The buffet lunch was acceptable, but I also enjoyed the jazz band that played in the dining room.

New Orleans is the 10th largest port in world and is 65 miles (100 km) from the gulf. The port is primarily used for importing steel from Japan and China and for exporting grain. One of the oldest factories along the river is the one-hundred-year-old Domino Sugar. It is the 2nd largest sugar refinery and processes much of the raw sugar produced in Louisiana.

We passed the area where Hurricane Katrina caused so much devastation in 2005. New Orleans sits 6ft (2m) below the river levy which is built 25ft (8m) high. The storm surge caused more than 20 breaches in the levees and floodwalls and was considered one of the worst engineering disasters in USA history.

We returned to Bruce’s new favourite brewpub the Crescent City Brewhouse where we enjoyed freshly shucked oysters, a specialty in New Orleans. We sat at the front of the restaurant and were entertained by the skill of the oyster shuckers.

We finished the night at the Red Fish restaurant which was very pleasant. The décor was interesting with a lot of fishy art on the walls and hand painted decorations on the tabletops.

It had been an eat-drink fest in New Orleans, which falls into the must see once category and we were lucky enough to enjoy the Easter festivities while we were there.

Next day we were off to Texas.