Run, Fun, and Done in New Orleans

I’m running on empty along Esplanade Avenue, nearing the end of the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. In the distance I see a giant puffy arch at the City Park entrance—could it be the finish line? In my exhausted state, I can only hope.

At 58, I’m not in the best shape, so running this half marathon has been challenging. Right now my feet feel like bricks, and even though it’s February sweat is pouring down my face. Plus I think I’ve got at least two blisters—maybe more.

About a decade ago I ran more regularly and completed a few halfs and even some full marathons, but it’s never been easy for me. I’m a slow runner, but I love the feeling of accomplishment when I finish. A few months ago, I signed up for the NOLA race, knowing it would be tough, but here I am, almost at the finish line.

Except the puffy arch isn’t the finish line, I discover as I get closer, just an inflatable promotion for one of the sponsors. Somehow I find the energy to circle around the New Orleans Museum of Art, and suddenly there it is in front of me, the real finish line. I see my son, Scott, and husband, Peter, cheering on the sidelines, giving me the boost I need to run the last few yards. With a final burst of effort, I finish the race, so happy it’s over. 13.1 miles! Yippee!

Running a race in another city—or even a foreign country—has become quite popular in recent years. First of all, it’s a great excuse to go somewhere new. Plus running along city streets is the perfect way to get to know it charm and personality. Last but not least, when you know you’re going to burn at least 2000 calories running 13 miles, it gives you the freedom to indulge a bit. And where better than New Orleans to indulge?

As one of my all-time favorite cities, New Orleans has loads of opportunities for experiencing joie de vivre—from restaurants to music to just plain fun. Here are a few of our favorite places and activities to enjoy on your next NOLA visit. By the way, there’s plenty of time to train for next year’s half or full-marathon. Want to join me? If I can do it, anyone can!

DECADENT & DELISH
Eveyone’s heard about breakfast at Brennan’s, but they also serve elegant, sumptuous dinners as well. Now celebrating its 70th anniversary, the restaurant recently emerged from a floor-to-ceiling renovation, and we love the new vibe: elegant, but exotic, classic but fun! In one dining room, walls are covered with vintage oyster plates, some 100 years old.

Peter, Scott, and I share a rotation of dishes: traditional turtle soup, a spicy octopus appetizer, and foie gras served on toast points with cherry reduction. These are just our first courses. For an entrée, I choose tender lamb chops served with braised endive. Peter selects a grilled veal chop accompanied by mushroom fricassee, and Scott opts for tasty, crispy roasted duck. Of course, a visit to Brennan’s wouldn’t be complete without Bananas Foster, their heavenly dessert. 

On the North Shore, just 40 minutes from NOLA, a hidden gem awaits diners in the know. La Provence, a Chef John Besh Restaurant, is tucked into the Louisiana landscape. Known for its locally sourced products, La Provence specializes in French-creole fare served in country-chic surroundings. We start with apps—quail gumbo made with a rich dark roux; a salad of beets and stracciatella, creamy cheese made from buffalo milk; and Oysters Ooh-La-La, a decadent dish with crab and butter. Next we order entrées:  pan-seared gulf puppy drum served with crabmeat, mushrooms, and hollandaise—rich and delicious; grilled swordfish with oyster mushrooms and cauliflower purée; and juicy lamb chops, cooked rare served with bacon and chickpeas. It’s Scott’s birthday, so we celebrate with strawberry fritters and molten lava cake. Truly a feast. 

Here are a few other favorites:

Dante’s Kitchen - Take the St. Charles streetcar to this locals’ favorite in Carrollton, where we have brunch one gorgeous sunny morning. Don’t miss the bacon praline sticky buns! www.danteskitchen.com

Ruby Slipper - Open for breakfast and lunch, this is another locals’ fave, and you’ll understand why when you taste their amazing dishes, like Eggs Couchon with pork debris and poached eggs served over a homemade biscuit and topped with Hollandaise. www.rubyslippercafe.net

Richard Fiske Martini Bar - Known for great happy hours ($3 martini, anyone?), RF’s also has amazing food from classic jambalaya to fried chicken and waffles. www.rfsnola.com

Tujaque’s - New Orleans’ second oldest restaurant has been making customers happy for 160 years. Try the shrimp remoulade and fried green tomatoes with crabmeat ravigote. www.tujaquesrestaurant.com

Apolline’s - This elegant restaurant on Magazine Street specializes in local ingredients and global flavors. I recommend the fried softshell and pimiento cheese sandwich. www.apollinerestaurant.com

FUN & DONE
Thank goodness New Orleans is such a walkable city since dining on all this crazy-rich food can pack on the pounds. Peter, Scott, and I found plenty to do. Here are some of our favorites:

Audubon Zoo - Gorgeous live oaks and a spacious layout make this zoo special. Don’t miss the pink flamingos and the white alligator. www.audubonnatureinstitute.org/zoo

National WWII Museum - From the exciting Tom Hanks-narrated movie to the compelling and often poignant exhibits, this attraction is A+. A new feature lets you experience the war through the eyes of those who lived through it. www.nationalww2museum.org

Mardi Gras World - Learn about the history of making parade floats and see amazing creations. Take the tour and taste king’s cake! www.mardigrasworld.com

New Orleans Original Cocktail Tour - Discover the city’s famous cocktails, like the Sazerac and the Pimm’s Cup, on this walking tour. www.graylineneworleans.com

Frenchmen Street - Like jazz? Get in the groove at Snug Harbor, D.B.A., and the Spotted Cat among other live music clubs in this eclectic neighborhood. www.frenchmenstreetlive.com

Splendor Farms - On the North Shore, experience the peaceful beauty of Louisiana’s countryside on horseback. Ride along winding trails through fields and forests on gentle horses. www.splendorfarms.com

LIVE LIKE THE LOCALS
Here are a few recommendations:

Hotel Storyville - Cozy and comfy, these accommodations on Esplanade Avenue offer 1- or 2-BR suites with kitchenettes. Sit on the front porch and watch the world go by or escape to the lush backyard garden. www.hotelstoryville.com

Jazz Quarters - Stay in Creole-style cottages at this upscale B&B close to Rampart Ave. by Louis Armstrong Park. www.jazzquarters.com

Soniat House - Located in a quiet section of the French Quarter, this hotel offers an authentic New Orleans experience, including breakfast on your balcony. www.soniathouse.com 

For more information, visit www.neworleanscvb.com.

 

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Peggy Sijswerda

Tidewater Women Magazine, Editor & Co-Publisher.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com
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