Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nightlife in New Orleans!

At this point in our lives, we are not party animals!  Still, we were in New Orleans at night so we thought that we should partake of a little of the city’s party atmosphere.  It can’t be all about the food!


After dinner we wandered down Bourbon Street checking out the crowds, street entertainers, strange humanoid apparitions, drunks, strippers, transvestites, etc.  We tucked our heads into a few of the clubs and stopped to listen to a bit to the music.  Then we stumbled on the best deal on Bourbon Street!

This is Steamboat Willie performing at Café Beignet, in Musical Legends Park.  This is basically a peaceful little alcove along Bourbon Street, and a great place to take a break from the weird and wonderful crowds.  You can buy colorful daiquiris, snacks, beignets and other beverages but you don’t have to!  There aren’t any servers and you place your order at the counter.

Larry Stoops, better known as "Steamboat Willie" (born 1950) is a veteran musician of Dixieland, jazz and ragtime music, specializing in the early twentieth century era of the genres.  He and his band perform nightly…7 days a week…at Musical Legends Park.  CD’s are offered for sale and of course, there is a tip jar.  We bought a CD and gladly dropped a nice tip in the jar.  Listening to Steamboat Willie and his band was the ‘real deal’…New Orleans jazz!


Yes, we did order beignets!  I was thinking that they’d be the size of those available at Café du Monde, so I ordered 6 of them… They were much larger than expected!  We ended up with powdered sugar everywhere.  So we enjoyed our beverages and our beignets in relative peace and quiet…all the while enjoying Steamboat Willie and his group.

To learn more about Steamboat Willie and his music, you can go to http://www.steamboatwillie.tv/index.html or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steamboat_Willie_(musician).  The first site listed includes videos of the band playing in the park as well as a number of recordings for your listening pleasure. 


On another night Laurie and Dawn Marie wanted to stop by Pat O’Brien’s for the ambience and the famous Hurricane Drinks.  We wandered into the courtyard and got a table. 



This is another view of Pat O’Brien’s Courtyard.  You can order food here but I didn’t see anyone eating.  In addition to this setting, Pat O’Brien’s also has a bar in New Orleans as well as locations in San Antonio and Orlando.  For more information about Pat O’Brien’s, just go to http://www.patobriens.com/patobriens/default.asp.


This is one of Pat O’Brien’s famous Hurricane specialty drinks.  Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane® consists of 4 oz. of Pat O’Brien’s® Hurricane Rum blended with 4 oz. of Pat O’Brien’s® Hurricane Mix.  These big drinks are $8.50 each…but when you get your bill, the charge is $11.50.  That is because you are charged for the ‘souvenir’ glasses. 

If you don’t want to keep the glass you have to take it over to a service counter and collect your $3.00.  They must make a lot of money from people who just leave the glasses behind!  As it was, a very nice server replaced one of our cracked glasses and carefully packed the 2 we kept.


Here’s a photo of Laurie and Dawn Marie with their Hurricanes… Dawn Marie rarely drinks alcohol but she finished one and Laurie had two.  As you can tell, they were really having a good time!  Suprisingly, they were both stone sober before the evening was over…and we had a nice night! 




While we were waiting for our drinks, we were asked to sign releases as we might in the background of a reality television show that was being filmed there that night.  We learned that this Lifetime series is entitled “Little Women: LA”.  To quote…This is “a reality series about the adventures of smart, sexy and funny girlfriends who happen to be little people.”

So much for reality!  The table, cameras and crew were readied and then the ‘reality stars’ paraded in and took their seats.  A giant ‘Hurricane’ was delivered to the table requiring the ‘performers’ to stand on chairs or the table to drink from it.  To be honest, no one paid much attention to this production after about the first 15 minutes.  To learn more about this series, you can go to http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/little-women-la.


One of the highly recommended stops for tourists in New Orleans is Preservation Hall!  Here's the line of folks patiently waiting for general admission to one of the nightly jazz shows.  AAA rates Preservation Hall as a Diamond attraction… There are 3 shows each night with about 50 seats plus the rest standing room only.

