Explore the Garden District of New Orleans

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Robinson House (1862-66) at 1415 3rd Street

Waiting for the St. Charles Line

Waiting for the St. Charles Line

New Orleans has so much to offer tourists!!! Where do you begin? After exploring the French Quarter which is both exciting and little crazy, it is fun to step away from the madness for a bit and see other parts the city. We hopped on the St. Charles Line for $3 round trip and headed to the Garden District where we embarked on a free, self-guided tour down the narrow sidewalks. Hop off at the St. Charles Ave. and Washington Ave. stop to see the Garden District. Step off to your left, cross St. Charles Ave. and head 2 blocks down Washington Ave. where you will run into the beautiful, sea-blue, two-story house with white trim restaurant called the Commander’s Palace. The Commander’s Palace is famous for their 25₵ Martinis! Sadly, we were not dressed for the event and were not able to dine. However, it is a great place to take pictures in front of and a fabulous place to dine for lunch. Be sure that you plan your day accordingly and are dressed the part if you wish to stop in for lunch. Shorts, flip-flops, and non-collared shirts are not permissible. They do not accept reservations and there was a line of people waiting out front. Step inside the Commander’s Palace and pick up the free pamphlet about the Garden District which includes a walking map.

Commander's Palace

Commander’s Palace

The Garden District was laid out by an architect named Barthelemy Lafon. It is a very old neighborhood located right off of St. Charles Ave. bordered by 1st Street, Magazine Street and Toledano Street.  The neighborhood has beautiful, large trees consisting of oaks, magnolias, and pines throughout the streets with elegant homes and gardens. The homes in the Garden District include Spanish, French, English and Greek architectural influences. Many of the homes have 20-30 bedrooms with hand painted murals, hand carved banisters, winding staircases, verandas and Italian marble mantles. 

Step back into 1832, when the first Americans settled in New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase. It is considered to be one of the most well-preserved collections of historic Southern estates. Prior to the development of these homes, the area was made up of plantations. Wealthy Americans purchased this land as an alternative to living in the French Quarter. The Garden District officially became part of the city of Lafayette in 1833 and part of New Orleans in 1852. The new Americans built their own community in the Garden District to include a church, a grand hotel, cemetery, theater and a railroad.

IMG_9897When the Garden District was first designed there were only a couple of homes per block and each one was surrounded by a large garden, thus earning the name. Some of the lots were subdivided in the late 19th century. As a result the style of the homes vary, some are early 19th Century while others have the gingerbread Victorian appearance. Many of the homes in the Garden District today are owned by the descendants of the original owners.

Many famous people have called the Garden District home. Some of them include Drew Brees, Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, Mos Def, John Goodman, Gloria Henry, Archie Manning, Eli Manning, Lola The Vamp, Peyton Manning, Trent Rezno, Anne Rice and Sean Yseult.

The Women’s Opera Guild owns the home with grilled ironwork fencing and large, white columns pictured below. The home was built in 1859 for an American merchant and is open for tours today. The architecture of the home is influenced by Italianate and Greek Revival styles. The grilled ironwork on many of the homes was a sign of wealth.

2504 Prytania Street, Owned by Women's Opera Guild

2504 Prytania Street, Owned by Women’s Opera Guild

Probably the most famous of the Garden District, is the Nolan House located at 2707 Coliseum Street. The Nolan House is known as the “Benjamin Button” House as it was featured as the nursing home in the move “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. The house was built in 183 and was home to three generations of the Nolan Family, one of whom played the role of the doctor in the movie. The Garden District is a family friendly, free, stroll at your own pace, activity. We loved viewing the homes and walked down St. Charles Ave. afterwards to grab some oysters on the half shell at The Blind Pelican!

