by Miranda Estrada
LEAP student’s second day exploring began with us diving into the rich history New Orleans has to offer – via Segway. While most of us have been on Segway tours previously, this was not true for Maggie or Makayla.
Our tour began with the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 2. Our tour guide, Ray, explained how New Orleans cemeteries are quite different from most graveyards. Because New Orleans is below sea level, when a grave is buried underground, it can become wet and float to the surface. Instead of underground burials, their solution was to entomb their beloved above ground in marble chambers. We had the chance to respectfully explore, and we found tombs that dated back to the early 1800’s.
Then, we made our way to Louis Armstrong Park which is named after the famous jazz singer, who is a native New Orleanian.
Louis Armstrong Park is also the home of Congo Square. During the 18th century, slaves in Louisiana were given a day of rest on Sundays. During their day of rest, slaves would congregate in the congo square to play music and dance. Congo Square is now credited to be the birthplace of Jazz Music and has influenced all music.
Armstrong Park is also home to New Orleans Municipal Auditorium. Although no longer in use, it once hosted guests like Elvis and Led Zeppelin and even the inaugural season of the NBA New Orleans Jazz team. In between Congo Square and the Municipal is a statue of Allison “Tootie” Montana, of the Mardi Gras Indian Tribe.
Montana served as “chief of chiefs” for over 50 years and worked to change his tribe’s violent culture to a cherished heritage. After learning about Montana, we then headed out of the park and through New Orleans “Treme” (pronounced “Tre-may”) neighborhood.
As we rode through the streets we stopped briefly along the way to see Marie Laveau’s last known residence. Laveau was a renowned practitioner of Voodoo in New Orleans.
Our next stop was Jackson Square. Jackson square, which was originally named “Place d’Armes” and was designed as a military parade ground and open market by the Spanish. A year after the Battle of New Orleans, the square was renamed to commemorate Andrew Jackson as a hero of the city.
The square today is a popular site for vendors, artists, and street performers. We walked around and stopped to see a jazz ensemble and take a break in the shade.
After Jackson square we had the opportunity to see a Banksy piece! Banksy is an unidentified street artist from England. His work often includes political and social themes. After Hurricane Katrina, Banksy did 10 different pieces throughout the city of New Orleans, however, only two remain. The Banksy piece is protected with a covering so people cannot attempt to steal the artwork.
We continued through the city getting to see another property once occupied by Marie Laveau, this being one of the buildings that housed her liquor business. Our tour guide then showed us Frenchman Street, which is tucked away from tourists as a spot where locals like to enjoy great food and music of all genres.
Once we left Frenchman Street we headed to Crescent Park. Crescent Park is an urban linear park that connects to the riverfront. This gave us a great view of the naval base, bridges, and even a steamboat.
While we weren’t allowed to take our Segways into Crescent Park, we had the opportunity to Segway along the Mississippi River when we made our way to MoonWalk which was the last stop of our trip.
Luckily, our Segway tour ended just as the rain started. Next, we headed off to lunch.
by Maggie Denena
After our Segway tour, we were all ready to fuel back up at a local eatery, Elizabeth’s Restaurant. A popular diner among both tourists and locals, LEAP has visited Elizabeth’s a couple times during past trips. Elizabeth’s is known for the funky decoration and ambiance, with Dr. Bob’s Folk Art covering the walls. According to Chef Byron Peck, their mission is to make everything from scratch and keep the dishes unique and respectful of local culture. I think that so far my favorite part of New Orleans is the local’s dedication to preserving their past traditions and cultural philosophies.
For lunch, we started off with their almost famous Praline Bacon as well as an order of Boudin Balls and Old Fashioned Callas.
Not surprisingly, the praline bacon was almost addictive, and there were no complaints about the other dishes either. Scraping off up the Creole Mustard Sauce served with the Boudin Balls and fighting over the last piece of praline bacon, we finally got around to ordering lunch. Ordering last, I chose the spicy sausage special which was basically a breakfast sandwich, served with spicy sausage and hash browns.
Ilexus ordered the Redneck Eggs, which came with fried green tomatoes, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce.
Makayla ordered the Duck Waffles, which looked like a typical waffle but was actually cornbread.
Miranda decided to order a Shrimp Po-Boy since Louisiana was the birthplace of the sandwich.
Elizabeth’s Restaurant was a pretty neat diner with some fun characteristics of New Orleans, along with some great food! Following lunch, we hit the streets of the French Quarter to see what we could discover!
French Quarter Scavenger Hunt
by Makayla Mason
With an entire afternoon to explore the French Quarter, Professor Yawn and Stephanie provided us with a scavenger hunt. These were our clues, and we were able to get most of them.
- Find Napoleon’s ‘Home.’
- Find a Blue Dog outside of our hotel.
- You’ll like New Orleans, but this small street will make you want to go ‘aaaarrrrggghhhh.’
- Take groupie with a street performer. We found singer “Blue,” and she was nice enough to pose with us!
- Do the Moonwalk.
- This store is full of ‘Sound and Fury’ and, although you may have trouble finding, there is light in August. Take a photo with the store sign!
- Catch a Satchmo sighting.
- Have a New Orleans praline.
- This street is fit for a king!
- Tacky t-shirt!
- Eat beignets!
And, of course, this meant getting powder all over us!
Although we did not get to completely finish the scavenger hunt, we had so much fun exploring the French Quarter, checking items off the list as well as browsing through the market and different stores.
We also went inside the St. Louis Cathedral. The Cathedral was beautiful with stain glass windows and murals on the walls and ceiling.
It was a calm oasis compared to the loud hustle and bustle outside its doors.
Once we were done exploring and the heat had finally wore us down, we made our way back to the hotel for some down time.
Oceana Grill – Makayla
For dinner, we went to Oceana Grill, which is located in the French Quarter, on the corner of Conti and Bourbon Street. Oceana has been voted into the top 10 restaurants in the U.S. for everyday dining. Their delicious food attracts people from all over including many celebrities.
After taking our seats we ordered Gator Tail Bites and Oceana and Rockefeller Oysters for appetizers (both of which are chargrilled). Maggie had never tried oysters before and Miranda had only eaten raw oysters, so they were excited for this new experience. We also snacked on “gator bites.”
For our entrees, Makayla and Ryan ordered the Taste of New Orleans, which included creole jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, red beans and rice with smoked sausage. Maggie and Miranda had Cajun inspired pastas and Ilexus chose the Crawfish Etouffee.
For dessert, we all split the Bananas Foster Ice Cream Cake and the New Orleans Bread Pudding. Both were very delicious!
With satisfied appetites, we walked back to the hotel with a small detour down the infamous Bourbon Street.
Day two of our New Orleans adventure is under our belts. It is incredible to be immersed in the history, culture, and traditions of another place and have the ability to embrace every aspect of their home. Day two in New Orleans was amazing, and day three surely will not disappoint!