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December 19, 2010

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January 16, 2010

New Orleans is back in business!

Filed under: Mardi Gras,New Orleans — neworleanswithfriendstravel @ 11:34 pm

No longer “closed for business” in the wake of the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in August 2005, the city has reawakened with a bang. Indeed, on a recent visit to the city’s downtown district, it was almost hard to tell the storm had struck at all. The French Quarter was like normal, with Bourbon Street revelries at full blast, the antique shops and art galleries of Royal Street offering wares both touristic and collection-worthy, and the Friday lunchers packing in at Galatoire.

But while much of New Orleans’ downtown district feels like the same as ever in the Katrina aftermath, many things have changed. Always one of America’s more gracious and welcoming destinations, the city now seems almost desperate for visitors. One shop owner in Riverwalk Marketplace, upon selling me a can of Cafe du Monde coffee, asked me anxiously if I’d had a good trip — and then implored me to “spread the word.” She wasn’t the first.

In a twist on the cliche “what’s old is new again,” the city’s classics — Brennan’s, the fabulous Hotel Monteleone, the aforementioned Commander’s Palace and Aquarium of the Americas — are among those that are back and even better than before due to recent (and unplanned) renovations. As one Hotel Monteleone staffer told us, “We completed our $70 million renovation in November 2004 … however, Katrina remodeled the 16th floor for us. We now have a brand-new state-of-the-art fitness center, pool deck and pool.”

While certain places are looking better than ever, there are still wide swaths of the city that haven’t yet recovered from Katrina’s wrath. Gray Line, the tour company that’s better known for its nostalgic looks at New Orleans (from “Oak Alley Plantations” to “Ghosts and Spirits”) has created a tour that’s a must-do for every visitor to the city who really wants to see, first-hand, the effects of Hurricane Katrina. The three-hour tour focuses on the areas outside of downtown, driving through the worst-hit neighborhoods such as Lakeview, St. Bernard’s Parish, the lower Ninth Ward, Gentilly and others. It takes you past levees that broke and through neighborhood after neighborhood still so damaged that they are eerily devoid of residents. It’s a sobering and illuminating experience that can be summed up in this comment we overheard about the still-obvious damage: “It’s like a whale. You’ve never understood how big it is until you see it.”

Despite changes good and bad, New Orleans retains the savory character that makes it one of America’s most intriguing cities. The mystique surrounding this Mississippi River city goes way beyond music and revelry and can be credited to its early mix of settlers — Creole and Cajun (along with a bit of influence from the Caribbean) — that even today infect the city’s urban scene, from art to culture to cuisine, with an irrepressible joie d’vivre.

What to See
The French Quarter, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood, feels movie-esque. This 7-by-15-block area has loads of character with narrow old streets and two- and three-story French- and Spanish-inspired architecture. It’s known for its plethora of bars and jazz clubs, which come to life at night, but the neighborhood is equally fascinating by day.

Highlights include shopping along Royal Street, visiting the historic St. Louis Cathedral, and people-watching on Jackson Square, a hangout for artists displaying their work on the sidewalk. There’s also a lovely riverfront park with a walking path.
saxophone player jazz french quarter new orleans
Jazz lovers will feel right at home in New Orleans. The city boasts a musical legacy that includes pioneers like Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton — but you can opt for traditional venues or more contemporary ones. The city’s best jazz spots are located in the Fauborg Mariguy neighborhood (at the west end of the French Quarter). Don’t miss Snug Harbor (626 Frenchman Street) and Cafe Brasil (2100 Chartres Street). In the French Quarter, Preservation Hall (726 St. Peter Street), though not a bar, is a premier venue. Another fascinating stop is the Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur Street) for its huge collection of jazz recordings.

Organized tours are the best way to gain an insider’s view of local history and lore, and to visit the city’s unique cemeteries, with their rows of elaborate above-ground tombs. Among the best walking tours are the French Quarter history, Garden District/Cemetery and other tours offered by the well-qualified guides of Historic New Orleans. Gray Line offers a variety of motor-related excursions, including the aforementioned Hurricane Katrina tour.

The growing museum district around Lee Circle will interest art lovers. The handsome new Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp Street) features artists from throughout the region. The Contemporary Arts Center (900 Camp Street) across the road, a combination theater and gallery, is as interesting for its architecture as for its offerings. Or check out the National World War II Museum (945 Magazine Street) where the highlight is an elaborate reconstruction of the Allied Forces’ landing on Normandy in June 1944. Art lovers may also want to head over to Julia Street, in the city’s up-and-coming Warehouse District, where there are numerous edgy and avant garde galleries.

New Orleans has a serious tradition of voodoo — and you can sample it. Check out the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum (724 Dumaine Street), where blue candles burn continually in honor of Marie Laveau, who was the Queen of Voodoo in the 1830’s. Her grave in St. Louis Cemetery #1 is carefully maintained by her legion of latter-day followers. You can still visit a voodoo temple, and you’ll see voodoo dolls for sale all over town. You can learn all about the practices of voodoo on a Cemetery/Voodoo walking tour. It also takes you to see the fabled cemeteries of New Orleans, virtual cities with avenues of stately tombs built above ground because the water table is too high for burials.

Take a canoe ride down the bayou via Bayou Barn. Based at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park Preserve — 20 minutes from downtown — you can sail your own canoe down Bayou des Families, where you can spot alligators, egrets, turtles, blue herons, bald eagles and more. Guides are available with advance reservations and an additional fee. The park also has walking trails.

Mardi Gras here I come!


August 23, 2008

New Orleans is Cookin` with

FriendsTravel will get you the most advantageous airfare, or get you there on AMTRAK,

and get you THE best available rate possible for the hotel accommodations of your choice.

FriendsTravel will furnish you will a list of the best places to eat and enjoy New Orleans.

August 8, 2008

Mardi Gras is just around the corner.

2009 February 24

Place your travel reservations ASAP for Mardi Gras.

Summerfest at Loews New Orleans Hotel with

Summerfest at Loews New Orleans Hotel

Book a 2-night minimum stay at the Loews Best Rate before September 30, 2008 and receive a $50 hotel credit redeemable at Café Adelaide.

From sweeping views of the Mississippi River to local images reflected in artwork and architecture, a sense of place is subtly woven into the hotel. Offering the most spacious guestrooms in the city, along with Loews Corporate brand programs and services including Breakfast at Loews, Loews Loves Kids, Loews Loves Pets and the newly revamped You First guest loyalty program.

The artful environment in the hotel carries over to Café Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar, operated by the Commander’s Palace Family of Restaurants. Also, other amenities.


New Orleans has many festival’s, join one, with

  • Essencefest
  • • French Quarter Fest
  • • Haunted N.O.
  • • Holidays
  • • Jazzfest
  • • Mardi Gras
  • Satchmofest
  • • St. Patrick’s Day
  • • Voodoofest
  • Southern Decadence started thirty-seven years ago as a simple going-away party. As a top gay Labor Day Weekend destination, it has evolved into one of our world’s major annual events. One of the largest annual celebrations in New Orleans, it has become known as the “Gay Mardi Gras.” People begin to arrive on the Wednesday before Labor Day, and generally don’t even think about stopping or going home until the following Tuesday. With over 100,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants, and an economic impact estimated to be in excess of $100 million, the city has recognized its importance with an Official Proclamation to welcome the event.

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