City of New Orleans

I recently heard the song ‘City of New Orleans’ by Steve Goodman on the radio, and was brought back to a time long ago.  The song speaks of the Amtrak passenger train that runs 926 miles between Chicago and New Orleans, which was famous for its eccentric and diverse ambiance.

Taking a train or car to go on vacation seems like a more viable option than ever before even today, due to the recent surge in high airline prices .   Gas prices are currently at record lows, which makes road trips and backyard vacations  an affordable way to explore nearby states that offer eclectic, exciting, and diverse travel options.  New Orleans is a perfect place to hit the road to, whether you are coming from Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Houston or Memphis.

You can even save more on your affordable vacation by  staying at a discount New Orleans Hotel like the Frenchmen Orleans,  located right by the exciting and historic French Quarter.

City of New Orleans
by Steve Goodman

Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields
Passin’ towns that have no names
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles

Good morning, America, how are you
Don’t you know me, I’m your native son
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

Dealin’ cards with the old men in the club car
Penny a point, ain’t no one keepin’ score
Won’t you pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin’ ‘neath the floor
And the sons of pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father’s magic carpet made of steam
Mothers with their babes asleep
Are rockin’ to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they dream

experience-new-orleansThe French Quarter has always stood out as one of New Orleans’ star attractions, possessing the mixture of cultural influences, architecture, history, music, and celebration that defines the city.  I recently traveled to New Orleans and had the incredible experience of getting to know the Quarter.
I went into the trip without knowing a thing about New Orleans history and culture, and came out as a self proclaimed ‘French Quarter Tour Guide’.  I decided to start this blog as a way to get my thoughts about the city down as well as do my best to guide any new visitors.  I always try to keep in mind financial affordability, especially during economic times like these.  So, viola, my guide for a day in the life of a French Quarter Tourist:
1. Find Your Lodging: With affordability in mind, I booked my lodging through a nifty site called Vacation-Offer.com.  Vacation-Offer let me find a discounted New Orleans hotel through partner resorts, based on the stipulation that I go on a 90-minute timeshare tour while I was there.  The short tour was harmless and informative, and definitely worth the great price I got while staying at the beautiful Frenchmen Orleans luxury condos.  The Frenchmen was located at 519 Frenchmen St, right near the best in food, music, and nightlife.
2.  Take in some History at Jackson Square: After you get settled at your comfortable lodging, I suggest you get out on your feet and explore some of the history that the French Quarter has to offer.  Jackson Square, a beautifully manicured open air park located at the heart of the French Quarter, is a great place to start.  Here you can explore 18th century history and architecture by visiting the St. Louis Cathedral, designated a minor basilica by Pope Paul VI.  Next to the Cathedral you should also check out The Cabildo Museum, which served as the city’s town hall in the 18th century.
When you tire of ancient, hallowed landmarks, take a break and re-energize with an authentic cafe au lait at the Cafe du Monde across the square.  Here you can sit, relax, and listen to the live music of street performers.
3.  Lunch anyone? : Getting hungry after all that history? Head down to the Alpine Bistro on Rue Chartres, just one block from Jackson Square coming from Canal St.  At an affordable price, you can enjoy one of the most romantic restaurants New Orleans has to offer.  “The courtyard will bring you back to the olden days when writers wrote the literature we marvel at today” Be sure to try all of the cajun and creole favorites (I highly recommend the crabcakes with a crawfish sauce!)
4.  A Peaceful Stroll: While you are on Rue Chartres, I suggest taking a stroll to enjoy the historic architecture on the street.  Here you will find the city’s greatest concentration of preserved colonial era buildings and early 19th century town-houses.  Your peaceful walk will also take you by some local shops and cafes scattered along the street.   Take some time to stop and chat with the locals who are often relaxing in front of these establishments.
5.  Dinner and Beyond: You may first have to return to the Frenchmen Orleans and take a nap before getting back out onto the town.  I suggest spending your evening on the famous Bourboun Street, partaking in the fantastic food and wonderful nightlife.  Word of caution:  Bourbon St. is notoriously known for catering to tourists, as is any famed city landmark.  Beware of certain establishments that look especially gaudy and have the tendency of price-gauging unsuspecting visitors.  For dinner I recommend Embers Bourbon House & Restaurant, an eatery that specializes in such delicacies as crawfish tails, fried alligator, jambalaya, catfish, stuffed crab, red beans and rice, and crawfish etouffee.  Be sure to try and get balcony seating overlooking the Bourbon Street nightlife.
For the latter part of your evening I suggest stopping in for a drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.  This candle lit bar will bring you through a time warp to a simpler time.  The establishment was built around 1761, and supposedly once owned by the pirate Jean Lafitte.
6.  Sleep: You will probably be quite tired by the end of this whirlwind tour, so be sure to get some ‘Zs’.  Lay back in your plush Frenchmen bed and fall asleep to the sounds of New Orleans…and don’t forget to get ready for another great day in the Big Easy!

Christmas New Orleans Style

Papa Noel

Papa Noel

When most Americans think of the jolly, rotund, bearded fellow who brings merriment to kids around the world on December 25th each year, they think Santa Clause.  For many New Orleans and Louisiana residents though, this man is known as Papa Noel.    Papa Noel will be spreading the joy this Christmas 2008  New Orlean’s style- with jazz caroling, southern belle dancers, and creole-style egg nog.

From Nola.com:

Happy Holidays. It’s time to hit the road.

The road(s) being St. Charles Avenue, Claiborne Avenue, Chef Menteur Highway, Veterans Memorial Boulevard, the Causeway, the twin spans, Interstate 10 . . . December is perhaps the best time of year to move into a hotel in the French Quarter — or anywhere around town you want — and play tourist.

The weather can be mild or delightfully brisk, but rarely is it freezing (or summer hot). There are few tourists this time of year, which means hotels are offering discounted rates and restaurants are touting special holiday menus. Everything is decorated in red, green, silver and gold, and historical characters stroll through the Quarter on Thursdays through Sunday afternoons.

Christmas New Orleans Style, sponsored by New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. and produced by French Quarter Festivals Inc., has a 22-page booklet detailing everything. Check it out online at http://www.fqfi.org/christmas or call 504.522.5730 or 800.673.5725.

Among musical programs are 13 free evening concerts in St. Louis Cathedral (participants include Irvin Mayfield, Ellis Marsalis, Philip Manuel, Mahalia Jackson Gospel Choir, Shades of Praise, Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir, the Rev. Lois J. Dejean and Mary Queen of Vietnam Church Choir).

Cooking demonstrations at Canal Place range from Arnaud’s Chef Tommy Digiovanni preparing grilled duck sausage with jalapeno grit cake and Dijon cream sauce this Tuesday to the Audubon Insectarium’s cooking with bugs program Dec. 20.

Other highlights include the Downtown Development District’s holiday parade down Canal Street next Saturday at 10 a.m. and the French Quarter Holiday Home and Patio tour followed by caroling by candlelight in Jackson Square Dec. 21.