Savannah: Top 5 Restaurants

1  Although we can’t guarantee a ghost sighting as rumoured, at the Olde Pink House does deliver great food (try the Shrimp and Grits appetizer) and a charming atmosphere. Dine in beautifully appointed rooms and then take dessert in the  basement pub where the live music infuses the party.

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Sautéed Local Shrimp w/Country Ham Gravy & Cheddar Cheese Grits Cake

 

2   Experience southern food, boarding house style at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. Come early and be prepared to wait in line for at least an hour (yup, it’s worth it!). Once inside you’ll sit family style at a table that’s set for 10 but ready to feed 20.  It’s all for sharing, so try a bit of everything, but save room for banana pudding. And mind your manners – return your dishes to the kitchen just as President Obama does when he visits.

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Home Southern cooking at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

3  A long day of exploring Savannah’s  squares earns you a treat from Leopold’s Ice Cream. Try  the Tutti Frutti and you’ll understand why Johnny Mercer wrote the famous song of the same name.

4  Looking for a taste of Manhattan in the south? Then Local 11 Ten hits the spot. Start the evening with a Gin, Lime Juice and Basil cocktail  on the upstairs patio.

5   For a great view and good food, Vic’s on the River rewards. Try southern classics like Fried Green Tomatoes and Crab Cakes . 

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Crab cakes at Vic’s on the River

 

Nashville’s Top 5 Food Finds

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Nashville’s southern fare is getting a makeover, as Lena Diaz’s taste buds discovered.

Redefining Dining

1. Set in the residential neighbourhood of historic Germantown is City House, with a menu that marries Italian ingredients to traditional southern cooking. Try the chocolate pecan pie; a light shell with a chocolate, rum and pecan filling topped with coffee, caramel gelato. Hello heaven. Fun fact: Most cocktails are named after staff pets.

2. You’d never guess, with its unassuming cafeteria style setting and yellow painted cinder block walls, that Arnold’s is nearly as much an institution as the Grand Ole Opry. Come on in, grab a plastic tray and slide it towards your choice of meat and three (a Nashville tradition of 1 meat dish + 3 side dishes). Side dishes include collard greens, pinto beans, mashed potatoes and cornbread muffins to die for. Bring your stretchy pants.

3. Dinner at Margot is an herb-infused occasion where every dish from first to last leaves a fine impression. Start with an appetizer of Parmigiano Reggiano and Capriole goat cheese served with mostarda (candied fruit cooked in a spicy mustard flavoured syrup) and fresh focaccia bread; a great prelude to the daily house-made pastas.

4. Nashville’s iconic Loveless Cafe started as a pit stop in the early 1950s and, thankfully, neither the decor nor the home cookin’ has evolved. Biscuits served in a heap, waffles piled high with pecans and maple syrup; you wouldn’t want it any other way. The gift shop is a hoot; pick up a ‘Praise the Lard and pass the Biscuits’ tee shirt or some of their famous homemade jam.

5. Order a veggie lover’s taco of fried avocado with red onions, red cabbage, spicy dill sauce and cilantro at Mas Tacos. And add a cold Aqua Fresca (pineapple, cilantro and lime water) served over ice. Delicioso.

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Design Express 2014: New York (Apr 30 – May 4)

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Join Kimberley Seldon for a truly unique design express experience.

~ 5 days, 4 nights ~

customized events: nothing off the tourist menu
fine accommodations: stay in the luxurious Waldorf Astoria
great design: including private home tours
shop ‘til you drop: Kimberley’s favourite design shops
delicious food & wine: amazing tastes await your arrival
good friends: that’s where you come in!

Wednesday, April 30th to Sunday, May 4th, 2013
DESIGN | ARCHITECTURE | SHOPPING | FOOD & MORE
Waldorf

 EARLY BIRD SPECIAL (before November 29th)   $3,995

Double Occupancy (Standard)   $4,495

Single Occupancy (Upgrade)   $1,295

Click to Register

 

Ottawa’s Top 5 Restaurants

For a small city Ottawa features an abundance of first class dining options, though many are a well-kept secret as far as the locals are concerned.

