If You Like Art, You'll Love New Orleans

Cajun Cuisine and art galleries abound in New Orleans

Phyllis at the New Orleans School of Cooking
Phyllis at the New Orleans School of Cooking

Many tourists visit New Orleans because of its reputation for fine Cajun cuisine, but it is also a destination for art lovers. On my recent visit there, I encountered dozens of outstanding art galleries in the metro area.

There is also a way to learn more about the cuisine of the area by taking some classes at the New Orleans School of Cooking. My wife, decided to take some cooking lessons and learned how to make a delicious Louisiana gumbo.

We stayed at the Renaissance Arts Hotel which opened in 2003. The hotel is located in the heart of the New Orleans historic Warehouse/Arts District has an art gallery adjacent to its lobby.

Dale Chihuly chandelier at Renaissance Arts Hotel
Dale Chihuly chandelier at
Renaissance Arts Hotel

The hotel is a work of art. When we entered the Renaissance, its glistening marble lobby foyer and three colorful, fun-filled hand blown glass, chandeliers caught my eye. These orange, yellow, and blue chandeliers were created by world-renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly. And, looking straight ahead past the chandeliers against a blue tiled wall, are five oversized ginger flowers whose brass petals first fill with water and then spill the water into a pool below. This interesting creation is the work of New Orleans sculptor, Lin Emery.

The Renaissance art gallery has a collection of sculptures and paintings that rotates every two months. There is also a sculpture garden on the second floor of the hotel in an atrium with skylights. The carpeting throughout the hotel is brilliant with all shades of blue, gold, red, and green fantastically displayed in all shapes and designs.

Carpeting in the Renaissance Arts Hotel
Carpeting in the Renaissance Arts

The hotel's La Cote Brasserie serves savory selections of seafood. I enjoyed my dinner of Yellowfin Tuna Carpaccio with a Caponata relish. Walking distance from the hotel are the French Quarter and Harrah's Casino. Harrah's is the only land-based casino in Louisiana. The casino is huge. And even if you don't care to play the games of chance, Harrah's offers an outstanding buffet at a reasonable price.

Art lovers will enjoy a visit to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art at the University of New Orleans. This five-story 67,000 square foot modern structure is also located in the New Orleans historic Warehouse/Arts District. It is the first museum in Louisiana to be affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. Here you will find the largest and most comprehensive assemblage of Southern art in the world. The core of the museum's collection are 1,200 works from New Orleans businessman and philanthropist Roger H. Ogden. Since Ogden's original donation, the museum's collection has more than doubled to over 2,750 works including Southern art from 15 Southern states and the District of Columbia.

Ogden Museum
Ogden Museum

The Ogden Museum tells the story of the South, its past, present, and the future. I especially enjoyed watching an excellent video in a theater at the museum. The video explained how Southern art reflects the culture of the South from small town community life to the traditions of big cities.

Art abounds throughout New Orleans. The luxurious Windsor Court Hotel, an Orient-Express Hotel, just a few blocks from the French Quarter, has one of the most outstanding assemblies of British art outside of a museum.

Audubon Aquarium
Audubon Aquarium

The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is a family friendly attraction. It begins with a walk through the "Caribbean Tunnel" where hundreds of multi-colored exotic Caribbean fish are swimming on both sides and also overhead. After visiting the colorful fish of the "Caribbean Reef", you continue to the second floor and through the "Amazon Rain Forest" where brilliantly colored Macaws are on perches overhead. This lush recreation of a tropical rainforest is the habitat for Piranha and other Amazon fish.

The walking tour then takes you through a penguin exhibit of two species of swimming penguins, a touch-pool where you can pet a baby shark, a collection of electric eels, a unique seahorse exhibit, an exhibit of frisky swimming sea otters, and an eye-level view of Louisiana's native white alligator as you stroll among moss covered cypress trees.

The two-hour "Super City Bus Tour" is a good way to see the area. It is offered by Gray Line Tours.

Antoines | Larger

There are many fine restaurants in New Orleans. I enjoyed Brennan's Restaurant at 417 Royal Street. Where else, but in New Orleans can a restaurant be famous for breakfast? Breakfast at Brennan's is world famous. My selection at breakfast at Brennan's was Eggs Sardo, a tasty creation of pouched eggs, spinach and hollandaise sauce. And to top off the sumptuous cuisine, one of the waiters, Kevin Rouchell, an accomplished opera singer, sang two enchanting arias for a magnificent finale to my breakfast and my visit to New Orleans.

Commander's Palace
Commander's Palace | Larger

No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a dinner at Antoines. The restaurant has been in the city since 1840 serving up authentic Cajun cuisine.

Also on the list of fine restaurants is Commander's Palace, for excellent New Orleans cuisine and entertainment nightly.

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