We headed straight to New Orleans, which we would be calling home for the next 3 nights. We checked into another Super 8 motel and settled into our room. We rarely use the TV’s in the hotel rooms. Americans love their adverts and you literally can’t watch a programme for more than 5 minutes without a break, so we get far to frustrated with it. However, we decided to put it on and were met with tornado warnings for the area along with hazardous thunderstorms. I quickly looked up online what to do in the event of a tornado. Having never experienced one before we had to be prepared!
We kept an eye out of the window and within about an hour of us arriving at the hotel, the downpour hit. The rain was crazy. We went out onto the hotels balcony to get a look and take some photos, but there were very few points you could stand at without getting soaked by the rain.
No one else in the hotel seemed too panicked and reception hadn’t called to get us into the bunker, so we went to sleep feeling kinda safe that the tornado had passed us by.
We awoke the next morning to brilliant hot sunshine. You would never have known what weather had hit us the night before if you had just arrived. This boded well for us though as we had a day of walking round the town and seeing all the sights.
First up I had booked myself into a cooking class to learn how to cook some of the famous Southern Creole food. Barry didn’t want to participate – I was lucky enough to get him to do a class in Vietnam so I wasn’t going to push my luck and force him to do a second. He decided he would just hang out in the hotel for the morning and meet me later. So, he dropped me off at The New Orleans School of Cooking and scuttled back to our room. This cooking lesson wasn’t like the one in Vietnam. I wasn’t actually going to do any cooking myself. We just watched the chef cook and then ate all the tasty treats once they were ready.
There were about 63 of us all together that would be in the class and we all sat in groups round some tables. The chef was a very chatty fellow who told us all about the history of New Orleans and where the dishes we were about to cook originated from. Whilst he was doing all the talking we were served some biscuits. Not the English Hob Nob kind of biscuit, but an American biscuit, which is more like a scone with no sweetness in it or fruit. He recommended that we put some of the syrup on it that was on the table. So I smothered mine in it. It wasn’t like your normal maple syrup you’d have on your pancakes though; it was thick and much more like treacle. It was a chore to finish it with all that sauce, but I was able to force it down.
Throughout the morning we learnt how to make two savoury dishes – Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and a Jambalaya, followed by two sweets – Pralines and Bananas Foster. The gumbo was almost like a stew, where chicken and sausage were left to cook in a chicken stock with green peppers, onions and celery and thickened with a roux. The jambalaya is a rice dish, which uses the same main ingredients as the gumbo. Once they were all cooked up we were served them with a nice beer to wash them down. The jambalaya was so good, I even went back for seconds.
When it came to the sweet dishes, the pralines were made from pecan nuts mixed with sugar, butter and milk. They did look a lot like cat vomit, but don’t let this put you off, as they were very tasty, if a little too sweet.
The last dish of the day was the bananas foster, which was the showstopper of the course. This was made by frying the bananas with sugar in a pan and then pouring in rum and banana liquor. Of course this was then all set alight causing huge flames to fly dramatically out of the pan, followed by the addition of the voodoo magic (cinnamon) which made the flames spark.
The cookery lesson was well worthwhile and Barry missed out on some delicious food. I will definitely be making the savoury dishes when I get home and even bought myself some of the Creole Spices from the cooking school’s shop to make sure I get the flavours just right!
Once I’d finished, Barry came and met me and we took ourselves on a walking tour of New Orleans courtesy of our Lonely Planet Guide.
When we first arrived in New Orleans, I Skyped my parents from the hotel and despite not having spoken to them for a couple of weeks, my Dad was far more interested in the picture that was hanging behind me in our room. It was of a sculpture of a man on a horse. He wanted to know who the man was and told me I had to find out. I wasn’t sure that it was going to be that easy, but I hoped that it was of an iconic place in New Orleans and that we would see it as we walked the city. Well, our starting point for the tour was Jackson Square and what just so happened to be standing right in the middle of Jackson Square? The sculpture of the man on the horse. Turns out the man was Andrew Jackson who was considered a hero in the Battle of New Orleans and later went on to become the 7th President of the USA. So there you go Dad, homework completed, do I get a gold star now??
Behind Jackson was the St Louis Cathedral, which was a beautiful white building with tall towers either side and in the middle. Just outside the cathedral, there was a jazz band playing. Throughout our walk of New Orleans, we saw a few of these. The place is filled with musicians all trying to make a living.
As we walked round we were surrounded by old houses and buildings all with balconies wrapped around the outside. We were walking the French Quarter so it was no surprise, that it had a French influence. The streets were lined with the old posts that would’ve been used to tie up your horse and everyone was gearing up for Halloween with decorations of ghosts and ghouls hanging from the balconies.
We passed by Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop which is an old tavern dating back to sometime before 1772 making it one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans and the Cornstalk Hotel which apparently has the most frequently photographed fence anywhere. No doubt due to the Cornstalks that are crafted into it.
There’s so much stuff to do here, but what was next?
Taking a trip on an original steam paddle boat!