Category Archives: Louisiana

Suggestions for taking kids to New Orleans and Plantations

My sister and her husband are going with their three kids to New Orleans over New Years so here’s some thoughts on things kids in particular might like or find interesting:Dining at the Camelia Grill in NOLA

– Near the Garden District, the famous Camelia Grill is a great place to get a burger or omelette smothered in chili, sitting at the curving counter watching the entertaining waiters. (see photo above) You can take the street car almost all the way there, I think, although the St. Charles line may still be under repair so you may have to transfer to a bus. Camelia Grill isn’t far from Tulane.

– Walk along Frenchmen Street at night to hear some live jazz (the kid are probably too young to get into the bars but there are often musicians playing on the street who sound just as good…to this untrained ear at least.) St. Louis Cemetery #1 ( think it’s #1) worth a trip as is French market and nearby Cafe Du Monde for beignets (touristy, yes, but for good reason.) For a look at the lingering devastation of Hurricane katrina, take a tour led by someone at  lowernine.org. (You’ll need to call ahead to book and have a car so the guide can drive you around.(504) 278-1240)

– For good neighborhood place famed for Cajun classics, try Mandinas (excellent gumbo and po-boys)…or Luizza’s By The Tracks (it was closed when we went due to a power outage but the owner pointed us to Mandinas nearby.) Both are out-of-the-way and you have to take a cab (so you may not want to do but does give you a feel for real life beyond the French Quarter or Garden District.

– In Plantation County, near the fabulous Laura Plantation is B&C Seafoods where you can try several local delicacies including an alligator burger or boudin balls (deep fried balls of a creamy sort of sausage.) You can also more familiar stuff like a crab cake with hush puppies. A great down home atmosphere. (see photo below) The kids will probably like Oak Alley Plantation perhaps better than Laura. Oak Alley is more touristy/with people dressed in period costume (hooped skirts) while Laura is more humble but gorgeous and tour is more focused on history and realities like slavery, from what I recall.Dining in Plantation country

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Scenes from the Swamp – Breaux Bridge/Lake Martin Louisiana

Swamp tour guide extraordinaire, Norbert LeBlanc on Lake Martin, La. Oct. 2012

A week ago I was cruising slowly through a swamp with two friends from England, a young Morrocan-born woman living in Paris and a gregarious alligator hunter/swamp tour operator named Norbert LeBlanc. I highly recommend his swamp tour – which lasted about two hours and cost a very reasonable $20 per person. Here’s Norbert giving his tour in french (ours was mostly English); http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-e4t3ArJDA

Here’s some more scenes:

Norbert serving his own personal label of Moonshine en route.

The view from the boat: cypress and tupelo gum trees dripping with spanish moss, alligators and turtles lounging on logs in the water, elegant blue herons and white egrets

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cc’s community coffee, central grocery, couchon, Tulane! Hotel provincial

We moved to better digs (and no surprise, more expensive digs) at the hotel provincial on Chartes Street. But even here, we were awakened at 2’am or so by a drunken cackle. Seems unavoidable in the french quarter. Room 515 was in an old building that used to be a warehouse. It reminded us  of a room we stayed at in Florence – high ceiling, huge, old world furnishings, elegant and a little odd. We liked it. our friends ended up in even stranger digs. they had their own two story condo that is normally someone’s home. again, odd.
We had coffee at CC’s Community coffee on Royal then popped into the central grocery but skipped getting the mufaletta because it wasn’t lunch time. We visited a very good new contemporary art gallery called M Gallery not far from our  hotel, then took the st. Charles streetcar (which was a bus ride initially) to Tulane to see our nephew, a happy sophomore there. Ate at cafe ferete. Cute place, so so food. After a swim in the refreshingly cool water of the charming courtyard pool at our hotel, we ate at trendy couchon restaurant – oysters, porkcheek, short ribs,pulled pork with crackling and turnips and pickled peaches. Definitely different. Now taking our chances with frontier airlines. We appear to be leaving. So maybe this flight won’t be cancelled.

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Lowernine.org., garden district, camellia grill, boucherie

Frenchman street is almost empty on this Saturday morning as I blog from the worn balcony of the Frenchman hotel but some public works guy has chosen to use some very noisy machineaye 7:30 a,m. We saw a lot of Nola yesterday starting with a tour of the lower ninth ward. Seven years after Katrina, the area has far from recovered, which is shameful. lowernine.org is a nonprofit that is rebuilding houses, using volunteer labor including many people from other countries. Our tour was very low key. A smart young woman originally from Wisconsin sT on ghe passenger seat of our rental car and guided us to the pertinent sites. Far better and more appropriate than crawling though the area in a tour bus. We gave her a donation that goes to the organization.
We stopped for coffee and a homemade pop tart at satsuma, a cafe in the Bywater; had a fun lunch sitting at the counter at the camellia grill in uptown (loved the jocular waiters In their white shirts and black bow ties serving up huge omelletes with fries smothered in chili and burgers with grilled onions. on to thengarden district to soak up the architecture and then a stroll down Magazine street, popping in a few shops. we may have had our best dinner yet at boucherie in uptown, located In a tiny house. fantastic food and ambiance and service. Will return.

