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March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Albertville, Alabama
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March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Trip Report: First, I was very lucky accommodation wise. Using Craigslist I found a GREAT accommodation for only $50.00 a night in the French Quarter on Royal Street. Finding such a deal allowed me to stay six nights instead of my normal two or three. Being a single parent of four, price does matter to me. I’ll be honest, I went into the deal essentially sight unseen. Sure there were a couple of posted pics on the ad but I really couldn’t tell for sure what we’d be getting. We entered a gated brick courtyard, very nicely landscaped that contained a nice sized kidney shaped pool, sparkling and inviting had the weather been warmer. Upon entering the condo I will say I was more than pleasantly pleased. The condo consisted of a LR/Kit combo downstairs and a bedroom upstairs. There was a nice balcony overlooking Royal Street. The condo belongs to the owners who use it themselves and it was as clean as a pin and decorated adorably. I would most assuredly stay here again. Great place, great location. (Not the place to stay for someone who wants the Bourbon St. action, but I’m not a Bourbon St. person so much anymore)

Day One: After arriving, getting unpacked and cleaned up we went to the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen for lunch. My fiancé was pleasantly pleased to find that they served Belgium Beer. Here in Alabama you can’t get it because of the alcohol content. I love their apple-smoked bacon, sour cream and chive pizza with the fresh water mozzarella salad, it was enough to share between two people. We sat outdoors and watched the people stroll by and it was a great way to begin the trip. After this we strolled through the French Market on down to the Moon Walk then watched the acrobats from Jamaica perform in front of Jackson Square. After this we strolled up to Harry’s Corner to see if Lucy was working, she wasn’t and onto the A&P to stock up the room. After this we dressed to go to dinner and to see Johnny Lang perform at the House of Blues. Food at the HOB was good but but it was not the kind of dinner that makes one say whoa, this is excellent. I had their steak and my fiancé had their Louisiana Shrimp Creole served over seared catfish. He said his was great. I was very disappointed in the show, not the performance so much but the fact that HOB oversells tickets and it is standing room only. We ended up upstairs where you couldn’t even see the stage and the acoustics were not that great. We stuck it out but I wouldn’t pay $90.00+ to do so again. In fact, I wouldn’t see another show at the HOB.

Day Two: Up early and out the door. Who can sleep the day away in New Orleans, not I. We went to the Coffee Pot for breakfast, which was really good. We had the Eggs Jonathan, which were great. After strolling around a while we went back to the room to freshen up and get ready for lunch. I had noticed on Donna’s Bar and Grill website that Charlie prepared lunch there daily during the week so we tried that. I had the white beans and rice with other vegetables and my fiancé had Shrimp Fettuccini, which was wonderful. While there we talked to both Charlie co-owner of Donna’s and Glenda who bartends about who they had playing over the weekend music wise and made plans accordingly. After this we did some more walking then went back to the room to relax for that evening. Dinner was at Café Amelie where we also saw John Boutte perform. Man what a voice that man has. We sat out in the Princess of Monaco Courtyard and had perfect seats for the show. We had a light dinner, I had the mixed greens salad that had a wonderful tarragon dressing, it was perfect, and my fiancé had some Creole Shrimp that was great. We shared a bottle of wine and topped the dinner off sharing a dessert of pound cake with whipped crème and various berries. Yummy!!! I’ll definitely go back here again and try other dishes, what perfection in everything we had. After dinner we headed over to the Faugbourg Marigny to the Spotted Cat and Apple Barrel. Heard some great music and met some people there on spring break that were gutting houses. You’ve got to admire those young people that spend their vacation during something so constructive. We ended the night by going to Ye Olde Dungeon, I haven’t been there in twenty something years. It really hasn’t changed much, the stairs going to the upper level are much wider and not nearly so steep as they once were and there were a couple of other changes, not nearly as dark as it used to be, but it was nice to visit even if just for old times sake.

