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New Orleans Bound: Heading Down to the Big Easy



The Rex Room at Antoine’s salutes the kings of Mardi Gras. Courtesy Antoine’s


 

“Do you believe in ghosts?” My hostess paused thoughtfully before answering, “I’ve never seen one, but everyone in New Orleans has a ghost story.”

In 2018, New Orleans will celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville. The oldest building in the district, the Ursuline Convent, dates back to the mid-1700s. About a dozen structures pre-date the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Strict preservation laws protect the original city site, the French Quarter. In my travels, it is the most unusual historic area in America. It’s no wonder no one, not even the dead, wants to leave.


As the Mississippi River winds sinuously toward the Gulf, one of its most dramatic curves is cradled by the 78-block section of New Orleans known as the French Quarter. René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, discovered the mouth of the Mississippi in 1682, claiming all the lands drained by the river for France. Although the Spanish held sway from 1763 (Treaty of Paris) until 1800 (Treaty of San Ildefonso), the French influence was thoroughly entrenched in the city.

In spite of a surfeit of extroverted characters, the French Quarter has an air of secrecy about it. Plain walls and closed shutters line many streets. It’s only when you look up at the lacy balconies festooned with flowers and flowing greenery that you get hints of the rich life within. Many of the buildings have enclosed courtyards, lovely outdoor spaces with plenty of privacy.

Strolling through the streets and down alleyways is the surest way to get a sense of the city. Royal Street is noted for interesting shops with silver, jewelry and antiques. Decatur, which passes in front of Jackson Square and by the must-try Café du Monde, bustles with visitors. Bourbon Street – seamy with a dollop of raunch! Street performers and artists can be found on many street corners and down quiet side streets.
 

Venerable restaurant Antoine’s serves up amazing French-Creole cuisine.


If you walk enough, sooner or later, you’ll meet Jennifer Jones, the Dancing Queen of New Orleans. She sings and prances down the sidewalk and, if you engage her, she’ll soon tell you about her dad, musician and composer Joe Jones, and how she likes to make people happy with her music.

Historic New Orleans Tours offers a number of guided walking excursions. I can recommend the French Quarter and Garden District tours. A variety of other tours include everything from hurricanes, as in Katrina, to Hurricanes, as in Pat O’Brien’s.

To see the riverfront in a more leisurely way, take a cruise on the Steamboat Natchez, said to be the only true steam-powered sternwheeler on the Mississippi. The lunch cruise offers scenery plus a chance to sample traditional New Orleans fare – fried catfish, red beans and rice, jambalaya, collard greens and Louisiana’s most ubiquitous dessert: bread pudding. Other options include a Sunday Jazz Brunch Cruise or a Jazz Dinner Cruise.

Three things you can’t leave New Orleans without eating: a po’ boy, a muffuletta and beignets. At Johnny’s Po-Boy Restaurant, you can get almost anything in a po’ boy – from alligator sausage to veal cutlets. Mine had fried shrimp, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and pickles.

If the po’ boy was big, the muffuletta was bigger. Purportedly created at New Orleans’ Central Market, it has definite Italian roots. The bread is a giant Sicilian sesame bun the size of a luncheon plate; the filling, stacks of a variety of Italian deli meats and cheeses topped with a spicy Creole olive salad.

The beignets – these have to be eaten at the Café du Monde, established in 1862. Beignets, brought to Louisiana by Acadians, are fried puffs of dough liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar. They are typically accompanied by bitter chicory coffee or café au lait. It’s a great way to start the day.
 


For the most historic dining experience in this town, dinner at Antoine’s is a must. Save up your calories – the classic French sauces brought here by Antoine Alciatore are still on the menu. Antoine’s, now owned by the fifth generation of the family, is the oldest, continuously operated, family-owned restaurant in the country; in business since 1840.

The weekend Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace is a delightful tradition, but even a weekday lunch is a special occasion. Not as old as Antoine’s, Commander’s does date back to the late 1800s. A turquoise and white Victorian beauty, it is located in the Garden District, the area where wealthy Americans settled after the purchase – a decision which was fine with the older, French-speaking, Catholic population.

Lunch was leisurely – almost two hours – but the service was not inattentive, and the food was excellent. I was particularly impressed with my dessert: a watermelon/lime sorbet served in a crystal clear, edible, sugar cup. It looked like the scoop of sorbet had splashed down into clear water.