Follow Dabble’s picks for a memorable week of meals in the capital city.

Ottawa Sweet Treat

1. The Wellington Gastropub has an infectious vibe that makes it one of the most sought-after places to book a table. Busy every night of the week with success that can be attributed to dedicated owners Chris Deraiche and Shane Waldron and their attention to an ever-changing menu.

2. A lively neighbourhood hotspot Fraser Café is on the edge of upscale Rockcliffe Park. Brothers Ross and Simon Fraser offer fresh, local food served simply in a casual setting. Their brunch menu has earned them a solid reputation with the weekend crowd.

3. Town owners, Marc Doiron and Lori Wojcik, are a married couple that combine their passion for art and food beautifully in a bustling, atmospheric restaurant in the Golden Triangle neighbourhood. Featuring locally grown food, the commitment to fresh deliciousness is evident in every dish served.

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4. Perhaps the most sophisticated of the top five spots, Beckta makes Ottawa proud. A world-class sommelier owner Stephen Beckta and his partner, award winning executive chef Michael Moffatt, can take on Manhattan. In typical Ottawa style there are no pretensions just haute cuisine served in elegant simplicity.

5. Atelier’s celebrated owner/chef Marc Lepine artfully creates food worth savouring in an atmosphere that encourages lingering. The innovative tasting menu at Atelier is considered molecular. Diners come for an experience and are never disappointed in a restaurant known as one of Canada’s finest.

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3 Days in New Orleans

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Dabble’s Perfect New Orleans Itinerary

Day 1

MORNING If you’re staying at Soniat House or the Ritz-Carlton, breakfast is covered. Otherwise, head to the French Quarter and order a chocolate filled or straight up croissant from Croissant D’Or Patisserie. This will surely give you the fuel required to explore and shop the Quarter for the rest of the day. 617 Ursulines Avenue. (504) 524-4663

NOON The courtyard at Cafe Amelie is a perfect spot to lunch before continuing to prowl the Quarter. Once fortified, take a tour of Hermann-Grima house with its 19th century charm. Next, head to the French Market for souvenirs and end the afternoon with the best margarita in the world (yes, the world) at El Gato Negro.

EVENING Taking the streetcar to Upperline is a trip highlight. Getting a warm greeting from the owner makes you feel like a local and a VIP.

Day 2

MORNING Work up an appetite with a 40 minute stroll from the French Quarter to Magazine Street. Once there, breakfast is guilt-free, so stop at the first bakery. Or, cab it to Velvet and indulge in a Spanish latte and a tea cake (aka mini-cupcake). Either way, use the street-by-street guide (above) and shop ’til you drop. 5637 Magazine Street. (504) 450-2129

NOON Sure, it’s a few blocks off Magazine Street but no obstacle is too great for a chance to eat at Atchafalaya. If fried green tomatoes sound intriguing, this is the place to try them. Don’t linger if you plan to see Lafayette Cemetery (in nearby Garden District) as it closes by 3:00 pm.

AFTERNOON There’s more Magazine Street to explore and once that’s finished, stroll the adjacent Garden District with its antebellum homes and star appeal.

EVENING Fish lovers should try GW Fins and pork lovers, Cochon. Either way, end the evening with the joyful music coming from Frenchman Street.

Day 3

MORNING Decision time…is it a day-trip to Oak Alley Plantation or a wander through the National WWII Museum? Oh heck, try to fit them both in. You can rest when you’re back home. Head to the plantation first, then take a cab to the museum and start the tour with lunch in one of the on-site restaurants.

EVENING Finish the New Orleans culinary tour with dinner at Louisiana Bistro. The inventive menu changes frequently. Post dinner, take one last stroll through the French Quarter and Bourbon Street if you’re so inclined.

