If like me, you haven’t spent much time in New Orleans, Nola, N’awlins, it can be hard to know where to begin. It has a reputation for history (often checkered), culture, arts, decadence in food and drink, shopping, and of course music tumbles out of every pore of this historic city. So in an attempt to experience all of this in one day, here’s how you might like to spend a perfect day in the Big Easy.
Breakfast at Surrey’s Cafe & Juice Bar
Surrey’s Cafe is a bit of an institution. With locally-influenced dishes on the breakfast menu like shrimp and grits ($13.75) and biscuits and gravy—choose from mushroom or sausage ($7), you won’t leave hungry. There are two venues to choose from – we went to the one in the Garden District at 1418 Magazine Street. There is nothing fancy about Surrey’s. Just good ole down-at-home food. Monkey opted for the Cuban Sandwich ($11) with pulled pork, while I ordered a poached egg, biscuit with sausage gravy, avocado and bacon. Great fuel for the day ahead.
Find a Music Festival
You don’t usually have to look far to find some music in this city. We were lucky enough to be in Nola when the free Treme Creole Gumbo Festival was being held at Louis Armstrong Park (a stone’s throw from the French Quarter). Various restaurants were serving their take on gumbo, along with the ubiquitous praline, and exotic proteins like alligator. The park pays homage to famous jazz musicians with a number of sculptures and is worth a visit even when there’s no live music.
Wander around the New Orleans Museum of Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art is located in City Park, and home to some wonderful works from illustrious artists such as Raoul Duffy, Picasso, and Andy Warhol, and more modern works from the likes of Will Ryman. The latter’s gold log cabin, built as an analogy for the USA, is a sight to see.
While we were there the international triennial Prospect.4 (P.4), a citywide exhibition at venues across New Orleans, was on display.
Be sure to walk around the Sculpture Garden afterwards which includes pieces from the likes of Henry Moore.
Grab Beignets and Coffee at Morning Call
After seeing all that art, you will probably be ready for a cup of coffee and a snack. You need look no further than Morning Call, a place steeped in tradition and beignets, and open 24 hours a day. I can’t attest for the quality, as Monkey did the honors, but the sheer character of the place, all marble and mirrors, with uniformed wait-staff and cash-payment-required-on-delivery adds to its charm.
Step into a Bygone Era at the Williams Residence
The French Quarter is known for its rows of wrought-iron decorated, historic buildings, although decades ago it was under the threat of being torn-down for low income housing. Thankfully, in 1938 the forward-thinking General and Mrs. L. Kemper Williams bought two properties in the French Quarter, the Merieult House on Royal Street and a late 19th-century residence next-door, facing Toulouse Street. They lived in the latter house for many years doing much restoration, and today it’s open for tours, at the reasonable rate of $5/head.
I especially love walking through the kitchens of preserved homes. It’s always fascinating to see what has stood the test of time and what hasn’t. This kitchen even included a dishwasher from the 1950s. And I loved perusing the cookbook collection, who could ignore a book entitled “Magic With Leftovers“?
Indulge in Affogato at Drip
After all the traipsing around, you’ll be ready for another treat. When I first spotted Drip, I thought it was a drip coffee place, but in fact, it is a dedicated affogato bar which takes the whole idea of pouring a hot drink over ice cream to a new level. There are seasonal flavors and combos to choose from. Monkey opted for the matcha tea and matcha ice cream pairing, and seemed pretty happy with his lot.
You can find Drip at 703 Carondolet Street, New Orleans.
There are so many more places you could go in this vibrant and historic city, but I think I’ll leave it at this. Except to say, if you like shopping be sure to hit Magazine Street in the Garden District, we found a number of wonderful boutiques along this stretch.