Transcript: New Orleans

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Malia Boyd answered your questions on January 27, 2004

New Orleans has always been a haven for folks who need to cut loose for a few days without tarnishing their hometown reputations or getting thrown in the pokey. Let's face it, at some point in their lives most people can benefit from walking around town with a drink in hand, eating a lot of deep fried foods, and listening to great live music in seedy neighborhoods for hours on end. But there's more to the City That Care Forgot than Party Gras, Jazz Fest, and Bourbon Street. Velvety public golf courses, primeval wetlands, super funky shopping, an abundance of art and antiques, lush parks, and a long list of family activities make it an alluring destination for all types of travelers.

Malia answered your questions Tuesday, January 27, at noon EST.

Malia Boyd has lived in New Orleans for 10 years. She is a contributing reporter for Food & Wine magazine, and she also writes for Martha Stewart Weddings, Travel + Leisure, Travel + Leisure Family, and Budget Travel Magazine. She is currently at work on the 5th edition of the Frommer's Irreverent Guide to New Orleans.

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Malia Boyd: Hi all. I'm here and ready to answer your questions.

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Spokane, WA: Hi Malia, My wife and I will be visiting New Orleans this month. We have never been and would like an idea of any highlights you might suggest for a 3-4 day visit: food, music, events etc. etc. Thank you.

Malia Boyd: Your first trip! How great. Lucky for you, New Orleans is a pretty small city and 3-4 days is enough time to catch a lot of the highlights. Definitely stroll through the French Quarter. You can't really come here without doing a daytime and nighttime walk-through. At night, the French Quarter is awash in live music opportunities, but if you want to get a little more off the beaten path, cross Esplanade Ave. and head to the Faubourg Marigny, the neighborhood just downriver. Its main drag, Frenchmen St. has myriad clubs featuring excellent live jazz, funk, rock--you name it. Snug Harbor is an obvious pick, and across the street is Café Brasil, a live music club so popular, crowds routinely end up on the street out front. Tipitina's Uptown is also a classic place for live local music and worth the cab ride.

For food, the Quarter has upscale places such as Peristyle, Bayona, and GW Fins (Reserve ahead at all of them. If you have to eat late, do it. They're worth it!), all of which serve extraordinary food. Out of the Quarter, try more casual places like Dick & Jenny's or Jacque Imo's, both of which take no reservations but are worth the wait. Another hidden gem Uptown is Gautreau's which dishes out gorgeous New Orleans-inspired food in a former neighborhood pharmacy.

There are so many more great places to eat and hear music, I could go on and on. To find out what's going on during your specific dates, grab The Times-Picayune's (the local paper) Friday section called Lagniappe, which is filled with tips on what's hot for the weekend/week ahead.

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Tampa, FL: Where is your favorite place to stay?

Malia Boyd: The House on Bayou Road is one of my favorite places for a few reasons: The service is fantastic and the place, though it is a B&B, is still very private feeling. They have cottages or rooms in the Caribbean-style Plantation house. It is also in a spot that is preternaturally quiet for this city, giving you the illusion that you are in the middle of the country, when you are in fact a five minute ride from the Quarter. Call them about availability at 800-882-2968, or 504/945-0992.

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New York, NY: On a recent trip to New Orleans a local friend took me out to breakfast at a place, I believe, called The Coffee Pot. She insisted I try the local breakfast dish "Lost Bread". It looked like French toast, but was more heavenly than any other French toast I've tasted! Can you tell me what makes Lost Bread so special, and what the history is behind this delicious dish?

Malia Boyd: You are referring to "pain perdu" or in English, lost bread. I'm not trying to shatter any illusions here, but it's just French toast using French bread or sometimes brioche instead of regular old Wonder bread. Perhaps The Coffee Pot just has a wonderfully seasoned grill?

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San Francisco, CA: Hi Malia! I'll be in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities, around Labor Day. I've never been to New Orleans before during the summertime. Tell me, how bad (hot and muggy) is it really?

Malia Boyd: Hey there. Well, of course, heat tolerance is all relative. But as someone who has endured 10 Augusts here (one of them 9 months pregnant!), I would characterize it as head-wrapped-in-a-wet-electric-blanket-cranked-up-to-10 hot here. Bring tank tops (Ugh, I know.), cotton, Right Guard, and many changes of clothes.

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Lexington, KY: Malia, how is the job market there in New Orleans?

Malia Boyd: Well, considering one of the headlines on the front page today is concerning one company cutting 1,000 local jobs, you may want to send your resume elsewhere....

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New York, NY: We are planning to go to New Orleans for the long 3-day weekend of either the 13th or the 20th in February. I have been able to find a good flight deal on American Airlines for $250. But I think it is too late to look for any hotel accommodations now. Please help with any suggestions.

