New Orleans, A journey to the Deep South

We visited New Orleans mainly for the Mardi Gras celebrations (see my Mardi Gras blog!) but during our few days here we managed to fit in so much more besides! New Orleans is a truly beautiful place, I really I hope I get the opportunity to go back again someday.

Here’s some of the other amazing things we managed to see and do during our trip to the Big Easy:

Jackson Square

Jackson Square is an historic park in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960, for its central role in the city’s history, and as the site where in 1803 Louisiana was made United States territory pursuant to the Louisiana Purchase. In 2012 the American Planning Association designated Jackson Square as one of America’s Great Public Spaces.

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St Louis Cathedral

The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France (also called St. Louis Cathedral) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans and is the oldest cathedral in the United States. The first church on the site was built in 1718; the third, built in 1789, was raised to cathedral rank in 1793. The cathedral was expanded and largely rebuilt in 1850, with little of the 1789 structure remaining.

The cathedral is said to be haunted by Fr. Antonio de Sedella, more commonly known as Père Antoine. He was a priest at the cathedral and his body is buried within the church. He is said to walk the alley named after him next to the cathedral in the early mornings. Accounts of his apparitions by parishioners and tourists claim that he appears during Christmas Midnight Mass near the left side of the altar, holding a candle.

Another haunting is said to take place in the cathedral by Père Dagobert, a monk who resided in the church. It is said that his voice can be heard chanting the Kyrie on rainy days….

Luckily we didn’t encounter Père Antoine or Père Dagobert during our visit!

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The Cabildo

The Cabildo was the seat of Spanish colonial government, and is now a museum. It is adjacent to St. Louis Cathedral.

The original Cabildo was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire (1788). The Cabildo was rebuilt between 1795–99 as the home of the Spanish municipal government in New Orleans, and the third floor with mansard roof was later added, in French style. The building took its name from the governing body who met there — the “Illustrious Cabildo,” or city council. The Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies late in 1803, and continued to be used by the New Orleans city council until the mid-1850s.

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Pontalba Building

The Pontalba Buildings form two sides of Jackson Square, they are matching red-brick, one-block-long, four‑story buildings built in the late 1840s by the Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba. The ground floors house shops and restaurants; and the upper floors are apartments which, reputedly, are the oldest continuously-rented such apartments in the United States.

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The French Quarter

The French Quarter, also known as the Vieux Carré, is the oldest neighbourhood in the city of New Orleans.

The district as a whole has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, with numerous contributing buildings that are deemed significant.  Due to its distance from areas where the levee was breached during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as well as the strength and height of the nearest Mississippi River Levees in contrast to others along the canals and lakefront, it suffered only relatively light damage from floodwater compared to other areas of the city.

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Saint Louis Cemetery

Saint Louis Cemetery is the name of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans. Most of the graves are above-ground vaults constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The above-ground tombs in New Orleans cemeteries are often referred to as “cities of the dead.” Enter the cemetery gates, and you will find decorative ironwork, sun-bleached tombs and stunning crosses and statues. It seems weird visiting such a place as a tourist, but I’m pleased we paid our respects to such a beautiful peaceful place.

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Early settlers struggled with different methods to bury their dead. If you dig only a few feet down in New Orleans, the grave becomes soggy and begins filling with water which results in the coffin literally floating. Even worse, after a rainstorm, the rising water would pop the airtight coffins out of the ground. To this day in New Orleans, unpredictable flooding still lifts the occasional coffin out of the ground in areas generally considered to be safe from flooding.

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Eventually, New Orleans’ graves were kept above the ground, following the Spanish custom of using vaults. The walls of some cemeteries here are made of vaults stacked on top of one another, while wealthier families could afford the larger, ornate tombs with crypts. Many family tombs look like miniature houses, complete with iron fences. The rows of tombs resemble streets–and this is why New Orleans burial plots quickly became known as cities of the dead.

We visited St. Louis cemetery number 3 which is located about two miles from the French Quarter. The cemetery opened in 1854 and the crypts on average are more elaborate than the other St. Louis cemeteries, including a number of fine 19th century marble tombs.

St. Louis No. 3 also includes a Greek Orthodox section. The cemetery was heavily flooded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but its tombs escaped relatively unscathed other than some plaster damage from debris.

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The Mississippi River

The picture I took of the river looks really cold and wet…. because it was! I couldn’t stand there in the cold for much longer to take a photograph so I’m afraid this was the best one I have!

The Mississippi River is the chief river of the second largest drainage system on the North American continent, second only to the Hudson Bay drainage system. Flowing entirely in the United States (although its drainage basin reaches into Canada), it rises in northern Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for 2,320 miles to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. The river either borders or passes through the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

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New Orleans Street Cars

Streetcars in New Orleans have been an integral part of the city’s public transportation network since the first half of the 19th century. The longest of New Orleans’ streetcar lines, the St. Charles Avenue line, is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world.