Barcelona’s Top 5 Restaurants

“Reset your body clock,” advises Dabble’s principal photographer, Simon Burn. “Locals never eat dinner before 10:00 pm, which leaves plenty of time to enjoy several meals each day.”

Nearly every restaurant in Barcelona suffers from mixed reviews when it comes to service. Frankly, how attentive the wait staff is depends largely on the day. Be patient and go with the flow if you want to have a good time.

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1. In the Barri Gòtic neighbourhood of Barcelona is the city’s oldest (and most delicious according to Simon) restaurant, Can Culleretes. For a set price, diners enjoy a three course meal plus wine in a rich, warm setting. Try the seafood which tastes fresh from the sea or the more hearty roasted duck with prunes.

2. Grab a spot at the bar if you can because the popular Cal Pep only has five tables. The Born neighbourhood haunt is packed with hungry locals who sometimes sneak in the back door. The cuttlefish and garbanzo beans can only be described as perfect.

3. Spanish for skylight, Tragaluz offers moonlight dining to those lucky enough to secure a table on the second floor. A passion for good food continually inspires the owner Rosa Esteva and her son Tomas to create fresh fare for a crowd that returns frequently.

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4. Placed in tandem (Fishop at the front and Beefshop at the back) are sister restaurants—though these relatives look nothing alike. Fish and sushi are served raw at tables with industrial seating, while the beef menu is served in cozy armchairs near a stone fireplace.

Dabble Savvy: On the last Monday of the month there’s a 35€ all you can eat menu that includes wine.

5. Food show fans drool at the mere mention of molecular gastronomy. Since elBulli is temporarily closed it’s high season for Comerç, 24. Dining in this fashion is a unique experience. The food items, served in seven courses, are complex creations. Sit near the kitchen and watch the culinary ballet as several chefs work together on each dish. Dinner for one with two glasses of wine came to 105€.

Barcelona’s Top 5 Travel Experiences

Armed with sunscreen and blister bandages, fashionista Christine DaCosta tackles Barcelona’s best travel moments while wearing her finest footwear.

“Always look your glamourous best in sexy Barcelona,” says Christine, “after all, you never know when you’ll be asked to tango.” In addition, well-dressed tourists are often treated more favourably than their more casual counterparts.

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1. Once you can get past the big lambs’ heads with their eyeballs intact (eww!), marvel at the order and peace at Market Santa Catarina. Unlike its larger, more well-known cousin, the Mercat de Sant Josep or La Boqueria, this one is easier to explore and more civilized. There are lovely restaurants inside too.

2. Housed in five adjoining medieval palaces, Museu Picasso focuses on the artist’s early years of formal training, exposing his classical skill and culminating in a collection from his well-documented Blue Period. Born in Andalusia, young Picasso moved to Barcelona when his father took a job teaching at the Escola de Belles Artes de la Llotja. The adult artist claimed he learned everything during his time in Barcelona.

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3. All that shopping does some damage to your mani pedi so stop in at Pink Peony for a little overhaul. It’s a North American style salon set on the second floor above the Passeig de Gràcia. The gracious living room setting features a balcony overlooking the busy street.

4. A warm welcome and second helpings await those who sign up for a cooking class at Cook and Taste. The Australians who were cooking on the day I visited were quite happy making paella having shopped at the market earlier in the day. Book in advance.

Dabble Savvy: The location is just steps from the Roman Ruins so ask for directions.

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5. Some people love Hop On, Hop Off bus tours and Barcelona has two main operators. A 24 hour ticket gets you a ride to all the city’s attractions, which are difficult to get to without a car.

 

Barcelona’s Top 4 Quick Bites

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1. For tapas, wrangle a barstool at Cerveceria Catalana. Dine on oysters and beer and take in the infectious party atmosphere. Sample the bacon, Roquefort, jam sandwich and the fried padrón peppers which look like small poblanos. The huevos cabreaos, a fried egg on top of thin French fries, are a local favourite.