Malia Boyd: Yikes! You are going to be here during the height of the Mardi Gras melee! You may well have to shell out the $ you saved on flights to find a place to stay. Try the big chains--Sheraton, Marriott, Hilton--only because they have so many rooms. Or try places more away from the fray like B&B's in the Uptown area. Or if you really want to be here no matter what, then you may have to consider staying outside the city proper, i.e. on the West Bank or in Metairie. Both are a fairly short ride to the action, but neither has the charm or character of the Big Easy itself.

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Hackensack, NJ: Hi! I will be in New Orleans for the first weekend of Mardi Gras, 2/13-2/16, staying at the Maison Dupuy. I am looking for a place that we can go to watch the uptown parades, away from the crowds. Any place that has balcony seating that would could see the night parades either Friday or Saturday night. Price is not an issue. The concierge at my hotel did not have any ideas, I sure hope you do. Thanks!

Malia Boyd: Unfortunately, all of the balconies or platforms that I know of along the St. Charles route Uptown are private&.However, the further Uptown you go, the less crowded and obnoxious it gets. Many, many New Orleanians stay Uptown with their kids during the night parades and have a safe, fun time. You are still on the level with the "riff-raff" but Uptown's riff-raff is much more benign that downtown's.

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Somewhere, USA: Hi, what are the dates for the Heritage Jazz Festival

Malia Boyd: Unlike Mardi Gras, which varies from year to year, Jazz Fest, as it is colloquially called, is ALWAYS the last full weekend in April and the first weekend in May&..makes it easy to remember, huh? Incidentally, they have an excellent, informative website nojazzfest.com.

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New York, NY: I'm planning to visit New Orleans this year for the Jazz Festival in early May. We have a hotel booked, and have visited before, just never for Jazz Fest. Any Jazz Fest specific tips we should be aware of?

Malia Boyd: First, a warning: The city gets incredibly crowded during the Fest. So expect LOOOONNNGGG waits for restaurants even if you have reservations, and big crowds at clubs, even obscure ones. If you want to save yourself at least the restaurant part of the equation, eat at the Fest. The food is unbelievable. My fave is the combo plate, which consists of crawfish beignets doused in remoulade sauce; an oyster patty, which is sort of oyster stew nestled in a puff pastry; and a crawfish sack, with a bunch of the little buggers in a spicy sauce sealed into an edible pastry "bag." Man, I can't wait 'til April/May.

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Warwick, NY: How is the French Quarter Festival? This will be my fourth time to N.O. and my wife's first. My visits were always associated with a convention.

Malia Boyd: FQ Fest is a lesser known festival that's actually quite great. Lots of live music in Jackson Square and on little stages around the neighborhood. Fun food booths. Drinks galore. If you like N.O. and want a festival experience without the astonishing crowds, French Quarter Fest is it.

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Anacortes, WA: Hi Malia, my husband wants to go to New Orleans to visit the WWII museum, we also want to eat some of the terrific food, rent a car and drive to some of the small villages and bayous. We want to do this after Mardi Gras is over. We are retired and on a limited budget. Do you have tips for other things to see and perhaps how best to spend our money? Thanks.

Malia Boyd: Well, first off, you two are going to LOVE the D-Day museum. It is both incredibly informative and deeply moving. Well worth the trip alone. As for renting a car and driving somewhere, I'm not sure how far you want to go, but heading up River Road through Plantation Country is always a good bet. See scads of antebellum mansions (some of which you can stay in for a reasonable price) and some real tiny, folksy towns. Another fun drive--about three hours away--is up to St. Francisville (est. 1785) and its sister town across the river, New Roads. Pick up a copy of Country Roads magazine, or better yet, ask them to send you a copy before you come. (phone. 225-635-9118) It has loads of info on just the kind of places you want to see.

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Freeport, FL: Someone told me that it would be safe for my friends and I (all ladies) to go to the French Quarter for a weekend to stay, dine and shop and go out at night. Is this true, and if so, where might I get info on safe and fun places to go that aren't outrageously expensive?

Malia Boyd: The French Quarter is as safe--or as dangerous--as any other nighttime hot spot in any other American metropolis. Crimes against tourists definitely happen here, but they happen everywhere and if you observe basic safety rules, you'll be just fine. Stick to the populated streets. Don't get so incapacitated that you lose your judgment. If you are advised to take a cab to a certain spot, take it, even if the place you're going seems close enough to walk to. Don't flash big wads of money around, etc etc. As female travelers, you're probably all well aware of the rules. Having said all that, now GO!

As for places to stay, dine, and shop, New Orleans has never struck me as a particularly expensive place to visit, all things considered. For shopping, window shop only on Royal Street, then head to Magazine Street for stuff you can actually afford. Stretches between Jackson and St. Mary, just downtown of Louisiana, and between Arabella and Jefferson have particularly good concentrations of antiques, vintage stuff, and hip boutiques. For going out I would recommend Frenchmen Street, because of its high concentration of clubs in a small area. If you get bored with one, you can easily move on. And to stay, well, rates fluctuate wildly here depending on conventions and special events. Cruise online package deals, and talk to the folks at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-672-6124 or nawlins.com.