General admission is $20.00 per person.  Shows are about 40 – 45 minutes long.  Show times are at 8PM, 9 PM and 10 PM.  “Big Shot” seating reserves a seat for patrons…at $30.00 or $40.00 per person.  We took our chances and got in line early enough that even with general admission tickets, we still got seats.  It was a Sunday night and the crowds on the streets of the French Quarter were somewhat reduced.



This is definitely a no frills establishment.  Seating consists of backless benches.  The interior looks like it hasn’t been touched in years.  I’d been to Preservation Hall about 37 years earlier… I’d really enjoyed it! 

As for this particular performance, we all agreed that we were disappointed.  At least 2 members of the group that played (no photos allowed) were just OK…and it was obvious.  I’m guessing that if one tracked who was playing on a specific night, they could still score a real winning show!  As it was, we preferred Steamboat Willie’s performance at Music Legends Park.

To learn more about Preservation Hall, its history and legendary performers, you can go to http://preservationhall.com/hall/ or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preservation_Hall.

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, January 26, 2015

‘Oystermania’ – Felix’s in New Orleans

It was our first night in New Orleans and it was time to find someplace for dinner… I fell back on a restaurant that I’d last eaten at back in 1977 or so!  I was looking for someplace that screamed “Old New Orleans” while being 'nice' to my wallet at the same time.


This is Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar… This traditional restaurant is located in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter.  It has been serving local customers and visitor’s fresh seafood for over 70 years.  It was a Friday night and there was a line of hopeful patrons waiting outside the restaurant.


It had been roughly 37 years since I last frequented Felix’s…and other than the flat screen televisions, I don’t think much has changed!  We opted to sit at the bar to avoid a long wait for a table…


Choosing to sit at the bar was an excellent and cost effective decision!  The gentleman shucking oysters in this photo is Isadore.  He’s been working at Felix’s for many years.  His work station was right in front of us…


Yes…that is a freshly shucked raw oyster.  When Isadore learned that Laurie had never eaten oysters…raw or otherwise…he immediately shucked one for her, provided the necessary lemon and Tabasco and convinced her to give one a try.  Guess what?  Laurie actually loved her first raw oyster!

FYI…There is no way…other than for a large sum of money…that I’d consume one of these things!


This oyster shucking counterman was working right next to Isadore.  He and the others nearby picked up on Laurie eating her first oyster and a lively banter started up… He showed us this trick balancing 2 forks on a toothpick.  He had me perform the trick and even I was able to do it!


What’s this?!!  Did I forget to mention that the guys shucking the oysters continued to ply Laurie with oysters…with Isadore leading the way!  One oyster was about the size of a salad plate!  Laurie loved the oysters and just kept downing them.  The best part, from my point of view, was that her half-dozen raw oysters were provided free of charge! (Normally $8.75 for 6 oysters)


Isadore really got a kick out of the fact that he’d made an ‘oyster convert’!  He probably shucked 300 oysters while we watched him work.  He’s a very nice guy and a native of New Orleans…5th generation of Isadore's!


We took this photo of a dozen raw oysters freshly shucked on the half shell in ice and ready for delivery to one of the tables. ($14.95 per dozen)


As I mentioned, oysters aren’t something I eat or want to eat… Fortunately the menu at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar includes many other items that I do like.  I ordered the Catfish Platter with French fries, hush puppies and coleslaw. ($15.95) It was very good…with a really nice crust on the plentiful pieces of fish!

Other items on the menu include turtle soup, seafood gumbo, jambalaya, fried soft-shell crab, a variety of shrimp offerings, po-boys and crawfish etoufee.  The most expensive entrée is the seafood platter, featuring shrimp, oysters and fried fish. ($20.95) Of course, this being New Orleans, there is also a full bar…


Laurie wasn’t done eating… She decided that since she liked raw oyster so much, she should order a half-dozen Char-Grilled Oysters. ($11.45) She really liked the raw oysters…and she loved the grilled oysters! Her sister Bonnie  told her she "had to try the raw oysters!" And her nephew Kyle told her she "had to try the Char-Grilled Oysters!'  She was very happy she tried both! Thank you Bonnie & Kyle! Delicious!!