Day 3: Got up fairly early and went to Croissant d'Or to pick up some croissant’s and juice which we enjoyed on the balcony watching the Royal Street foot traffic. Got a rather late start out of the room, just kind of lazed around and watched a movie provided by our hosts. They had a number of movies available based either in New Orleans or Louisiana. My fiancé decided it was time for a perfect margarita from Margaritaville so we headed there for lunch and a drink (or two). I had hoped Margaritaville still had the black bean soup that used to be on their menu but that was not to be so we just enjoyed a standard lunch you could pretty much get anywhere. But we enjoyed sitting down in the Storyville Lounge watching the people go by. After leaving here we again went strolling through the French Market where I picked up some wonderful homemade soap and lotion bars to bring home. Just think when I run out, we have to go back to New Orleans for more. After a while we headed over to Pat O’Brien’s for a hurricane and to enjoy the piano bar, which was rocking as always. Pat O’s is always fun. It was also nice to see that Eloise was still working there, she’s the one who passes out towels in the Ladies room at the piano bar and she remembered me from my trip last year that I took with my daughter. Port of Call was the dinner destination and was as usual WONDERFUL. I had their filet mignon and my fiancé had their hamburger. Needless to say we did not leave hungry. Their monsoon was great too, can’t wait to return and get another one. After this we headed over to Donna’s Bar and Grill for the evenings musical entertainment. Their regular performer, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, was out of state performing so Charlie just called in some friends for one heck of a jam session. It began with about 6 people on stage performing blues and R&B and more and more kept coming in the door, hooking up and next thing you know, there must have been almost 20 people playing every kind of instrument you could think of. This night was the highlight, music wise, of the trip. My goodness what wonderful music they played and we didn’t have to battle wall to wall people to see and enjoy them.

Day 4: Well even in New Orleans I guess sometimes one must slow down. We didn’t even get out of the room until about 1:00 p.m. Strolled around a bit down Bourbon Street where we were going to get breakfast at Café Beignet but the line never moved so then we headed over to CC’s Coffee House for a light breakfast of pastries, coffee and juice then wandered down to the river and ambled along the river walk. I enjoy watching the river traffic on the Mississippi. Then onto the Canal Street Ferry to head over to Algiers. We stopped by the Crown and Anchor English Pub for a few beers and to watch the race (NASCAR). Leaving here we headed down to the Dry Dock Café for lunch. After this we wandered around the neighborhood, not as much as I wanted since it was the neighborhood I used to live in and I truly love the place, but I did get to enjoy some of the neighborhood. Everyone is so friendly. We then decided to try Fiorella’s for their fried chicken, we got a table quickly, but after waiting, and waiting, and waiting to be waited on, served, etc, etc we departed from there and grabbed a sandwich at Verti-Mart then headed back to Donna’s for another evening of musical entertainment. We watched Shannon Powell and really enjoyed the show. This was a lighter jazz than I normally hear at Donnas, I prefer their brass jazz, but they were very good. There was a tourist who visits annually from Japan who always brings his saxophone and he joined in with the band off and on throughout the evening, great musician. Also had a local named Vic who joined in with his harmonica. Never heard a jazz harmonica before, but it worked. But then last visit I had never hear a fiddle with a brass band, but it too had worked.

Day 5: I’m starting to get depressed. I know now that I only have two full days left and I don’t want to leave. We head over to Clover Grill for some breakfast. We walk around and take a number of pictures then head back to Margaritaville for a couple more perfect margaritas. This time we go to the upstairs bar with the tire swings as bar stools. Not really comfortable, but downstairs was full and looked to stay that way. We headed out from here and went over to Coops Place for a couple drinks. Then we headed over to the Marigny and walked around Washington Park. After some more just general sightseeing and roaming around the French Quarter we decide to do a late lunch/early dinner at Port of Call again. After dinner we head back to Pat O’s and sit out on their courtyard and sip a couple more hurricanes while waiting for their piano bar to open. After a bit at the piano bar, it’s time again to head to Donna’s. (I can see the rut developing, but I just love the atmosphere, the people and the music at Donna’s. They really do make you feel at home like you’re a part of New Orleans, not just a visitor. It was nice too when Charlie ambled over and told my fiancé, he’d been knowing me for a few years even though I’ve only visited them once or twice a year since I found it). Tonight the George French Band is playing and of course like the other nights, the music was great.