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San Diego, CA: I am planning a trip to New Orleans in July. I have gone online to book a hotel and I'm completely lost. How do I find big hotel alternative, such as good bed and breakfast or smaller, more quaint hotels near the French Quarter? Thanks for your time!

Malia Boyd: Well, if you can get your hands on it, the February issue of Budget Travel magazine has a quick one-pager on affordable hotels and inns in the Big Easy. Another excellent resource is the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. Their very raison d'etre is to help people like you find the type of accommodations you desire. You can call their tourist info line at 800-672-6124, or visit their comprehensive website at www.nawlins.com. And a word of warning: Pack a LOT of wispy, cotton garments. It is HOT HOT HOT here in July!

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Minneapolis, MN: My boyfriend and I are are going to New Orleans this weekend to celebrate my birthday. A co-worker of mine told me about an experience he had when he was there a few years ago. He and his friends went to see a witch doctor. He said it was the most incredible experience and something he will never forget. We'd like to do something like that while we are in New Orleans. How can you find a reputable witch doctor? Do you have any recommendations on "must sees" while we are there?

Malia Boyd: Oddly enough, I have an answer to this question--sort of. I am not aware of witch doctors in New Orleans, although this place is weird enough to have several, I'm sure. But I do know that the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum on Dumaine St in the French Quarter does have a Voodoo Practitioner in residence who will do up potions, spells, and gris gris bags for you. They have been having line trouble with their phone (must be bad mojo), so try this number: 504/581-3824. And if you're asking about witch doctors, I can only imagine you'd also not want to miss the Cities of the Dead, our cemeteries, and a ghost tour of the French Quarter. A good source for tours of both: Magic Walking Tours: 504/588-9693.

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Blacksburg, VA: I've been to New Orleans many times, but for my next trip in 10 days my boyfriend and I would like to go somewhere nice to eat, but he doesn't eat red meats or sausage. He does eat chicken and fish. Can you recommend some places for us? I'm sure there are places that have good meatless entrees. I would hate to make reservations only to arrive and find very little selection.

Malia Boyd: Ugh! No red meat in NOLA? Well, actually since we are on the Gulf we are also known for our very fabulous seafood. Almost every restaurant in town, whether offering haute cuisine or diner fare, has some kind of fish offering. A few of my fave spots--that all have fish and poultry on the menu--Gabrielle, Gautreau's, Restaurant August, Peristyle.

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Cardiff, CA: Hi Malia, my wife and I have been to Jazz Fest 4 or 5 times and hotels seem to, ahem, charge a premium around that time. Any suggestions as to how to attend Jazz Fest and still afford to eat?

Malia Boyd: Not trying to be flip here, but make a local friend and stay with them! So called "special events" like the Fest and Mardi Gras are the times for hoteliers great and small to make their money. The other thing you might try is to tap into a good B&B and then book WWWAAAYYY in advance. Beau Sejour is a great place Uptown and the owners are well connected with a network of other places to recommend. In the Faubourg Marigny, try the B&W Courtyards. Again, if they can't help, tell them you are Fest regulars and ask them to recommend other places. A local on your side always helps!

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Wichita, KS: I have a good friend who just returned from New Orleans and hated everything about it, especially the bums/drunks who were allowed to sleep on the benches all over their area, including INSIDE the restaurants and shops. Why is this allowed? They did not feel safe AT ALL. Also, they had planned to rent a car until the kind car rental agent informed them that their hotel charged $35-$40 PER NIGHT for parking.

Malia Boyd: There does not seem to be an actual question here. But I will say that people who want a fresh-and-tidy tourism experience would be better off in a fresh and tidy spot like Orlando. New Orleans is earthy and wacky and stinky and wonderful. Indeed, not a place alluring to all.

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Danville, VA: Hi Malia. We are coming to New Orleans this weekend (29th through the 2nd). Can you recommend any particular events or activities for this weekend?

Malia Boyd: Visit www.nolalive.com for a list of all that's happening in the clubs and other venues around the city.

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Lexington, KY: I'm a long-time Nola visitor. What's your favorite hotel & restaurant? I know...it's hard...

Malia Boyd: Favorite Hotel (that I can't afford): Soniat House
Favorite Restaurant: Right now, Gautreau's. Ask me again in a month and I'll probably have a different answer.

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South Bend, IN: Is it worth going to New Orleans in August or will it be too hot? I have kids aged 15 and 8. What are some of the activities they would enjoy in New Orleans?

Malia Boyd: It's hot, but there are lots of wonderful things for kids here, so come anyway: The Audubon Zoo, Aquarium of the America's, Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tours, a round-trip on the streetcar--even the 15 year old can get behind these.

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Malia Boyd: Well, I'm out of time! Thanks for all your great questions. Wish I could have answered many more. Come on out and see us soon. Ciao--Malia

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