There are currently five operating streetcar lines in New Orleans: The St. Charles Avenue Line, the Riverfront Line, the Canal Street Line (which has two branches), and the Loyola Avenue Line and Rampart/St. Claude Line (which are operated as one through-routed line). The St. Charles Avenue Line is the only line that has operated continuously throughout the wide destruction by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent floods from the levee breaches in August 2005.

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Oak Alley Plantation

Oak Alley Plantation is an historic plantation located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, in the community of Vacherie, St. James Parish, Louisiana.

Oak Alley is named for its distinguishing visual feature, an alley created by a double row of southern live oak trees about 800 feet long,  which were planted in the early 18th century — long before the present house was built. 

The mansion has a square floor plan, arranged around a central hall that runs from the front to the rear on both floors. The rooms feature high ceilings and large windows and the exterior features a free-standing colonnade of 28 Doric columns on all four sides that correspond to the 28 oak trees in the alley.

The grounds include a formal garden that separates the mansion from the old garage. The old car garage is the temporary site for the sugarcane Theater, where the history of sugarcane cultivation is explained through a video and exhibits. A blacksmith shop and the Stewart graveyard are also on the grounds.

The film “Interview with a Vampire” was filmed here!

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Carriage Rides

I’d highly recommend taking a carriage ride while you’re in New Orleans – the tours are expensive but the drivers are so knowledgeable – you can learn a great deal during your 90 minute journey.  The carriages take you past the many landmarks of New Orleans, including Bourbon Street, the Mississippi, and Jackson Square.

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Food-wise there are so many amazing places to eat in New Orleans, but I would highly recommend a visit to Cafe Du Monde!

When you are there, order a Cafe Au Lait (coffee with hot milk) and Beignets (a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar served in orders of three). They are absolutely delicious! Be warned – Cafe Du Monde gets VERY busy – be prepared to queue!

 

On our travels around the city we also tried jambalaya – a dish consisting of meat and vegetables mixed with rice. The meat usually includes smoked sausage such as andouille, along with some other meat or seafood, frequently pork, chicken, crawfish, or shrimp.

We also tried gumbo – a stew that consists of a strong stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and what Louisianians call the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables, namely celery, bell peppers, and onions. I highly recommend trying both – very delicious!

Drinks wise, as I say in my Mardi Gras blog – definitely give the Hurricane cocktail a try – a famous cocktail created by New Orleans tavern owner Pat O’Brien consisting of dark rum, white rum, over-proofed rum, passionfruit syrup and lemon juice. In the 1940s, Pat O’Brien needed to create a new drink to help him get rid of all of the less-popular rum that local distributors forced him to buy before he could get a few cases of more popular liquors such as scotch and other whiskeys. He poured the concoction into hurricane lamp–shaped glasses and gave it away to sailors, hence the name.

A definite place to add to your bucket list to visit – New Orleans is one of my favourite destinations out of all of the amazing places I’ve visited so far!

Sugar Tits Bakery!

Hello fellow tasty treat lovers! Have I got a special one for you in todays blog! Another golden Instagram find, introducing – Sugar Tits Bakery!

Sugar Tits have a large range of products which I have noticed are updated very regularly. Most products can be ordered online and delivered around the United Kingdom but there are also some incredible items you can order which are delivered in and around the London area – god I wish I lived in London sometimes (seriously – check out their Galaxy Glitter Bomb Brownies!!)

Here are just a couple of the tasty treats I’ve ordered from them so far:

Bling Box

An amazing box filled with ten fluffy mini bling donuts and ten squishy mini bling brownies. The lovely soft brownies are loaded with white chocolate chunks and the donuts have nutmeg and cinnamon in for a deliciously comforting taste!

 

These amazing bling boxes come in three metallic shades of gold, silver and even rose gold! They would make amazing gifts for friends!

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They should be eaten straight away but will last up to a week if they are kept in an airtight container.

 

Fairy Floss (The Retro Revival pack)

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This pack of three delicious Fairy Flosses includes the following amazing flavours –

UFO

A pack of Galaxy inspired candyfloss with starry sprinkles and sherbet flying saucers!

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Cola Ice Cream Float

Cola and ice cream candy floss with cola bottles and chewy ice cream sweets!

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Banana Split

Banana and ice cream flavour candy floss with banana foam sweets and rainbow sprinkles!

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Each individual bag measures 12cm x 20cm and the Candy floss lasts for up to a month when stored in a cool dry place.

Another idea for using the Fairy Floss is to add it to your favourite cocktails or prosecco which seems to be the latest craze at the moment!

Other Fairy Floss flavours are available from Sugar Tits Bakery including Peaches and Cream and Rhubarb and Custard!!

“If you can’t” Cookies

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A box of twelve lemon shortbread cookies covered with a lovely fondant icing and embossed the wording “If you can’t handle this sass then you can’t handle this ass”! Very sassy indeed!

 

 

Other themed cookies are available from Sugar Tits, including some which say “Girl Gang” and “Sassy and Bad Assy!” Brilliant!

