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New Orleans news from Royal Carriages Tours

Discover the French Quarter through the eyes of our tourism team. Our guides, mule groomers, tour sales reservationists, and everyone in between are a family who takes pride in our culture and giving back to the community. Check back often to get the latest in our New Orleans news!

Honoring Our Veterans: Bob & KJ

Posted by Nancy on November 11, 2016

Being a Veteran owned company, Royal Carriages holds a unique respect and appreciation for those who serve in our Armed Forces. We'd like to take this moment to recognize two incredible Veterans. 



 

Bob French Jr., a Supervisor at Royal Carriages, served in the United States Army working as a Secure Communications Repair Technician, serving two tours of Germany 1985-1986 and 1988-1991 in addition to a tour of Korea in 1994. Bob has a great sense of humor and knows exactly what to say to make our customers smile. At Royal Carriages, Bob is responsible for managing 13 carriages, drivers, and mules each day. 
 

Former Carriage Driver, Kevin “KJ” Joseph, was recently promoted to Supervisor at Royal Carriages due to his natural leadership abilities thanks to his service in the Air Force. As a carriage driver, KJ entertained everyone who rode his carriage. KJ worked as a Military Intelligence Office for the Air Force and through his years of service, KJ traveled to Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Liberia. 

“The Air Force was the most attractive branch that I saw at Grambling State University. I joined to have a way to pay for college initially; then decided to have a career to take care of family.” said KJ.

Together, these outstanding men supervise and manage the day to day street operations of our family-owned carriage tour company. They are both recent graduates of the 2016 Royal Carriages Mule School, which takes place annually in Poplarville, Mississippi. Mule School focuses on improving our education, handling, and relationships with our carriage mules. 

To honor and show our appreciation to both Bob French Jr. and Kevin Joseph for their service, Royal Carriages has provided each Veteran with complimentary tickets to the WWII Museum, which attracts more visitors to New Orleans each year than Mardi Gras itself. 



Royal Carriages would like to remind everyone about our Veterans Ride Free Program. All US Veterans receive complimentary 30-minute carriage tours of the French Quarter, and $20 OFF all other carriage tours, with Military ID.

On this day, and every day, we salute you.
Thank you!

Travel Tips: Family Fun in New Orleans

Posted by Nancy on June 09, 2016

"If a fact-filled wander about town sounds like pure punishment, think again. For children, learning about the past can be fascinating, if the setting is right. Taking in the sights from a carriage is decidedly cool. So is picking out the mule leading your expedition."

It's true! A fantastic article written by Amy Tara Koch for The New York Times features a whole slew of must-dos for families planning to visit New Orleans.

The article, published in The New York Times on June 1, 2016, gave an honorable mention to our hard-working mules and the carriage drivers that love them. 

What a great description of our carriage tours! 

In just 30-minutes, our carriage tour covers more ground and history than a 2-hour walking tour! Each tour discusses history, culture, architecture, and dabbles into the subjects of voodoo, food, music, and more! These mule-drawn excursions are perfect for kids of all ages! 

In addition to recommending a mule-drawn carriage tour of the French Quarter with Royal Carriages, the article also suggests phenomenal New Orleans traditions such as beignets at Cafe DuMonde, an overstuffed po'boy at Johnny's, dancing and dining at Three Muses on Frenchmen, and more.

For fun culinary experience the whole family can enjoy, we agree with the selections of Dat Dog, Sucre`, and Jacque-Imo's Cafe for fun atmosphere and flavorful dishes that even the pickiest of eaters can enjoy! 

The New York Times also suggested that New Orleans is considered one of the Top 5 Family Vacation Alternatives to Disney World! 

Click here to read the article: The New York Times "New Orleans is a Party for Families"

Learn all about Royal Carriages Street Sweep Program

Posted by Nancy on February 15, 2016

Did you know that the diaper bags that the mules wear today were originally designed by a lovely lady by the name of Miss Violet Lauga in the 1960s? Violet was happily married to the founder of Royal Carriages, Clem Laura. She and her husband traced out the pattern on her kitchen table. This same pattern is still hand-sewn and worn by all Royal Carriage mules.  

When worn properly, equine diaper bags catch more than 90% of all waste...manure...poop...whatever you want to call it! 
Occasionally accidental "road apples" hit the ground. Royal Carriages averages 20-26 working mules each day, in addition to working mules from the other companies and New Orleans Police Department Mounted Patrol....that can be a lot of accidental manure! City law requires each carriage mule to wear a diaper bag, and City Officials regularly perform surprise inspections to make sure the diaper bags are in proper working order.
 
Did you know The City of New Orleans requires each carriage company to remove the manure from the French Quarter on scheduled days? Since Royal Carriages is the largest carriage company, we are responsible for cleaning more days out of any other company.