Oyster lovers should know that, in addition to oysters on the half shell and grilled oysters, Felix’s also offers Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters Bienville and an oyster offering of the day… The prices for the latter three options are the same as the Grilled Oysters, $11.45 for a half-dozen and $19.45 for a dozen.

We really enjoyed our casual dinner at Felix’s!  The funky laid back atmosphere combined with that old time feeling and good food at a decent (New Orleans) price, made for a great first night’s meal.  Of course, Isadore and his compatriots were a major plus too! Very nice people indeed!

Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar is located 739 Iberville Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter.  Phone: 504-522-4440.  Website: http://www.felixs.com/index.html.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, January 23, 2015

Our First Night in New Orleans

So…it was our first night in New Orleans and our first night together in Louisiana…ever!  Louisiana has the ‘distinction’ of being the last state in the United States for us to visit together.  We’d at least ‘touched’/crossed the state line of every other state and have extensively traveled in most of them! 

One nice positive about living in East Tennessee is that we can drive to much of the eastern, southern and Midwestern United States in a single day.  Knoxville to New Orleans is a long drive, (10 hours), but it is feasible.  This trip was our Christmas present to each other… 


This is one of the views from our hotel window.  We stayed in the Doubletree by Hilton on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans.  The building in the forefront is Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino.  This monument to gambling is a huge structure, easily having the biggest ‘footprint’ in the central part of the city. 

This is the front entrance to Harrah’s Hotel and Casino… Yes, I did venture into the casino!  I managed to escape with a loss of just $19.50.  I only play the quarter slots so my risk level is low…as is my tolerance for any significant losses…


We loved seeing palm trees…and of course, everything was decorated for the Christmas Holidays.  Besides limiting my losses at the casino, we also managed to avoid that giant mall across the way…with its big Saks Fifth Avenue anchor store.


Our one complaint about this hotel’s location had to do with parking.  Note the line stretching up the street.  These are hotel guests attempting to check in!  We waited 45 minutes in our car on the street for our chance to give our car to a valet and then check in.  From what we understand, this is an issue every Friday night… FYI there is no self-parking available and valet parking costs $38.00 per night. 

(Note: When I wrote to the hotel stating that we’d enjoyed our stay but that the parking situation was quite unpleasant, we were credited for 2 nights parking expense.  I was impressed!) 

To check out the Doubletree New Orleans by Hilton, just go to http://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/louisiana/doubletree-by-hilton-hotel-new-orleans-MSYTCDT/index.html.  The price was right and so was the location…


This was our view of Canal Street as we began our short 5 block walk toward Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.  There were lots of people on the street with matching traffic.  I personally hadn’t been to New Orleans since before Hurricane Katrina…when I’d been there for a business conference.


Bourbon Street and the French Quarter are alive and well!  At night the street is closed off to traffic and the party begins.  Keep in mind, all of our photos are from early in the evening and we were back at our hotel shortly after 10 PM.  Nevertheless, the party was underway.  Apparently there was a big event for Santas and his elves this evening…


Street entertainers abounded…some of them quite talented and others not so gifted, all trying to coax a dollar or two from the tourists.  The larger groups always drew a crowd.




These are examples of the many well decorated and populated balconies along Bourbon Street.  The first photo is of the Royal Sonesta Hotel, one of the premier hotels that is actually on Bourbon Street.  The second is just one of the balconies on the second floor of the bars and clubs along the way... 




Here are a couple other views along Bourbon Street at night.  There were lots of people in the street and having a good time but at least this early in the evening, there weren’t too many drunks staggering around and we felt safe the entire time we were in the French Quarter.


That gentleman leaning on a stool is an off-duty New Orleans Police Officer working a security detail.  He was fun to talk to…especially for his reaction to the events in Ferguson Missouri.  New Orleans police officers have their own way of dealing with trouble…no tolerance period!



