Day 1: Get to know the neighborhood
As you adjust your seats and brakes, notice that the pace of life has changed. You feel laid back and relaxed and as you ease onto your cruiser bike which gently creaks with a smidge of southern rust. Your entire world shifts a bit and you begin to appreciate this town in a whole new way.
Prior to arriving in New Orleans, reserve a bicycle tour with Confederacy of Cruisers (http://confederacyofcruisers.com/ ). Choose the Original Creole New Orleans tour which meets outside the lovely Washington Square Park, providing a quiet early morning start to your day.
This tour is a solid foundation for those who have traveled to New Orleans before, but it is also an eye opening tour of unseen, unnoticed quiet little respites for everyone to discover. Covering the history of New Orleans, you gently bike through the neighborhoods of Marigny, Bywater and Treme. As New Orleans has no hills, this ride is easy as pie topped with a stop at a local haunt offering Abita Strawberry Harvest Lagers or beverage of choice.
After the bike tour, walk back towards the French Quarter to a little bicycle rental shop called Bike Nola (http://www.bikenola.net/ . They offer decent daily rates, delivery and pick up from your hotel plus a lovely antique store attached which showcases historic Nola décor and a huge assortment of George Ohr art. Ohr, known as the “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” is an important ceramicist whose granddaughter lives in New Orleans. She has made it her mission to paint her grandfather’s sweeping moustache and crazed eyes in vivid neon colors. She also makes gorgeous functional and non-functional pieces of pottery based on the New Orleans manhole covers.
Come Friday evening, take little jaunt to Acme Oysters (http://www.acmeoyster.com/), where you will need to wait in line. (You have to. It’s always busy but worth it!) NOTE: It is not oyster season in March. Traditionalists will poo poo the notion that you are eating oysters flown in from Japan. But the oysters are still delicious and worth every little tiny penny spent on each platter. Men, with hulking forearms, quick humor and fast moving hands, stand behind the bar shucking oysters as fast as people order them and provide a constant dialogue with customers. Soak in the sounds and flavors and then grab your bike and ride along to your next destination.
Meander through the French Quarter (http://www.frenchquarter.com/ and its side streets. Check out the various voodoo shops, commercial art galleries. As you head down south, you will see a section of path next to the waterfront. Take in the industrial sites and sounds and commerce along the water. You may see a big, white, free ferry going back and forth to Algiers Point (http://www.algierspoint.org/). At sunset the murky water comes alive as the low-lying sun washes its surface. Algiers Point is a suburb of New Orleans that is a less frequented part of the city. Hurricane Katrina didn’t hit it and every neighborhood is still intact giving you a glimpse of old New Orleans.
Day 2: Museums, shopping and happy hours
Filled with culture and history, New Orleans boasts museums of all sorts, all accessible by bicycle. The New Orleans Museum of Art (http://noma.org/ ) is about a half hour ride away from the French Quarter and even if it that sounds like a long distance, there are no hills!! (With no hills in this city, any distance is attainable.)
Stop for the classic beignets and coffee at Café du Monde (http://cafedumonde.com/ ) and this nourishment will leave you fortified for the ride up north. The magnolia tree-lined parkway is lovely upon entry into the museum grounds and the classic architecture of the building is a veil of what truly lies within. Contemporary and modern art are next to decorative objects and historic pieces lending a little bit of everything for everyone. City Park New Orleans (http://www.neworleanscitypark.com/ ) surrounds the museum and provides a leisurely spot to ride within dappled sunlight and large tree canopies. Down the street is a quaint little French bistro named Café Degas (http://cafedegas.com/ ), which offers a lovely brunch menu and great New Orleans-inspired French and Cajun food. Try the St. Germaine champagne cocktail as a refreshing start to your brunch. Its delicate flavor weaves in and out, just as Café Degas’ surrounding trees and vines do.
The next stop is the Backstreet Cultural Museum (http://backstreetmuseum.org/ ), which will give you a glimpse and historical lesson about the African American and French Indian cultures. This museum is located in Treme and you will find it a lively neighborhood known for its corridors of music and impromptu performances. Just around the corner is Louis Armstrong Park and Congo Square, which boast sculptures of jazz musicians and significant French Indians as well as murals and public art worth visiting.
Ride back towards the Central Business District Luke Restaurant (http://www.lukeneworleans.com/), one of Chef John Besh’s restaurants for a phenomenal happy hour. Luke offers half off drink specials and $.50 oysters on a half shell and delicious Mint Juleps.
If you are still looking for some fun, cycle on down to Magazine Street (http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/shopping/magazinestreet.html) and take a ride alongside the small galleries and boutique stores. This street is famous for its quaint shops, eclectic people and diverse goods and is a lovely place to cycle through as the sun officially goes down for the day. The Cochon Butcher (http://www.cochonbutcher.com/) is a sandwich shop that will create a pork lover out of anyone. It will do your body good to get back on that bike and ride to your hotel, enjoying a full belly and the evening’s cooled air swirling around you.
Day 3-SUPER SUNDAY
This day happens once a year on the Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s Day. In 2013, this day also falls on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. Could the party get any better? I don’t think so.
Start with brunch. You will need a huge meal filled with rich sauces, proteins and lots of potatoes to nod your head to the Irish. Try Atchafalaya (http://www.atchafalayarestaurant.com/ ), which is located near the St. Patty’s day parade route. Amazing hash skillets, benedicts and Cajun creations with a lovely jazz trio playing in the background.
Pedal on down to the parade and take in the sights and sounds of the Irish fun and revelry. If you are lucky you will catch a head of cabbage, box of Lucky Charms and a bar of Irish Spring soap – all highly sought after and hilarious Irish winks.
Festooned with beads that are thrown at anyone and everyone, move on to A.L. Davis Park where Super Sunday kicks off. Tribal drum beats and chants are only upstaged by the virtual color wheel that passes in front of you. French Indians of New Orleans celebrate Super Sunday by parading around in their newly built suits painstakingly hand made with tons of ostrich plumes, beads and other adornments. Some suits weigh as much as 150 pounds and each artist has spent thousands of dollars as they are made. Each tribe’s chief, flag boy, scout boy and queen shows off their new suit. It’s a truly unique, truly New Orleans experience and the ideal way to round out your three-day tour.
Jodi McDonough is a Denver-based writer and artist who writes for www.InGoodTasteDenver.com.
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