About Tours by Isabelle
New Orleans has a way to seduce you and hold you here! I came to this country as a French teacher when I was 21 to learn English and teach French at the elementary level in a public school in a New Orleans central city neighborhood. It was 1974 and I had a 1 year visa. I am still here... It has been a long year!
I replaced a French girlfriend of mine on a few tour guide assignments for groups of tourists from France several times that year and, realizing I needed to know much more about it, started to learn about New Orleans' incredibly rich history and culture at the public library. I soon found that teaching love and lore of Louisiana to tourists was much more rewarding than teaching French.
Being a 'step-on Guide' on large buses showed me back then how much better it would be to give tours in smaller vehicles to groups no larger than a dozen people. I also worked as a French interpreter and tour guide for several limousine companies and saw that the dark windows and seating arrangements on limos were not conducive to good visibility for sightseeing. I started to free-lance and gave tours in my 8 passenger family Suburban, then later rented a 15 passenger Dodge van and went to the Airport early in the morning to pick it up, did the tour, returned it late at night...
In the meantime I had gotten married and had started a family (4 kids in 5 years) and the concierges at various New Orleans hotels were encouraging me to also give tours in English as my English had finally gotten better...Finally in 1979 I convinced a banker to loan me enough money to buy my first 15 passenger van. It was a used, tan colored van, and I called it my golden goose! No one in New Orleans had ever given per capita tours (for individuals) in a van before. I produced and brought to the downtown hotels a brochure selling a 3 hour city tour of New Orleans, a swamp/bayou boat tour to a wonderful Cajun alligator hunter in Bayou Boeuf (we still go there today!) and an all day plantation tour to Oak Alley Plantation, Nottoway Plantation and Houmas House Plantation. We would cross over the Mississippi River on the White Castle ferry boat and people just loved it.
My business has persisted and grown over these last 35 years or so but the idea of "smaller is better" and "quality not quantity" as far as the size of our tour groups has really stayed with me as well as putting together great itineraries for our customers, giving them truly fascinating tours, and delivering real Louisiana history with passion and attention to detail as we drive them around in our small and comfortable vans.
Q: About your Post-Katrina Tour: don't you have mixed feelings about this being voyeurism to gawk at others' misery?
A: No, this is done in a very sensitive manner. Several of our guides are themselves from Chalmette and have lost everything they owned... This tour is not a safari through misery, nor is it a joy ride at the expense of ruined home-owners, our purpose and our mission is to show and explain to as many people as we can exactly what happened to us here in New Orleans, August 2005, where and why the levees breached, and how they should be fixed... We ask every passenger to please get » Read More
The Accidental Farmer by Christine Muhlke, New York Times - Dec. 2010. Isabelle's Organic Orange Orchard appears in the Food Section of the New York Times.
Tours by Isabelle was featured on MTV's "THE REAL WORLD" The Real World cast is guided thru neighborhoods which were devastated by Hurricane Katrina on The Post-Katrina Tour. Air Date. 8/11/10 The Tours by Isabelle segment starts 4.3 minutes into the episode. » Read More
July 12, 2012 - via TripAdvisor
“The Personal Side”
This tour company may be a little more expensive than others but the reason is the personal service and small size of the tour group. Isabelle uses vans that hold 4 to 8 and no more. On our trip we had 6. They pick you up wherever you are so no trekking to some departure point. We were first to be picked up and for us, the tour started right there as Diane, our driver and guide knows something of value about everywhere in New Orleans. It was supposed to be a 3 1/2 hour tour but well after 4 hours, we were still touring (with our permission). Because you are in a small van, you can go places that... » Read More