2707 Coliseum Street AKA the "Benjamin Button House"

2707 Coliseum Street AKA the “Benjamin Button House”

Maui Wine on Ulupalakua Ranch

 

Maui Wine

Maui Wine, King’s Cottage

Hula Circle

Hula Circle

While visiting paradise on the island of Maui, take a scenic drive up to Ulupalakua Ranch to tour Maui Wine sitting at 2000 feet above sea level, established in 1974. IMG_1287On the drive upcountry, take in spectacular views of the the islands of Lanai and Molokai. There are several overlooks where you can pull aside and take pictures. Each winery is unique in their own way and at Maui Wine they are known for their pineapple wines! 30 minute tours for the whole family are offered daily at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

The tour begins

The tour begins

We decided to tour in the morning since it was in June and we thought it may be cooler. It was the perfect day trip as we dined for lunch and stopped off at a park afterwards. There is a designated parking area at the winery where you will see the King’s Cottage built in 1870. In the picture above, notice the Hula Circle created by cypress trees for King David Kalakaua as a designated area where he could watch hula dancers. The trees are over 150 years old and have since been cut way down and carved. Look very closely to determine what each carving displays.

Hula O Maui, pineapple wine

Hula O Maui, pineapple wine

The tour began in the historical room in the King’s Cottage with a complimentary pour of sparkling wines. First we had a glass of the LokeLani, Hawaiian Sparkling Rose Wine and a glass of Hula O Maui, Pineapple Sparkling Wine.

Family Friendly

Family Friendly

You will be greeted with the fresh pineapple aroma prior to taking your first sip.  Listen as Auntie Em (Emily) describes how the property started out as a plantation, then moved to ranching and most recently, wine making. Take your time looking around at all of the sepia pictures hanging on the wall displaying the ranch families. The historical information is great for all ages. Our kids really enjoyed learning about the ranch as well as the production of wine. The tour is only 30 minutes, short and sweet for all ages.

Make your way from the King’s Cottage to the production area via a pathway along the beautifully manicured property. The 10:30 a.m. tour was nice and cool, a little overcast with ocean views. UlupalakuaIMG_1273 is the perfect place to take pictures and spend time walking around. We made our way down to the production area with the first stop at the machine which skins the pineapples for Maui Wine’s pineapple wines. These wines are unique because they use pineapple rather than grapes. It was our first experience in sampling wines and sparkling wines infused with pineapple. The pineapple wines are made with Maui Gold pineapples. Next stop, the production plant where Auntie Em explains the process of wine making. It was fascinating to find out that Maui Wine does not use any wood barrels to process their wine as it is not conducive with the Hawaii climate and wood eating bugs.

IMG_1270Maui Wine has a fantastic wine tasting bar and gift shop. Kids are allowed in the tasting room but not up at the bar. Our kids enjoyed exploring the gift shop while we took in our 3 samples of complementary wine. I loved the white wines while my husband preferred the estate red wine. All of the wines are for sale at the winery. We left with two bottles of wine and a “Maui Wine” etched wine glass to bring home as a souvenir.

Tasting Bar

Tasting Bar

If you are tasting wines with someone else, share the samples so that you can actually sample 6 varieties. The staff are very knowledgeable about the wines. They even informed us as to which wines are for sale at our local Costco and which wines are sold only at the winery. The information provided by the staff helped us in choosing which wines to purchase and bring home. We signed up for their mailing list to receive information about upcoming events such as parties, holiday festivities and local music.

Ulupalakua Ranch Store

Ulupalakua Ranch Store

After wine tasting, walk across the street and have a bite to eat at the Ulupalakua Ranch Store. Located in a green, plantation-style house with a lanai to sit and dine at Paniolo style. Choose from Maui Cattle Company’s slow roasted cattle brisket, Upcountry Caesar salad, Elk or the famous Ulupalakua Lamb Burger. If you like sauces, you will love dining at the Ranch Store!

Brisket wrap

Brisket wrap

Each table has house made BBQ sauces to choose from and some are really spicy! You will smell the BBQ smoke while touring Maui Wine. The best part is that the Ranch Store serves only Maui grown produce! While waiting for your food to grill, shop around the store which features local artisan products.

 

King's Cottage

King’s Cottage

Open Monday- Sunday 10 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.

The Blind Pelican, New Orleans

Chargrilled Oysters

Chargrilled Oysters

The Blind Pelican- New Orleans

The Blind Pelican- New Orleans

We hopped on the St. Charles streetcar and headed for the Garden District. After touring the beautiful estates, we discovered The Blind Pelican while in search of oysters! The Blind Pelican is located at 1628 St Charles Avenue. Walk up the steps into a lively environment with a large bar in the middle of the restaurant and patio seating with a view of St. Charles Avenue. We opted for the open-air patio seating, partly because we are a loud group. Stopping in just for a snack before dinner, we got a little excited about the menu. Never before have I seen alligator hash on a menu! We ordered truffle fries, fried green tomatoes, chargrilled oysters and raw oysters. For some in our group, it was the first time eating a raw oyster. My advice, put lots of sauces on it to ensure it slides down!

