Lorna Neale, Manager of Thorpe Travel, our travel agents in Norwich, got the chance to spend a few days in the lively city of New Orleans. Here are some of the things she got up to and how she found the trip.
Destination: New Orleans
Operator/Host: North America Travel Service
Airline: British Airways
(Hotel names/Ship name): Eliza Jane, Houmas House
Duration: 3 nights
My flight was with British Airways and I was extremely lucky to be upgraded to Business Class both ways. Both flights were on the Dreamliner, new aircraft that give you so much space. It was my first experience of British Airways long-haul (and business class flights) and it was truly amazing from start to finish.
From the moment I stepped on the flight, I was impressed. We were given a glass of champagne as we sat down, the cabin crew introduced themselves personally, we had a menu for dinner and there were no plastic cups or cutlery. When the food came around, we were served one-by-one not and from a trolley – there were no foil trays in sight.
During the flight, if we wanted a snack, they had set-up the galley area with a variety of options that we were free to help ourselves too. These included Kettle crisps, yoghurts, ice cream, sorbet, fruit pots, chocolate, nuts and drinks too.
I stayed Eliza Jane, which opened in March 2018, for two nights. This new hotel was lovely and, as we travelled in December, the Christmas decorations were up. We had a room facing a side street with two double beds. Some of the other rooms in the hotel do not have external windows – they have a window that faces into the hallway. I would recommend having a room over the side street as it was quiet. The staff at the hotel were friendly and the breakfast was amazing.
We visited the Hyatt Centric Hotel, where the other half of the group stayed. This hotel was about a 10-minute walk from the Eliza Jane, but was more central to Bourbon Street, meaning the rooms that overlook this area can be very noisy as New Orleans has bars that open 24 hours. The hotel seemed very business-like in its design and decor. It had a swimming pool courtyard in the centre of the hotel which was very quiet considering its location. The rooms were spacious and the breakfast was good too.
I visited Loews New Orleans Hotel for dinner - the food was lovely and we had the restaurant to ourselves. The bar area was nice and busy.
I also stayed for one night at Houmas House, an old plantation property. Within the grounds, they are building, but when you go to your room there is no noise. The food was lovely. We used golf buggies to get around, as the accommodation is on one side and the restaurant and house are on the other. The rooms looked fairly new – spacious with two double beds, a bath and a separate shower cubicle.
The plantation is about a two-hour drive from New Orleans. I like the style of the accommodation but I wasn't keen on the overall grounds and the house did creep me out slightly.
We boarded the steamboat for a guided tour of the engine room, bar area and outside space, before taking a seat in the restaurant/lounge area. This area had a bar and a jazz band playing. You can buy a ticket which includes a buffet meal taken at one of two sittings. I would opt for the first sitting as the food is cooked and then kept out in warming trays for the second sitting.
There was a good selection to choose from including rice, chicken, sausage, fish, salad and bread. Dessert and soft drinks are also included. The weather was awful when we were on the steamboat, which was disappointing as we couldn't see much or stand outside for too long.
Again, we did this on the same day, so the weather wasn't great. The tour starts at the same location from which the steamboat departs. The guide gave us lots of information – maybe a little too much.
I had in my head that it would be a cooking class where we would get involved and help cook something but it actually involved watching a lady cook three dishes – a soup, a rice dish and a bread pudding.
We had the opportunity to sample the dishes and the soup was lovely. The rice dish was very hot in flavour, so I didn't try too much, and I didn't really like the texture of the bread pudding. During the demonstration, they also brought out beer.
We had some free time to soak up the atmosphere of this amazing city after the cooking demonstration. We decided to do a bit of shopping and then walked adjacent to the Mississippi where they had horse and carriages rides, street performers and a fantastic band which we stopped to watch play. We then headed for a beignet (like a doughnut) and drink at the famous Cafe du Monde.
The overall experience of an American city with so much to offer has to be my highlight. I really enjoyed the street performers, jazz music, food and, most of all, the business class flights with British Airways.
I would most definitely recommend New Orleans for its music, trips and food. You can twin ‘The Big Easy’ with a river cruise or another city in America such as Atlanta, Houston or Nashville. When we were hosted at dinner, a lot of the hotel staff were recommending going out for Mardi Gras and I have already booked customers to go out for a special event. The locals say that Mardi Gras is a massive celebration with floats and the streets are decorated.
Must see? Bourbon Street - enjoy the busy nightlife and have a drink
Must do?Steamboat Natchez Harbor Jazz Cruise
Must try? A beignet at Cafe du Monde
If you would like to enjoy the bright lights, wonderful food and musical atmosphere found in New Orleans, we can help you plan your holiday. Visit any of our travel agents in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex or along the south coast and talk to our friendly team.