We love our trips to New Orleans, and are able to go often, even just on the spur of the moment. Such was our trip last weekend, we needed to pick up some things from our friends at Zito’s, and decided to make it an overnight.
We have never visited the New Orleans Museum of Art, so we looked for restaurants nearby and found Cafe Degas, a French restaurant.
We miss France. Going to France was one of the best parts of living in Germany, not far from the French border. We were in France all the time, and oh, how we miss France.
We found Cafe Degas with no trouble, and were able to find a parking spot within a short walk.
Each table filled almost as soon as it emptied. There were families, people coming in after church, friends meeting up to share their weeks. It had a great vibe.
The bread was wonderful, crispy on the outside, light as a cloud on the inside
We LOVE mussels. These were perfect, and the broth was exquisite.
The mussels come with fries. Normally I will avoid fries, but oh, these were so good. I ate about half, more than I had intended! I had thought “oh one bite won’t hurt!” and twenty fries later, I still had trouble stopping.
3127 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
Hours of operation
Lunch: Wednesday through Friday 11:00am – 3:00pm.
We are open for drinks, salads and appetizers between lunch and dinner service Wed – Sat.
Dinner: Wednesday through Saturday 5:30pm – 10:00pm.
Sunday: 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10:30am – 3:00pm
HAPPY HOUR Wednesday and Thursday 3:00pm – 6:00pm
All Major Credit Cards Accepted
“This is a place I would love to retire,” I once told AdventureMan, as we wandered the streets. “It has all the things I love. Beautiful architecture and a rich history. It’s on a river. It gets cold in the winter. You can walk to local stores.”
Today, with great sadness, I read that Damascus is now rated the #1 Most Unlivable City in the World, beating out Douala, Cameroon; Harare, Zimbabwe; Karachi, Pakistan; Algiers, Algeria; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lagos, Nigeria; and Tripoli, Libya. This is what the report summarized about Damascus:
Damascus has forgotten more than your city will likely ever know-and it has been a battleground for almost its entire existence. The City of Jasmine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit, the least livable city in the world-for good reason. More than 13 million Syrians require humanitarian aid, 6.5 million have been displaced, and almost half a million have been killed on all sides of the conflict there-government soldiers, opposition soldiers, and civilians. It’s scores are predictably abysmal, with a 15 (out of 100) for stability at the bottom end and a mere 43.3 for culture and environment at the top end.
This is a city which has been at the crossroads of civilization about as long as civilization has been around. This is a city which was refined, and tolerant, a city which was once full of caravans carrying spices, silks and riches to the West.
We were last there in 2007, and we are so glad we went when we did. Damascus was revitalizing, building up a tourism business with grand hotels, and lovely, intimate boutique hotels.
We stayed at the Talisman. We grieve for the fine people we met there, and for all the losses they have suffered.
AdventureMan said “why don’t you do a photo-share, like you did with Doha?” At first, I didn’t want to, but then, I looked at the photos – and once again, I was smitten. I pray for a miracle for Syria, for new, enlightened, tolerant leadership and opportunities for the good Syrian people. For renewed vigor in churches and mosques and synagogues there. (The Talisman is in the old Jewish quarter, where the Greek Orthodox also have their headquarters.)
This is the majlis – sitting area – at the Talisman.
A restaurant nearby the Talisman:
Breakfast at the Talisman:
The historical nearby Bab, or gate:
A nearby Tabak and the friendly operator:
A courtyard restaurant, with lovely dishes. And note the Christmas tree; Christmas decorations and greenery everywhere!
A Christian Shop near Bab Thoma:
Interior at Umayyad Mosque, all are welcome and abayas provided. You leave your shoes at the door. This is the rear of the Tomb of John the Baptist:
Naranj, our favorite restaurant. I understand branches of Naranj have opened in Gulf Countries, Qatar, Kuwait, as wealthier Syrians take their money out of Syria and wait for more peaceful times. I am betting they will return to Syria as soon as they can.
A merchant in the Souk al Hamidiyya
A courtyard restaurant set up for Christmas dinners:
I’ve never met a Syrian who wasn’t educated and working hard to make a good life for his/her family. We wonder if we will ever be able to visit Syria again in our lifetime?
We wake up docked in Pireus, the harbor area of Athens. We are relaxed, our bags are packed, with just clothes out for dinner and for travel tomorrow. Very early tomorrow. Our wake-up call is for 0230, that is two thirty in the morning for your non-military folk.