2. Cobalt blue water bottles cast a watery tinge onto crisp white tablecloths in the contemporary setting of Matamala. Asking the waiter for a recommendation yields what can only be described as fish donuts. Sounds weird, but the bite-sized fried cod balls are drizzled in honey and taste like heaven with the accompanying cold beer. A small, wellstocked grocery selection includes fun gift ideas such as the pa amb tomàquet (Catalan bread with tomato spread) kit.

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3. The sign at Caelum on Carrer de la Palla 8 translates to: every delicious treat or product for your skin has been produced in monasteries and nunneries throughout Spain. Point to one of the tempting pastries in the window or ask for the holy honey cake which is divine.

4. The juicer is humming at Bar Lobo on Pinto Fortuny, a few steps from La Rambla. Teak tables and mismatched chairs surround a central kitchen in the paper lantern lit space. Order the Don Quixote and enjoy toast, cured sausage and manchego cheese.

Dabble Savvy: Tapas and cocktails often come with potato chips. Restaurants often bill for bread or olives, so ask before you eat if your budget is tight.

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Budapest Food: Buda

Conversation flows as easily as the local Tokaj wines and lusty European beers.

First time visitors are bound to leave with a newfound respect for hearty Hungarian food (chicken paprikás alone is worth the airfare) and the enthusiasm with which locals participate in the enjoyment of a good meal with friends.

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ABOVE: The For Sale Pub Restaurant might not actually be for sale but it does have an interesting décor. There are peanut shells on the floor and business cards, boarding passes and paper on the ceiling and walls.

1. Look past the kitschy “medieval” atmosphere at Alabárdos Étterem and focus instead on the authentic home cooking, served fetchingly on fine Herend and Zsolnay china. The setting, inside a 400 year old Gothic building and opposite Matthias Church makes it an ideal location for an evening stroll before dinner.

2. Fortuna 21 – Magyar Vendeglo (Hungarian kitchen) Stone walls and bleached oak floors provide a contemporary backdrop to this dynamic setting where visitors and locals order up traditional favourites such as the goulash soup served tableside in individual kettles. During the summer, sit on the patio and enjoy a cold glass of tokaji. Goulash, bread and wine come in under US$20, making this an affordable sit down experience.

Dabble Savvy: Gratuity may be included on your bill. If not, allow 10%-15% extra and give the waiter the money, do not leave it on the table.

3. The closest thing to a Dean & Deluca in Budapest is Baldaszti’s. The Buda location is tucked into the hillside, near the Funicular. If it’s lunchtime, sample the Hungarian platter with local meats and cheeses.

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ABOVE: Pancakes served with a trio of jams are a perfect breakfast treat. Shop for gourmet groceries in the basement.

4. Gundel is likely the city’s best-known restaurant, certainly one of its most expensive. Admired for its fine cuisine, impeccable service and the early 20th century setting. Elegant dress is recommended.

Dabble Savvy: Take time to admire the Hungarian masterpieces displayed on the walls while waiting for your meal.

Budapest Food: Pest

Conversation flows as easily as the local Tokaj wines and lusty European beers.

First time visitors are bound to leave with a newfound respect for hearty Hungarian food (chicken paprikás alone is worth the airfare) and the enthusiasm with which locals participate in the enjoyment of a good meal with friends.

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1. A must-visit gem of Hungarian home cooking is Café Kör. The restaurant is fairly small, not terribly picturesque, and the staff is not overly affectionate. However, the meal makes these minor issues tolerable. Perfect goulash, sublime veal tenderloin and a Viennese style, thinly pounded wiener schnitzel with parsley potatoes are just a few favourites.

2. Klassz lives up to its name which means super rather than classy, as we initially guessed. The bistro style setting is cozy and contemporary and the food has an international rather than Hungarian vibe. Its location at 41 Andrássy út is another bonus, as it’s an ideal spot for a stroll before or after dinner.

