New Orleans

October 2023

Michael Pistrang, Oct 2023


In early October 2023 Maeve and I took a 4.5 day trip to New Orleans to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

A big thank you goes out to Jerry Smolin who's connection to New Orleans is unparalleled and the pages of recommendations he provided helped shape a wonderful and memorable experience!

An even bigger thank you goes out to my parents who watched the kids for 5 days, enabling us to take this once in a lifetime trip.

Our hotel room was in the Convent building of the Hotel Peter & Paul


We landed in New Orleans around 5:30pm, got a taxi from the queue, and drove off towards the city.  It was a weekday so there was some rush hour traffic; our taxi driver opted to take some local streets instead of the highway in a few spots, and we got to our hotel in the Marigny neighborhood around 6:30pm.  The driver was talkative and fun.

The Hotel Peter & Paul is beautiful and we’re really glad we stayed there, and in that neighborhood.  The staff was very nice, and in their notes they saw we were connected to Jerry.  We immediately felt welcome and the church’s stunning features made everything feel special.

We had dinner reservations at Muriel’s Jackson Square at 8pm, so we took an Uber around 7:20pm and walked around for a bit.  It was a Thursday night and very quiet in that part of town so we went into the restaurant a couple minutes early and were seated right away.

We had made reservations at Muriel’s a couple weeks prior; they came up on lists as being good for gluten allergy, and their menu was attractive, filled with what looked like locally inspired dishes.  While it was not technically our anniversary, the trip was in celebration of our 10 year anniversary, and therefore when making the reservation I had indicated that it was a special occasion.  The staff did a great job making us feel special and congratulating us on our anniversary.  The service was generally wonderful and the wait staff did a great job balancing a professional and familiar atmosphere.  They had fun so we had fun.

The wait staff was knowledgeable about handling a gluten allergy and noted it when serving bread (to just Mike), and while ordering.  Maeve ordered a cocktail and Mike had a sazerac.  We opted for the prix fixe menu.  Maeve had celery soup followed by shrimp and grits.  Mike had gumbo followed by mushroom encrusted drum. The food was quite good and combined with the atmosphere and service it really felt like a special meal.  Enough so that we had to pause and remember that we had just left Freeport that morning, and here we were having dinner just the two of us in New Orleans! For dessert Maeve had a slice of flourless chocolate cake which was by this point a bit too rich, and I had creme brulee and fruit which is always a solid ending to a meal.  The wait staff also brought us a little extra treat in celebration of our anniversary.

By the end of the meal it was 9pm, we were quite tired, and took an Uber back to the hotel and went to sleep.

Inside the St. Louis Cathedral

Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience


We slept in (no kids!) and woke up without any real plans for the day.  We didn’t have great breakfast options for Maeve so we walked up the street a few blocks to Robert’s Grocery to get some staples for the hotel room, where we ate some cheese, cold cuts, rolls (g and gf) and fruit.  We also shared a coffee.

After breakfast we ventured out on foot and walked down Frenchmen Street and meandered back towards Jackson Square where we had been the night before.  It was nice to see the park during the day.  We had beautiful weather, and it was actually refreshing to duck into the very stunning (and cooled) St. Louis Cathedral.  We walked around the park a bit and across Decatur Street to the waterfront.

Jerry had mentioned the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, though he had not been there himself.  We decided that would be more interesting to us than the WWII musuem, so we took an Uber there.  The museum was cute and fun and I learned some things, especially the surprising number of Jews who served as elected officials in the South.  I would recommend anybody who is interested in Jewish culture to check out the museum while in New Orleans.

After the museum we took an Uber back to the French Market for lunch, Maeve to crepes and I got okra gumbo.  It was good.

We walked back to the hotel to rest and plan the remainder of our day.

We wanted to go to Bachanal and decided to walk all the way there.  This turned into a long walk but it was nice to see the Bywater neighborhood.  Raphael Bas was playing and we enjoyed a drink and some music.  We then took an Uber all the way back into the French Quarter and ate dinner at Cuñada, a Mexican restaurant.   They say on their website they are meant to be a slow service restaurant, but what really that meant it was quite poor service.  Luckily the food was good and different from what we can get in Maine.  While in the French Quarter on a Friday night we took the opportunity to walk through the crazy Bourbon Street scene a couple times.  It was great to see this, no need to experience it further though.

We took an Uber home and went to bed.

Okra gumbo

Daytime shot of the hotel

The lounge at the hotel

Outside at Longue Vue


We had our breakfast in the hotel room and I got some overpriced tea from the hotel cafe .  We wanted to get out of the city a bit and do something with a historical theme.  We took an Uber to the Longue Vue house, a mansion and gardens with tours of both.  We paid for the house tour and had a nice tour of a very interesting and modern house for when it was built.  It turns out that the Stern/Rosenwald family that lived there in the early 1900s were also Jewish, and the stories of their life and influence in the city tied into the Jewish museum from the day before.

