Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early for Dr. Wagner’s Swamp Tour. We were picked up at our hotel and on our way there the driver gave us a little tour of the land, especially regarding the effects of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. That was sobering.
The swamp was beautiful and serene. We saw alligators in no time. Loads of dragonflies and spiders. Turtles. herons, and egrets too. At one time, a Great Blue Heron swooped low over our boat as we meandered through the swamp – that was magical. I love Earth! At some point, my co-workers and I marveled as to how beautiful it all was and wouldn’t it be lovely if our parents were here. We only needed to get back to the French Quarter/Bourbon Street before we were reminded that none of us wanted to be here with our parents.
Upon return to the French Quarter, we walked over to Café Beignet for our first New Orleans beignet experience. They were delicious. We then made our way to where Toulouse Street meets the Mississippi River to begin our Cocktail Tour. Our guide was very good. You are responsible for your own drinks and you can get whatever you want or nothing at all. We decided to get the drink the guide was educating us about and share the one between the three of us at each stop. We started out at Sylvain where we sampled the Aviation, a gin based cocktail made with Creme de Violette which gives it a purplish tint.
At the Court of Two Sisters, we sampled both their signature Bayou Bash (tasted like a sangria of sorts but with Southern Comfort) and the Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. The Pimm’s Cup is famously served at The Napolean House Bar & Café, is gin based and actually quite “light” and refreshing. We also heard a long tale regarding Andrew Jackson’s death mask.
It had actually started to rain at this time but we walked over to the Supreme Court for a lesson on the Sazerac, New Orleans’s official cocktail, which necessitated talking about Napoleon, the Louisiana Purchase, and Haiti. It’s a whiskey based cocktail that is supposed to be the oldest cocktail.
We then made our way to the oldest family restaurant in the United States, Antoine’s, and their adjacent Hermes Bar for the Sidecar (Cognac brandy based) and the French 75 (gin & Champagne based). We were told of the countless famous people who have dined here including Franklin Roosevelt and Pope John Paul II (although he may not have actually dined in the restaurant; it seems they may have just prepared his meals). And I’m not sure how we got on the topic, actually we were probably talking about the Prohibition and speakeasies, but then we were all of a sudden talking about women’s liberation, flappers and their slang – phrases such as “That’s so Jake”, “That’s the bee’s knees” and terms such as a “handcuff” referring to an engagement ring and “the old ball and chains” referring to a wedding ring.
Out on the street through a little window-pane we viewed Antoine’s Wine Cellar which is supposed to be the largest and oldest in the US. Hurricane Katrina caused them to lose a good portion of their inventory back in 2005 because of power outages.
Our tour guide gave us histories behind other cocktails that we did not get time to sample, tips regarding where to eat and drink, and history of various sights we passed by. One such recommendation was to try the Vieux Carré at Hotel Monteleone.
We ended the tour at Iris in the Bienville House Hotel, a beautiful boutique hotel, where the recommended cocktail was the Sazerac but since we thought this would be too strong for us, we had the Thai Melon instead. We were told that they had the best French Fries, hands down, in the world, so this only served as another reason to come back and eventually try the Sazerac.
In case you can’t tell, this Cocktail Tour is definitely recommended.
For dinner we went to Muriels. We had the Crabmeat Imperial as an appetizer and in hindsight I should not have shared that at all. At all! So delicious! My vegetarian coworker enjoyed her Muriel’s Vegetable Plate, and I enjoyed a pan seared duck breast. We decided to skip their dessert and walked over to La Divinia Gelateria for gelato, but first we inadvertently walked in the wrong direction for several blocks, thereby making some space in our bellies.
At the end of the night, we found ourselves back at Oz – they had the best dance music – what can I say? – where we willingly paid the $5 cover and danced the night away before hobbling back to our hotel around 2am.