The next couple of items I want to try are the Skull Rainbow Chocolates – A box of eight cookies ‘n’ cream chocolates made with white chocolate and loaded with Oreo cookie pieces and the Unicorn Bark – Beautiful brightly swirled strawberry white chocolate with a rainbow of candy treats, cookie pieces and unicorn sprinkles sprinkled on top! Aren’t they fabulous?? They have lots of products which are ideal as gifts for friends too!

Plus this week they posted on Instagram to say they had made Jade from Little Mix’s Birthday cupcakes! Amazing!

A day in Amsterdam

I only spent the day in Amsterdam but enjoyed it so much I booked to go back again for another weekend only a couple of months later! There’s lots to see and do here and it’s unlike anywhere else I have visited!

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Some of the things I would recommend seeing and doing during your stay in Amsterdam (in between your visits to the infamous Amsterdam coffee shops!) include:

Anne Franks House

The Anne Frank House is a house and museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. During World War II, Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people in hidden rooms at the rear of the 17th-century canal house, known as the Secret Annexe. Anne Frank did not survive the war, but in 1947 her wartime diary was published.

The museum opened on 3 May 1960. It preserves the hiding place, has a permanent exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank, and has an exhibition space about all forms of persecution and discrimination. In 2013 and 2014, the museum had 1.2 million visitors and was the 3rd most visited museum in the Netherlands, after the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.

We did have to wait a long time in the queue to get in so it may be worth while pre-booking your tickets. Entry fees are 9 euros for an adult ticket and I would really recommend it, it is a really moving and interesting place to visit.

Dam Square

Dam Square is the town square in Amsterdam. Its buildings and events make it one of the most well-known and important locations in the city (and the country!) The buildings on Dam square include Nieuwe Kerk (New church), De Bijenkorf and The Royal Palace.

Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)

The Nieuwe Kerk is a 15th-century church located on Dam Square, next to the Royal Palace. The Nieuwe Kerk is no longer used for church services but is used as an exhibition space and for organ recitals.

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De Bijenkorf

De Bijenkorf is a high-end department store founded by Simon Philip Goudsmit (1845–1889). De Bijenkorf is owned by the Weston family that also owns Britain’s Selfridges, Canada’s Holt Renfrew and Ireland’s Brown Thomas.

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The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which are at the disposal of the monarch by Act of Parliament.

The palace was built as a city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. The building became the royal palace of King Louis Napoleon and later of the Dutch Royal House. It is situated on the west side of Dam Square, opposite the War Memorial and next to the Nieuwe Kerk and is a really impressive building to look at!

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Bloemenmarkt – The Flower Market

The Bloemenmarkt is the world’s only floating flower market. Founded in 1862, it is sited  on Singel between Muntplein and Koningsplein in the city’s southern canal belt. It includes 15 florists and garden shops as well as a range of souvenir gifts. The market is one of the main suppliers of flowers to central Amsterdam. You can find some really beautiful flowers here – we stayed away from the water as the wind and rain was pretty heavy that day!

The Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw.

The Rijksmuseum was founded in The Hague in 1800 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808, where it was first located in the Royal Palace and later in the Trippenhuis. The current main building was designed by Pierre Cuypers and first opened its doors in 1885. On 13 April 2013, after a ten-year renovation which cost 375 million euros, the main building was reopened by Queen Beatrix. In 2013 and 2014, it was the most visited museum in the Netherlands with record numbers of 2.2 million and 2.47 million visitors!

It is also the largest art museum in the country with over 8,000 objects of art and history on display, from their total collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200–2000. Among these are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer.

Madame Tussauds

Yes a really touristy place to visit but this was the first time I had visited a Madame Tussauds and I did really enjoy it! Inside you can find hundreds of wax figures of famous people from the world of music, sport, fashion and film.

My advice – definitely book online in advance to get the best deals and to avoid standing in queues which, during busy periods can mean a wait of over an hour! Pre-book your tickets here – you also save on entry fees by pre-booking.

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The Red Light District

A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its world famous Red Light District!

De Wallen is the largest and best known red-light district in Amsterdam. It consists of a network of alleys containing approximately three hundred one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who offer their sexual services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights.

The area also has a number of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum and a cannabis museum. We visited the cannabis museum – a museum dedicated to the historical and modern uses of cannabis for medicinal, spiritual and cultural purposes. Interesting if you like that sort of thing – a bit of a waste of time and money if you don’t!

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Coffee Shops

A trip to Amsterdam would also not be complete without a visit to the infamous coffee shops!

In the Netherlands, coffeeshops are establishments where the sale of cannabis for personal consumption by the public is “tolerated” by the local authorities. Under the drug policy of the Netherlands, the sale of cannabis products in small quantities is allowed by licensed coffeeshops. The majority of these also serve drinks and food and in most of the places we visited, the rule was that you had to buy a coffee or hot chocolate with any purchase of cannabis. Coffeeshops are not allowed to serve alcohol.

If smoking isn’t your thing (which it isn’t mine!), you can always try one of the infamous space cakes! They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and flavours but be warned – they aren’t an easy way out in comparison to smoking!

Fast forward a couple of hours and you may find yourself walking around Madame Tussauds in a bit of a giggling haze…..just saying!!

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