At Royal Carriages, we 
believe in being good neighbors and we love seeing (and smelling) a clean French Quarter. Which is why the Royal Carriage Street Sweep is actively on the hunt, searching for manure to sweep up. The Royal Carriages Street Sweep consists of a battery operated golf cart, equipped with a shovel, broom, and assortment of cleaning products to help neutralize and mask the odors. 
 

Did you know Royal Carriages also provides complimentary odor neutralizers to help freshen the air in front of any French Quarter business or residence? If you would like to receive a package, contact our business office at (504) 943-8820  and we will deliver it to your door.  
 
If you are a French Quarter business owner or resident that needs EMERGENCY POOP REMOVAL, we've got you covered! Follow the chart below, and call in your request to the company scheduled. If the waste isn't removed in a timely manner, comments can be made during regular business hours to The City of New Orleans at (504) 658-7176.

Royal Carriages will make the extra effort to clean up even if it isn't our scheduled day.  

If you are a resident or a business owner in the French Quarter or Marigny and have found this information to be helpful, please forward this on to your neighbors!

Together, we'll all work towards cleaner streets! 

Nancy's Story: How I Became A French Quarter Carriage Driver

Posted by Nancy on February 08, 2016

In my early 20s, I left behind a good job, friends, and family in rural Louisiana for a life in The Big Easy. Never living in a city, I was completely unprepared for such change. Constantly struggling to find enough work to pay rent like most, I found myself slinging drinks on at a jazz club on Bourbon Street. Working late nights in a crowded and smoky environment for months on end was enough to drive for me to find something different. 

For years, I had wanted to become a licensed city tour guide, but the application process and tests through City Hall were discouraging. I wanted formal education to prepare me and within a few months, I graduated from the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guide Class and began working as a professional city tour guide. Walking groups of 25+ visitors throughout the French Quarter  for 2-hours at a time was not as much fun as it seemed and neither was giving tours on a tour bus. Once again, I found myself struggling financially and still searching for a rewarding experience. 

Through Friends of the Cabildo, I met an older man with a big smile named Mick. After expressing my concerns to him, he told me that I needed to work as a carriage driver for Royal Carriages. I never considered driving carriages or working with “poor overworked horses” and my own stubborn ignorance didn’t think highly of the carriage industry. He laughed and said, “If you see anything you don’t like, then don’t do it.”

Before applying to Royal Carriages to work as a carriage driver, I researched the carriage industry. I wanted to know everything that I could about what I was about to do. I learned that the horses were not horses at all, but mules, and that Royal Carriages has been in business since 1941! My confidence in the industry grew, and I looked forward to my job interviews with Royal Carriages. I even came across a vintage brooch of a horse-drawn carriage at a local thrift shop, felt that fate was working its magic, and wore it as good luck to the interview. 


Nancy is pictured with Queenie

Most carriage drivers agree that it is the best job in the city. We have the opportunity to spend our days working with hard-working and hard-loving mules that are well cared for, and provide visitors with the best tour experience possible. Our mule-drawn carriages enhance the beauty of the French Quarter, and the initial encounter that people have with a carriage mule can be unforgettable. Artists have painted works of art of my mule and me, and our photo has been taken by countless strangers. Those types of things don’t happen when you are a walking tour guide or a bus tour guide. 


Original Artwork by New Orleans Artist Wayne Griffin 

Over the years, I have become somewhat of a carriage mule-advocate. Whenever someone discovers that I work as a carriage driver, they have a ton of questions. They are always surprised and delighted to hear my response. I show them pictures of the carriage mule that I work with on my cell phone and speak of it as if it were my child. They are reassured knowing that people like me truly do fall in love with their working partners. 

When you're a newbie, your mule teaches you a lot. One of the most important things I've learned is that life is like a stubborn mule. You can try to be in control, but you’re not. I do my best to just work with it. I believe that fate can be a series of unfortunate events that lead you to a worthwhile experience. In this case, it leads me to loving mules and appreciating those who work with equines in various industries. I'm one of those "mule-crazy" people now. 

Kim's Story: How I Became A French Quarter Carriage Driver

Posted by Nancy on January 04, 2016

For as long as I can remember I have always been in love with equines.  As a child, I begged and begged my father for a horse.  I believe he thought I would grow out of it, but by the time I was eight years old, he realized this wasn’t a phase.  We lived on a small farm about twenty miles West of Casper, WY that my father purchased when I was about six.  One of the first animals my father got for the farm was a Shetland pony named Shorty who taught me as a small child all the easy and difficult things about having an equine friend.  My body still bears a few scars from our original adventures together.

It was when I set up wood fence rails on top of buckets and short posts and started teaching my pony to jump that my father decided it might be time for a full-size horse.  This started an adolescence of competitive jumping and showing.  We never had mules on our farm although we had friends with mules who participated in mule day’s events and pack horse races around the country.  I remember competing against a girl who had a mule that she jumped with.  Yet, like most people, as a youngster, I remained pretty snobbish towards the long ears and their abilities.  