AdventureMan and I have a funny relationship with Greece. Back in the day, when he asked me to marry him, my brash young lieutenant said “Marry me, and I will take you to Greece.” A year later, on our way to Kenya, we were sitting on the tarmac in Athens, in the middle of a coup attempt. I turned to him and said “this does not count as taking me to Greece.”
Years later, when he was working to hard, I called him and told him we were leaving the dark and cold of winter in Germany and spending a week in Crete. We had a wonderful time – it would have counted for me, but AdventureMan said Crete did not really count as Greece.
So, finally, we are truly in Greece. His promise has been fulfilled 🙂
We are taking the panoramic tour of Athens, and the first stop is a photo op for the Acropolis, which is undergoing restorations, and is covered with scaffolding and nets.
In front of a gigantic, soulless stadium where Olympics were held in the distant and not-so-distant past, an enterprising young man was doing lunges and thrusts; you could have your photo taken with him for a fee.
Only seconds after I snapped this shot, however, he did some kind of maneuver that brought his cape up over his helmet, and it got stuck. He couldn’t see, the cape covered his whole head and he had a sword in one hand and a big shield on the other arm and he was blind as a bat. It was so unexpectedly hilarious. A fellow costumed entrepreneur rescued him before I could snap off another photo.
Across the street, a statue of an Olympian.
I’m pretty sure the building below is the university
The details are all getting jumbled in my head and we are on a bus with 34 people. When we get off at the Archaeology Museum, all 34 have to use the restroom, and I tell AdventureMan to have fun, I am making my escape. I find a wonderful cappuccino and a table in the outdoor cafe where I am happy listening to the birds and enjoying ancient art all by myself. Actually, very shortly a Scottish couple we have encountered a few times invites me to join them and we have a great chat. Some of us are just wired that way.
Each group has it’s own red ‘lollypop” (in the tour guide’s hand, just slightly to upper right of center)
We all get back on the bus and are dropped off at the Plaka area, very cool. We wander around and then see one of the guides at the restaurant which I think translates as Plakiotessa, and it has a menu we like, so we go there, too. It is another great day for eating outside, woo hoo, and AdventureMan and I decide to split an appetizer plate. We don’t need to eat the way we ate in Santorini more than once in a blue moon, but we enjoy every bite.
This was truly delicious! Relatively light and plenty for two. We saw equally beautiful dishes going to other tables, too.
We’re not quite ready to end our Athens leg, so we explore the area a little, then hop on a Hop On, Hop Off bus. We explain to the lady that we only want one loop, and she gives us a special deal. You get on, you get earplugs, and rush upstairs to get a seat. You plug your ear plugs in and choose your language. My earplugs lasted about 7 minutes.
The bus took almost exactly the same route as the bus tour of the morning. We were bummed, until just after a big outdoor flower market the bus took a different turn and we ended up in a part of town that reminded us of Doha and Kuwait, an area full of souks, braziers, spice shops, antiquities. We were so enchanted, I didn’t even take any pictures. If we ever go back to Athens, that area will be our first stop.
We got to see the soldiers marching to the changing of the guard:
I’m pretty sure these are on top of the National Library:
The market near which is the souk kind of area we loved.
Back at the Plaka, we get off the Hop On Hop Off and right on to a shuttle to take us back to the ship. AdventureMan hits the spa and I take a nap. Perfect.
It’s not that Athens isn’t a lot of fun. I think it could be. Being in a new city, often a new country, every day is not very relaxing, and I think by the time I hit Athens, my enthusiasm for the struggle had waned. It’s not you, Athens, it’s me.
We are awake as we come into Corfu, the sun is rising and although the forecast was for rain, we have another beautiful day. All along, the forecasts have been iffy, but the beautiful weather has held. How long can this last?
We take the panoramic tour, and although our guide is very good and very knowledgeable, we are uncomfortable in a group of 40, and drop off once we get to the city. Corfu is our kind of place, the old city has beautiful family-friendly parks, and wonderful narrow little streets, full of interesting shops. This is perfect, because although we are not big shoppers, we like to bring something special back for those we love.
The truth is, we know little about Corfu. We wandered, bought a souvenir or gift here and there, but didn’t really get beneath the surface. We can tell Corfu is tourist geared; in each shop the prices are lowered and the proprietors quietly tell us, “It’s the end of the season, the last boats are here. Soon we will shut down for the winter.”