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3. Andrássy útca with its wide sidewalks and celebrity storefronts is the street locals like to think of as Budapest’s ChampsÉlysées. It’s also home to a second location of Baldaszti’s, the gourmet grocer and restaurant. Come for lunch and enjoy the lively industrial chic atmosphere.

4. Café Gerbaud is an iconic café but truth be told it feels lost in its history. Sit outside and have an iced coffee or enjoy an artisan pastry from the front counter. Otherwise, there are better places for a sit down meal.

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5. Grocery Store gifts: Always a great resource, grocery stores frequently carry jams, sugars, and sweet treats that are gratefully received back home. For foodie friends, pick up a bag of poppy seeds for 449 F (US$2) or crushed walnuts 729 F (US$3.30) and pair with a cookbook to make traditional poppy seed or walnut pastry roll known as “beigli”.

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ABOVE: Dabble travellers enjoy a group strudel stretching session. (FROM LEFT Debbie Fellows, Pamela Landry, Pat Pfrimmer, Sharron Cook and Kimberley Seldon.)

Charleston’s Top 5 Restaurants

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Scott and Crystal Winks know exactly what to order and where to order it from thanks to their expertise as the pens and palates behind Charleston Food Blog.

Happy to tag along, Scott and Crystal sent us to the city’s best restaurants and led us to the must order dishes on every menu. (It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.)

1. We’re told people travel from all over the country to taste FIG’s Tomato Tarte. Order several of chef Mike Lata’s dishes to share because you’ll want to try it all. The seasonal menu changes daily so visit more than once if you can.

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2. The name Closed for Business is sure to scare off or confuse many visitors, but the locals know better. This small drinkery has twice as many beers on tap as they do tables. The drink and food menus are both full of surprises. Try the duck pot pie, chicken salad or the pork slap sandwich—a perfectly fried pork cutlet, house-smoked ham, swiss cheese, green tomato chutney, with a house sauce that’s served on challah (egg bread). Need we say more?

3. Hidden on the first floor of the French Quarter Inn at the corner of Market and Church Streets is the delicious Tristan. Chef Nate Whiting runs the kitchen in this sleek, modern yet simple restaurant. Expect to be visually stunned by the beauty of the décor and the equally gorgeous food.

4. Pealz is the best spot in town to eat raw oysters. It is very small so head over there at 4:00 pm when they open to avoid the big crowds. If you can’t get enough of fresh seafood, go to Hanks and share the Grand Seafood Castle.

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5. Dying to try Southern food? Head to 82 Queen Street. Sit in the courtyard and order the she-crab soup and the barbecue shrimp and grits. If you want something that tastes like grandma spent the entire day in the kitchen, try Virginia’s on King. They turn out authentic cuisine using the freshest local ingredients and recipes that are 100 years old.

New Orleans Travel Guide

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New Orleans is a haunted place. However, it isn’t inhabited by ghosts and vampires as popular tours would have us believe. Instead, it’s steeped in a history so rich and vast the present pulses with it. a0 Dabble walked NOLA’s celebrated streets, met its unique characters and discovered its historic and modern charms. Oh… and to had a little fun too.

Where to Stay

Soniat House: Staying at Soniat House is a bit like spending the week with your favourite great aunt. Provided she has fine European antique furnishings, a private courtyard and bubbling fountain and wakes you from a blissful sleep with homemade biscuits. Divine. 1133 Chartres Street. (504) 522-0570

Hotel Ritz-Carlton: First class is the only style available at the Hotel Ritz-Carlton. If you’re due for a splurge, add club level service to your bill and enjoy an open bar throughout the day, excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner bites and an attentive concierge staff. As you step off the fourth floor elevator there’s even a cookie bar. Heaven. 921 Canal Street. (504) 524-1331

