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Vacations with real flavor: New Orleans

Finding a vacation destination that will please everyone is not always easy, but it's never impossible. My husband loves to watch those travel foodie shows¦ Man vs Food , Food Paradise , that sort of thing, where someone either eats things that are bigger than his head or deep fried. Or both. He knows, deep down, that he can't eat a 72-ounce steak or a burger the size of a basketball, but for some reason he likes to imagine that he can. I think this attraction stems from the fact that he grew up in the Cincinnati area. Cincinnati has a unique style of chili that he grew up loving. Sampling regional cuisine just makes him happy.

Credit: drstout

Credit: drstout

My son is fascinated by the ghost-buster shows. He likes to be creeped out. I tend to like local culture and have a minor fascination with architecture, so I like to go places that have a history, but my tastes are eclectic, and I would find something to enjoy almost anywhere. I draw the line at sleeping on the ground, camping, for me, is not an option. Aside from that, I'd love anything from a safari on the Serengeti to a hotel on Broadway.

For our next vacation, I'm planning a trip that will fire on all cylinders. New Orleans is one potential destination. For local flavor, New Orleans can't be beat. It has a rich and colorful history, exotic food that you simply can't get better anywhere else, and unrivaled ghost stories. We're considering a stay at the 1891 Castle Inn of New Orleans, in the heart of the Garden District, minutes away from the French Quarter. Many people don't realize that these areas were not heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina. The entire area is still largely intact, and from its historic houses to its atmospheric graveyards, the spirit of New Orleans lives on.

The Castle Inn is a charming bed and breakfast said to have two ghosts. The resident ghost, seen frequently by both guests and staff, was a horse carriage driver who died more than 100 years ago by suffocating during a smoky fire. Many people have reported a “translucent man” seen reflected in mirrors or glimpsed from the corner of an eye. He often makes his presence known by turning things on and off: televisions, radios, ceiling fans and lights. He also likes to hide things. One guest found all the receipts from her trip moved from her husband's wallet to inside the microwave! The second ghost is that of a little girl in a white dress, who drowned in a pond when the Inn was still a plantation. She is more of a neighborhood spirit, and wanders the entire area in search of her mother. She likes to turn water off and on and jump on the beds, and the pitter-patter of little bare feet running in the hallways is a familiar sound.

My husband would find New Orleans to be gastronomic heaven, up to his ears in gumbo, jambalaya, crawdads, and meat pies. I must confess, I love a good crawfish Etouffee, ladled generously over a serving of fried catfish¦and red beans with spicy Andouille sausage are culinary ecstasy for me “ thank goodness Mom taught me how to make that!

Credit: Izik (Flickr)
Credit: Izik (Flickr)

If my 21-year-old daughter happens to join us, she's pretty easy to please, she likes the nightlife and New Orleans is a legendary party town. It's just one of those destinations that offers something for almost everyone. It ranks pretty high on the list for potential trips, but we're also considering Puerto Rico, San Diego and the Stanley Hotel in Rocky Mountains “ the inspiration for Stephen King's book “The Shining”. I wonder if Colorado has regional cuisine¦well, more on those later. We're in no hurry to decide.

I'd love to hear your suggestions for a haunted vacation with some real local flavor!

Jessica | Feb 13, 2009 | Category: Family

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