Here are a couple of photos of the inside of Chris Owen’s club on Bourbon Street.  They had a rocking Zydeco band cranking it up! 

Chris Owens is a burlesque performer, club owner and entrepreneur.  She has been a French Quarter fixture and celebrity from the start of the 1960s and into the early 21st century.  Owens is well known in Louisiana and throughout the South.  Tourists visiting the Bourbon Street cannot miss huge posters of her wearing revealing costumes as they walk by her nightclub.

The club was jam packed with patrons.  As per the many reviews on various Internet sites, this is one of the few remaining traditional night clubs in the French Quarter.


Here’s another view of the Royal Sonesta Hotel…in full regalia for the Christmas Season…

This was a perfect time of the year to visit New Orleans.  The weather was moderate…with no rain and reasonable humidity combined with perfect temperatures ranging from cool in the mornings to the 70s in the afternoon.
 
The streets in the French Quarter lend themselves to great people watching!  Besides the street performers, there are always a few drunks, wedding and bachelor/bachelorette parties, wide-eyed tourists, strippers posing in doorways of their establishments, transvestites/cross dressers walking down the street promoting their shows, etc.  FYI, the cross dressers were far more attractive than the skanky looking strippers!



We stepped inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel to check out their Christmas décor… I must admit that it was like stepping into an oasis after mingling with the crowds outside.  The hotel did a nice job of decorating don’t you think!?  We might just have to consider staying here the next time we visit New Orleans… You can check it out at http://www.sonesta.com/royalneworleans/?fa=ratespackages.home.

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by to see what’s happening!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dining in the American Sector – WWII Museum

We had 2 immediate goals upon our arrival in New Orleans… First we needed to find a nice place for lunch and then we were going to tour the National World War II Museum.  We wanted to have lunch close to the museum to save time and also so we’d be able to park our car in the same spot for both activities…


I discovered that the museum had its own restaurants and we were excited when we found that the street address led us to this classic old New Orleans building… Even better, I’d discovered that a famous chef had founded this restaurant!

Back in 2009 John Besh opened the American Sector inside the National WWII Museum.   With its updates on classic mid-century American dishes, such as tomato soup, meatloaf and chicken and dumplings, the American Sector was a museum restaurant that managed to draw diners who had no plans to view a single exhibit in the museum.


Well, our first surprise was that this is the real entrance to the American Sector Restaurant.  It turned out that the adjacent old New Orleans building contains the restrooms as well as 2 private dining areas for groups and events.  Our second surprise was that the agreement between John Besh’s restaurant management group and the Museum had lapsed in July of 2014, with Museum management deciding not to renew the agreement.

   
The interior of The American Sector restaurant is expansive and totally dominated by this huge bar in the center of the room.  WW II related photos of movie stars and entertainers line the walls.  The room has an industrial feel to it…softened by the dark wood floors and the wood beams on the ceiling.

OK… John Besh and his management group were gone.  The important question came down to the food… How would it measure up?


This was my lunch… It’s the Hot Pastrami and Corned Beef sandwich. ($14.00) It was made with house made meats with bacon infused sauerkraut, Turbo Dog mustard and Swiss cheese on freshly baked marble rye bread.  This was an excellent and luscious sandwich!  The French fries in that little basket was very good as well…

Other luncheon options of interest included a Fried Gulf Oyster Salad ($13.00); the Duck Confit Flatbread ($11.00); a Gulf Shrimp Po-Boy ($13.00) and; the Smoke House Burger. ($14.00) The latter is constructed with barbeque brisket, house made barbeque sauce, aged cheddar cheese, and an Abita onion ring on a brioche bun.

 
Laurie’s lunch was a lot more modest than mine… She had one of the flatbread offerings.  This was her House Smoked Salmon flatbread with candied lemon, capers and dill cream cheese with a side salad. ($11.00) She also enjoyed her lunch…just the right amount of food with very satisfying flavors and quality ingredients. 

