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Trip to Big Easy makes travel easy, fun

Like many readers I have the opportunity to attend meetings, seminars and conventions.

While these can be informative educational learning experiences participation can also be an expensive endeavor. Especially when you factor in the costs-registration fees, travel and other related expensive.

There are many events that I’d like to attend but I cannot justify the expense when compared to what my expected outcomes are.

This being said I am very selective in where and when I participate. I am really looking for the most bang for my buck.

In addition to these considerations the events’ locale also plays a major role. I love Boston, Mass. but not in February, Minneapolis is great but in the summer please. Are you catching my drift?

There are some places that (to me) are year around attractions. Cities in Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California are always possibilities.

Another favorite destination is “Gnaw Lynn’s” LA which is how the locals pronounce New Orleans.

Anytime the Crescent City pops up on my travel radar I take a good hard look at the opportunity.

Recently an educational opportunity presented itself in New Orleans. I haven’t been back since Hurricane Katrina left her calling card.

So it was time to revisit the “Big Easy.

New Orleans prime location near the mouth of the Mississippi River led to rapid development and with the first mass importation of African slaves, as early as the 1720s; its unique demography began to take shape.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the port was flourishing with smugglers, gamblers, prostitutes and pirates. Newcomers included Anglo-Americans escaping the American Revolution and aristocrats fleeing revolution in France.

The city also became a haven for refugees – whites and free blacks, along with their slaves. As in the West Indies, the Spanish, French and free people of color associated and formed alliances to create a distinctive Creole culture with its own traditions and ways of life, its own patois, and a cuisine that drew influences from Africa, Europe and the colonies.

Unwelcome in the Creole city — today’s French Quarter — the Americans who migrated here were forced to settle in the areas now known as the Central Business District (or CBD) and, later, in the Garden District.

Canal Street, which divided the old city from the expanding suburbs, became known as “the neutral ground” — the name still used when referring to the median strip between main roads in New Orleans.

Today in “Gnaw Lynn’s” we discover a unique blend of Old and New World cultures along with multi ethnic tastes and traditions. It is this “gumbo” of peoples, places and personalities that continues to attract travelers.

Flights to the “Big Easy” are plentiful and frequently there are great values on Columbus departures. A private shuttle transfer from the Louis Armstrong airport to my French Quarter hotel set me back $14.

New Orleans offers a broad range of lodging options and I selected the Hotel Saint Marie, a small intimate French Quarter property. Its location on Toulouse Street was only a short 1/2 block walk over to Bourbon Street. The St. Marie (www.hotelstmarie.com) was a great value, clean, comfortable, friendly and extremely convenient.

The tourism district of NOLA (New Orleans La.) district is compact and very walkable. Public transportation is frequent, easy to access and cheap.

An all day pass costs just $5 a person. In the summer months I suggest that you purchase a transit pass and ride the St. Charles streetcar line to the Garden District.

Here on a self-paced walking tour you’ll discover wonderful Victorian homes and splendid gardens.

Speaking of gardens many of the French Quarter hotels have courtyard gardens so be sure to pop into these hotels and admire their plants and green spaces. The St Marie had a nice garden along with a small swimming pool.

History lovers need to check out the National World War 2 museum (www.nationalww2museum.org).

This place presents an outstanding overview of this great conflict. A don’t miss item is their new documentary film featuring Tom Hanks.

Right across the street you’ll find Memorial Hall, the oldest museum in Louisiana, second largest Confederate collection in the nation. Civil War memorabilia on exhibit includes flags, uniforms, weapons, medical instruments and personal effects of President Jefferson Davis, Generals Beauregard, Lee, Bragg and other Southern leaders.

Food reigns supreme here so exquisite culinary experiences abound.

On my travels I avoid the national chains and tend to gravitate towards the local “mom and pops” shops. One such dining venue was Coops Place (http://www.coopsplace.net). Located in the Quarter across from the French Market the gumbo, red beans & rice and jambalaya were sinfully good.

Another treat was the overstuffed muffuletta sandwich from Central Grocery Co. Locals said this is the best place and my taste test confirms their recommendations.

Carnival Cruise Lines is now home porting a cruise ship here so a pre and/or post sailing land stay is also an option.

I’ve just scratched the surface of this great place. Swamp tours, elegant plantations the touring options are plentiful.

Contact your travel professional and plan your personal getaway to “Gnaw Lynn’s.” The next time the Cleveland Browns are scheduled to play the New Orleans you can be sure that the Travel Professor will be heading to the Big Easy.