By Carla Marie Rupp
I hadn’t been back to New Orleans, a city I love, for some time. When I made the decision to visit it once again I knew I’d be going alone, and would need to keep the cost reasonable.
On my first full day there I was fortunate to be able to get back in touch with Kelley Edmiston, a tour guide for Living History Tours, who I’d met on a previous visit. We met for lunch at Li’l Dizzy’s (1500 Esplanade Avenue), a cozy spot where you can get an authentic Southern/Soul meal for under $20, either buffet or à la carte.
After lunch we left to explore historic Fauburg Treme, the oldest black neighborhood in America, which is more than just pretty pastel creole houses and the setting for award-winning PBS and HBO films. A special attraction in Treme, the Back Street Cultural Museum, displays the largest collection of Mardi Gras Indian regalia. It’s worth touring to see the collection, and also learn about jazz funerals and other African-American traditions. We ended the day having drinks in the Frenchmen Street area, with its string of low-cost music clubs.
I stayed in the French Quarter, a block from Bourbon Street, at the Dauphine Orleans Hotel (less than $150 with the 10% off senior or AAA discount), which was great because I could walk to so many places. I had a basic King-bed room with refrigerator and the service was excellent. Its heated, saltwater courtyard pool was fabulous.
Guests at the Dauphine are given free breakfast, free bottled water and coffee, free wireless internet and a free drink in its lovely bar, May Bailey’s Place, which is a former bordello. I think the hotel is worth more than a three-star rating for its amenities, comfort and super-friendly staff, many of whom I got to know on a first-name basis, enjoying their tales. Josh at the front desk even sang for me after I learned he’d studied opera in school.
The hotel’s Carriage House courtyard, in the historic John James Audubon room, was the site of the studio of the famous wildlife artist between 1821 and 1822. I not only admired the artwork of birds and wildlife, but also enjoyed the free daily breakfast and the opportunity to be able to eat with congenial people before starting a day of sightseeing. Each morning we enjoyed unlimited free fruit and good coffee, along with make-your-own waffles and other things, all great benefits for a solo traveler on a budget.
The Dauphine Orleans also arranges free shuttle bus service to Mardi Gras World, the largest float design facility in the world. On a tour at Mardi Gras World I watched a video capturing the sights, history and sounds of Mard Gras, which began in New Orleans in 1837, and saw artists at work, took a ton of photos of the floats and got a free piece of “king cake” in the gift shop. Our admission tickets ($20 adults, $16 for seniors) were real strings of green Mardi Gras beads with a medallion attached to take home as souvenirs.
I also enjoyed a tour at the National World War II Museum (945 Magazine Street, $22 adult, $19 senior). In the Museum’s interactive exhibit “Final Mission: USS Tang” ($5 additional) where we relived its last epic battle, I met several veterans, also touring, who had served on a submarine. Later at lunch, while listening to big-band music, I got a little bit of the feeling of those wartime days.
Later I walked over to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, which was close by, and enjoyed viewing its wonderful collection of art of the American South. I took advantage of a weekly “Ogden After Hours” evening (6-8 pm) to see journalist John Swenson interview local pianist and vocalist Ed Volker and hear Volker perform. Every Thursday at the Ogden there’s a different program with noted local writers and musicians, after which you can see view the art collection.
For me it was very special to be in the city that was the birthplace of jazz, and still resonates with cool music and striking art venues, and has such distinctive architecture and unique restaurants. I enjoyed the experience of leisurely eating at the live jazz brunch buffet (9am – 3 pm daily) at the Court of Two Sisters on Royal Street, with its delicious, Louisiana specialties (60 items!) in a beautiful courtyard-garden atmosphere, the largest outdoor dining courtyard in the French Quarter. And the brunch includes coffee, tea, juice and desert galore, all for $29!
The Court’s servers, so hospitable and looking so elegant, help me feel so relaxed, and I remembered nostalgically coming here with my family years ago. But I found it impossible to feel lonely as I heard many of my favorite jazz standards, including “Bye Bye, Blackbird.”
During the band’s break I said hello to Amy, longtime banjo player at the Court and leader of the jazz trio, as well as to Alex Fein, the restaurant’s co-owner with his sister Aynsley Fein. They are to be congratulated: “We’re keeping this place going,” said Alex. “Fifty years now.” Their grandfather Joe Fein, Jr signed the lease for the Court in 1963, and restored the building to its former glory. It was once the site of the Louisiana’s Governor’s mansion.
My trip to New Orleans didn’t break my wallet even with traveling all over the city. Although I walked a lot, my transportation also included streetcars (a bargain at $3.00 for the whole day, or 40¢ a ride if you’re a senior), a few taxis, the City Sightseeing New Orleans hop-on-hop-off bus, and even once a pedicab from the French Market to Jackson Square, where my friend Linda showed me some great shops.
For me there is no other place like New Orleans, and I love it more each time I visit. And I miss it already – the music, the people, its cuisine, just everything about it – as in the song, “Do You Know What I Means to Miss New Orleans?”
But don’t worry, I’ll be back.
If you go:
New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau
3030 St. Charles Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70130-5210
(800) 672-6124, (504) 566-5011
Back Street Cultural Museum
1116 Henriette Delille Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
Tel: (504) 522-4806
Mardi Gras World
1380 Port of New Orleans Place
New Orleans, LA 70130
Tel: (504) 361-7821
The National World War II Museum
945 Magazine St,
New Orleans, LA 70130
Tel: (504) 528-1944
$22 adult, $19 senior)
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
925 Camp St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
Tel: (504) 539-9650
$10 adults, $8, seniors)
Court of Two Sisters
613 Royal St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
Tel: (504) 522-7261
Dauphine Orleans of the New Orleans Hotel Collection
415 Dauphine St.
New Orleans, LA 70112
Tel: (855) 798-6642