We’ve wandered to a place we don’t know, and looking at the map doesn’t seem to help. We sit down for drinks at a restaurant, looking at the map and signage, and figure out that it is really hard to get lost; there is the old fortress and the new fortress, and we are between the two. To get back where we need to be – the Old Fortress – we need to wind back the way we came. Meanwhile, we had drinks; too early for lunch.
When we found this square, I heard a voice in my head say “I could be happy living on this square.” I don’t know that is true, but I liked the feel of this out-of-the way, neighborhood-like little plaza, and I have lived in places with the same feeling. In the center, in the shadows, is an old well.
By the time we get back to familiar surroundings, we are getting hungry, and find a lovely restaurant on the square where we can sit, watch people. The service is cordial and helpful, but not rushing us. When we order, he tells us the bread is still baking, and he won’t bring our salads until the bread is ready. That’s OK. When the bread arrives, hot and crusty, it is really OK, it is some of the best bread we have ever tasted.
Melanzane salad, which is tantalizingly close to Baba ghannoush and yet not:
Taramosalata, which is a paste made of fish eggs and maybe cream cheese, and sounds awful, but we ate this a lot in Greek restaurants in Germany, and I got to like it.
Oh! The crusty fresh hot bread! I only wish you could taste this for yourself, it truly brings to mind “the bread of life.”
AdventureMan’s Pasta Marinara, which had lots of seafood in it.
My Moussaka was heavy and rich, tasty, but not a good photo.
We take our time, have a cup of coffee, and wander over to where we catch the shuttle back to the ship. We enjoyed Corfu.
It’s late in the afternoon, and we are back on board. We don’t want to nap; we are trying to get on local time, which keeps changing, put the clocks ahead an hour here and back an hour here. We love the Explorer’s Lounge, so we head up there for “tea”. They have lovely not-too-sweet pastries at Mamsen’s that we adore.
More of the Explorer’s Lounge:
Back to the room for sunset on our way to Dubrovnik!
This night we checked the menus for all the restaurants and decided to try one called: The Restaurant. They seemed to have some really nice choices. No reservations. So we headed up around seven, and were seated. Other people sitting close; one party of seven having a good old time, and very loud. I can’t even remember what we ordered. Once again, no control over how much was coming, no control over timing. When we said we wanted to split a creme brûlée, the waitress brought us each one, and said “I know you really want to have your own.”
No. No, we didn’t. We don’t like waste, and we love good tastes, but we like them in moderation. Clatter and clanging of the dishes and flatware, too much noise, too little privacy and we don’t even get our say over dessert. One time in this restaurant was enough.
We walked off the creme brûlée – no, we didn’t eat the whole thing, but the evening is so lovely and we love the walks around the decks.
We’ve been roving the back-streets, because, as you know if you have read other travel articles on this blog, what gets our blood going is learning how other people live, what we have in common, how we differ. As we roam the backstreets in old Zadar, we start to get hungry, and AdventureMan sticks his head in an unlikely doorway and finds a treasure: Konoba Dalmacija.
Inside the wall is a hidden restaurant, full of trees and outdoor tables, perfect for today.
We are in the center of several low rise apartments, and some have hung out their laundry. This is really a local’s restaurant.
Local beer for AdventureMan:
Local wine for me:
The waitress was wonderful. The first thing we asked was if they would accept Euros; we had been told that in Croatia some places only accepted Croatian money. We never had any problem using Euros. She said yes, of course they took Euros, and we placed our orders. There was a fish we used to buy and fix in Tunisia, D’aurade, and they had this fish in Croatia, called Dorada, meaning golden eye. I had a Croatian salad and D’aurade, AdventureMan had the pork tenderloins with mushroom sauce, which tasted a lot like a German Jaegerschnitzle.
My salad was very good, my fish was yummy, but the oh, pork with mushroom sauce was OMG! OMG! OMG! Delicious.
As we were waiting and eating, local people came in to eat, and one old man who had salad and soup, and it seems he must have the same meal every Sunday after church.
Then, in rushed a young Japanese man shouting “Warning! Warning! I am coming in five minutes with fifty people!”
And, sure enough, following closely behind him was a very large group of Japanese who followed him to the inside restaurant.
We quickly signaled for our bill, paid, and left. They were going to have their hands full!
Zadar on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon was a treat. Entire families came out near the ship, playing in the park, having coffee in the park cafe’s, visiting the Sea Organ and Salute to the Sun and taking photos of the Viking Sea. We were delighted to be in Zadar.
