New Orleans without the crowd Timing: In April, during Good Friday, Easter and Passover, restaurants and tours will be open for business. But few major events are scheduled at that time.

Travel Q&A


We are planning a trip to New Orleans April 9-4, including Good Friday, Passover and Easter. Does the city shut down for these religious observances? Would the various tours to swamps and plantations still be running, and would restaurants be open?

New Orleans is known as a city that never closes (indeed, it's said that some bars don't have doors to lock even if they wanted to close). The dates you've chosen are good for several reasons -- and bad for one.

First, the weather will probably be the best that the city has to offer -- none of the oppressive heat and humidity of summer or the unpredictable, often dismal days of winter.

Second, because it's a holiday period, you are unlikely to run into the huge convention groups that often jam hotels and restaurants.

And third, you can expect to have your choice of just about any tour or restaurant you wish, because, according to the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, most will be open during this period.

For example, Brennan's, the French Quarter restaurant famous for its sumptuous breakfasts, plans to open Easter Sunday, a spokeswoman there said.

But if you want to reserve a table for breakfast that day at the most sought-after time period -- between 10 a.m. and 12: 30 p.m. -- you should make your reservations a couple of months ahead. Call 504-525-9713.

For the past 18 years, Alligator Annie Miller has been taking visitors out through the swamps of Terrebonne Parish -- about a 90-minute drive west of the city -- to watch bayou wildlife and even feed the alligators. She'll be open for business those days, she said; her boats only hibernate when the alligators do: November through February. The cost: $15 a person; 504-879-3934.

Unfortunately, however, the city's events calendar is pretty thin during the period of your stay. You'll be visiting in a valley between two towering events: the Spring Fiesta March 19-22 and the Jazz and Heritage Festival April 24 to May 3. But there is an informal Easter Parade through the French Quarter and a service at St. Louis Cathedral, on Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter.

Information: 800-672-6124; on the Web: www.neworleanscvb .com.

I was very interested to learn about Ceren, a Maya village in El Salvador. Are there tours to this site? And can a visitor see the excavations?

Ceren was a Maya village buried by 16 feet of volcanic ash around the year 590. It is one of the best-preserved domestic archaeological sites in Mesoamerica.

Although it doesn't contain the imposing royal or religious sites of some ancient locales, it does offer good insights into daily life of that time -- particularly the plants and foods, which were remarkably well-preserved by the ash.

The government of El Salvador, realizing the attraction of such a site, has opened a museum there, in the village known as Joya de Ceren. David Lentz, an archaeobotanist at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, has worked at Ceren, helping to identify plants remains. He said that the roads to Ceren from San Salvador are good, and the 15-mile drive from the capital is easy enough that you could make a day trip of it. The excavation site itself is small -- about 100 yards end to end. Besides the museum, Lentz said, there are walkways alongside the excavation sites, allowing you to watch archaeologists at work. So far, 11 structures have been uncovered, including homes, a food storehouse and a sauna for ritual sweat baths.

As for the best time to visit, Lentz said that the rainy season runs from about June to November, after which the weather is dry and hot, but usually not unpleasantly so.

There are buses that run from San Salvador to Joya de Ceren (take the bus to San Juan Opico). Or you could hire a taxi for the day -- expect to pay about $50, and agree on the price before you start the trip. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m.

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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