Truffle fries

Truffle fries

The Blind Pelican has Happy Hour from 4-8 p.m. where you can find $7.50 chargrilled oysters and $3 raw oysters. Nothing goes better with oysters than a beer! The Blind Pelican offers over 30 beers on tap. I recommend the local brew, Abita.

How to eat an oyster~ Oysters should always be served on crushed FullSizeRender(2)ice. Hold the shell level so that the juices remain inside and face the smooth part of the shell towards you. You don’t want to put the sharp end in your mouth. Tip the shell and let the oyster and juices slide into your mouth.  Some prefer to chew the oysters while others like to let it slide right down.

Raw oysters

Raw oysters

Why eat oysters? Oysters are consumed all over the world. They are organic and super healthy, loaded with minerals, vitamins and nutrients! The benefits of eating oysters are endless. To name a few, oysters can assist with weight loss, boost metabolic activity, increase tissue repair and growth, lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, improve immune functions, aid in wound healing, improve blood circulation, and increase bone strength to reduce osteoporosis. Did you know that some minerals varieties are in their highest content in oysters?  This is true for zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium. Oysters contain 1500% of the daily requirements of zinc in a single serving. Oysters also have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good forms of cholesterol. Oysters are also a powerful aphrodisiac, but we won’t go into that….

The face right before they go down

The face right before they go down

The Mausoleums at Lafayette Cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery

IMG_9879A cemetery is not usually top of your list for sight seeing while on vacation. However, we stumbled upon Lafayette Cemetery while strolling through the Garden District in New Orleans and found it to be quite fascinating. Named after what was once known as the City of Lafayette, the cemetery dates back to 1833. 613 of the people buried at Lafayette passed from yellow fever in 1847. In 1853 yellow fever took the lives of 8000 people and many of their bodies were left at the front gates of Lafayette Cemetery. Located in the heart of the Garden District at 1416-1498 Washington Avenue, some of the mausoleums date back to the 19th century. This will go down on my list of “firsts”. I had never seen a mausoleum in person. Mausoleums are above-ground graves in areas which typically flood or are below sea level.

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The cemetery consist of 500 wall vaults which have been sealed.

Entrance to Lafayette

Entrance to Lafayette

Since we stumbled upon the cemetery, we toured it ourselves without a guide. There are guides within the cemetery for a fee of $5.00. They walk around announcing when the tour will begin. There were also several organized tour groups within the cemetery. It was very interesting to walk around and look at the dates on the tombstones. I was astonished at how many people are buried in the same tomb. There are quite a few which are crumbling and decrepit, while others are robust, made of granite and marble. Use caution as the walkways are broken, raised and very easy to trip over.

Many of the tombs list the cause of death such as yellow fever, apoplexy, and even rare instances of being struck by lightening. The cemetery includes veterans from the Civil War and French Foreign Legion.  Brigadier General Harry T. Hays of the Confederate Army is buried at Lafayette. One of the tombs features Judge Ferguson of the Plessy vs. Ferguson “separate-but-equal” case. The cemetery represents immigrants from 25 different countries and natives of 26 states.

You may have seen some of the Lafayette mausoleums in movies filmed in New Orleans such as The Witching Hour, Memnoch the Devil, Interview with a Vampire, Double Jeopardy in 1999 and Dracula 2000. LeAnn Rimes and the New Kids on the Block filmed music videos in the cemetery.

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Sadly, many of the tombs were destroyed by vandalism and have since been restored and preserved.

There are about 1,100 family tombs and more than 7,000 people buried in Lafayette I, a single city block.