We still had the Garden District on our list of places to go, so we took an Uber to Poke Loa on Magazine Street, had good poke for lunch, and then weaved our way through the Garden District heading north east, checking out some pretty cool looking houses.  We found ourselves on St Charles street, and hopped on the street car and took it all the way to Canal Street.  We had each bought a fair in the app the night before.  Once downtown again we went to the Historic New Orleans Collection museum which was a nice small and free museum.  By this time we were pretty tired and we took an Uber back to the hotel to rest and restock our groceries.

We had tickets to a 7:30pm show that night so we walked to an early dinner at Budsi Thai which was great.  We sat outside and enjoyed ourselves.  Then we walked down Frenchmen Street to Snug Harbor.  We got there about an hour early so we sat at the bar and had a drink.  Once the doors opened we went in and were lucky to get some seats on the side of the room.  The early show crowd was mostly older, we were probably one of the youngest folks there.  It was a mix of local folks and tourists.

We had heard that Davell Crawford can be hit or miss, and tonight he was dialed in for a fun show.  He said he had been playing bigger venues and was excited to be back in a small New Orleans venue.  His first song set the tone and the show was awesome.  He got the whole house engaged and participating, with some on-stage dancing by one or two folks.  He played a couple songs we knew which was cool.

A fun aspect of the show is that while Davell and the bassist Mark Brooks had been playing together for 30 years, the drummer that night was a young kid that Davell said he had just called up a couple days before.  It was really fun to see Davell and Mark give the drummer queues all night, and Davell called him out to kick off some songs himself.  The drummer was nervious but did a great job.  This gave the whole show a familiar and fun atmosphere.

After the show we walked back to the hotel.

From Longue Vue, looking out over the pathway to the house

Shrimp Pad Thai at Budsi Thai

Looking into a cemetry in the Garden District

Before the show at Snug Harbor

In the swamp

Jelly Roll Stompers at The Spotted Cat Cafe


We had breakfast in our hotel room and I got a very good coffee from Who Dat Cafe which seems like a great spot but likely not somewhere Maeve would be able to eat safely.

We had decided the day before that with Sunday forecasted to have great weather, and us being done walking the city for a bit, to book a bayou boat tour.  We were late to schedule but Jamaal at the front desk helped us out.  Doing a tour like this isn’t really our style typically, but we had an unplanned day and wanted to be outside.  We figured if nothing else, it would be a show and experience.

The tour company picked us up by the French Market.  We were the first pickup, so we got to see all the swanky hotels the rest of the tour-goers were staying at.  We're very glad we stayed where we did.  The ride down to Lafitte and the bayou was long but we got to see what it looks like outside the city which was different than we’d seen so far.

The tour itself was a little less than 2 hours, and though we only saw a couple small crocodiles, it was a beautiful day to be out on the water and the fan boat, trees, and bayou were nothing that we had experienced prior.

We got dropped off back in town at 1pm, walked to the hotel and went up to the St. Roch Market for a late lunch.  The market is small and half the vendors were done with lunch, but Maeve got some Indian food and I got a beef Po’ Boy which was very good.  Then it was rest time.

After rest we walked back down to the French Market again to buy a couple things, and walked back up Frenchmen Street.  It was the last day of the NOLAxNOLA week long music event, and many of the bars had bands playing with no cover.  We ducked into the Spotted Cat Cafe and hung out for about an hour watching the Jelly Roll Stompers.  This was quite fun and at one point somebody walked in (a friend of theirs?), sang lead on a song, and then left.

We went back to the hotel and prepped for our final and very fancy dinner at GW Finns.

GW Finns is just off Bourbon Street, so we got a glimpse of the chaos as we walked in.  They are a more formal place, and again I had mentioned in my reservation that we were celebrating our anniversary.  The hostess congratulated us and our table was decorated with some extra flare.  The service was very formal and fancy, the food was fine, all seafood, and also very cognizant of allergies and comfortable for Maeve.  We both had local fish dishes.  This was probably one of the fancier restaurants Maeve and I had been to in a long time, so it was fun for that experience alone.

We took an Uber home and packed!

At GW Finns

Our special menu (with not quite the right anniversary date of course)

Looking south over New Orleans


We ate our breakfast in our room and got in our taxi that the hotel scheduled for us.  We had an easy trip home with some cool views from the plane.

Below is a reference map of all the places we went, and other places of interest that we considered stopping at.  I had this map loaded on my phone so while we were out and about we could find the spots we had noted we wanted to visit.  Very helpful.

We had a very fun trip and it was a new experience for both of us which was the whole point of going to New Orleans.  Jerry's recommendations were all great, though we barely scratched the surface of all spots he mentioned.   A consistent aspect of the trip that stood out was how nice everybody in New Orleans was.  At the airport, taxi drivers, the hotel, at restaurants, on the street; everybody was welcoming.

The trip was a success!