You know that song that goes “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more?” Well that’s approximately how much we walked on our second day in New Orleans, or at least, that’s how it felt.
One tip I would mention for anyone staying in the Quarter is to bring the most comfortable shoes you can find. You can walk from one end of the Quarter to the other in 15-20 minutes, but doing that several times a day to go to different restaurants, bars, walking tours and the like can really add up.
We started the morning off with one of my favorite breakfasts and an absolute must-do in New Orleans, Café du Monde. Sugary, doughy beignets and delicious café’ au lait is an amazing way to start the morning (or end the day, as we’ll do later in the trip).
From there we walked a couple blocks over to the French Market and did a little window shopping in the souvenir stores, scoping out what we might want to bring back to Pittsburgh. There was no shortage of fun stuff, including a lot of pre-made mixes and seasonings for beignets, classic Cajun dishes, and my favorite, the Pat O’Brien’s hurricane mix.
We also spotted some cool-looking wall hangings showing retro New Orleans advertisements. We picked out a few that we planned on hanging in our kitchen and dining room when we returned home.
After making a mental list of things we wanted to buy later in the week, we set off to ride the St. Charles Streetcar. As this was on the complete opposite side of the Quarter from the French Market, we were in for our first long walk of the day.
When we got on the streetcar we were able to purchase a day pass for $3 per person. We rode the streetcar through the Central Business District and passed the World War II Museum. We got off at Washington Avenue, right in the heart of the Garden District.
With no tour planned, we decided to just explore on our own. About two blocks down along Washington Avenue to the left when exiting the streetcar is Lafayette Cemetery #1, one of New Orleans’ most visited above-ground cemeteries. One note of caution: many guide books advise against visiting the cemeteries on your own, as they offer an ideal place for muggers to hide. There are plenty of tour opportunities, if the cemeteries are of interest to you.
After taking a quick look in the cemetery, we walked up a couple side streets admiring some of the large homes that make the Garden District so beautiful. We then looped back to Washington Avenue and hopped back on the streetcar. We took it to the end of the line, passing through more of the Garden District and Tulane University.
One thing you’ll notice when you visit New Orleans is how friendly everyone is. On the return trip, a kind local gave us our own personal narrated tour. He pointed out interesting locations along the way as we headed back toward the Quarter. He also added his own “insider’s” information, like “I painted the inside of that house over there.”
It was approaching 2:00 pm and the beignets from earlier in the day were just a delicious memory, so we decided to find some lunch. We headed back toward our hotel and decided to stop at the Gumbo Shop.
We all had classic New Orleans dishes like gumbo, jambalaya and barbeque shrimp. I decided to try shrimp creole, which I had never had. While everything was very enjoyable, when we compared it to everything else we ate in New Orleans, this ended up being our least favorite meal of the trip.
After lunch, we decided to head back to the hotel for a couple hours of rest before our walking tour, which was scheduled for 6:00 pm. Getting off our feet for a while was essential, as we had a lot more walking in store.
I was in charge of our pre-trip planning, so that meant I ended up choosing all of our New Orleans activities. The first of these was to be a French Quarter Ghost and Vampire Tour provided by French Quarter Phantoms.
Our tour was to leave at 6:00, but we got to the meeting spot about half an hour early in order to take advantage of the buy-one-hurricane, get-one-free coupons which were part of the tour package.
Our group of about 15 set off on a very informative and spooky walking tour of the Quarter. The tour lasted about 2 hours, though due to the frequent stops, the walking only added up to a little over a mile.
I chose French Quarter Phantoms because they have a reputation for offering tours based on historical facts rather than anything gimmicky or silly. No one jumped out and tried to scare us, in other words. By facts, I mean anecdotes about the historic buildings and residents of the French Quarter. We stopped outside some of the most (reputedly) haunted buildings in the Quarter, like the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, the Lalaurie Mansion, the Old Ursuline Convent, the Andrew Jackson Hotel, and Muriel’s—a restaurant that always sets a table, complete with bread and wine, for its ghost. As a bonus, we walked by our hotel and, while not part of the tour, got to hear about how our hotel is haunted! Sadly, we didn’t encounter any ghosts on this trip.
Whether you buy any of the ghost stories, I’d highly recommend the tour for its historical content. We found it to be very enjoyable and yes, a bit spooky, as well.
Very tired after our long day of walking, we grabbed a quick bite back at the Willie’s Chicken Shack and then a hand grenade for each of us, which we sipped on our walk back to the hotel.
Up next in day 3: you guessed it, more walking!