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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

May 2019

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
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Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
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Start your Sunday morning by perfecting your practice during our outdoor yoga class. Enjoy the beauty of yoga outdoors in the glow of the Ferris Wheel lights! This class welcomes all levels, from...

Cost: Free

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Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
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James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
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Telephone: 405.815.9995
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MILLER IN MAY HOME TOUR HIGHLIGHTS CHARACTER AND CHARM The 20th anniversary of Miller's beloved home tour Miller Neighborhood's most popular event is back for 2019… and...

Cost: $10 - $30

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Miller Neighborhood
NW 10th to NW 16th, N Villa to N May
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
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Sponsor: Miller Neighborhood Association
Telephone: 405.642.5982
Contact Name: Elizabeth Beard

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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

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

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
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Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
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OKC's premier chamber orchestra, the Oklahoma Virtuosi, presents their season finale concert.  Concert will include: St. Paul's Suite Op.29 No.2 by Gustav Holst,...

Cost: Free

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

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As the first anniversary of her sixth album Conversation With A Ghost approaches in June, Italian-born and Austin-based singer-songwriter Giulia Millanta possesses a...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
The Blue Door
2805 N. McKinley Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
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Sponsor: The Blue Door
Telephone: (405) 524-0738
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James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Piedmont Airlines will be hosting a Information Session for ramp agent jobs at Embassy Suites in OKC. Please plan to spend up to 3 hours with us, as we will have you fill out applications, listen...

Cost: Free

Where:
Embassy Suites
1815 South Meridian Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
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Sponsor: Piedmont Airlines
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James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

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"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

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...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


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

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

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More than 90 visual artists will line the streets of the Historic Paseo Arts District, selling original artwork in a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to wood and jewelry, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Paseo Arts District
3022 Paseo
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: Paseo Arts Association
Telephone: 405-525-2688
Contact Name: Paige Powell
Website »

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Enjoy all your favorite activities at the Orr Family Farm for a special price! Admission is only $8 per person on this day only.

Where:
Orr Family Farm
14400 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Telephone: 405.509.9312
Contact Name: Lauren Daughety

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass this Memorial Day Weekend! Get a full day of fun at Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park for only $29.99. A Dual Park Pass includes Unlimited Rides &...

Cost: Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass!

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Place
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View map »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


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

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

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

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
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Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

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