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2023 - April - Road trip - Day 1

I must have been really tired after the travelling as I managed to sleep (fitfully) almost through until just before 6am. We got up at 7am and after getting ready headed down for breakfast.

The thing with a Holiday Inn Express breakfast, you know what you are going to get. It is normally constantly being cleaned and the food replenished. We were not impressed by what we found. Some Food items had run out and there had been no attempt to clear the mess previous guests had made. There was still enough choice to keep us going but it was nevertheless disappointing.

Over breakfast I downloaded the New Orleans RTA app and purchased 2 Jazzy day passes which gave us both free public transport for the day for a grand total of $6.

Back in our room, we collected what we needed for the day and headed out. It took us a few minutes to work out where the tramway stop was that we needed. We were not 100% certain we were waiting in the correct spot but the app told us we were. It also showed us the current position of the tram. It arrived on time and we climbed aboard after waving the tickets I had bought on the app. The weather was damp but dry which seems a strange way to describe it but summed it up well.

We were heading for Jackson Square which the app suggested involved a change of trams which we did. Actually, it would have been quicker to have not got on the 2nd tram and walked instead but we didn’t realise that until later.

The 2nd tram dropped us alongside the Mississippi which was as wide and grey as I remembered.

Our first stop was the original Café du Monde. As we could see a table free, we made a decision to go in as it was already crazy busy. They quickly took our order for coffee, hot chocolate as well as the star attraction of Beignets. They were all very good and remarkably cheap with a total bill of $7. The beignets seemed to be topped with about an inch of powdered sugar. There was a jazz band playing loudly to the customers as we ate. After exploring some more of the French market, we walked to Jackson Square. It was shut. They were setting up for the French Quarter Festival which apparently starts tomorrow.

Instead, we went inside St Louis Cathedral overlooking the square. It is the oldest cathedral in the USA and I liked the inside of it. It was serene and peaceful.

From here we wandered along Decatur Street and came across a Café Beignet store. We decided to have another drink and I had an early lunch of Bagel with a omelette. It was rather nice.

It was then time for us to make our way to the Garden District for a walking tour which was way past our hotel on the other side of New Orleans. Our RTA app showed us that this time we needed to catch a bus which we did. We were rather early for the tour and opposite the stop where we alighted was a Starbucks, so we fed the beast of Karen’s caffeine needs.

Then we walked to the meeting spot and were surprised by the number of other people also waiting for the ‘free’ walking tour. Promptly at 2pm our guide Andrew started the tour. Afterwards it turned out he was an actor who had been in films I had seen like ‘The Big Short’. I guess if you are not the big star then you have to keep the money rolling in somehow. For the first ¾ of the tour he was engaging and interesting despite one very annoying girl trying to be the teachers pet with him. It was the last ¼ where for some reason he went completely off topic with a long, boring and pointless discussion about local sports mascots.

The tour explained the how’s and whys and when’s of the buildings in the garden district. Karen was enthralled. My favourite bits were when we stood outside ‘celebrity’ houses. One of them was John Goodman’s who does actually live there, unlike Sandra Bullock who doesn't live in hers which was a shame as it would have been fun to see her putting her wheelie bin out. We saw Nicholas Cage’s house that he owned until he was declared bankrupt. As I mentioned the tour was going well until the end.

We decided to head back to the Hotel to chill for a while. That proved more difficult than it should as the first tram did not stop as it was full meaning another 10 minute wait.

At 5.45pm we headed out again for dinner. We got back on the St Charles tram and after 17 stops arrived at The Chloe. This was a very expensive and exclusive restaurant and also very unlike us. However, we had an offer a £150 credit to spend at certain USA restaurant from my Amex card. This was the only one that we could get to on our trip.

We knew as soon as we walked in that it would be good. It had an air of quiet sophistication. We started with the Chloe Dancer Cocktail which we think had 2 shots of Vodka in it. They soon went straight to our heads. I then had a starter of Crawfish Mac & Cheese. Well, I say that I had it, as Karen wanted to try it and promptly ate over two thirds of it herself. It was so good and had more Crawfish than Mac and Cheese.

I had ordered some fries as an extra side with our main meal. For some reason they brought them separately almost like an extra course. They were so good and we soon devoured them between us.

Then it was time for our entrée’s. We had both ordered the Hanger Steak with a Beef Pastrami Potato Cake. They were divine. Every mouthful was a delight to savour. We knew there and then that nothing else we eat on this or many other trips will come anywhere near this. Karen then had a dessert of a Louisiana Strawberry Hand pie. She loved it. I calculated we just about had enough credit left to have another cocktail each which was probably not the best decision ever as we were both quite wobbly as we made our way back to the tram stop.

By the time we got back Amex had confirmed we had successfully utilised their offer meaning that the whole meal had cost us just £7.92. On that very pleasing note we were both asleep in bed by 10pm. It had been a cracking start to the trip.

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