New Orleans, LA – Days 1 & 2
The seven hour drive from Nashville to New Orleans was easier than we thought. The road there was lined with beautiful scenery and Krystal Burgers; what more do you need on a road trip? The seven hours went quickly and before we knew it, we were driving into NOLA as the sun was setting. The city was lit up as if in welcome and we drove into it, awe-struck. Our hotel was perfectly situated in the middle of all of the areas we wanted to explore. It looked beautiful from the outside, and I couldn’t wait to see what it had in store for us. We valeted the car, and dragged our luggage in towards the front desk. When we checked in, the front desk staff wished us a happy anniversary and informed us that we had a room upgrade, which was a wonderful surprise. We schlepped all of our luggage up to the room (working at a hotel makes me reluctant to ask for help when staying at other hotels). It was a beautiful room with a huge bed covered in cloud-like linens and a comfy arm chair in the corner. As soon as we settled in and started unpacking, there was a knock at the door. The front desk manager had brought us a bottle of complimentary champagne to help us celebrate. We toasted ourselves and got ready for dinner. The bathroom was gorgeous, covered in marble, with a huge tub and a big enough vanity so we could both primp.
Once we looked presentable, we headed went out on the town. Michael had made dinner reservations at a trendy restaurant that a friend had recommended to us, called Cochon. It was walking distance to our hotel so we set out in our Friday night finest with the humidity weighing down on us like a damp wool blanket. By the time we got there, my freshly straightened hair was frizzed beyond belief but the scent of the restaurant was so enticing that it didn’t matter. We were seated at our table (a rustic wooden piece amongst a sea of identical tables), and were immediately situated with water and fresh bread rolls. We both ordered local beers and decided to order spicy fried alligator and the boucherie plate, which included a daily special of charcuterie and accouterments. The food was so delicious and flavorful. For dessert, we decided on peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream and coffee to pull us up from our food coma. The peaches tasted so fresh and the coffee hit the spot; we were ready to get back out there and explore. We wandered around the warehouse district, which was an interesting mix of industrial buildings and clubs. When we passed the Harrah’s casino, we decided to go in and each gamble $5 with the hopes of doubling our vacation budget. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen, but it was definitely an experience. Smoking was allowed in the casino, which made the air cloudy and thick. The personas of the gamblers ranged from little old ladies to cigar smoking hit men. We gingerly picked our way through the dime machines and lost all of our allotted money, then snuck back out with our heads down. After that, Michael and I decided that a night cap was in order, so we picked a bar at random and sat at a high top by the window. True to form, I had a gin and tonic, and he had a Jack and coke. We discussed our plans for the rest of our trip and people watched from the window before heading back to the hotel for the night.
We woke up the next morning to rain streaming down the windows. Michael made some coffee and we decided to venture out anyways. We huddled close under the umbrella and hurried from awning to awning. New Orleans looks so romantic in the rain, so it was an enjoyable stroll despite the weather. We walked over to Bourbon Street and marveled over the long-standing architecture that contrasted beautifully with the bright neon signs that marked each bar and club. Along the way, we realized that this particular weekend was Southern Decadence, a festival widely known as the “Gay Mardi Gras”. The banners, which hung from balconies everywhere, promised an exciting weekend. We took a lap around the French Quarter and stopped in many a voodoo shop. The oddities in the shops were all the same, but each one drew us in anyways. Once we had come back to Bourbon Street, we stopped in an unremarkable restaurant with delicious gumbo and crawfish beignets. Once we had refueled we were ready to explore more.
It was still raining when we left the restaurant. We continued our wandering, peeking into the alleys that stood perpendicular to the main streets. They contained a number of things, including petit restaurants and art galleries. We stopped in the “famous” Spirits on Bourbon and tried their resurrection cocktail, served in a plastic skull complete with blue strobe light pulsing underneath. Because of the open container laws in NOLA we were able to take our drinks to go and walk towards the river. In the rain, the Mighty Mississippi looked brown and depressing. We turned around to walk back inland and ended up in Jackson Square, where a statue of Andrew Jackson stood in the middle, while the St. Louis Cathedral loomed behind it. The scene was truly stunning. A cobble stone alley ran adjacent to the cathedral; walking down it was like strolling through history. On the opposite side of the alley was William Faulkner’s House, where he wrote his first novel. The first level of the house now contains a quaint book store full of the classics.
Throughout Bourbon Street and The French Quarter are small restaurants that solely serve alcoholic slushies, jello shots and pizza; aka the only things you will ever need. Michael got us two hurricanes (add an extra shot for $1, why not??) and we continued our jaunt. The streets of The French Quarter are lined with beautifully colored houses and buildings that made for a beautiful back drop to our boozy walk. We soon found ourselves in Louis Armstrong Park, named, of course, for Mr. Jazz himself. The park was gorgeous, with a stream running through it and statues of great musicians scattered throughout. We played “Only You” on my phone as we took in the loveliness of the park.
On the way back to our hotel (we decided we needed a nap before we went out for the night), we stopped at a corner store/mecca of delicious drunk food called Verti Marte. I had heard about this place from a local, which almost guarantees its five star status. We had the Jazz Sandwich, which was topped with shrimp, ham, turkey and veggies and it was heavenly. We ate it as we walked back to the hotel to nap, rally and head back out into the madness.
Four hours later, we woke up. It was 11:00 PM and I was determined to go back out. Michael needed some convincing, but soon enough we were out the door and headed to Bourbon Street. Southern Decadence was in full swing, and it was not a sight for the faint of heart. Beads were flying everywhere, along with dollar bills and small samples of personal lubricant and the costumes ranged from creative and cute to one lone leather strap. We went to Maison Bourbon first, to hear some live jazz. The music was excellent and 100% worth the pricey and boring drinks. After a while, we moved on to the next bar, which featured “Huge Ass Beers”, a 32oz domestic beer of your choosing. We took to the streets, huge beers in hand, and wordlessly people watched. It was quite the spectacle. We ended the night at Mango Mango, the slushy/pizza joint, and I have never had a better tasting slice of pizza at 3:00 AM.