We arrived ahead of schedule in New Orleans, starting a 5 day visit with my DH (kids stayed home with family). Thank you all for your input and suggestions as this proved to be an incredible trip.
I'll start with our hotel - Hotel Monteleone was lovely, recently refurbished and looking beautiful. Our executive suite room was large and we enjoyed having the separate sitting area. When we arrived at the hotel, a nine-piece brass band was playing in front of the hotel as if to celebrate our arrival. A large crowd had gathered - it was a rather festive way to begin our visit.
We had more than a small delay getting the bags to the room (more than 45 minutes and three phone calls). Several conventions were in town (among the half dozen conventions included the folk lore society and plastic surgeons) and the front bell service seemed a little lost. But overall we were very pleased with the hotel and would stay there again. And there will be a return trip!
With an extra hour unaccounted for on my schedule, I stretched my legs and wandered the French Quarter, mostly Chartres and Royal streets, getting my bearings and a preview of the next day. To start our evening, we went downstairs for drinks at the famous Carousel bar. Fortunately, we found a table next to a window looking out on the street and within sight of the bar so we could be entertained by the people outside as well as by the rotating bar inside.
We had previously arranged a carriage ride with Robyn, but she called to let us know that she would not be available. She arranged for Paul and his mule Firefly to pick us up in front of the hotel. As this is New Orleans, we put our unfinished drinks from the bar in to-go cups and climbed aboard. Paul, a New Orleans native, guided us through the French Quarter with funny stories, a rather comprehensive grasp of New Orleans history (architecture, politics and the genesis of “Dixie”) and the occasional shout out to and from the assorted musicians and tarot card readers set up in the streets. He pointed out that the pirate Jean Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop is kitty corner to the elementary, so the kids always know where to find their parents when school lets out. When our tour concluded, Paul dropped us off in front of Restaurant August. The door-to-door service was wonderful and we most assuredly overpaid but we were feeling great about the experience. It was a terrific way to begin the trip as we saw sights that we later came across in our wanderings and we remembered Paul’s stories, we also saw some things that we never found again – such as the wrought iron inspiration for the song “House of the Rising Sun.”
Our meal at Restaurant August was wonderful but unfortunately my notes were not terribly good and the meal has faded after several more days of wonderful meals. We thought the egg starter with caviar was either weird (DH) or yummy (me). I also have a strange note re “magic tonka beans” which I can’t really explain. We enjoyed a lovely bottle of L’Angevin. The blue crab gnocchi was as good as the various reviews said. I thought the “trout Pontchartrain” with jumbo lumb crab and wild mushrooms on top was amazing. DH tells me the duckling was good but has no editorial to add. We finished with the napoleon of nougatine.
After dinner, we took a cab to Frenchmen Street. I loved the big band sounds at Snug Harbor but we also enjoyed ourselves at The Spotted Cat listening to a small jug band, and we stopped in at Blue Nile and d.b.a. To the delight and envy of our friends, we posted several pictures on Facebook which set a pattern for the rest of the trip. This vacation was probably the best documented by us through social networking check-ins and posts.
I enjoyed my (pre-dinner) French Martini, wine (with dinner) and local Louisiana beer Abita (post-dinner) after a few more martinis; this first night proved to make the next morning a little less friendly. My advice - start off easy in the Big Easy. My favorite Abita brew was Turbodog, but the lager was good and generally available. We did not make it to Three Muses (our first night) but we learned that it is owned by a friend of a friend, so we determined we would make it back to Frenchmen before the trip was over (and because the music scene was really good).
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