Based on what I’d read about John Besh’s menu, there have been lots of changes.  The current menu is more ‘current’ and those ‘mid-century’ American dishes are gone… Items from the dinner menu include an appetizer of Honey and Bourbon Glazed Smoked Lamb Ribs ($12.00) and entrees such as; Mississippi Rabbit Fricassee ($24.00) and; the Chappapeela Farms Pork Chop with boudin dirty rice and cracklins. ($22.00)

Despite the changes to the menu and John Besh’s departure, we did enjoy our lunch!  I have noted that some current reviews on Trip Advisor and other sites haven’t been so positive.  Service seems to be one issue but food quality is also mentioned.  Still, for a museum restaurant we have rarely had a meal that was as satisfying as this one was for us…

The American Sector Restaurant is located at 945 Magazine Street in the Warehouse section of New Orleans.  Phone: 504-528-1944.  Website: http://www.nationalww2museum.org/american-sector/index.html.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


Monday, January 19, 2015

The World War II Museum – New Orleans

Our first goal to be realized upon our arrival in New Orleans was visiting the World War II Museum…

This museum is huge and you can’t just wander through it glancing at physical artifacts.  The amount of detail and information presented is almost overwhelming.  We were ‘fortunate’ in a sense as large portions of the museum were closed pending the upcoming opening of expanded and enhanced exhibits.  As it was, it took us all afternoon on our day of arrival just to see the portion of the museum that was open for visitors!


The National World War II Museum, (previously known as the National D-Day Museum), is focused on the contribution made by the United States to victory by the Allies in World War II, and the Battle of Normandy in particular.  In 2003, it was designated by the U.S. Congress as "America's National World War II Museum".  Its mission statement emphasizes the American experience in World War II.

Note: This is just one of the buildings comprising this museum.  We were only able to tour the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion.  The largest building, the Freedom Pavilion (The Boeing Center) was closed during our visit.



These displays of American and German uniforms and equipment was typical of many of the exhibits that we saw.  As you can see in the photo, detailed information is provided for each item shown. (The difference in photo sizes are due to Smart Phone vs. digital camera photos) 

Note: We started our tour with a ‘4-D’ film entitled “Beyond All Boundaries” as narrated by Tom Hanks.  In addition to the inspiring and realistic film, theater seats shook and flashes of lights erupted during battles, planes were shot down and explosions blasted the audience.  The movie tells the tale of the Greatest Generation’s journey from Pearl Harbor into the fire of several epic battles onto America’s final victory in the war.  There are many quotes included in the film that are in the words of the veterans themselves. The film is an add-on to visitor’s price of admission but its well worth the money!



Much of the portion of the museum that we were able to view is given over to photos and related stories…mixed in with displays of equipment, medals, and memorabilia.  To really appreciate this museum, one must slow down and read…yes actually read the stories that match up with the photos…


This is an interior photo of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion.  There is a display of weapons, with a couple of airplanes hanging from the ceiling and there is the “Higgins Boat” shown above.  These “Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP) boats were landing crafts used extensively in amphibious landings in World War II.  More than 20,000 were built and typically they carried a platoon-sized landing party of 36 men. 

Aren’t you Curious??  Why is the National World War II Museum located in New Orleans?  The city is not usually associated with 20th-century military history.  When the museum originally opened as the “D-Day” Museum, it focused on the amphibious invasion of Normandy.  Then a second gallery opened which explored the amphibious invasions of the Pacific War.  Since the “Higgins Boats” vital to D-Day operations were designed, built, and tested in New Orleans by Higgins Industries, the city was the natural home for such a project.  Of equal importance, New Orleans was the home of historian Stephen Ambrose, who spearheaded the effort to build the museum and wrote the book which inspired the miniseries “Band of Brothers”.


The movie “The Imitation Game” is a true story about a mathematician/code breaker who was able to devise a code breaking machine that could decipher the wartime German code system.  This is one of the Enigma Machines.  An Enigma machine was any of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used in the twentieth century for enciphering and deciphering secret messages.  In actuality, Polish mathematicians were the first to break the German enigma codes…causing the Germans to ramp up the complexity of their hardware. 