W Hotel: Worldwide, the W Hotel caters to a youthful fashionista set. In New Orleans there are two locations to choose from. W Hotel New Orleans on Poydras is just a little removed from the Bourbon Street fray while the W New Orleans – French Quarter is right in the centre of activity. Both have swimming pools and a lively bar scene. 333 Poydras Street. (504) 525-9444 ~ 316 Chartres Street. (504) 581-1200

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Getting Around

Big Easy Scooter: For $60 a day, the adventurous can rent a Buddy 50 scooter in bright pink or another sorbet colour. Expect to get some envious stares while zipping through the French Quarter and Garden District. 3926 Magazine Street. (504) 269-6465

United Cab: For long treks, grab a cab. United uses only licensed drivers and provides the most reliable ride in town. (504) 522-9771

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What to Do

Honey Island Swamp Tours: Offers a two-hour boat tour that’s sure to satisfy the gator hunter in your family ($23 adults, $15 kids). Visitors to the Cypress River swamp learn about folklore, history and the ecology of the swamp and its inhabitants. 41490 Crawford Landing Road, Slidell. (985) 641-1769

National WWII Museum: History buff or not, a trip to the National WWII Museum is time well-spent. The museum is divided into two distinct sections: one focusing on the European effort and a second centred on the Pacific conflict. Beyond All Boundaries, a new film produced by Tom Hanks, shows daily on a 120-foot wide screen. On-site restaurants, American Sector and The Soda Shop, thrive under chef, John Besh. 945 Magazine Street. (504) 528-1944

Oak Alley Plantation: Historically, Oak Alley Plantation served as a sugar cane estate before the Civil War. Its antebellum (Latin for ‘before the war’) mansion is typical of other estates along the Mississippi River, taking its cue from French Creole and Caribbean plantation design. Though disappointing to learn the slave quarters are no longer there, its architectural and historical significance makes it a worthwhile visit. 3645 Highway 18. (225) 265-2151 Check out Plantation Adventures to book a tour. 1-866-671-8687

Horse-Drawn Carriage: Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the French Quarter is a must. Choose a floral adorned mare and a chatty driver from the lineup outside Jackson Square. But wait for dark, when the ghost and voodoo stories seem eerily possible.

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Mardi Gras World: For a $20 admission, visitors to Mardi Gras World in the Warehouse District get up close and personal with enormous parade floats while learning how they’re made and what’s involved in this annual tradition. Lead by a knowledgeable docent, the tour begins with a brief video and a slice of king cake (traditional sweet bun with colourful icing). Fun for the whole family. 1380 Port of New Orleans Place. (504) 361-7821

French Market: Set beside the Mississippi River is the permanent location of the French Market, an ideal spot for souvenir shopping. If you love hot sauce, there’s a shop devoted to nothing but the spicy stuff. You’ll also find the feathered Mardi Gras masks for a lot less money than the same versions on Bourbon Street. 1008 North Peters Street. (504) 522-2621

Longue Vue: Quite possibly the best way to learn about interior design and architecture is through historic home tours. Be sure to visit Longue Vue, its Classical Revival home and garden setting a delicious way to peek into the past. 7 Bamboo Road. (504) 488-5488

Hermann-Grima: If you’re keen to step inside a 19th century French Quarter home, then put Hermann-Grima on your must-visit list. The horse stable and functional outdoor kitchen from 1830 are part of the reason it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974. 820 Saint Louis Street. (504) 525-5661

Garden District: Stroll the Garden District to enjoy one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in the USA. Located north of Magazine Street. While there, take in the eerily exquisite Lafayette Cemetery. Save Our Cemeteries offers knowledgeable and respectful tours. (504) 525-3377

Shop the French Quarter: Sure Magazine Street has the largest selection of home design, but there’s still plenty to shop in the French Quarter. Nadine Blake is a tiny gem. 1036 Royal Street. (504) 529-4913 For antiques, Soniat House and Ann Koerner carry an impressive selection. 1133 Chartres Street. (504) 522-0570; 4021 Magazine Street. (504) 899-2664