Photos by Guillaume de Vaudrey
Christmas New Orleans style is all about the food, the people and the atmosphere so why not take a break this holiday season in the Big Easy where there is something going on continuously during the month of December.
Only about an eight hour drive from Dallas, begin the trip in a 2015 Hyundai Sonata starting at $21,150 with an average of 25 miles per gallon in the city and 37 miles per gallon on the highway.
A midsize sedan, nothing fits the bill better than the 2015 Hyundai Sonata offering a new look and a complete redesign, expect a sexier appearance and a roomier cabin size all around.
She's grown up now, and the Hyundai Sonata is not afraid to show it with a new powertrain and lots of additions to the standard features from technology goodies to elements that are all about ease - there is even a more earth friendly trim too.
There are a number of choices in the midsize sedan market, so the Sonata has to be a looker or else get lost in the crowd. Indeed, the fresh-faced new 2015 Hyundai Sonata can certainly go head-to-head with the likes of the competition like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and the Mazda 6.
There are five trim levels to choose from including the SE, Sport, Eco, Limited and Sport 2.0T trims and there is also a Hybrid option in 2015 as well.
Under the hood it's a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine cranking out 185 horsepower with 178 pound-feet of torque on the SE, Sport and Limited trims. It's front-wheel drive and a six-speed transmission except on the Eco trim with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 177 horsepower and 195 pound feet of torque with a seven-speed automatic transmission.
The top-of-the-line performance vehicle, the Sport 2.0T, offers a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 245 horsepower with 260 pound feet of torque.
Loving the design, the 2015 Sonata is crafted simple for a down-to-earth feel, but the quality of the material inside is impressive with nice cabin accents on all the trims, but more than exceptional in the Limited with two-tone color schemes and high-end wood grain.
There is plenty of room for four adults and the two in the backseat won't be cramped with plenty of head and legroom and there is a 16.3 cubic feet trunk. Easy to drive, quiet, comfortable and an excellent road trip car you don't just feel the road, you own it so instead of the road taking you for a ride, you take it for one instead.
Heading into New Orleans consider a stay at the Dauphine Orleans in the heart of the French Quarter. It's a unique boutique hotel featuring buildings that date back to the early nineteenth century such as the Audubon breakfast room where John James Audubon painted his Birds of America series from 1821-22 while residing at the Audubon Cottages.
Aboard the Natchez
One all around New Orleans tradition you don't want to miss now or any time of year is a ride on the Natchez steamboat. Cruises are daily and there is live jazz. I did the Sunday brunch cruise and the jazz was playing before and after the meal making the time onboard just right. You can also take the time to visit the steam engine room and remember, this is the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River so you don't want to miss it on your New Orleans trip.
Where to Eat
In the Garden District
It is New Orleans' second most popular neighborhood so is stands to reason there would be a few restaurants you have to try there too.
The Commander Palace chef was named number 16 in the America with a James Beard Award and of course we had heard the name of this place many times. However finally trying the Turtle Soup made it worth the trip. I tried the soup at a variety of places, but Commander's Palace soup still wins my award for excellence. Takings the St. Charles Street Car from Canal Street was the beginning of our journey to the Garden District as we walked the four blocks from the street car line getting off at Washington Street to the final destination of Old New Orleans charm. Inside the Victorian architecture is the truly inventive and modern New Orleans cooking alongside the much loved Haute Creole. Testing the likes of Gumbo soup, Shrimp and Tasso Henican (my favorite with pepper jelly and picked okra), the classic Pecan Crusted Gulf Fish and the white truffle, autumn mushroom and Permesan risotto with chanterelle, shiitake and oyster mushrooms, our surprise was doubled when the wait staff came out with the Creole Bread Pudding Souffle, Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake and Lally's Praline Parfait. The latter was the best desert I have put in my mouth in some time, I just kept wanting one more bite, no one can finish the parfait, but I tried.
In the French Quarter
When you think of New Orleans you usually think of the French Quarter. It is less than a mile long and half a mile across, but the Vieux Carre is what we love about New Orleans and was originally laid out in 1721. The district is also on the National Register of Historic Places and its trademark ironwork, Creole homes and shutters on the windows are second only to the food that can be found here.
This restaurant located at the W Hotel French Quarter is part of the Commander's Palace family, but the menu and the food could not be more different. Open with the Yellowfin Tuna Cones literally served in avocado ice cream, shrimp and tasso pinchos with ghost pepper jelly, sweet potato beignets and a nice twist; the Foie Gras Burger of which every morsel was eaten. Even more surprising was the accompanying foie gras ice cream float that I was turning my nose up at until I tried.
What Else to Do
There is so much to do in New Orleans you won't know where to begin, easiest thing to do is think the holidays and spend some time enjoying the St. Louis Cathedral Concerts, cooking demos at a variety of locations and one unusual find that beckoned me on this trip was my discovery of the Edgar Degas house. I had no idea Degas had lived in New Orleans, even if it was just for five months. You can visit the historic home, studio and courtyard and the owners have also made it into a fine bed and breakfast. Degas lived in New Orleans for five months in the early 1870s and it was here he was inspired for his painting "The Cotton Office" in 1873. Quite unusual to find this Parisian artist with his inspiration taken from his months in New Orleans, when you visit you will also get the chance to listen to the history of his brothers and his one brother's divorce that caused the Degas rift with the local Musson famly and how the house was even split apart as well.
NOTE: This author does not and will never take any money from any automotive brand or destination/restaurant/activity, etc. in exchange for coverage, the views are strictly the author's opinion.