The WW II Museum contains a scattering of weapons ranging from bayonets and daggers to bombers, cannons and tanks.  These particular vehicles were on display in the courtyard area next to the Solomon Movie Theater where we viewed the film “Beyond All Boundaries”.

Among the vehicles on display are the M-5A1 Light Tank, an under gunned but fast moving light tank that was used throughout the war; an M-4 Sherman Tank; an M-3 Half-Track troop carrier, and; a jeep with a .50 cal. machine gun towing a pigeon coop/dove cote.  Pigeons were still used to send messages during WWII.
 
We sometimes forget just how big the war effort was… The military equipment production output was stunning!  Just for the vehicles shown above, 25,000 M-5A1’s, almost 50,000 M-4’s, over 50,000 M-3’s and over 640,000 Jeeps were produced by the end of the war… As for that 2.5 ton truck shown above, over 800,000 of them were built!


This was one of the strangest exhibits that we saw in the Museum.  As you can see from the label in the photo, it’s “Rupert”, D-Day’s smallest soldier!

Early on D-Day morning "Ruperts" would be dropped with several real paratroopers east of the invasion zones.  These dummies were dressed in paratrooper uniforms, complete with boots and helmets.  To create the illusion of a large airborne drop, the dummies were equipped with recordings of gunfire and exploding mortar rounds.  The real troops would supply additional special effects, including flares, chemicals to simulate the smell of exploded shells, and amplified battle sounds. This operation, code-named "Titanic," was designed to distract and confuse German forces while the main airborne forces landed further to the west.

This imaginative mission actually went according to plan.  Although one German general did figure out what had happened, another ordered the 12th SS Panzer division to deal with a supposed parachute landing on the coast near Lisieux which was found to consist solely of dummies!  Another “Rupert” drop diverted a German Brigade from the 915th Grenadier Regiment and the 352nd German Infantry Division reserve away from the Omaha and Gold beaches as well as the 101st Airborne Divisions drop zones!


The Museum's most poignant exhibits were the personal narrations scattered throughout the facility.  In these static or live displays with videos, either the printed word or the actual recording of a service member’s narration of events was presented to the listener.  There might be a group of 5 service members or war effort support workers with photos like this shown in an alcove.  Visitors can pick and choose which one they’d like to listen to… These exhibits really make the viewer more understanding about what our troops and citizens went through during this horrendous conflict.


As I’ve posted previously, my family was greatly impacted by World War II.  My father was killed in action against a German machine gun nest in Czechoslovakia on May 6, 1945…just 2 days before the end of the War in Europe.  I was not quite 2 years and 10 months old…


There is a plethora of newspaper headlines scattered throughout the National WW II Museum.  These headlines and articles cover everything from wartime production, to battles won and lost, invasions, political ramifications and of course, finally to the Allied victory in both Europe and the Pacific.  This seemed like an appropriate ending photo for this posting...

Here are some cold miserable statistics to consider.  These are the actual or estimated deaths for some nations as the result of WWII:

·       413,000 US military personnel and civilians.
·       495,000 British military personnel and civilians.
·       595,000 French military personnel and civilians.
·       Up to 3,120,000 Japanese military personnel and civilians.
·       5,700,000 million Polish military personnel and civilians.
·       Up to 10,500,000 German military personnel and civilians.
·       Up to 20,000,000 Chinese military personnel and civilians.
·       Up to 28,000,000 Russian military personnel and civilians.
·       6,000,000 European Jews died in the Holocaust during the War.

The total estimate of war related deaths as the result of World War II ranges up to 85,000,000!  By way of comparison, that is the equivalent of the current total populations of California, Texas and Florida, our 3 most populous states...

The National World War II museum is a must when visiting New Orleans.  It certainly isn’t “party central” like the city can be, but it is vital to the understanding of American and world history.  To learn more about this museum and to buy tickets, you can go to http://nationalww2museum.org/.  To paraphrase General McArthur, "We shall return!"

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for joining us on a brief tour of this important museum! 


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave