The French Quarter in New Orleans

 

Certainly the highlight of any trip to New Orleans, Louisiana is visiting the French Quarter. With a history that dates back to 1718, there are many different sites to see when spending time in the French Quarter. One of the first things that comes to mind when talking about the French Quarter is Bourbon Street, which is in the heart of the neighborhood. Regardless of the time of year, it can be raucous with many different bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. Although there are parades and special events during Mardi Gras, the street is pretty much an outdoor party all year as people are allowed to take drinks with them in plastic cups as they walk the streets. Although it can be a fun street to visit, there is certainly a lot more to see in the French Quarter than just Bourbon Street.

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Walking Bourbon Street at Dusk
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Very Busy Jackson Square
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St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square

Jackson Square with its bronze statues of Andrew Jackson and proximity between the St. Louis Cathedral and the Mississippi River is an absolute must to visit. It is a beautiful park and is usually surrounded by artists selling arts and crafts as well as performers entertaining the crowds that gather in the area. A walk along the river or taking a tour on one of the historic paddle ships such as the Natchez should also be on your agenda. Obviously the St. Louis Cathedral, which is the oldest continuously operating catholic cathedral operating in the United States, is worth spending about an hour visiting. Located next to the cathedral is The Cabildo where you can see exhibits providing information on the history of New Orleans and Louisiana.

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Historic Streets
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Artists in Jackson Square
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Voodoo Shop

In addition to the restaurants and typical tourist shops, you will find several voodoo shops in the French Quarter where you can buy yourself a voodoo doll or perhaps have a psychic reading done if you are interested. You will also find many different tour companies that offer ghost and cemetery tours and you will find many of them walking the streets after it the sun goes down. If you want a more lively way to spend your evening, there are lots of nightclubs offering live music, including jazz, Dixieland, as well as modern rock bands. As the night goes on, Bourbon Street becomes livelier and livelier and it is certainly not an environment for anyone under the age of 21.

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Carriage in the French Quarter
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Sign for a Voodoo Shop
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Another View of Bourbon Street

Any trip to New Orleans should include sampling many of the varieties of food that are very specific to the region. You can find many different styles from inexpensive to the most formal meals. You should certainly expect long lines at many of the restaurants that don’t take reservations and for those that do accept them, you should plan to make reservations well in advance. In addition to the various foods such as po-boys, oysters, seafood, and crawfish, there are also several specialty drinks that can be found. Having a Hurricane or Sazerac are certainly worth having if you are looking for a unique adult beverage.

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Natchez Riverboat
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Mississippi River
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Walking the Streets at Christmas

Overall, we would say that spending time in the French Quarter is a lot like visiting the Las Vegas Strip, meaning that it is probably worth about three or four days and is certainly not a great place for children to visit after dark. Regardless of the time of day, we really enjoyed walking the streets of the French Quarter including Royal Street with all of its art galleries, Jackson Square, and even spending time on Bourbon Street.

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Inventor of the Hurricane Drink
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St. Louis Cathedral
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Beautiful Architecture

 

Las Vegas, A Food Destination

We took advantage of some time off to take a trip to Las Vegas once again. Vegas is an easy trip from Colorado as there are a lot of inexpensive flights and, since we have a timeshare there, inexpensive rooms. This was our fifth trip to Las Vegas, but for us, it isn’t about gambling or even the glitz and glamour.  We actually used our trip to have some down time, relax, enjoy some incredible food, and simply connect with one another.  And yes, we stayed on the Las Vegas strip, albeit in the Trump Tower, which allowed us to get away from the noise of the casinos.

Fountain Outside of Caesar's Palace
Fountain Outside of Caesar’s Palace
Statue of Liberty at the New York, New York Casino
Statue of Liberty at the New York, New York Casino

If you haven’t been to Las Vegas lately, you might be surprised by all of the top chefs with restaurants in the casinos.  Las Vegas has gone through several transformations over the years.  Obviously, everyone knows about the early days when Sinatra, the Rat Pack, and the mob ruled the town.  Then, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, they tried to become a family friendly destination.  After losing millions in revenue, it was a return to the original formula as they rolled out the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” campaign.

Thai Calamari
Thai Calamari
Cheese Board
Cheese Board

Now, it is definitely a destination for “foodies”.  Wherever you turn, you’ll see signs and billboards for the famous chefs and their restaurants.  You see names like Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Giada, Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck, and many, many more.  You may have to fight your way through the casino floors and the incessant ringing of the video slot machines, but you’ll be well rewarded if you do.  The days of the cheap buffet and the nickel steaks are definitely a thing of the past.  The food is fantastic and, depending on the time of year, you’ll want to make reservations if you want to enjoy the creations of your favorite chef.  Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll even see your favorite chef in person or perhaps another celebrity enjoying everything that the Las Vegas strip has to offer.

Deviled Eggs
Deviled Eggs
Foie Gras
Foie Gras

Obviously, there are also a ton of shows, with every large casino offering some sort of Cirque Du Soleil extravaganza.  Magicians, comedy acts, and a plethora of singers.  Night clubs too, can be found to meet every style and taste.  But there are other things to do as well.  There is the top of the Stratosphere, the CSI Experience, the Titanic Exhibition, the Bodies Experience, Mob Museum, Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, Pin Ball Museum, helicopter tours, tours to the Grand Canyon, and much more.  We’ve done many of these and they are all well worth a try, although many of them can be quite pricey.

Fountain inside of the Wynn
Fountain inside of the Wynn
Paris Hotel and Casino
Paris Hotel and Casino

As we mentioned before, this was a relaxing trip for us, so we made our way through several restaurants.  The highlight was dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant with its spectacular views of the Bellagio fountains.  We also ate at Gordon Ramsay’s Pub, Emeril’s Plate, the DB Brasserie, Cucina by Wolfgang Puck, the Nine Fine Irishmen, and many more.

Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas Strip
Caesar's Palace
Caesar’s Palace

If you’re thinking about going to Las Vegas and have never been before, you really should go, at least once.  Every time we visit, we always see something that we haven’t seen before.  Vegas isn’t just about gambling and shows, but from our perspective, it is an adult destination.  We see a lot of families walking along the strip, taking pictures with the many costumed characters, but you’ll also be constantly barraged with flyers for strip clubs and adult shows.  So, definitely visit Las Vegas, but in our opinion, you should leave the little ones at home.

Rack of Lamb
Rack of Lamb
Beef Wellington
Beef Wellington
New York, New York Casino and Hotel
New York, New York Casino and Hotel