Good Times in The Big Easy: New Orleans Revisited

World-class cuisine and music served up in one of America’s most unique cities

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My friends and I take a three-hour bike tour of New Orleans.
My friends and I take a three-hour bike tour of New Orleans with Free Wheelin’ Bike Tour.

Bike Tour of New Orleans

It’s late spring and the trees and flowers are in wild bloom as we cruise through the French Quarter. My friends and I want to explore the city by bike, so we’re on the “Creole and Crescent Tour” with Free Wheelin’ Bike Tour, a local tour operator with an obvious love for the city. The three-hour tour costs $50. It’s a pretty good value, if you ask me.

As we pedal behind our dreadlocked guide, he shares personal stories of life in New Orleans. He tells of watching the flood waters soar, seeing the resulting devastation and then watching as the city pulled together to make it all good again.

Stopping for a break on our bike tour with Free Wheelin' Bike Tour. Photo by Janna Graber
Stopping for a break on our bike tour with Free Wheelin’ Bike Tour. Photo by Janna Graber

“That’s in the past, and we don’t talk about it much,” he says. “We’re enjoying the now.”

The “now” in New Orleans looks pretty good to me. The French Quarter is getting ready for the day as we pedal through. I watch a restaurant employee set out chairs on the patio, and another unload bread from a truck.

From there, we wind through The Marigny, a hip neighborhood below the French Quarter, and then along the mansion-lined Esplanade Avenue, where we pass grand historic homes with tidy manicured gardens.

Finally, we cruise into the Tremé Neighborhood. One of the oldest neighborhoods in New Orleans, it was once the main neighborhood for free people of color. Today, it remains an important center for African-American and Creole culture.

The neighborhood sustained damage in the floods, but is thriving once again. As we pedal through the streets, many residents sit out on their porches, enjoying the beautiful weather. They wave as we go by, and we ding a little hello on our bells in reply.

Lobster claw appetizer at Brennan's in New Orleans. Photo by Janna Graber
Lobster claw appetizer at Brennan’s in New Orleans. Photo by Janna Graber

Cuisine in New Orleans

New Orleans is all about food, from high-end restaurants with world-renowned chefs to the tiniest eateries serving up home-cooked favorites. It’s hard to find a bad meal in New Orleans.

To learn more about the city’s culinary roots, as well as cuisine in the Southern United States, we stop at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, a museum dedicated to understanding and celebration of the food and drink of the South.

Part of the Louisiana exhibit at Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans. Photo by Janna Graber
Part of the Louisiana exhibit at Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans. Photo by Janna Graber

Each southern state has its own exhibit which explains how local cuisine developed and was shaped by the state’s geography and unique people. Favorite local foods in each state are highlighted.

The Museum also offers cooking demonstrations by local experts. In our demonstration class, we learn about the Italian influences on New Orleans cuisine, and how to make several Creole Italian dishes. The best part is that we are served up huge plates of each dish. It makes for an unusual and welcome lunch.

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