AdventureMan looks out our sliding glass door and says “We’re already here! I can see Koper from here!” We’ve signed up for a tour, and we aren’t scheduled to meet for an hour or more, so we head for breakfast, find a quiet, sunny table near the stern and then get ready to head into town.
We haven’t found a lot of information on Koper, Slovenia. It wasn’t on our original itinerary. Actually, the whole reason we signed up for this tour was because it ended in Istanbul, in a country we love and have visited several times. Months after we booked, the itinerary changed, after the coup and bombings in Turkey. Probably a good bet, our better instincts tell us, but all the same, we are sorely disappointed to miss out on Istanbul. Our first trip to Istanbul was in 1975, and we were enchanted. It influenced later choices. We still hope to be able to visit again.
But Viking needed to come up with some other options, and Koper was one of them.
One thing Viking does really, really well is destinations. They give you a lot of background, and I love the way they group us. First to sign up get the earlier tours. As you get off the ship, they give you a group number, and they warn you that if you want to tour with friends, make sure that group shows up together. It is a very efficient system – once a group is formed, off they go.
So off we went.
We should have caught on a little sooner, but we didn’t. The guide was charming, but we stayed by the ship for about 15 minutes as she told us a little about Slovenia, and then we spent 10 minutes by an olive tree while she told us how very small Koper is, and how small Slovenia is, and how Slovenia looks like a chicken. Then we walked past a very old church, not much information, then we walked to a school where Italian children attended and she told us a little more about how small Koper is and how small Slovenia is.
Have I mentioned before that AdventureMan and I are not very good at being herded?
By this point, AdventureMan and I are trying to figure out how to make a get-away. We let the group go ahead, and peel off down a small little alley (Koper is very small.) We find some delightful sights; Koper reminds us of a very small village we loved in Germany, Neuleiningen). We walked a little and found ourselves on the other side of the peninsula, and walked back to the big town square. (Koper is very small.)
There are some quaint sights in Koper, which is a lot like Germany thirty years ago.
The town square
We are back on the ship by lunch time – Koper really is a very small town. We head for the spa, and have a wonderful time soaking and enjoying the sauna, the cold tub, the churning big pool and the hot tub, the snow room, and again, the sauna. Soooooo relaxing.
The sun goes down.
This is our night to eat at The Chef’s Table. We figure it is a little dressier, but we figure wrong, people on this ship are not dressing. That is fine with us. But once again, we are seated very close to other people, so close we can hear every word of their conversation, and, if we talk in normal voices, they can hear every word of our conversation. Portion sizes are small, which we don’t mind, but maybe a little precious, which we do mind. Like a tiny thimble full of very icy pieces of raspberry. Sorry, I don’t get it. In addition, there was once again the clattering and clanking and the talking among people serving and the odd spacing of the courses and sorry, get me out of here. It was noisy, it was not relaxed. Not special, for us.
Once we finish, we take a walk around the ship, lots of decks, then back to the cabin to listen to the waves slosh against the ship as we head for Zadar.
There is a freedom to being retired, a lovely freedom, you begin to care a lot less about “should.” Like, “OMG, we’ll only be in Venice for three days we SHOULD ________” and there are a million things to fill in the blank. We’ve actually been in Venice before, and that takes off a lot of pressure. When we feel, in late afternoon, like a nap before dinner, we don’t feel guilty, we take that nap.
After napping, we know where we want to go, we’ve read about it on Trip Advisor and passed it several times, La Palanca, right by one of the vaporetto stops. La Palanca does not serve dinner, but they do serve little snacks, and after our wonderful lunch at Rosa Rossa and our Tiramisu at the cafe, we aren’t interested in eating a big dinner, a snack is fine with us.
This is the only photo I could take; this is the bar where people are gathered. There is a party of ten or so back where we are sitting, all old friends and neighbors, drinking, eating snacks. Just after I took this photo, more and more people come in, almost all standing around this counter where wine, beer and little open faced sandwiches are served continuously. We were there a couple hours, we never felt out of place, although everyone else knew each other. One man had his little dog with him, and the dog was a big hit.
If we were going to live in Venice, I think we would like living in Guidecca, where there are not so many tourists, and life seems to be more normal. We like the neighborhood feel, and we don’t mind the vaporetto rides.
We shared a grilled caprese (tomatoes, basil and mozzarella di bufolo) sandwich, then, later, saw a tray of shrimp with onion coming out, and AdventureMan got a couple of those. The onions and the shrimp were pickled; it was a small treat, but memorable.
