|Cafe du Monde|
A trip to New Orleans isn't complete without coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde, so we began our Tuesday with chicory-infused java and fried dough covered in icing sugar across the street from Jackson Square.
We finished the coffees while strolling through the Riverwalk Marketplace, an impressive mall where we stopped in a store to sample some fruit wines, while waiting for the nearby Audobon Aquarium of the Americas to open at 10 a.m.
|Audobon Aquarium of the Americas|
The aquarium is well-designed and separated into distinct areas that allows you to explore the aquatic habitats of the Caribbean, Amazon, Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. There were creatures big and small -- from sharks to seahorses -- along with stingrays we could pet in a shallow pool, sea otters, penguins and many others. There was at least one school group visiting and a lot of the exhibits are informative and hands-on, so both children and adults can appreciate them.
Our Power Pass also got us into the affiliated Audobon Insectarium, so we walked north up Canal Street to the former U.S. Custom House to get up close and learn more about creepy crawly and flying things. A lot of them were surprisingly beautiful and not annoying at all when they're behind glass. Butterflies flew freely in an area replicating an Asian garden, but the highlight was a short animated film in the immersion theatre that offers a multi-sensory experience. We drew the line at eating insects, though I sampled some crickets in Thailand seven years ago and thought they were pretty bland.
We still had an hour before the Cabildo closed, so it was next on the agenda. The site of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803 now houses exhibits on New Orleans history. It's informative, if a bit dry, but a pleasant surprise was the "Unsung Heroes: The Secret History of Louisiana Rock 'n' Roll" exhibit curated by the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation. There were familiar and unfamiliar names and songs, but I was enthralled and it should definitely be sought out by all music lovers visiting the city.
We'd worked up a thirst, so we dropped into Turtle Bay on Bourbon Street. The beer selection wasn't nearly as good as the Decatur Street location, but I managed to find a Covington Bayou Bock that I hadn't tried before.
It was time for dinner, so we tried Cajun Cabin on Bourbon and began with alligator bites. I've always liked gator, but mom was reluctant when I ordered them. She soon came around, however. The blackened redfish ($19.95) was delicious and a pint of LA31 Biere Pale from Bayou Teche Brewing was a nice accompaniment.
My favourite music venue on Bourbon is Tropical Isle Bayou Club & Music Bar, which features solid Cajun bands each night. It also sells the Hand Grenade, a melon-tasting concoction which it claims is the strongest drink in New Orleans. It comes in a large novelty plastic cup shaped like a hand grenade at the base, and refills are a dollar cheaper, so I took advantage of that deal. When bands weren't playing, I walked through the French Quarter people-watching and sipping Hand Grenades until the bars started shutting down.