Saturday, April 21, 2018

New Orleans 2018 - Part One

Author’s note:  This is the second attempt at writing this post.   We lost the almost-complete first version when Dave upgraded his iPad to IOS 11.  This disabled his editing software, Blogsy, which is no longer supported.  Rather than trying to roll-back to 10.3.3 he decided to try again.   Unfortunately he will not be able to recreate that masterpiece of a post.)

Both our companies give us a holiday for Good Friday (AKA the “Spring Holiday” as written on the holiday memo).  We knew we wanted to work the day into a long weekend getaway.   Our first thought was to go to Santa Fa, NM.  But when we found out it could still be cold there we nixed the idea.   Memphis was the next city on our radar:  Not too far, should be warm, and it had enough attractions to fill a long weekend.   Then we figured out we could extend the trip for a few more days and it seemed like too much time in Memphis.   Key West, FL was too expensive to fly to and Spring Breakers could be crowding up the bars.  

We eventually settled on New Orleans.   This would be our third trip to the Big Easy together (Holly went one additional time for work).   Our first trip we were in our mid 20’s when the party atmosphere of Bourbon Street and drinking Huge Ass Beers while wandering the streets was appealing.   We returned 18 years later (and older) and discovered the finer points of the French Quarter and had since fallen in love with creole and Cajun food.   Since that trip in 2015 was for a marathon we didn’t feel like we had the full NOLA experience.   We found reasonable airfare and a decent hotel rate at a Waldorf-Astoria on the edge of the French Quarter.

Our noon flight out of O’Hare landed us into the Louis Armstrong airport before 3:00.   The cab to the city was a flat-rate of $18/pp; which was cheaper than Uber.   The Roosevelt Hotel had the typical features of a late-1800’s hotel:  opulent lobby with wood painted to look like gold, big crystal chandeliers, huge oil paintings of European royalty, etc.  We were on the west side of Canal Street which kept the party crowds away, but gave us a block walk to the start of Bourbon Street.

Our plan was to have a late lunch, and then a late dinner.   We started at the Hotel Montelone and their famous Carousel Bar.   The circular bar actually rotates.   Upon arrival we had to hover for seats, which is normally not too bad but it becomes hard when the seats you are scoping out keep moving.   Our wait wasn’t too long fortunately.   We had a couple of beers and shared a snack of crawfish and blue crab beignets.  Afterwards we headed to Hermes Bar for snacks round two:  soufflé potatoes and crawfish bisque.    

By this point we had been in the Quarter for almost two hours and hadn’t been to Lafitte’s yet.   We love the dank old blacksmith shop-turned-bar.  We drank about ½ our beers before turning them into walkies and strolled down Bourbon Street to Pat O’Brien’s.   Since it was still early on a Thursday night we had no issues getting an upfront table in the piano bar to go with our Hurricane.  As touristy as it is we still enjoy our time at this bar. 

Dinner took place sometime around 10pm.   We headed to a favorite from our last trip, The Gumbo Shop, and ended up waiting on a line out-the-door to get it.   Fortunately we got seated relatively quickly.   After ordering Turbo Dogs (a longtime local favorite) we both decide the three-course fixed-price menu was the way to go.   For $27 each we got an appetizer, entrée, and dessert.   We went with traditional gumbo and etouffe.  

We decided this trip to New Orleans was going to be a marathon and not a sprint.   Pace yourself….. We decided to skip the neon allure of Bourbon for a quiet glass of wine in the hotel room.     One thing we noticed this trip was Bourbon Street was more crowded (than January 2015) and seemed skankier than our last visit.  With all the neon it was like a modern day Pottersville.


We got a later start than we wanted to on Friday.   Our free breakfast (Hilton Honors status level benefit) was delayed because the kitchen could not figure out how to assemble ham and cheese croissants.  We walked 20 minutes through the Central Business District and Warehouse District to our first destination:  The National World War II Museum.   We got there too late.   School kids on field trips and other visitors were all over the place.   We ended up booking the 2:00pm 4-d experience, giving us only 3 hours to tour the exhibits.    Not enough time at all.   This museum requires the full day to see everything at a still abbreviated pace.  We did not visit the submarine or take in the “shipping off to war” train experience.  

The museum/exhibit layout causes some bottlenecks but overall the displays are excellent and present the information in a very informative, and personal, way.   In many places you can read about an individual’s personal account of their service time.  Most rooms featured a film giving an overview of the events while the displays provided supporting information.

After finishing the 4-D experience (narrated by Tom Hanks) we decided we should have lunch vs. viewing any additional exhibits.   We ate at a fairly new restaurant by the museum:  Flamingo-A-Go-Go.   The weather was pleasant so we dined in their courtyard.  The food was delicious and we found another great local beer – Irish Channel Stout.  Our second round became a walkie as we headed towards our hotel.
We changed for the evening and grabbed our coats in case it got chilly at night.   We walked down Bourbon Street and you could tell it was Friday as the crowd was a bit larger and rowdier.   We grabbed a beer from one of the bars and walked with it to Jackson Square.  We benched it for a while to enjoy some fun people watching before heading to Café Du Monde for a beignet snack.   Dinner would come after our “Haunted Pub Crawl”.  

We booked this tour a few weeks before our trip through Ghost City Tours.  For $25 each we would be guided through the French Quarter to hear about some of the haunted buildings in the area.  With about 10 other people in the group we made our way through the Quarter visiting TuJague's, Pirate’s Alley (where we learned about absinthe), and Lafitte’s.   We sat down for dinner around 9:30 at Pere Antoine’s Restaurant.   The food did not photograph well but rest assured it was good. 

After dinner we had one more round at Tropical Isle’s Bayou Club to listen to the zydeco band.   After a few songs we weaved our way through the dense crowd on Bourbon to our quiet hotel. 

Part 2:  Commander's Palace and French Quarter Touring  

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