We arranged for a tour of the Garden District with our hotel concierge. All we had to do was be at a certain intersection and the tour guide would meet us. When we arrived early, we went into a small coffee shop and had a bagel and coffee (it was a delicious bagel, and we are from NY, so that’s saying something!). We were met promptly at 10:30 by our tour guide, a gentleman named Val Connelly. There was a second couple scheduled, but they did not arrive, so after a 15 minute “grace period”, we started the tour. I suspect because it was a weekday, there weren’t many people signing up.
First, we walked down the street and into the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Movie goers and music video fans would recognize this place, as many films and videos have been shot here. Val spent about half an hour explaining the history and operations of the cemeteries in New Orleans.
Afterleaving the cemetery we walked down the street, right past the Commander’s Palace Restaurant, the famous starting place of several celebrity chefs, including Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Legasse. The blue and white striped building is a landmark all by itself, and has recovered from the damage sustained by Katrina, mostly due to high winds. Although the surface elevation is only about 3 to 4 feet above sea level, in New Orleans that is considered “high ground”, and there was not much flooding in the area.
The tour winds its way through the Garden District, and because it was only the two of us, it was easy to stop and ask questions about anything we wanted to know. We saw houses of some famous people (actors, like John Goodman, authors like Anne Rice, sports figures such as Archie Manning and Drew Brees) along with a whole host of rich folks who have second homes here. Some of the oak trees along the curbline are absolutely amazing, stretching way out over the streets and onto adjoining properties.
Before we knew it, two hours were gone, and we had walked about 2/3rdsof the district. Val was kind enough to answer all of our questions; he knows his stuff, and apparently lives in the Garden District. He gave us a great recommendation for lunch, which was on our way back to the hotel. We took the St Charles streetcar back and got off at Herbsaint, a really interesting restaurant in the Central Business District.
I would recommend comfortable shoes, a bottle of water and perhaps an umbrella (for the sun, not the rain), as it can get quite warm and humid in NOLA, especially after May 1. There is a bathroom and light food available at the start and end of the tour which is outside of a small locally owned coffee shop.The tour can be arranged on line, as well as through FQ and other NOLA hotel concierges.