As I reached adulthood, I would’ve liked nothing more than to make a profession in animals but, agricultural opportunities were slim in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and my parents urged me on to college where I just couldn’t decide on a major.  Eventually, I became a paramedic and moved to New Orleans, LA where I worked for the city of New Orleans until 2010, including during hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Time and circumstances will eventually take its toll on a paramedic’s body and mind and as my mother was aging, I felt the pressure of a job that has little room for family leave wearing on me.

One night my partner and I were driving the ambulance down Decatur street in the French Quarter and as we passed Jackson Square I saw the carriages lined up there and thought back to a time about fifteen years earlier when I’d seen an ad in the newspaper for carriage driver positions.  In New Orleans, the carriages use mules to pull them (it has been a law since the early 1980’s) and I loved walking around the square and taking in all the smells and affections of the horse hybrid that brought back memories of my childhood.  Walking by Jackson Square was just about the only equines I got to experience since the days back on the farm of my childhood.  Although I’d been interested in the carriages all those years ago when I saw the ad, I thought there was no way that I would ever be hired for the position since I’d never driven a carriage, much less in city traffic.  Something in me that night in the ambulance was different and I decided that carriage driving was the alternative I was looking for.  

The next day I started checking into the process and found out about the licensing for tour guides.  I signed up for a class through the Louisiana State museum system that trains tour guides on the history of the French Quarter.  After a month long every day of the week intensive program, I arrived at the offices of Royal Carriages armed with my tour guide license, my resume, and a staunch determination to become a carriage driver.  A couple of days later I was learning how to drive a mule!


Pictured is Blue who assists Kim in training new mules

My trainer told me to throw away anything I ever knew about horses because mules were totally different.  I wouldn’t say it’s a good idea to throw away all your equine knowledge but it wasn’t long before I realized how incredibility smart and special mules are.  My childhood experiences came flooding back to me and just like when I was a child I wasn’t nearly satisfied with just holding onto the lines while my mule leisurely ambled around the French Quarter.  I found myself consistently working on my technique to improve my line handling and communication with my mule.  My mule partners impressed me daily with how smart and responsive they were to me.  I love to call the mules connivingly smart.  As time passed, I was handed more and more challenging mules based on my ability, until I was driving the newly trained mules.

In July of 2013, the trainer suffered a debilitating hand injury that required surgery and in the days following, I arrived at the stable to help him groom and dress the mules that he was currently training, as his bandaged hand made it impossible to do some tasks.  I also rode along with him in case he needed help during the process. Before long everyone considered me the assistant trainer, helping with the daily training even after his hand had healed. In April 2015, the trainer left the company and I was promoted to his position.  I wasn’t quite sure I was ready but, we had nine mules in the wings waiting to be trained so it was time to step up to the task.


Week 2 of Training Elizabeth 

The hardest part about training the mules is the location I’m training them in, the French Quarter.  The mules come to me with some training already but they’ve never been in a city, or seen traffic, street construction, or pedestrians in feather boas with hurricane cocktails on Bourbon Street.  The mules and I are on stage every day in front of thousands of people who know nothing about mules much less the training process.  That means that nothing can go wrong once I’m out in the French Quarter with a new mule.  If people feel the mule is sweating too much or if it has a little white saliva around its bit from working, or it struggles with an obstacle, I’m suddenly the center of attention and advice.  That aspect alone was nerve racking at first because I was so afraid of making mistakes and having the general public go crazy yelling at me.  These days my skin is much thicker and I’m often so focused on my mule that I rarely hear comments from the sidelines.  Most individuals although well intentioned, are grossly uneducated in mulemanship and they all come bearing an opinion.


Week 1 of training Foot Loose

I love training the mules. I love watching them progress as they learn new tasks and become familiar with their new jobs.  It’s amazing to me when I see them learn something and remember it and when I watch them figure out an obstacle while those long ears I love to call radar turn forward and back while they think and listen to directions.  I love the bonding process with the mules when I recognize that they’ve begun to trust me and depend on me for direction.  There is something very therapeutic to my soul every morning when I walk into the stable, and I’m greeted by their beautiful faces. Each one hanging their head out of the stall looking for their morning affection.

I don’t miss being a paramedic, I realized what I was missing in my life was the fulfillment that working with a mule brings.  So many of my co-workers are the same way.  Many leaving professional careers like teaching, drafting, and the legal field to work with mules guiding visitors around our magnificent city.

-Kim Weikum, Stable Manager at Royal Carriages

We hired the carriage to drive that Father of the Bride and the Bride to the wedding venue. What an arrival! The guest were all taking photos. It was a nice way for the two of them to chill before the big event. The driver took them on a nice little tour of NOLA before the wedding. It was worth every dime. Thanks, Royal Carriages.

Tina J. of Maryland, USA

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