Getting into the spirit of things in New Orleans with American Sky
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Mysteries, muffulettas and more
I took the first super sweet bite of my coffee-time treat it was almost as
enjoyable watching the customers around me as they attempted to get to grips
with the famous New Orleans snack. A woman next to me giggled as she
unsuccessfully tried to brush down her once smart black trousers and a small
child nearby almost disappeared in a white cloud.
at Café de Monde where it’s almost an obligation
to try beignets, one of the local food staples in Louisiana’s largest and most
colourful city. Whilst there are now several outlets around town, we opted for
the original branch that opened in 1862 in the French Quarter close to the
Mississippi waterfront. Choosing what to have isn’t difficult - the menu solely
comprises a plate of three beignets with coffee or other drinks - the hardest
part is deciding how to tackle the fluffy freshly-baked doughnuts piled high
with icing sugar.
reckoned the café gets through 23kg every hour and as it’s open 24/7 that’s a veritable
sugar mountain. If you’re feeling really brave you can order beignets to go, and
there was a long queue on the day we were there. Possibly best not to try that
option on a windy day!
Southern treat, which is omnipresent throughout the city, is the muffuletta.
Made with salami, cheese and olives, it elevates the humble sandwich to a new
level. If you want to try it in stylish surroundings check out Napoleon House centred around a private courtyard in the buzzing
French Quarter. The local mayor was the first occupant and in 1821 he offered his
home to Napoleon as a refuge during his exile. Although Napoleon never made it,
the name stuck. Today it’s an atmospheric restaurant where you can sip the
signature Pimm’s Cup cocktail and peruse the menu against a backdrop of
French beignets and Italian muffulettas are some of the foods influenced by the
city’s past, which has been shaped by European and Caribbean cultures and make
it a very tempting destination.
it’s time to try and work off some of the inevitable excess there are numerous
guided walks, many of them centred around the hub of the French Quarter. We
were intrigued by the sound of the spooky strolls offered by Haunted History
Tours and plucked up the courage to sign up for
one, with choices including a pub crawl, graveyard tour and ghost walk. Unable
to make up our minds we plumped for the ‘5 in 1’ option which combines snippets
of ghosts, vampires, voodoo, witches and unsolved mysteries.
Orleans is reckoned to be the most haunted city in the United States and St
Louis Cemetery No. I, which can be visited as part of a tour, is the resting
place of infamous ‘voodoo queen’ Marie Laveau who was immortalised in the 1971
Redbone song The Witch Queen of New Orleans.
History Tours is run by Sidney Smith, a native New Orleanian who has been
getting into the spirit of things for the past 25 years. On hearing us talk he
went into an accent perfect impersonation of all four members of The Beatles,
and we were certainly made to feel welcome as we joined the rest of our group,
mostly Americans from out of town. Although we didn’t have any unexpected
sightings on our walk, it was a fun and entertaining two hours and afterwards I
couldn’t resist getting the book by Kalila Smith which expands on some of the
stories we heard about and covers numerous others. It made a great
souvenir. During the walk there was also
time to stop off for a drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmiths Shop, which dates back to
the 1700s and is recognised as the oldest building still serving as a bar in
said, you’ll never go thirsty in New Orleans especially when the party road
Bourbon Street runs right through the French Quarter. We gave it a wide berth,
preferring to find some of the less crowded haunts, so to speak, and enjoyed
strolling around surrounding roads with their distinctive galleried homes, a
style of architecture which runs through the city. Some of the loveliest
colonial-style mansions can be found in the leafy Garden District which was close to the Coach House Hotel where we
stayed. From here it’s easy to get to other neighbourhoods on board one of the
rattling streetcars, or trams, which are another ubiquitous sight.
hotel, with its spacious modern accommodation and fun room service breakfast
served in miniature picnic hampers, occupies
a great spot right on the St Charles streetcar line. It’s also within walking
distance of attractions including the impressive National World War II Museum
spread over three buildings in the cultural Arts/Warehouse district. It
includes a dramatic 4D film, Beyond All Boundaries, narrated by Tom Hanks and
if you’re interested in wartime history it’s easy to spend half a day there. It’s
well worth picking up the New Orleans Pass, which starts from $71 for a day, as
it provides free entry to more than 25 attractions, including the museum, and
discounts on other tours and places to see.
the way you will also find plenty of free entertainment. There are talented
buskers throughout the city, including vibrant youth drumming groups, jazz
bands and some street entertainers that defy categorisation. We joined a small
crowd listening to a bearded man in a red full-length gown and white stole giving a surprising, in every sense, rendition of a
Johnny Cash song. On another corner we came across a curious vehicle in the
shape of a giant peanut. It’s really no surprise this fun-loving, eclectic city
is nicknamed the Big Easy for its relaxed and laid-back attitude.
Sky offers a four-night break at the Coach House Hotel New Orleans on a
room-only basis from £1,129, including direct flights from Heathrow with
British Airways. To book or for more information call 01342 331798. For
information on New Orleans visit www.neworleans.com.
Travel Advisor recommends American
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