Meet the New Fleet

Meet the New Fleet

In the beginning…

Tours by Isabelle has been conducting small group tour of New Orleans and Southern Louisiana for the past 39 years! It all started when Isabelle Cossart, a young French immigrant with an entrepreneurial spirit was conducting “step-on” tours of New Orleans for big companies with big buses. She quickly realized that smaller group tours offered a far superior experience for visitors. Not only do smaller groups allow for more personalized service, but smaller vehicles can navigate the narrow streets of the French Quarter that big buses cannot. Furthermore, no one in New Orleans was offering this service! Hence, Tours by Isabelle was born.

The Golden Goose

Isabelle’s first small group tours were conducted in her personal family suburban! Next, she began renting 15 passenger vans for a bit of a more professional touring experience. Finally, in 1979, she purchased her very first 15 passenger tour van for Tours by Isabelle. She lovingly refers to her very first tour van as the “Golden Goose.” It was thanks to this first 70’s style tan vehicle, clearly marked “Tours by Isabelle” AND a lot of hard work and dedication from Isabelle herself, that Tours by Isabelle is now proud to be the oldest (and best!) family owned and operated tour company in New Orleans.

New and Improved!

Today, Tours by Isabelle operates a fleet of six 15 passenger tour vans. We have maintained a commitment to provide first class personalized service using smaller vehicles to navigate the city’s narrow streets. This month, we are happy to announce we have upgraded two of our six vans to the Ford high roof model, giving passengers a full 6’ vertical interior clearance.  Our driver/guides have provided wonderful feedback on the new vans, especially because they give our guests increased comfort and visibility. We look forward to upgrading the rest of our fleet in the near future.

 

Neighborhoods of New Orleans

New Orleans is situated along the crescent of the mighty Mississippi River and is made up of a series of distinct neighborhoods. New Orleanians take pride in the neighborhood they come from and live in, similar to the way a Texan, or a native of New York City boast about their homeland. The neighborhoods of New Orleans define the people who live there or have lived there throughout history, and remain as prominent landmarks in a city full of attraction!

Here’s a quick look at some of its major neighborhoods:

Treme:

Also called the Faubourg Treme, this neighborhood dates back to the 18th Century and served as a melting pot of African, Caribbean, and European cultures.

It’s also the birthplace of the world famous New Orleans’ jazz sound which emanated from its infamous red-light district, Storyville. Visit St. Augustine Church, the oldest African-American Catholic place of worship in the US. Today, St. Augustine, is not known not only for its historical prominence, but they have an awesome gospel mass!

Nearby the church, you can take in the wild jazz sounds at Armstrong Park, named after jazz legend, Louis Armstrong. In it, you will find Congo Square, a landmark known for being a congregation space for enslaved people on Sundays (their day off). Congo Square is said to be the birthplace of New Orleans music and culture.

The Treme neighborhood is famous for its tiny jazz clubs, jazz funerals and 2nd line parades. Visit its Backstreet Cultural Museum to get a taste of Afro-American history.

Marigny:

Marked by a vibrant art scene, Marigny offers a plethora of local artisans’ galleries, art markets, and live music clubs. The Foubourg Marigny is a desirable place for locals  to live and tourists to visit. It is famous for its “Bourbon St. for locals” aka Frenchmen St., St. Claude Arts District, Crescent Park by the river, and naturally its proximity to the French Quarter. Food and drink are available both at its cheap-eats and trendy restaurants, wine bars, and late-night dives.

The area has some colorful Creole-style cottages and the music scene at Frenchmen Street is worth the experience. Take a stroll in Washington Square Park or strike bargains at its flea markets and thrift stores. You can stay at any of its B&Bs or cozy inns, marked by their gas lamps, hidden courtyards, and lush gardens.

Irish Channel:

The Irish Channel neighborhood comprises Magazine Street, First Street and Toledano Street with the Mississippi river to its south. Predominantly a working-class neighborhood, it was home to the early Irish settlers.

Today it also houses GermansItalians and African Americans and is one of New Orleans’ hottest neighborhoods. Marvel at the charming shotgun homes and quaint cottages, eat at its local restaurants or enjoy the serenity of the St. Mary’s Assumption Church.

Carrollton:

This leafy neighborhood’s spacious and tree-shaded houses give it a nostalgic feel. Moreover, the presence of the Loyola and Tulane universities in the area give it a young and fresh population.

Shop to your heart’s content at its main shopping spot, Oak Street or at Maple Street with its small stores, coffee shops and the famous Maple Street Bookshop. Experience some of the best restaurants in the city like Jacques-Imo’s, Brigtsen’s, or Dante’s Kitchen for a fine dining meal. Grab a coffee at the historic Rue De La Course or eat a late night burger and shake at the famous Camellia grill!

