Southern Comforts: New Orleans - Day Two

Southern Comforts: New Orleans - Day Two
September 19, 2010

fter a jet-lag affected night's sleep in the Big Easy, day two in New Orleans was all about the history.

Founded in 1718, and originally known as Nouvelle Orleans due to its French control, the city, as with so many other places in the United States, really shouts about its history, rather than taking it for granted like us Brits.

Before all that though – breakfast.

A quick stop off at Huck Finn's had us feasting on omelettes, grits, herb potatoes, biscuits and copious cups of delicious coffee, surrounded by hordes wearing American university attire – Saturday, as we found out, is college football day in the States.

Well fed, we set off to pound the streets of the French Quarter and take in the sights.

Well, I say pound, it was more saunter as the heat (well over the 90 degree mark) had us sweating in no time.

The great thing about US cities is they are so often extremely easy to get around – with a grid system in place it is far easier to follow a map than say London, where devious architects seem to have enjoyed throwing tourists off their trail over the years.

Within a matter of a couple of hours we had strolled around Jackson Square, St Louis Cathedral, the original city hall and also gone for a pleasant walk along Woldenberg Park on the bank of the Mississippi river.

Early afternoon and it was on to the highlight of our day – a paddlesteamer cruise along the river courtesy of the Creole Queen.

Back in the day there were probably countless steamers clogging the river, but now it is just a handful of companies catering for the tourist trade.

With ample seating we were able to get a great view as we sailed along, with a helpful guide offering plenty of interesting information.

But that was where the sad recent history of New Orleans came to the fore, as for every enlightening nugget of info, there were also plenty of sobering tales of destroyed wharfs and virtually deserted areas thanks to Hurricane Katrina.

Our stopping point was a few miles down river, at the New Orleans battlefield.

Fought in 1815, the battle marked the last confrontation on land between American and British forces, before the Treaty of Paris settled borders and had the Brits packing their bags.

The battlefield has been converted into a national park, with park rangers and plenty of signage on hand to guide you through the events.

And I must admit, it was incredibly strange to be walking across a field where you are casually told there were 2,000 British casualties on that fateful day.

A Union Jack marks the British starting point, and rather than take the path we decided to cut across the grass – a big mistake as our scratched and bug-bitten legs will testify.

But we were able to get our pictures, so it was job done as far as I was concerned.

There is no doubt a paddlesteamer trip is an absolute must in any visit to New Orleans, and we were very well looked after.

We rounded off day two with a visit to the Crazy Lobster restaurant on the Riverwalk – after all, what visit to the Big Easy is complete without some seafood?

To say we were stuffed two hours later is a drastic understatement – strange considering we had not gone overboard on our ordering.

But with jambalaya, gumbo and catfish aplenty, New Orleans certainly knows how to fill your belly, and we slumped back into our beds happy chappies.
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