La Palanca does a great lunch time business, and had we not gone to Rosa Rossa, we would have tried to eat a lunch here. They get great reviews.
After leaving, we took a last vaporetto ride by night, and by the time we returned, the neighborhood party at La Palanca had spilled out onto the large sidewalk along the canal. It was a Thursday night, maybe they are all celebrating that the weekend is near.
We wander the streets, following Guido Brunetti’s path, and then wander back towards San Marco and our shuttle back to the hotel. We’ve spent the day wandering, on foot and on vaporetto, and we are beginning to feel a need for a nap before dinner. Wandering in Venice is sheer delight:
When we get to where the shuttle is supposed to be, there are, literally, hundreds of touristy looking people, and fortunately, several Viking people. We ask about the shuttle back, and they say it will come in half an hour. We head for the nearest cafe and check to make sure it has a ladies room, which it does, but oh-my-goodness, no seat, no lid, and a pull thing to flush, just like the old days when we lived in Germany when I was a kid. These people know the value of location – take a look at the prices.
The waiter was shocked! Shocked! when we asked for ice cream. No! No! Never in October! (LOL, we didn’t know!) I ordered a coffee and AdventureMan ordered a Tiramisu.
The Tiramisu was fabulous, everything we have dreamed of so long. It had liqueur in it! It had that unforgettable taste!
We tell a story in my family of our first trip to Italy, when I was 15 and my sisters were younger. It was my Mother’s birthday, and at the hotel where we were staying, they presented her with a surprise birthday cake. It was all so lovely and so gracious. My Mother cut the cake and the waiters brought pieces of it to us, and then, as my mother bit into her piece, she grimaced – the cake was soaked with liqueur. She told my father in a low voice, and he looked at us girls, with a fixed smile that told us he meant business and said “You will eat every bite, and you will smile.”
We were raised to be gracious, and to have grateful hearts. I don’t remember being so all-full-of-gratitude at the time, but I grew to like the Italian style. and didn’t realize how much I had missed it until I tasted this REAL tiramisu.
I remember that also, very graciously, after we had each eaten our piece, even my little 6 year old sister, choking down that liqueur soaked cake, my mother asked the management to please share the joy of her birthday by sharing the rich cake with all the employees and guests (it was a large cake).
AdventureMan and I read a series of detective novels set in Venice by author Donna Leon, who lives there. Commissario Guido Brunetti is a patient, thoughtful and smart detective, working under a lazy, corrupt and greedy boss in a country rife with corruption. Each book has a social issue in Venice as its topic, and not lightweight topics – the arrogance of dumping trash, boatloads of trash, off the coast of Somalia (had you ever heard of that before? Neither had I. But it is true, and it has ruined traditional Somali fishing), big pharma and tainted drugs, sex tourism and human trafficking, governmental bribery – Donna Leon fearlessly tackles them all.
Guido Brunetti loves Venice, and he loves his family. His solace in life is his wife, a professor of literature at the university, and his two children. His wife cooks meals that make the reader’s mouth water as they read, or Guido and one of his lieutenants will stop at a restaurant for lunch.
In one of the books, “Blood From a Stone,” American tourists give evidence to a stabbing they witness on their way to dinner. To thank them for their help, he directs them to a GOOD Venetian restaurant, and tells them to say Guido Brunetti sent them.
We don’t say that. No matter how real Guido Brunetti has become to us, we know he is not real, and we don’t say he sent us. But we do take the tiny winding back lanes to find Rosa Rossa, and while we order familiar salads, we also order Venetian specialities for our main courses.
Rosa Rossa on a tiny but busy street:
AdventureMan’s favorite salad; he loves Caprese:
I had a garden salad:
I love black spaghetti, or Pasta Nero. It is made with squid, and squid ink, and I first had it at a lovely dinner a long time ago in Damascus, Syria, served by a beautiful Italian who swore t me that this dish is Southern Italian. If so, I ordered it anyway, in honor of Beatrice, and it was delicious.
AdventureMan ordered Pasta with Squid and pepperoncini, and he said it was very piquant, and that he has never eaten so much squid in his life at one time.
We passed on dessert, knowing we still had miles to walk, and possibly a gelato toward the end. We had such a short time to enjoy Venice, searching for and finding Rosa Rossa was a lot of fun, and a great adventure. They took good care of us, and the food was delicious.