Our original itinerary for this current road trip did not include a visit to New Orleans. I was planning on spending a few days at a Florida national seashore and then heading west on I-10 driving straight through the city of New Orleans without stopping. I’m not really a “city person” but since our plans were turned upside down I found an available campsite for a few nights at Fontainebleau State Park and took my son Luke’s advice. He was adamant from the beginning that we could not just bypass New Orleans and Fontainebleau State Park is a short drive into the city.
Luke had been to the city a few months ago to attend a friend’s wedding and told us we had to experience the city since we would be so close. He helped us develop a plan for “New Orleans in a Day” and I’m so glad we listened to him! It ended up being a totally fun-filled day and we decided we may even come back when we can spend the night in the city!!
Our first and biggest dilemma was figuring out where to park. Our parking concerns were threefold: cost of all-day parking, possibility of theft, and maneuvering a large truck in a small city parking lot. We thought about trying Uber but the cost for a ride into the city from the state park was too expensive. Our son, Luke, had the perfect solution. When he visited the city, he discovered there is free parking at City Park. He also encouraged us to take in the New Orleans Botanical Garden located in City Park. One of the main agenda items I wanted to check off my list was a visit to Cafe du Monde for their famous beignets. He informed us there is a location right in City Park and it is much less crowded than the Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter!
City Park is a 1,300 oasis of green right in the middle of the city. I was surprised to learn it is 50% bigger than Central Park in New York. According to the website, “The Park is home to the New Orleans Botanical Garden, Couturie Forest and Arboretum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, and the largest grove of mature live oaks in the world, some of which are nearly 800 years old.” Definitely worth a stop to check out this massive cultural and natural resources hotspot!
Our ride into the city over the 24-mile bridge that spans Lake Pontchartrain was uneventful and the parking at City Park was easy and safe. We actually parked right up next to the police station in the park! Who’s going to break into cars right under the surveillance of the city police, right?? Since we left the campground early and before breakfast, the first order of business was to hit up Cafe du Monde which we could see from our parking spot. It’s a cool building and there was no line when we arrived. We grabbed two orders of Cafe au Lait and Beignets and found a sunny spot near a rose garden to enjoy the puffed pastries and coffee laced with chicory and milk. Words cannot adequately describe the pure joy that is gained from feasting on these delectable treats!! 🙂
After eating, we embarked on the short walk over to the New Orleans Botanical Garden. We were a tad early for their opening time so we hung out at the fountain at the top of the Goldring/Woldenberg Great Lawn. Nice little formal design and flower garden!
It’s not really the season when things are in bloom, but it was enjoyable walking around the grounds. The sculpture garden honoring Enrique Alferez was definitely a highlight. It was interesting to read about this Mexican sculptor who made New Orleans his home. He created sculptures for the botanical garden and the city park from the 1930’s to 1990’s working in bronze, cast stone and metal. I love the quote by Alferez that is written on one of the display panels. Reflecting on New Orleans, he says “I love New Orleans. The place is a good place. But I have had a hell of a lot of difficulties because of ignorance. It’s not New Orleans, though. Ignorance with power is everywhere.” Such a true statement. As you enter the sculpture garden, the following piece of art welcomes visitors to the exhibit.
I was particularly taken with the following two sculptures.
When we entered the Conservatory, we started talking with a gentleman who was volunteering at the garden – doing odd jobs like weeding, deadheading, etc. We asked him if he had ever been to Longwood Gardens (since that is where I grew up). I measure the quality of all public gardens against my beloved Longwood! He said, in fact, that he had just returned from a visit there to see the annual Holiday display! I went on to relay my experience growing up on the grounds of Longwood and, to my surprise, he indicated that he had been a horticulture student there 55 years ago and lived in quarters behind the DuPont house. Turns out we were actually there at the same time! Small world! He returned to New Orleans after his internship at Longwood and started a successful nursery specializing in water plants, retiring just a year ago.
After walking through the sculpture garden, we followed the recommended route through the garden to the Pavilion of the Two Sisters – a special events venue for the city. What a place to throw a party!! 🙂
Another sculpture by Enrique Alferez in located in front of the pavilion.
Our final stop in the garden was the vegetable display garden. Now this is my idea of a cool vegetable garden – both functional and aesthetic!!
Our second dilemma was how to get from City Park to the French Quarter of New Orleans. My other goal was simply to see the French Quarter and find a good restaurant for lunch. Again, we considered Uber. But, in looking at public transportation options, I found there is a street car line that runs between City Park and the French Quarter – the Canal Street line. And, it’s only $1.00 per person to ride! It was fun riding the historic street car and we got to see some of the city along the way!
Once reaching the French Quarter, we disembarked and worked our way over to Jackson Square. I thought this seemed like a good spot to start our walking tour. It was fun to observe the street vendors and musicians along the streets.
We were starving by the time we got to the French Quarter so our first priority was to find a restaurant for lunch. This lunch was somewhat special as it was intended to be our celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary. Again, our son Luke had suggested a cafe he had seen while exploring the French Quarter. He had not eaten there but thought it looked like a cool place with a cozy courtyard for outdoor dining. We decided to immediately navigate through the streets towards Cafe Amelie and enjoy the sights along the way. Located on Royal Street, we arrived to find some more musicians entertaining the crowd waiting for a table! I enjoyed a spectacular meal starting off with the Beet, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad followed by a plate of Shrimp and Grits. My husband ordered a bowl of the Gumbo Soup and finished with the Collard’s and Eggs dish! We toasted our anniversary with a phenomenal glass of red wine. Perfect!!
After our relaxing meal, we wandered through some of the residential area of the French Quarter on our way to see the Louis Armstrong Park. And, of course, we had to at least take a peek at Bourbon Street!
We walked through part of the Louis Armstrong Park on our way back to catch the street car back to City Park and our vehicle.
It was an absolutely great experience visiting New Orleans! We felt proud that us country folk were able to navigate our way the big city! 🙂
Please forgive any grammatical errors! I’m in a local library in West Texas and it’s getting busy with school children – time to go! I’ll edit later!!
My posts may be sporadic as well travel through some remote areas over the next couple of weeks.