St. Roch:

Developed in 1830, St. Roch has a rich past. It was home to one of the US’ largest populations of free people of color prior to the Civil War. It is known for its former baseball field, dairies, small farms and blacksmith shops. Visit the St. Roch Playground and the Independence Square or shop for groceries at the St. Roch Market. Other places of interest include: the St. Roch shrine, chapel, and cemetery.

Each New Orleans neighborhood adds a vibrant life and color to this ever bustling city.  No matter which neighborhood you visit in New Orleans, they’re always breathing life into you.

New Orleans Jazz Fest 2018

It is less than a week for the famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival! “Jazz Fest,” as we call it, is an annual event that is regarded as one of the premier festivals of music, food, crafts, and culture. Not surprisingly, the fest attracts music lovers from across the globe as it offers them a wonderful variety of music, ranging from Gospel, to R&B, Rock, Cajun Zydeco, Latin music, and of course traditional New Orleans jazz.

The Schedule

This year, the fest runs from April 27th to May 6th. The seven-day music extravaganza starts on April 27th, Friday, continues through April 28th, 29th, May 3rd (Thursday), 4th, and 5th, and ends on May 6th, Sunday. The organizers have arranged 13 different stages for various music events. During the program days, the events start at the stages by around 11:15 am and ends by 7:00 pm.

Major Events

Headliners, such as Steve Miller and Jack White get maximum performance time – 100 minutes. Both perform on the last day of the event – May 6th. The other bigwigs who participate in the fest include Charlie Wilson, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffett, Lionel Richie, Anita Baker, Beck, and David Byrne. All of them get 90 minutes to entertain their fans and audience.

Festival goers can also enjoy Henry Butler, the famous jazz pianist, tributes to Jelly Roll Morton at the pavilion. Also, Kermit Ruffins, the eminent jazz trumpeter, will pay his respect to Louis Armstrong. Additionally, Lena Prim would tribute to her jazz singer dad, Louis Prima, at the pavilion.  

Tickets and Pricing

Tickets for both the weekends are available separately and each ticket is valid for a single day. This means that the first weekend tickets are for April 27th, 28th, and 29th, and the second weekend tickets are for May 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th. People who are planning to attend multiple days in a weekend should purchase additional tickets depending on the number of days they want to attend.

The regular advance ticket scheme for both the weeks are available until April 26th, and it costs $70 per ticket. People who could not book the tickets online can buy it from the gate for $80 per ticket. The child tickets are only available at the gate, and that charges $5 per ticket. The children should be between the ages 2 – 10 and should be accompanied by adults.

The organizers have brought a special ticket program for May 3rd named “Locals Thursday.” With the ticketing program, the residents of Louisiana can purchase up to two tickets for $50 each. The residents can buy the tickets only from the designated gates after producing valid Louisiana photo identity cards.

How to Book the Tickets?

You can purchase the early-bird advance tickets and advance tickets online from Ticketmaster.com or get them from any Ticketmaster Outlet. You can also save a few bucks on fees and purchase tickets in person at the Smoothie King Center Box Office by paying cash or using a credit card.

The Amazing Garden District of New Orleans

New Orleans is known for a lot of things, and one of them is the Garden District. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the world. The Garden District in New Orleans has a population of about 2000, and is called so because of the numerous century-old grand and elegant homes with showy gardens. 

The district was built in 1806 by Barthelemy Lafon, and was one of the first Greek Revival expressions in New Orleans. In fact, some of the streets are named after the muses from Greek mythology.

Serenity

For those who love to spend time in small, quaint towns, the Garden District is a tranquil place to relax and rejuvenate. The most popular area in the district is Magazine Street. It’s got some of the best boutiques, antique stores, coffee shops, and art galleries to be found.  Whether you want to shop, dine, or just take a stroll, this is where all the action is.

The Big Easy is a fantastic place. It is warm and sticky in the summer time, but if you come here during any other month, this is just about the best place to be. The food is unique and amazing (you have a mix of French and Caribbean flavors). The cultural mix here is breathtaking.

We recommend riding the St. Charles streetcar from Uptown at Carrollton to see the mansions along St. Charles Avenue. Get off around Washington Ave. and walk through the Garden District to Magazine St. You will be inspired by the detail and grandeur of the architecture and the beauty of the foliage.

Monumental Magazine Street

It goes without saying that Magazine Street is the most happening destination in the Garden District and attracts hundreds of visitors every day. The number of dining and shopping options has made this a popular haunt for people. The coffee shops have outdoor seating and free WiFi, so they are perfect places to sit and people watch on a nice sunny day.

The restaurants feature cuisines from all over the world including French, Creole, Cajun, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Italian, and Indian. The bars feature fine drinks and live music to jazz up any day or night.

