Apr 23, 2015

NOLA: Bar hopping, balcony dining and finding Ignatius

Even though The April and I had spent 13 hours on the road to get to New Orleans on our recent road trip, we wasted no time in starting our adventures in the Big Easy once we got settled in to the Prince Conti Hotel in the French Quarter.  Like most tourists who stay that close to Bourbon Street, we decided to begin our trip with a walk up and down the Quarter’s most famous section. 

To be completely honest, we had a mini mission in mind – to find the statue of Ignatius Reilly, the main character in John Kennedy Toole’s masterpiece novel “A Confederacy of Dunces.”  If you haven’t read the book, and you love New Orleans as much as I do, please do so.  The city is as much a character in the novel as all the crazies you’ll encounter within its pages.  And this excellent blog chronicles all of the sites in the novel and their present-day appearance.

With finding Ignatius as our goal, we walked Bourbon Street to Canal Street, took a right and quickly located the statue right where the opening scene in the novel takes place – in front of the old D.H. Holmes department store building, the current location of the Hyatt New Orleans Hotel. 

Ignatius and me.

He seems to be unimpressed.  Maybe his valve is acting up.
I have to admit, I pictured Ignatius Reilly to be taller and fatter.  He did have a passion for hot dogs and Dr. Nut soda, after all. 

With our mission accomplished, we walked back down Bourbon Street to start a late afternoon of bar hopping.  And with Iberville Street intersecting just a block down the road, I couldn't resist taking The April to the Alibi for her first drink in New Orleans. 

Reunited with an old friend.
I know there are so many beers to choose from at the Alibi, but especially after just having a killer strawberry daiquiri earlier that day in Ponchatoula, I was craving an Abita Strawberry Harvest.  One sip of this, and I finally felt like I was back home again. 

We reluctantly left the Alibi after one drink, realizing we would have to pace ourselves if we were to make multiple stops on our first evening in NOLA.  Plus, I was eager to complete one of my first-night-in-New-Orleans rituals, having a hurricane in the courtyard at Pat O’Brien’s. 

But first, we made a pit stop at Beerfest, located in the 400 block of Bourbon Street.  The April was rightfully unimpressed with most of the bars on Bourbon hawking three-for-one specials and streaming loud music, and this one seemed nice and low-key when we walked by.  The variety it advertised was also a good selling point …

… although I imagine looking up to read the beer list could become a challenge as the night goes on. 

We liked the classic look of Beerfest right away, with its long bar, wooden floors and exposed brick walls.  The clientele were obviously there to drink, mingle and just chill out.  The bartender seemed somewhat surly.  Typically, that’s our kind of place.     

I took the opportunity to re-familiarize myself with the Tin Roof Brewing Company from Baton Rouge and enjoyed an American Amber Ale. 

A happy pigeon hides under a bar stool.
And, as we plotted our drinking strategy for the remainder of the afternoon and the rest of our trip, The April and I watched the pigeons flying into the bar to dine on the peanut shells patrons had discarded on the floor.  

Beerfest turned out to be a good find nestled among the many loud and obnoxious bars on Bourbon Street.  We might have stayed longer, but I was intent on completing my mission to get to Pat O’s

Hurricane weather ...
And so we did.  It turned out to be a perfect late afternoon for sipping a hurricane in the courtyard.  Sunny skies, 75 degrees and a gentle breeze made it all perfect.       

And, the smile says it all.  The April was a happy camper.

Our last stop on our late afternoon/early evening pub crawl to begin our stay in New Orleans turned out to be Johnny White’s Hole in the Wall/Pub and Grill on Bourbon Street.  We were easily tempted by the street hawker showing us the dinner menu.  He was super friendly and entertaining and actually had an air of honesty about him.  And once we sat at the bar and further discussed the menu with the bartender, we decided to give it a shot.   Besides, The April couldn't resist the opportunity to dine on a Bourbon Street balcony. 

You have to admit, the views and the vantage point for people watching are pretty darn good.

I had some awesomely spicy Shrimp Creole for dinner, while The April chose the crab cakes.  And as we looked back on our first few hours together in the Big Easy, it was all smiles. 

We decided to rest up after dinner to ensure we had plenty of energy for all of the other adventures we anticipated happening over the next couple of days.  It probably goes without saying that you can expect several upcoming blog posts devoted to them.

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