The French Quarter, New Orleans
Visiting Bourdon Street at 9AM was a bit like witnessing a sleeping giant. The evidence of the night before could still be found in the streets – empty daiquiri containers and rogue mardi gras beads – I could not even imagine what it is like during actual mardi gras – though I have to image it is not nearly as populated at this time during COVID. We laughed at the different names of the bars – puns trying to attract passer-bys in during the night. The neons lights, while turned off, certainly reminded us of the Vegas styled signs flashing in bright colors. It was certainly enough to use our imagination on the craziness these streets have seen through the years.
After a few blocks of bars, we turned in towards the water and walked down Royal Street to enjoy a change of scenery. The stores here were so awesome – some dating all the way back to the 1800s. And the buildings continued to impress us with the second story detailed iron rod work and full of vegetation, plants, and flowers to decorate.
Our first stop of the morning was none other than the city’s famous beignets. I read that there is quite a competition between Cafe Beignets and Cafe du Monde so I made it a point for us to try both. Beignet orders typically come in orders of three and since there were three of us, it made taste testing both very easy without feeling guilty for eating six beignets – share that caloric burden!
Cafe Beignet on Royal Street had a quintessential french cafe feel and had plenty of outdoor seating. We ordered our beignets and grabbed a seat outside in the courtyard area and it only took a few minutes for a staff member to bring out a tray of freshly made beignets for the patrons around the area.
These beignets were beautiful! Each were almost too perfect to eat – they somehow all had just the perfect square shape and evenly distributed powdered sugar. While they were almost too good to eat, they were indeed way too hot to eat – proceed with caution! We were able to get enough fingers on long enough to tear some holes and release the heat before a piece was cool enough to eat. And there is nothing quite like that first bite! The crispy exterior and the fluffy interior, the density of the batter with the melt in your mouth powdered sugar. Yep, beignets are great and it was even better to know we had another batch in our immediate future.
From here, we turned down towards the waterfront to Woldenberg Park. We passed several monuments, the iconic ferry boat, and got a great view of the Mississippi River.
It was obvious when we hit Jackson Square because St. Louis Cathedral stood out like a sore thumb – it was practically framed by the city and we were drawn right in. We left the waterfront and gazed at the square and the immaculate gardens. Before we went down to explore the park, we had to complete our beignet mission.
Right next to Jackson Square is one of the most famous Cafe Du Monde spots and it is clear by the lines. While the Jackson Square side is typically the main entrance – everything here is take out only during COVID so do not forget to take advantage of the “Take Out” window on the opposite side of the tent facing the waterfront – it was always little to no wait on this side.
We got our bag on beignets and grabbed a table – there were plenty of entertainers so we even got our first dose of *jazz*. I ripped the bag to make it as much of a plate as possible – points to Cafe Beignet for presentation as it was much easier to eat them in a tray and they stayed a nicer shape. The beignets in the bag felt smaller and oddly shaped but oh boy did they deliver on flavor. And the bag is covered with enough powdered sugar to coat a dozen beignets so there is no shortage of that for every bite. While both are great, we gave the winning beignet to Cafe Du Monde.
There were signs around Cafe Du Monde that a flea market was starting in a few minutes at French Market Place so we continued east – admiring the stores and the buildings along the way – until we hit the flea market. This outdoor market reminded us instantly of the one in the middle of Charleston – we were amazed at how many similarities there are between the cities. This is certainly a great stop to do something local shopping or try a few dishes.
We made our way back to Jackson Square and walked around the gardens – it is such a well maintained space! We learned that this was the spot of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase, among other things.
St Louis Cathedral stands on the other side of Jackson Square. The church dates back all the way to 1718 and has undergone several constructions to result in the current cathedral. The interior is a really lovely and reminded us more of a Spanish influence focusing on paintings rather than gold and marble. My favorite feature was the pulpit – a giant clam shell.
We continued to snack our way through the streets in a northern direction where we bumped into Armstrong Park. We wanted to visit the Lafayette cemetery but it was unfortunately closed. Armstrong Park though was really beautiful with various walkways near and over water, featuring artwork around music and jazz. It was so peaceful and no one was there. Since it was looking less and less likely that we would make it to City Park, I was happy to have walked through this one.
Our next stop required us to venture a bit off the tourist loop and walk another thirty minutes north of Armstrong Park but I was hopeful it would be worth every step. Willie Mae’s Scotch House has been named one of the best fried chicken stops in the country – not in New Orleans, not in the South, but the country! That is big praise so it had to be worth it journey.
Read about out experience at Willie Mae’s Scotch House here – is it worthy of the title?
We took an Uber back to the middle of downtown to complete our walking tour of French Quarter. There are a number of museums in New Orleans but one we passed that gave me a smile was the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum – the first established pharmacy in the county. It was $10 a person and required advanced reservations to get in. At $10 a person, it felt a bit steep and I did not value it that high but it was pretty cool to have a dedicated spot for the profession of pharmacy.
Now that we were starting to see the same stores again, I proposed that we fine a spot to have some oysters and drinks before heading back to the Garden District. All in agreement, we walked around to several places, trying to avoid crowded spots and attempting to grab something outdoors. As we got closer and closer to Canal Street, the odds of that combination was certainly dwindling until we took a peak inside Bourdon House – while there was not outdoor seating, it was empty inside. And honestly, it’s just oysters so how very different could they be between spots? We got a dozen oysters and drinks to enjoy – be warned, the bourbon cocktails are strong!
Our dinner this evening was back in the Garden District so we wanted to stop at the Airbnb to freshen up beforehand. We hopped onto our St Charles streetcar trolley and headed back to the Garden District – I could not believe I thought we could fit all of French Quarter and a trip to City Park in the same day!