Party, Party, Party

New Orleans is famous for its parties, some say these are best enjoyed in the Garden District. From Mardi Gras to St. Patrick’s Day, several occasions are celebrated with pomp and show, with hundreds of people participating. The art galleries and craft shops in the region also regularly organize exhibitions at different times of the year.

The Garden District gets its name from the elaborate gardens in the neighborhood, and you must not miss them. The natural beauty, stylish homes, and the relaxing atmosphere all endear this region to many people over several generations.

There are lovely bed and breakfast accommodations and plenty of restaurants for those staying in the Garden District. All the shopping and dining options will keep you entertained and your belly full. If you are staying elsewhere, the Garden District is easy to access from anywhere in New Orleans, either by car or via public transportation.

St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans

Irish in New Orleans

The Irish have left their imprint all over the world, and it’s evident from the grand St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in several countries outside of Ireland.

One such place where St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated with much fervor in New Orleans. While in most other places, it is just a one-day celebration, in New Orleans, it is celebrated over a few weeks, with parties, parades, and Irish food and drinks.

There is much greater Irish history in the US than most people know. Although New Orleans is better known for its Spanish and French influences, there is visible Irish culture too in the city.

The Irish connection of New Orleans dates back to the 17th century, when several Irish nationals immigrated to the US for a better life. Much of the laborers that helped build the US were of Irish origin. The period around 1830, when the New Basin Canal was built, it was the Irish that contributed the labor.

During the construction of this canal, thousands of Irish workers died from yellow fever. Those who survived started working in the Port of New Orleans and living on Magazine Street. Today, thousands of people in the US are descendants of Irish immigrants. No wonder, St. Patrick’s Day is such a huge celebration all over the country, particularly in New Orleans.

St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans

St. Patrick’s Day is as big in New Orleans as in Ireland. On March 17th every year, New Orleans celebrates the day with parades and parties. New Orleans loves to parade, and this day witnesses people young and old coming out with friends and family to join the fun. More than anything, the day is a perfect excuse to spend some time in the outdoors, basking in the sun and taking part in the merrymaking.

On this day, the whole city is on the streets, carrying picnic baskets, umbrellas, and recreational vehicles. People in walking groups from various clubs dress up in green and distribute beads, flowers, and kisses among the lucky parade-goers. There is music and dance, with the bands playing and the parade-goers dancing.

A big attraction of the day is the floats and truck floats. The parade-goers call out, “Throw me something, Mister!”, and the riders on the floats respond by throwing cabbages, carrots, onions, potatoes, moonpies… and even underwear! The lucky ones go home with a lot of cabbages and carrots, all set for the week ahead! Some even perch themselves somewhere high up, to better catch the throws. Some even take their pets along to join in the fun.

There is usually a lot of work to do after the celebrations are over. The more garbage collected, the higher the success rate of the event. The day after the parade, they announce the amount of garbage collected from the streets!

If you are heading to New Orleans for the St. Patrick’s Day, make sure to dress in green and join the festivities in time!

The NOLA Fleur-de-lis

The fleur-de-lis is a lily flower according to the direct French translation of the word. Many historians, however, attribute its style characteristics to more closely resemble those of the iris flower. Either way, this decorative symbol historically has been used to represent peace, war, religion, politics, and royalty. But New Orleans gives a whole new meaning to this little flower.

The History

Traditionally, the fleur-de-lis has been used to represent French royalty, in that, it signifies purity, perfection, light, and life. People say that an angel presented a golden lily to Clovis, king of the Franks, to symbolize purification. This was upon his conversion to Christianity. Others claim that he adopted the symbol when water lilies showed him how to safely cross a river and thus succeed in battle.

Fleur-de-lis Presence in New Orleans

Thanks to the influential French settlers who founded the great city of New Orleans, the fleur-de-lis is now a part of our culture. This flower is a symbol that permeates Louisiana’s rich history. We see it in architecture, business logos, furniture, the city flag, on the helmets of the Saints football team, on tee shirts, and bar glasses, it’s everywhere! The fleur-de-lis was depicted on the first few iterations of the Louisiana flag, before Louisiana was part of the United States.  Our current state flag depicts the state bird, a pelican. But in 2008, the fleur-de-lis became the official Louisiana state symbol.

Symbolism

After the devastation of hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents made the fleur-de-lis their city’s symbol first unofficially, then officially! As a familiar emblem, it became a call to arms throughout not just the city but the world. People around the globe watched as resilient New Orleanians rebuilt their homes and communities. Displaying this flower became a sign of community pride. Those who reside in New Orleans display fleur-de-lis flags in their gardens and homes, on their cars and on their clothes. This is to demonstrate their support for a city that is spiritually indestructible.