Who ever heard of a 7-day visit to New Orleans? Especially when you live less than 3 hours away. Bob, our elderly chihuahua, and I recently spent seven days dog-sitting for our son and his wife while they took their toddler to Walt Disney World. There are so many historical sites we never take the time to see, so I researched and scheduled our seven days with mostly new restaurants and sightseeing.
My son and his family live on the West Bank, as he is in the Coast Guard and must be twenty minutes from work. Have you ever been to Gretna, Louisiana? Well, it is a gem! A historic old town with a strong local government and proud, dedicated townsfolk. Many, many vintage homes and buildings are painted and lovingly maintained.
Perched on the Mississippi River, Gretna and neighboring Algiers Point are conveniently located across the river from New Orleans with ferry boat service and quick car access into the city at the foot of Canal Street. Three of our favorite Westbank restaurants are AMORE Bakery and Cafe, restaurant Tonti’s Hand French Bistro (named for a general whose hand was cut off in battle and he wore a mechanical device, he’s now buried in Mobile), and DiMartino’s Cafe.
AMORE is in a beautifully restored old building in downtown Gretna. Wonderful pastries, gelato and Angelo Brocotto spumoni, and lovely sandwiches and soups are served. My favorite is their rich and creamy oatmeal for breakfast. Bob loves the cherry cream butter pastry.
DiMartino’s, a local fast food restaurant, sells po'boys, spaghetti, lasagna, eggplant, bread pudding, I could go on... The staff at the Gretna shop is so friendly and eager to please. The roast beef po'boy is our favorite. Tonti’s Hand in fashionable Algiers Point is delightful; inside and outside seating is available.
On day 1, Sunday night, we dined on DiMartino’s takeout and prepared for the week. On day 2, our first full day, Monday, we headed to nearby Vacherie, Louisiana, to visit some River Road plantations. These are open on Mondays; much is not open in New Orleans proper. It is overwhelming to pass plantation after plantation, some in bad repair, but many are private homes and farms which are in excellent condition. There is so much history.
We lunched in the Plantation Cafe at Oak Alley. This magnificent property is a definite must-do. We’ve done it before, so after a bit of gumbo and French bread, we headed to something different for us. The Whitney Plantation, though not grand, allows you to experience plantation life from a slave’s point of view. Tours are offered, but we did a self-guided audio tour. It was sobering.
Day 3, Tuesday, involved heading into the French Quarter to visit The Pontalba buildings. Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba built these Parisian-style row houses in the 1850s. They are considered America’s first apartments.
The Pontalba is located in Jackson Square. The city of New Orleans owns this property, and anyone can rent an apartment there Tours are available in The 1850s House, which is one of the apartments with period furnishings that I highly recommend visiting. Dinner was at Algiers Point, at Tonti’s Hand, and the trout and mussels were delicious.
Day 3. Wednesday. A visit to The Pitot House on Bayou St. John. Friends DJuana and Paul Moreno of Fairhope urged us to add this to our activities, and I’m so glad they did. One of the few remaining West Indies-styled homes in the city, this area was established ten years before the City of New Orleans. Named for Mayor James Pitot, who also was in charge of commerce on the bayou as goods came in from the Mississippi. The house and gardens are beautiful and humble. A wonderful and unexpected surprise.
Heading back to the pups, we stopped on Tchoupitoulas Street at URBAN ROOTS, a lawn and garden center like none else. Ducks and exotic chickens roam freely on the property and the street. Pens with a few barnyard animals: goats, sheep, and a pig were happy to visit. The plant offerings were amazing. A lovely coffee shop on the premises has a gorgeous mahogany bar and eclectic decor. Music happens on weekends! But then again, it IS New Orleans.
Bistro Daisy, a favorite of Al and Diane Casey, was our plan for Wednesday night. Located on Magazine Street in an old historic house, it is right on the street with a tiny front yard. The front door opens into a small bar area. Dimmed lights throughout, and cozy rooms are all opened up. Your server meets you immediately with apron seating. Service is impeccable, a real treat. We shared the Jumbo Lump Crabmeat salad, the crispy Duck Leg Confit, mashed potatoes, and lemon tart with fresh berries. Can’t wait to go back.
Day 4 began with a visit back to the French Quarter. I’d seen a billboard for an exhibit featuring Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It was showing at a Royal Street museum called The Historic New Orleans Collection. The museum is located in a group of beautiful old restored buildings, and you’d never guess it from the street.
The old home to WDSU TV, there is an area dedicated to TV history. Another part of the museum houses a beautiful French Quarter exhibit. The Notre Dame exhibit was interactive and wonderful.
After chatting with the knowledgeable staff, we headed to nearby for lunch at our favorite, Galatoires. I had the Eggs Sardou, fried eggplant sticks, Brabant potatoes, and a bourbon milk punch. Bob chose Trout Marguery and crabmeat Maison and shared my eggplant. It was all perfect.
On our last day, Saturday, we would not be heading back to Fairhope until mid-afternoon. We decided there was no reason to waste the opportunity to eat one last meal and do one more adventure. We headed to City Park. The weather was perfect. The small lake was filled with swan boats pedaled by happy visitors; others walked their dogs on the designated pathways.
One area housed a gorgeous sculpture garden named The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Sydney was a partner in the well-known K&B pharmacy company. He and Walda were significant contributors to the New Orleans art scene. This garden was a perfect way to spend an hour or two. It meandered along the water with manicured green spaces. The art was excellent, and the artists were renowned.
We had worked up an appetite, so we decided to make our last eating experience Turkey and The Wolf, on Jackson Street, in the Lower Garden District. It is VERY casual, seating inside and out. One waits in line to order; it’s mostly gorgeous sandwiches and offers salads and vegan choices. Cocktails, sodas, and tea are available. I chose a chicken tarragon fried pot pie.. if you like tarragon, get it! Bob had a huge ham sandwich and fries. Turkey and The Wolf are famous for their fried bologna and collard green melt sandwiches. Open 11-4, 7 days a week. Expect to stand in line for a while. It’s worth it. Our 7-day trip to New Orleans … mission accomplished!