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Cafe des Amis – Cajun charmer

good thing I booked a table at cafe des Amis in breaux bridge last night because the place was packed…on a Wednesday night no less. The music and the food were a big draw. We had a front table right in front of a three piece Cajun band that played for almost two hours straight while diners danced expertly. Great scene in cozy old storefront cafe. The food was excellent …the best crabcakes ever and a very good shrimp étouffée. I shared a chocolate pecan pie slice with franc and a 29 year French Moroccan lawyer we met on our swamp tour. Fun night!
I was less impressed tonight by maurepas foods in Nola’s Bywater neighborhood. Interesting looking place in emerging arty area but food a bit precious and we ended up spending way too much for way too little food. I had to beg for some bread and the waiter produced four pieces of bread, each the size of a silver dollar. struck me as stingy.
much better was the jazz fund band nearby at Vaughn’s, a small club in the Bywater that rocked as people danced to the jubilant horns of Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ Swingers. fantastic energy and sound. this Detroit girl couldn’t get enough!

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Leblanc swamp tour, Mcgees landing, lafayette la.

Norbert Leblanc did not disappoint. He turned out to be a wirey, youthful 77-year-old Cajun who knew the swampy Lake Martin inside and out. He could spot an alligator poking its head out of the water or two turtles on a log from several feet away. As we motored along in his small six seat swamp boat, weaving through a maze of elegant Cyprus and tupelo gum trees draped with spanish moss, he pointed out egrets, herons,cormorants, and hawks and regaled us with stories. We stopped inside a strand of trees so he could serve us some moonshine in small plastic cups and show us photos of his alligator conquests, including an 800 pound one he somehow managed to capture. He also pulled out a worn copy of national geographic to show us some photos of himself from a long ago story. There was one other passenger besides the three of us, a French Moroccan young woman from Paris who spoke English but also shared some French conversation with Norbert. We were out on the water for two hours and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty and peace.
Great value too… For $20 per person.
We landed at Mcgees landing for lunch, high atop a levee in nearby Henderson, overlooking a broad expanse of the Atchafalaya Swamp, a seemingly endless stretch of water and wetlands, a perfect perch for watching birds and the occasional boat.russ and I had our first crawfish .. We were underwhelmed. They were sort of tiny dry shrimp in a red peppery spice. Expensive too…about $18. But glad we tried and we enjoyed the backwoods feel of the place and chatting with the waitress.
We drove into Lafayette for a quick look around, finding the Blue Moon Saloon which we may return to for music tonight. But our little cottage by the lake beckoned so after picking up some butter toffee coated pecans and a satsuma (other local products we had to try)we happily returned lakeside.

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Laura plantation, breaux bridge la., Cajun country cottages: Cajun country

I am sitting on the porch of a pretty little Cajun country cottage overlooking a small muddy brown-green lake bordered by dense trees. The frogs are chirping, the birds chirping, two bright green salamanders are climbing the mustard colored wood frame cottage. So much to report:
Laura Plantation, one of the first plantations on the river road heading out of Nola, turned out to be lovely and understated (compared to the grand Oak Alley Plantation nearby), a horizontal one story creole mansion with a wide porch set on a long swath of green lawn dotted with huge ancient oaks. surprisingly, this plantation was run by a series of women, all tough cookies from the sound of it. The tour was heavy on unvarnished history (notably the slavery discussion) which we appreciated.
B&C Seafoods was just east of the plantation so we had some local delicacies for lunch, most of it deep fried. boudin balls (deep fried balls of a creamy sort of sausage) a local delicacy, were tasty. I had the crab equivalent…a crab cake which came with hush puppies and fries. Francine was talked into having alligator burger. Not bad. Kinda dry.
Cajun country cottages, turned out to be a very good pick. And a nice change after our cramped quarters in Nola. It’s a two bedroom cottage with a big living room, eat in Kitchen and this lovely porch with a swinging bench overlooking the lake, (where I am now. ) we like it so much that we decided to eat in last night after picking up some locally made Cajun pasta sauce at the Heberts market in downtown breaux bridge. Nice and spicy!

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