Day 6. Our last full day. Sigh!!!! For the life of me, I know we ate breakfast, but apparently I am experiencing a senior moment. Shortly after breakfast having never seen the Carousel Bar at Monteleone we stopped by there. It was quite slow but we enjoyed talking to the two bartenders about their return to New Orleans after Katrina. That afternoon we went to the Napoleon House and shared a bottle of wine and their cheese board in their courtyard. This ended up serving as lunch. Very romantic courtyard and the cheese tray was a nice snack to get you through the day. They serve the cheese board with a variety of cheeses, fruit, breads and meat. Upon leaving Napoleon House we decided to head back across the river on the ferry and take a walk on the levy over there. We didn’t get too far when we ran across the Old Point Bar and ended up spending the afternoon here. GREAT Jazz & Blues Jukebox and the kind of place you could visit a couple of days and know almost everyone. Around sunset we headed back to the Quarter for dinner. I had read about a new Mexican restaurant that opened on French Market Street that sounded really interesting. Don’t remember the name but it meant Black Cat in some sort of fashion. Service was a bit slow and the chips they serve initially with salsa were obviously what you’d get in the grocery store, but the entrée’s were fabulous. Not totally your typical Mexican Restaurant menu. After dinner we decided to head back to the room since we had to pack up and leave the next day and spent the remainder of the evening watching Interview with a Vampire and sipping wine on the balcony.

Day 7. Well this it is, D-day (Departure Day). For breakfast we went down to Mena’s on Chartres. It was quite good and reasonable, nice American fare breakfast. Then we slowly headed back towards the room. I needed to get some pralines for my daughter and a couple of things for the other kids and some friends so we visited a couple of gift shops, the French market and all on the way. Then we packed up and headed out. But the trip didn’t end here. I wanted to drive out to the 9th Ward and out to City Park and along Lake Shore Drive to see what improvements had been made since I was down in March of 2006. Of course the 9th Ward was still desolate, but there was some improvement over last March. Well at least the cars weren’t hanging from trees and upside down against house. I could see signs of life and improvement returning. City Park was nice also, we got out there and walked around a bit then rode on out to Lake Ponchartrain then out through parts of Gentilly and East New Orleans. My fiancé having not been back to New Orleans since Katrina was shocked. He had not realized the devastation that encompassed much of the entire city and beyond and how even a year and a half later it is still affected the region. From Gentilly we took Chef Menteur out through Bayou Sauvage. Here too the devastation was beyond belief. There are still boats, many boats, sitting along side the road and in one place partially on the road. The only thing that remained of any houses were the stilts. There were many, many driveways leading to these stilts, but absolutely no houses. And in one place there is still a car in the bayou. From here Hwy 90 went into Mississippi and there too, the coast was essentially wiped clean until reaching Biloxi where they have done quite a bit rebuilding.

Summary: Really great trip, just not quite long enough. I will be back soon, and one day, will be back permanently.

Reasons to come back soon: I did not get to see Big Al, I did not have beignets at Café du Monde, I did not even run across Chaz on one of his tours, I did not get to walk the length of the levy over in Algiers, well let’s put it this way, I did not get to do all the things I wanted to do, or wanted to do again.

Parking: The condo we stayed in was not far from Esplanade so we chose the parking lot over in the Marigny. It is located on Elysian Fields about 2 blocks off of Esplanade. The lot had an attendant on duty 24 hours a day and we experienced no problems what so ever getting to the lot. The price was $8.00 a day, very reasonable and I, myself, didn’t feel uncomfortable walking there alone during the day. I’d probably prefer to have someone with me if it were late at night. This lot is very convenient to the French Market, Marigny and just a couple blocks from the French Quarter.

Fort Worth, Texas
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1. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Thanks for the great trip report. I also like Croissant d'Or, Coop's Place and Napoleon house. You really did a lot of stuff that was off the tourist path. Bravo !!!!

Porc

Orlando, Florida
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2. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Really nice report and you really hit some great areas...I so often forget to recommend Cafe Amelie..it is so good....same opinion of the House Of Blues..average food, difficult conditions for shows...I go over to the gulf coast casino's for shows..and you did get the best deal on a secure parking lot for the area...we use it when we go to the Marigny area...too bad about Fiorello's but then its some fine southern chicken waiting for you there...and mac and cheese is really good too, weekends..the baby back ribs....I kept getting hungrier and hungrier going through your report I had to head off to lunch...Glad the trip went well...now start the plans on the next trip!

Los Angeles
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3. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Great trip report!

Thanks so much!