Hours:
Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 2:30 pm
Saturday closes at noon
Closed most major holidays

It’s All About the Hurricane…

Big East Daiquiris

Big East Daiquiris

In planning a trip to New Orleans, I had a list of things to do, foods to eat and sights to see. Of course, everyone mentioned the hurricane! Hurricanes are a sweet, popular alcoholic drink served in New Orleans. You can walk down any street in the French Quarter and see people roaming around with a tall plastic hurricane cup in hand filled with a bright colored slushy drink. Hurricanes are similar to daiquiris and made with rum, fruit juice, and syrup or grenadine. In New Orleans is it legal to walk around with a drink in hand as long as you have a plastic cup or container. The hurricane was created by Pat O’Briens tavern owner in New Orleans back in the 1940’s and became popular with sailors. The name came about from serving the drink in a hurricane-lamp shaped glass.

Big Easy Daiquiris~ The Big Easy Daiquiris have 6 locations in the French Quarter with multiple locations on Canal, Bourbon and Decatur.  Offering 14 flavors, choose from 190 Antifreeze, Margarita, Hurricane, Appletini, Banana, Grape, Jungle Juice, Peach Bellini, Pina Colada, Virgin Peach Bellini, Strawberry, Virgin Strawberry, White Russian, and Sangria. For those of you who aren’t up for the extra sweet drink, The Big Easy Daiquiris also offers a local beer called Abita which is brewed in Abita Springs, Louisiana located 30 minutes outside of New Orleans.

Remember to take fun photos and watch out for the photobombers!

Big Easy Daiquiris

Big Easy Daiquiris

The Streetcars of New Orleans

Canal Street Line

Canal Street Line

Cable cars are synonymous with San Francisco, as red buses are with London, so what exactly is the New Orleans streetcar? New Orleanians will be sure to tell you that the streetcar is a vintage electric rail vehicle and not a trolley. Hopping on a streetcar is a great way to ride around and view the historic city. We rented a car but didn’t want to bother with driving around and parking. The iconic streetcars, also known as W-2 cars, came about 60 years prior to the trolley during the early 19th century. Streetcars were originally operated in Melbourne, Australia. While visiting New Orleans in April, we had the pleasure, or shall I say experience, of riding down St. Charles Avenue on the St. Charles Line. The St. Charles Line is the longest of New Orleans’ streetcar lines. A little known fact, the St. Charles Line is also the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world! Basically, this means you can’t get lost because it goes up and down one street.

There are a total of four operating streetcar lines in New Orleans consisting of the St. Charles Avenue Line, the Riverfront Line, the Canal Street Line, and the Loyola Avenue Line. We only had time to ride he St. Charles Line; however, this post will provide information on all 4 lines. Tickets are available for 1, 3, and 31-day unlimited ride for just $3, $9 and $55.

The Canal Street Line~ The Canal Street Line discontinued service in 1944 and then a new Canal streetcar was reinvented in 2004. The Canal Street Line route spans 5.5 miles along Canal Street from the French Market into the mid-city filled with museums, art and farmer’s markets and finally ending at City Park for just $1.25 each way. The streetcar is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. City goers can connect on the additional lines along North Carrollton Avenue where tourists can visit City Park, botanical gardens and villages. Popular attractions along the Canal Street Line include the New Orleans Museum of Art, Sydney and Walda Bestoff Sculpture Garden, Fairgrounds Race Track, Jazz Festival and the Pitot Plantation Home built in 1799.

St. Charles Line

St. Charles Line

The St. Charles Line~ We walked a couple of blocks from our hotel, The Sheraton New Orleans, to St. Charles Avenue and hopped on the olive-green streetcar which runs approximately every 13 minutes up and down the avenue. Purchase an all day, round trip ticket for just $3.00 per person! Be sure to bring exact change, as the driver will not provide change. Walk up the steps and enter the streetcar to be greeted by the nostalgic decor of mahogany seats, brass fittings and exposed ceiling light bulbs. The iconic streetcar has been rolling up and down the avenue for over 150 years. We were able to find open seats in the morning, but in the afternoon it was standing room only. Be sure to hang on tight to those brass poles as the streetcar stops and starts up again pretty abruptly. We stopped off to visit the Garden District, where you will find multi-million dollar estates which are more than 100 years old.

Commander's Palace

Commander’s Palace

Hop off the streetcar at the Garden District, cross the street and head straight until you run into the Commander’s Palace on your left hand side where you can pick up a map of the Garden District. Don’t miss the home from the movie Benjamin Button! The Garden District is also home to the Lafayette Cemetery with above-ground tombs.

The St. Charles streetcar takes passengers through the central Business District, uptown New Orleans, fine dining, Audubon Zoological Gardens, historic monuments and Loyola and Tulane Universities. Enjoy the scenic view around the river bend and through a tunnel of oak trees. After touring the Garden District, we were on a quest to find oysters and ended up at The Blind Pelican located at 1628 St. Charles Avenue. It was the perfect place to stop and grab oysters on the half shell and local beers on tap. They are famously known for their 25 cent oysters at happy hour. Upon walking out of the Blind Pelican, we noticed the St. Charles streetcar stop. Perfect!

Loyola Avenue Line~ The Loyola Avenue Line, which opened in 2013, is the newest line of the four streetcars rolling through New Orleans. The purpose of the new streetcar was to provide transportation for those who arrive or depart via Greyhound bus or Amtrak trains. The Loyola Avenue Line conveniently transports passengers from the station straight to Canal Street and the French Quarter. The Loyola Line differs from the other lines, as it is air-conditioned and has wider doors. If you aren’t commuting to a bus or train station but would like to take advantage of the sightseeing stops along the Loyola Line, stop off at Julia Street which takes you right to the Art District. City Hall and the Financial District are located at the Poydras Street stop and the Medical District and library can be found at the Tulane Avenue stop.

The Riverfront Line~ The first streetcar on the Riverfront Line was introduced in 1988, as New Orleans first large capital project. Take a ride along the French Market, RiverWalk Marketplace, Shops at Canal Place, Aquariums of the Americas and try your luck and Harrah’s Casino. Riding one of the four streetcars is a great way to see the city and snap pictures without having to worry about directions, GPS, getting lost, one way streets or driving.

Fun times on the St. Charles Line

Fun times on the St. Charles Line

Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans

Beignets

Beignets

It’s all about the beignets!!!! Get yours at Cafe Du Monde which is open 24/7! They are located in the French Quarter at 800 Decatur Street. Cafe Du Monde started out as a coffee stand in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market serving just four items: coffee, beignets, orange juice and chocolate milk. At the coffee stand, customers could order coffee one of two ways, black or au lait. Today, Cafe Du Monde is known for their world-renowned beignets covered in powered sugar.

Cafe Du Monde Beignet mix

Cafe Du Monde Beignet mix

I was surprised that the beignets don’t taste greasy at all. Warning, your face and clothing will be covered in powdered sugar. There are two separate lines at Cafe DuMonde, one for to-go orders and the other to sit down and enjoy your hot, fresh beignets. The line is very long at all times but moves along surprisingly fast. The line closest to the street is the dine-in line and the line along the backside of the restaurant is the to-go line. We thought that we were in the to-go line and discovered that we were actually in the dine-in line. So, we took a seat and ordered our beignets! I am glad we were able to take in the full dining experience of watching everyone cover themselves in powdered sugar.

Beignets~ the word “beignet” also know as “boules de Berlinis” or “fritelli”, is a French term which translates to fritter. Usually made from dough (choux or yeast), deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar, beignets are most commonly consumed as a breakfast food. Beignets must be eaten fresh and hot. In New Orleans, beignets have become a big part of the creole cuisine. Beignets are often made with fruit or jam fillings. At Cafe Du Monde, beignets are served in an order of 3. In 1986, beignets were declared the official state doughnut of Louisiana. Pick up a box of Cafe Du Monde beignet mix at any souvenir shop in New Orleans.

Make your own beignets!!!!

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup evaporated milk
7 cups bread flour
1/4 cup shortening
Nonstick spray
Oil, for deep-frying
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Directions
Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture to the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.

Add the confectioners’ sugar to a paper or plastic bag and set aside.

Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color. After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then toss them into the bag of confectioners’ sugar. Hold bag closed and shake to coat evenly.

~ Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

Chicory~ What exactly is chicory? Chicory has a chocolate flavor to the coffee, but actually is made from roasting and grinding the root of the endive plant (lettuce). Chicory not only adds a greatly chocolate flavor, it also reduces the bitterness of dark roast coffee. Chicory was discovered by the French during their civil war. Since coffee was not abundantly available during that time, the French creatively added chicory to supplement their coffee. The Acadians are credited for bringing chicory to Louisiana in the 1700’s.

Line at Cafe Du Monde

Line at Cafe Du Monde