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Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Orleans Christmas Trip - Day 1

photo by Shack


We like to take a family trip somewhere at Christmas instead of buying each other tons of gifts. We have done the Mayan Riviera of Mexico the last two years (I HATE that term but it seems to be what it is called now so that is what I will call it) and, although we love it there, we wanted to go somewhere else. We had San Francisco, Austin Texas and New Orleans on the short list but we had spent Xmas in New Orleans pre kid and our good friends, The Neighbours, had never been and were dying to go. Even the kid is okay with this set up and was given a choice between an iPad and a trip to New Orleans and he chose New Orleans, which made us all very happy because I would have been a bit sad leaving him home alone with his new iPad while his parents galavanted around New Orleans without him.


Unfortunately, Little Shack came down with a fever on Thursday, Dec. 16 and we were leaving on Dec. 19 but this did not have us worried since he had never ran a fever for longer than 24 hours in his entire 11 years. This was going to blow over and he would be right as rain by the 19th. Friday, he was actually worse than he was on Thursday but I was still not worried, since he would HAVE to feel better by Saturday, right???

He was still a bit under the weather by Sunday, let me tell you. We gave him a B12 and a tylenol for colds and kept him away from people, didn't let him touch anything and by the time we actually got on the plane, he said he felt better than he had in days. Worst case scenario, he would spend a day resting in a super cosy hotel bed with a parent and then feel better for a couple days of touring around New Orleans. Best case scenario, he would feel better by the time we get there with the help of tylenol and the excitement of being somewhere new. Thankfully, it was the latter and so it was time to Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!






I have to say, the best part about travelling with us is that you can rest assured that your needs will be met, even if it is done in  rather unorthodox fashion.  You will always have something interesting to do, something tasty to eat, a way to get around, and a place to rest your head although it may not be exactly what you were expecting. After researching the costs involved in getting five of us to the hotel, Shack managed to book us transport from the airport to the hotel using Craig's List so we weren't even sure that anyone would meet us at all but the doors opened to a large,  smiling man named Greg, (601-988-2031 and tell him Shack sent you) holding a sign that said "SHACK" and he walked us out to this, an 11 year old boy's fondest dream :










We were driven to the Hotel Monteleone in style. Sure, the limo had seen better days but it was spotless, our driver was efficient and courteous and prompt and helpful, he provided cold drinks and it cost less than hailing a taxi from the airport!
We stayed at this hotel on our last trip and it was as lovely as we remembered. Like our limo, it might be a little faded around the edges but it is steeped in history and romance and we love staying here in this historic hotel. It really feels like the full French Quarter experience and it happens to be the last privately owned hotel, still operated by the Monteleone family since the late 1800's.







We were really hungry by the time we got settled into the hotel and we should have went straight to Mr B's, which is right across the street but we thought we had three days to eat there and the timing was wrong. Nobody wanted to wait another hour for the dinner service to start so we went to Deanies on the recommendation of our driver and one of the doorman from the hotel. I will tell you that the food was not anything to write home about, but i drank something that made me very happy, the Bucktown Boiler.





We had a ton of unmemorable battered and fried things - crawfish and onion rings and oysters and none of it was fabulous but that drink made up for the mediocre food. It had a shrimp and some pickled green beans and tasted very much like a spicy bloody caesar which I know Americans don't do because they don't do Clamatto juice. I don't know what they put in this thing but it was spicy and tangy and exactly what I wanted at that moment. It also packed quite a punch and after a morning of early rising, airports and nothing to eat, I was more than a little light headed when we left the restaurant, which is the perfect state to be in to go for your first little walk around the French Quarter!










St. Louis Cathedral by Shack




carollers in period costume making their way to Jackson's Square by Shack

After an amazing bit of candle lit christmas carolling in Jackson's Square with 8500 other people, we went to a restaurant where I had made reservations, called The Palm Court Cafe. The combination of waiting over half an hour for drinks and the bread tasting exactly like the overpowering perfume of our waitress meant there was no choice but to walk out of the restaurant and find somewhere to eat. We walked along Decatur back towards our  hotel, reading menus as we went but everything sounded like Deanie's and none of us wanted to eat that sort of meal again. Little Shack finally settled on The French Market , a restaurant since 1803 and probably not renovated since then, and we went inside without any sort of high hopes. They seated us upstairs and we ordered the daily special, Creole Wings, to share and then each ordered something. Shack got oysters and he said they were the freshest, most delicious oysters he had eaten in a long time and really liked the freshly grated horseradish they came with. He also really loved the bbq shrimp and , for the first time ever, actually dealt with the heads and shells of his own shrimp lol. I think that they should be served with a jumbo box of baby wipes instead of a couple of cocktail napkins, but other than that, they were perfect.  I had a split pea soup that was hearty and home made and just fine. There were other forgettable dishes but the Creole Wings!! OH MY GOD

bbq shrimp

Creole chicken wings

big, fat oysters with fresh horseradish


The wings were served whole and they were crispy even though they were sitting in a Creole sauce that was so delicious that I would have happily eaten it with a spoon. But the best part was the soft, white bread spread with blue cheese butter dipped in that sauce. They may not look like much, but,  I swear that I will dream about that taste much longer than I will dream about other dishes I ate that were fancier and prettier. It was basically New Orleans , no frills pug grub and maybe we just got really lucky but we left with full, happy tummies and although this was not a place I would have went out of my way to eat and doesn't get rave reviews, we enjoyed our meal thoroughly and all agree it was a very happy accident.




In the morning we got our coffee from the place we would get our coffee from every day. You can get a take out Hurricane in a plastic cup to be enjoyed while walking down Bourbon Street from 20 bars per block but I only found TWO cafes in an area that was about 10 blocks into the quarter and two blocks on either side of us lol. Luckily, they made great coffee because, frankly, I can barely handle a Hurricane at 10pm, never mind 8am.