“Do you want to come inside?”, the small elderly man said as we furiously snapped pictures of his century home in New Orleans’ French Quarter. A quick glance between me and my husband prompted thoughts like “hmm, if he is a serial killer, I think we can take him”. So we responded with a resounding “yes, please!” and went inside.
We quickly learned that the gentleman was Doc Hawley, a retired steam wheeler captain on the Mississippi and originally from near where we live in Ohio! He graciously brought us into his home in New Orleans to guide us on the most intriguing tour I have seen. A stunning oasis of a courtyard grounds the 2-story walk up to rooms laid out in a single file row. A very small kitchen was carved out as an after thought. The main bathroom is only accessible through the bedroom as is the beautiful wrought iron balcony. If not a practical layout, the structure oozed history and glory days gone by with its ornate marble fireplaces in every room and carved wood moldings. I quite literally felt I had stepped back in time. And yet the exterior remains relatively simple in relation to other New Orleans style. Our host reminded us that the ornate balconies and homes New Orleans is known for are more recent and of Spanish design – the simpler older homes are from the French who originally settled there. And these are the moments of travel that I crave. How often do you serendipitously meet someone who knows you appreciate the beauty of a place and offers you a chance to explore further? New Orleans offered us Doc Hawley and a few more adventures on our first visit to the city.
We flew in on a Friday night and returned on a Sunday – did not have to miss any time off work! Some might say, how can you see New Orleans in such a short time? We decided to focus on the French Quarter only. And with direct flights from Cleveland on Allegiant and Spirit air, we were there in less than 3 hours! We stayed at a beautiful hotel called the French Market Inn. True to its name, it had the feel of a historical French market with exposed brick walls and a courtyard complete with natural pool and furniture inviting guests to sit and relax. The hotel price was very reasonable (book with them directly!) and a perfect location to explore the quarter and the city. We will be back!
Because we arrived in the evening on Friday we strolled to a nearby restaurant for dinner and were not disappointed. The shrimp and grits at Tableau were the perfect start to our weekend, as were the hand-crafted cocktails.
When we asked how long we could hear live music, people told us “oh into 3 and 4am on a weekend night”. And while I was interested in seeing a show at Preservation Hall, you have to queue at specific times so we opted to walk over to Frenchmen St where we were advised by locals that the neighborhood is focused on music more than the raucous partying of Bourbon St. We did sneak a peak at Bourbon St on the way but quickly knew it wasn’t the atmosphere we sought. We ended up at the Spotted Cat Music Club and were delighted – we were treated to a full evening of vintage jazz by Cotton Mouth Club Band with Linnzi Zaorski.
While we had plans to attend a concert in Baton Rouge that evening, we had plenty of time to explore the French Quarter; first stop, Cafe du Monde for a beignet breakfast. If you have never tasted these doughy pillows of goodness, you are missing a treat! Dusted with powdered sugar, these are a quintessential NOLA staple and while Cafe du Monde is the most well known source, there are many places in NOLA to purchase beignets – maybe you should sample from all!
After a sweet breakfast, we took a walking tour of the neighborhood French Quarter and to our delight, the city revealed stunning architecture at every turn!
The church on Jackson Square is a must-see as is the park surrounding – take a carriage ride or just peruse the many shops and vendors that line the square.
Of course, because I was determined to try other New Orleans food, we ended up at the Petite Amelie cafe to sample a muffuletta and gumbo – wow, delicious!
Our evening took us to Baton Rouge for more music! …a concert with one of my favorite singers, Trent Harmon, and then we were back to NOLA for the night. But if we had stayed in town, I would have braved the line for Preservation Hall and made that the focus of the night.
What better way to start a Sunday than by listening to jazz and eating more beignets! Ha! This time we tried Cafe Beignet, almost right across the street from our hotel.
Because we had most of the day until we had to catch an evening flight back to Cleveland, we strolled the French Market and took in more of the sights and sounds of this beautiful city.
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we ended up back on Frenchmen Street for, you guessed it, more music – this time at Bamboula’s!
After walking back through the French Quarter, we stumbled on our experience with Doc Hawley. And if that weren’t enough of a history lesson, we also found the city’s oldest bar, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
Inspired by our trip down memory lane and overview of New Orleans architecture, we needed one more food staple before our departure… a po boy! Now I don’t know about you but when I think of po boy I think deep fried shrimp or clams piled high on a sandwich. But when I did my research, Verti Marte deli appeared in my list to try. This po boy was a delicious combination of ham, turkey shrimp, cheese, mushrooms, and a tartar based “wow” sauce. I mean, this sandwich could cure a Bourbon St hangover for sure, but as a NOLA sendoff it did a fabulous job!
With full stomachs, we headed to the airport thrilled to know that sometimes a little taste of a place can lead to grand adventures. We will be back!