Alabama
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4. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Thanks for the great trip report! In 14 days we will arrive and we cant wait:)

Celena

Austin, TX
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5. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Great Report! I too used to live in NO, 1100 block of Decatur and still miss it. We're going back for the first time since 2004 for Jazz Fest and I can't wait! I let my hubby know we have a responsibility to shop and spend money to help the tourist industry. I promise to do my best. :)

Albertville, Alabama
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6. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Jodi, Good for you, you'll have such a great time and welcome back. As I said I lived in Algiers, the 400 block of Belleville. I was talking to my daughter earlier and we may get to come down a couple of days again in mid-April if her work schedule permits. Shop, eat, drink and be happy knowing you're supporting such a wonderful city.

Alabama
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7. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Loved the trip report. I have a question about Donna's. You are talking about the club on North Rampart, right? Did you walk there at night or take a cab? Also, is this place very smokey? We're coming out there soon and I've always wanted to go to Donna's at night for the music, but I'm currently not able to tolerate a lot of cigarette smoke. What do you think? What are my non-smokey yet authentic New Orleans night time music options???

Albertville, Alabama
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8. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

4Nola,

Donna's is the one on N. Rampart St. I have always walked there to enjoy the music both before and post Katrina. I do walk at night, but I usually have at least one other person with me. But I have done it alone more than once and never felt threatened. I take the direct route from Bourbon & St. Ann, straight up St. Ann and it's 3 blocks, takes maybe 5 minutes max from Bourbon. I've found that as long as I walk quite briskly, look people in the eyes as I pass and speak a quick greeting (in passing, nothing to encourage conversation and if they try, I still keep walking), it seems to work quite well. I have never encountered any problems. Also I never carry money in a purse, and if I carry a purse at all it is small enough to carry in my hand, but still without money. Back pockets are not good either.

Unfortunately, I'm a smoker but often it will bother me if it gets to be too much. Donna's does have a couple of tables right close to the door , which they keep open, and that should take care of the smoke problem. You will find that full, it only seats about 40 people and the people there are there more to listen to the music than the partying, drinking, smoking atmosphere that you find in many other places.

I'd advise getting there about 30-40 minutes early to grab such a table.

Since you're going soon, most of their shows are starting around 8:00 p.m. instead of 10 Pre-Katrina, it will be light when you're arriving.

Hope this helps, but even if you feel more comfortable with a cab, Donna's is worth the effort to go to. Music is only on Sat, Sun and Mon nights unless a special event is upcoming. However Charlie is having a birthday party there on the 13th of April, Friday if you're there that day. Should be a blast.

Alabama
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9. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

Zmyst,

Thanks so much for your thorough and quick response. I hope I didn't offend you with my question about cigarette smoke. It's just my current situation that has me especially sensitive to a very smokey atmosphere. If we get there early and grab one of the tables closer to the door, I think I'll be fine. I've been wanting to go to Donna's for so long.

Thanks for pointing out the new start time for the music. That actually works out great for us because we are not all night party people - not even when in New Orleans. We love the French Quarter in the morning. From your trip report, it sounds like you know just what I mean. So we are more earlier risers and I'm happy to know that we have some good music options as early as 8 p.m.

And thanks for telling me the route you walk, too, and other safety tips. Did you ever go to the Funky Butt Club before it closed? It's also on N. Rampart. I'm so sorry that it did not re-open. Another fabulous place for authentic New Orleans music!

Albertville, Alabama
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10. Re: March 2007 Trip Report (LONG)

4Nola, you're quite welcome. Your question about smoke did not offend me, as I said, even though I smoke I've been in situations where it bothered me. I don't know if you've read on here, but New Orleans passed an anti-smoking law back in January. Almost all places that serve food are now anti-smoking. I'm going to give you a couple of links... One is to Donna's so you can check their calendar the time you'll be down there. I also liked their earlier starting time. Like you, I enjoy the a.m. hours a whole lot before the big partying scene gets going. The other is to Off Beat, this page will give you a listing of who is playing where on any given date.

http://www.donnasbarandgrill.com/

http://www.offbeat.com/listings/clubs.php

I would imagine that Snug Harbor is non-smoking. It is located in the Faugbourg Marigny. I haven't been there yet I've heard they have some great jazz music. Their website is: http://www.snugjazz.com/

Last trip I made a list of the places I wanted to try and obtained their phone numbers prior to leaving. You could call these places and find out about their smoking policy. Having this list of numbers came in quite handy.

I went to the Funky Butt a couple of times and enjoyed it. It is most assuredly missed.

Hope you have a great trip, be sure to post a report here about it.