For more contemporary dining, the seafood restaurant Pêche was a great choice. Close to the Omni Riverfront, one of my two hotel hosts, it was handy to several good museums.

My first hotel was the Omni Royal Orleans where I got my first good look at the French Quarter from my balcony. Both the Omni Hotels were excellent – nice rooms and great staffs. The location of the Royal Orleans was ideal for exploring the historic area on foot, but the Riverfront would be a good choice for those needing to be close to the convention center or desiring more convenient parking. Note: The French Quarter wasn’t built for 21st-century traffic!

As far as I know, there are no ghosts at either hotel, but if you don’t mind a possible spectral guest, there are several other choices in the Quarter. The 1886 Monteleone, owned by the fifth generation of the founding family, claims several ghosts. The most persistent story is about Maurice Begere, a 3-year-old who became ill and died while staying at the hotel. He’s been known to toddle into guest rooms but, like Casper, he’s friendly.
 


I visited a couple of accommodations belonging to the New Orleans Hotel Collection, a group of independent, locally owned, unique properties. The Bourbon Orleans is a charming historic hotel that’s been treated to a multi-million-dollar restoration. Check out the O Bar, where you’ll find not only the latest libations but also a genuine Ramos Gin Fizz, shaken for 12 minutes. A couple of these and you won’t mind the spectral nun in the hotel hall.

For the utmost in elegance and privacy, Audubon Cottages (another NOHC member) is the choice of connoisseurs and celebrities. Elizabeth Taylor stayed there 27 times in her favorite, Cottage #1. Originally late 18th- and early 19th-century Creole homes, these seven structures have been transformed into one- and two-bedroom cottages with private courtyards and access to a central courtyard and pool. The ghost here is a polite gentleman gambler who goes out on a balcony to smoke.

Ghosts or no ghosts, New Orleans haunts visitors with its beauty, its food, its history and its quirkiness. Short stays just won’t do. Take your time – stroll, sip, sample, savor – and make some memories in this unique Southern city.


Before You Go

The New Orleans Visitor Information Center at 529 St. Ann in the French Quarter has a great walking tour brochure.

For more information: neworleanscvb.com

Historic New Orleans Tours: tourneworleans.com

Steamboat Natchez: SteamboatNatchez.com

 

 Among the vintage military craft on display in the U.S. Freedom Pavilion at the World War II Museum is “My Gal Sal,” a B-17 Flying Fortress, which was abandoned in Greenland in 1942 after an emergency crash landing. The plane was recovered from the ice cap in 1995.


Do Not Miss: The National WWII Museum

► Why is it here? More than 20,000 Higgins boats, landing craft for personnel and vehicles used in all major amphibious landings during the war, were built in New Orleans.

► The experience: Carry a dog tag to follow the story of an individual serviceperson. Top-notch technology leads visitors from the build-up to war to the end.

► Special features: “Beyond All Boundaries,” a 4D film journey through the war, narrated by Tom Hanks. This is one of the most stunning documentaries I have seen – gripping and emotionally wrenching. This is an absolute must!

► Final Mission: The USS Tang Submarine Experience is an interactive re-creation of the craft’s epic last battle, with visitors taking part as crewmembers.

► Time Needed: a minimum of three hours. Plan a longer visit to see all the exhibitions properly. Plan on lunch either at the American Sector Restaurant or the Jeri Nims Soda Shop.

► Website: nationalww2museum.org

 

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Calendar

September 2019

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

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Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

    OKC's premiere chamber orchestra presents their 2019-2020 season opening concert! This concert will include Mozart’s Piano Concert No. 23, featuring pianist soloist,...

Cost: Free

Where:
21C Hotel
900 W. Main St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Telephone: 405-268-3978
Contact Name: Katie Barrick
Website »

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Bill Maher is an American comedian, Emmy nominated talk show host and political commentator who has been entertaining live audiences on the stage and on the television for three...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway & DCF Concerts
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

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The Barber of Seville Rossini’s comic masterpiece comes to the Freede Little Theater! When Count Almaviva and his love Rosina run into an issue preventing them from being married -...

Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

For the First time ever in Oklahoma City Pauleen & La Brasa present Bollywood Dance Night . Introducing Hindi Music @La Brasa Saturday 21st September. 10 PM 

Cost: $5

Where:
La Brasa
1310 NW 25th ST
Oklahoma , OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Pauleen
Contact Name: Pauleen

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La Brasa & Pauleen present Bollywood Night at La Brasa this Saturday, September 21st.  This is one of the first Hindi Music events to happen in Oklahoma City and anyone can come...

Cost: $5

Where:
La Brasa
1310 NW 25th St
Oklahoma City , OK  73105
View map »


Telephone: 405-524-2251
Contact Name: Pauleen
Website »

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The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Join us as we welcome poet, musician and Native American activist Lyla June as the keynote speaker of the eighth annual Ableson Religious Reconciliation Lecture on Sept. 24. Starting at 7 p.m. in...

Cost: Free

Where:
USAO Ballroom
1727 W. Alabama Ave.
Chickasha, OK  73018
View map »


Sponsor: University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Telephone: 405-574-1381
Contact Name: Zach Simpson
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Dive Bar Saints World Tour DIVE BAR SAINTS, is the title track in Home Free’s upcoming album release, which is out this summer.  The band’s rich, Southern harmonies...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Hudiburg Chevrolet Center
6000 Prosper Blvd
Midwest City, OK  73110
View map »


Sponsor: Emproium Presents
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
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The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Professional instruction in the art of improvisation. Though some experience with improvisation is beneficial, all skill levels are welcome, no prerequisite classes.  Though sketch comedy...

Cost: $175 for the full term

Where:
The Paramount Room
701 W. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Space OKC
Telephone: 405-887-3327
Contact Name: AL Caveny
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS™: THE STEAM TEAM TOUR 2019 IS PULLING INTO OKLAHOMA RAILWAY MUSEUM FOR THOMAS & FRIENDS’ BIGGEST YEAR YET! ENJOY A DAY OF FAMILY FUN WITH THOMAS THE TANK...

Cost: $18

Where:
Oklahoma Railway Museum
3400 NE Grand Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Contact Name: Danielle Fusaro
Website »

More information

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

Professional instruction in the art of improvisation. Though some experience with improvisation is beneficial, all skill levels are welcome, no prerequisite classes.  Though sketch comedy...

Cost: $175 for the full term

Where:
The Paramount Room
701 W. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Space OKC
Telephone: 405-887-3327
Contact Name: AL Caveny
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

The Barber of Seville Rossini’s comic masterpiece comes to the Freede Little Theater! When Count Almaviva and his love Rosina run into an issue preventing them from being married -...

Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us for the St. Jude Walk/Run during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, to raise money for the kids of St. Jude, where families never receive a bill for anything. Let's end...

Cost: $10 Registration Fee

Where:
Myriad Botanical Gardens
301 W Reno Ave
Oklahoma City , OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Telephone: 405-815-5705
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS™: THE STEAM TEAM TOUR 2019 IS PULLING INTO OKLAHOMA RAILWAY MUSEUM FOR THOMAS & FRIENDS’ BIGGEST YEAR YET! ENJOY A DAY OF FAMILY FUN WITH THOMAS THE TANK...

Cost: $18

Where:
Oklahoma Railway Museum
3400 NE Grand Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Contact Name: Danielle Fusaro
Website »

More information

The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

We're poppin' champagne on the patio this Saturday and raffling off a bottle of Perrier-Jouet valued at $300! Come pre-party with us and DJ Catherine Ouellette from 6pm-10pm -...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel
1, N Broadway Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

Professional instruction in the art of improvisation. Though some experience with improvisation is beneficial, all skill levels are welcome, no prerequisite classes.  Though sketch comedy...

Cost: $175 for the full term

Where:
The Paramount Room
701 W. Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Space OKC
Telephone: 405-887-3327
Contact Name: AL Caveny
Website »

More information

Two big artists, one great night of music. 

Cost: $35-$65

Where:
The Auditorium at The Douglass
600 N. High
OKC, OK  73117
View map »


Sponsor: The Blue Door & Kessler Presentss
Telephone: 405-652-9541
Contact Name: Melissa Monroe
Website »

More information

Audiences across North America are toasting a new production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Rich with musical hits you know and love, including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset;'...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Broadway
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

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