Flashback: A long weekend in New Orleans

Aron left early yesterday morning to attend a prep course for his board exams. Should be a really fun four days, eh? Hudson and I are staying behind: as much as I’d like go and drink sazeracs and listen to jazz, I have a feeling that our visit–in reality–would play out differently.

Back in June of 2008, Aron and I spent a wonderful weekend in the Big Easy, thanks to his parents, who flew us there to meet them before one of their professional conferences. It’s been a while and we just scratched the surface (so bear that in mind if you’re planning a trip there and use any of this as a reference), but the memory is still a fond one! I thought I’d try to pull together a bit of a trip log in retrospect…

I flew in the day before Aron–who had to work all of Friday–and checked into the Marriott on Canal Street, just off the river and down from the French Quarter. I started the day with beignets and iced cafe au lait at 24-hour Cafe Du Monde (mais oui), which looks out onto Decatur street and Jackson Square. I scarfed down the powdery french-style donuts too fast to take a photo.

And then I was off to the Garden District Book Ship to meet up for the Historic New Orleans Tour of the Garden District and Lafayette Cemetery. I had made reservations before arriving. New Orleans in June is steamy, so the walking tour was not the most comfortable way to sightsee, but I loved learning about the city through its architecture. Every balustrade or beam, the materials used, told a story about the city’s inhabitants. The slightly eccentric guide also shared plenty of gossip about the neighborhood’s famous inhabitants (like Anne Rice, John Goodman, Nic Cage…).
Passing showers made the air sticky and the green-covered trees vibrant as we walked among above-ground tombs in Lafayette Cemetery.
For the ride back to the “Vieux Carré,” I walked over to St. Charles Avenue to pick up the streetcar–and waited beneath masses of mardi gras beads.
I highly recommend taking such a tour–especially at the start of a visit: I found myself recalling what I’d learned throughout my stay and it made all of our walks more interesting.

After a few more hours (and a much-needed shower), I met up with Aron’s parents for dinner at one of Emeril’s restaurants. I believe it was his namesake spot or Delmonico’s, but I’m afraid my memory fails me! I do know that we also later went to his restaurant, NOLA, for lunch and had a belated first-anniversary celebration with fantastic cocktails, too. (I recall them making my favorite Ramos Gin Fizz of the visit–a classic ‘Nawlins cocktail of gin, egg whites, orange flower water, soda, lemon and lime juice, and cream.)

Aron’s flight was delayed so, sadly, he missed out on the meal. I don’t think he suffered too badly, however: we ate and drank enough over the next day-and-a-half to more than make up for it!

In fact, the next days are a bit of a blur of restaurant sampling and cocktail testing. But rather than spend much time in the wee hours on Bourbon street, we ducked in and out of wonderful old establishments like Napoleon House (for a Pimm’s Cup) or Arnaud’s (for a Ramos Gin Fizz). Aron sampled sazeracs where possible (a stiff combination of rye whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters, Herbsaint Anise liqueur and a bit of sugar and lemon).

We stopped into Pat O’Brien’s for their famous Hurricane (which you can now take to go if you don’t want to linger on the patio), and peeked into the Preservation Jazz Hall next door to strategize a return visit.

I led us on more walking tours using print-outs from Frommer’s online guide. They were nowhere near as colorful or informative as the personal tour I’d taken the day before, but they did a great job of showing us around in our limited time ((there are three walking tours, including one of the garden district if you don’t sign up for a tour). We sampled Muffuletta and Po’ Boys and returned for more beignets and wondered if there wasn’t a term for the waddle-like-shuffle that all of us overstuffed tourists seemed to be engaging in on this hot day.

There was a reception at Galatoire’s, and the Bruhns let us tag along. The grand-dame restaurant (established in 1905) afforded us wonderful views of Bourbon Street from its balconies. When Aron and I left, we headed back to the Preservation Jazz Hall on St. Peter’s Street.

Even with all of the wonderful food and drink and history and antique scouting, that hour or so of Jazz was easily our favorite part of the visit. We squeezed in, and for $15 a piece, had a lively show with some tremendous jazz veterans in a historic venue.

We decided not to have another Hurricane next door but to instead head to the Carousel bar at the Monteleone Hotel for their signature Vieux Carré Cocktail and a sidecar.

We mumbled something about not fitting in another bite at brunch the next morning at Brennan’s and then miraculously found room for a bowl of cherries jubilee. Aron suggested sharing but no way, no how. Amazing stuff! Everything there was delicious. It’s a place that gives meaning to the phrase “breakfast establishment”–in the best possible sense.

A parting drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop and we were on our way! I wish I could be there with Aron this weekend, doing the shuffle, but more likely he’ll be exhausted each evening from studying. Pass.

We of course stayed more-or-less to the Vieux Carré and its classic haunts for our very brief tour (relying heavily on Frommer’s and Epicurious). I’m sure there’s so much more to see and do–and if you have any suggestions, please do leave them in the comments!


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