11 April 2013

New Orleans: As the Crowe Flies (and Eats! and Drinks!)

St Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, New Orleans
Oh, New Orleans.  The Big Easy.  The Crescent City. The City That Care Forgot.  The Land of Dreamy Scenes.  Or just plain Nawlins.  However you like to call it, it's one of my favorite places on earth to visit.  It's one of the last American cities to retain an intrinsic feel that transcends the unfortunate homogeny that is the hallmark of most of our country.

It's also a helluva great place to go for celebrating a special occasion, which is just what my two best friends from high school and college did a couple of weekends ago.  We have all recently celebrated a milestone birthday, so we decided to meet in New Orleans to celebrate in style. What we didn't realize during the planning stages of the trip was that our travels were over Easter weekend, a particularly festive time in the Quarter, which explains the dearth of hotel rooms and high airfares.  I flew in from the east coast and arrived a few hours before they did, as they had the more leisurely train journey from Memphis. Our room at Prince Conti hotel wasn't quite ready (I arrived more than three hours ahead of check-in), but I was happy to walk around and amuse myself until they were ready to receive me.  And since they upgraded us to a suite, I was in an even better mood.

What could be finer? A book, a beverage, and a table that is a window on the world.
I walked around for about an hour to orient myself and discovered that our location on Conti Street, between Bourbon and Daupine, was excellent. After enjoying various street musician performances, I wandered into a quiet cafe (almost impossible to find!) to enjoy a light sandwich and iced coffee.

Exterior of the Prince Conti
After a couple of hours, I wandered back to the hotel and the room was ready, so I went up to unpack and wait for my friends. The suite wasn't at all luxurious (in fact, in many ways it was on the shabby side), but it offered us a good deal more space than the room we'd originally booked, so I was quite happy with it.  As it turns out, it came in handy multiple times to have a separate sitting room.

Our sitting room.  I believe the ceiling beams are original to the building.

Our bedroom: two queen beds. Yes, that is a fireplace on the far end.
Once Carla and AW arrived, we had a jolly time catching up before heading off to meet one of their friends for dinner.  Their friend Kathleen was already in town for something else, so it was a treat to meet up with her for the evening. Kathleen has a terrible shellfish allergy and AW is a vegetarian, so we settled on the Italian fare of Irene's, a 20 minute walk away.

Eclectic decor of Irene's
Unfortunately, Irene's does not take reservations, so we showed up at the unfashionable hour of 5:30 pm for a table since three of us had been awake and traveling since about 4:00 that morning. There was already a line forming at the door when we showed up--I'd estimate that about 30 people were in front of us in the queue.

Behold: the grail-like splendor of my bourbon sidecar
Our server was a live one but quite patient at that, answering our detailed questions about the menu and the specials.  Clearly my first order of business was to order a cocktail--one that sounded so good that AW followed suit: bourbon sidecar, served up, with a twist. It was certainly good, but slightly too sweet.  Rimming the glass with salt AND sugar would be a fantastic remedy for that.

I highly recommend matching your cocktail to your jewelry. 
I ordered one of the fish dishes, and it was quite good.  Perhaps not quite as good as the restaurant's Zagat rating had led me to expect, but all perfectly good.  With an additional glass of wine, plus a share of dessert, my total came to about $45, before the gratuity.

Our pre-cocktail photo
My fish amandine meuniere.

After dinner, the four of us walked the Quarter and met up with Patrick, our friend from college who hails from New Orleans.  He was in town for the holiday weekend, so after his Good Friday service, he drove down and met us near St. Louis cathedral, where we were busy making snapshots of Touchdown Jesus:
By day: much less interesting
By night

Touchdown Jesus in all of his ghostly splendor
We then proceeded to spend the next half hour taking approximately a bazillion photos to make sure we got every possible permutation of our group of five people.  With and without flash, of course.

Look: you can see our auras. Or perhaps our souls.  I'm not sure.

After that we wandered around the Quarter, listening to the street musicians (I don't recall hearing so many in the last 4-5 trips I've made to the city--maybe it was for the holiday weekend?), window browsing the gorgeous galleries on Rue Royale, and poking into the few shops that were still open.

A kora player. His sign says African Bass Harp but he seemed gratified when I asked with great confusion, "That's not a kora? It sure looks like a kora."

A chandelier in a lighting store on Royale

An art gallery

Love this bulldog, mascot of one of the boutiques we walked into.
All in all it was a great start to a terrific weekend.  We all went back to our sitting room to chat about this & that and to make that very important decision: where to go for first breakfast on Saturday before our second breakfast (we're very Hobbit-like) at Commander's Palace.  About which, more anon...

I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world the Quarter.


  1. Oh, I loved this post! We were in New Orleans briefly for our honeymoon and intend to go back as soon as we can afford the transatlantic air fare....

    Great photos :)

    1. Ooh, a honeymoon in New Orleans sounds like *just* the thing. Transatlantic airfare, though, is not.

  2. I love your travel postsssss.

    Ok, so I've been meaning to go to NOLA as an adult, but airfare is ALWAYS expensive and I don't know if it's because I'm flying out of Chicago or what. Maybe I'm just spoiled, because I mainly fly to NYC and that's usually around $200/$250, so now anything more and I'm like "Hu-ho, hold on there, little lady."

    This all looks awesome. Looking forward to the next one, madam. :D

    1. Is that your attempt to speak in Parseltongue? ;)

      Did you go to NOLA as a child?

      When I looked, airfares were hovering around $600, but it was a holiday weekend AND I was only booking about 4 weeks out--Easter is not a trvel holiday for me, so I forget that it is a travel holiday for others.

      SO worth going, though!

    2. I went when I was maybe seven? And then my Christian high school class wandered around Bourbon Street when I was 17. But it was daytime. And everything smelled like vomit. But I do remember finding a kickass used bookstore that reminded me of the one in Vertigo.

      The cheapest I've seen is $400. Bah.

  3. It's been ages since I was in New Orleans and every year I try to plan a return. It's yet to happen but I keep planning anyway!

    1. Hope you're able to get back there one of these days. And then post about it so I can live through your trip!

  4. Hi Emily,
    Glad to see that you are out enjoying life! Fantastic! I am wondering if you might consider reviewing my book on your blog or reading it and giving it an Amazon review. Free download days are April 17, 18, 19 20. 4 days. This Restless Life: A dream chased through California parks in an RV by Levonne Gaddy
    At the height of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, Levonne and John give up their jobs and a home in the U.S. southwest to chase their dream through California parks in an RV. They seek meaningful work in a Central Coast California community that they will love. They encounter many unexpected twists and turns along the way including threats of floods, the discovery of a dead body near their campsite and unemployment as their savings dwindle. "This Restless Life" includes selected blog posts, forty-four full-color photographs and collage images.

  5. I've never been to New Orleans, but I have always wanted to go. Hopefully I will get around to it. I loved looking at your pictures--it looks like you had an awesome time!

    1. It is definitely worth a trip one day. So much fun, so much good food!

  6. My sister is in New Orleans at the moment! And the combination of your photos and hers, I am super sad I'm not going to make it to New Orleans on my trip at the end of the year. :(

    Touchdown Jesus is the awesomest.

    1. really? what brings your sister all the way to new orleans?

      and sad face for not being able to go to there when you're in the us later this year. (where all will you be going? do you have your itinerary yet?)

      From now on, I ask myself, What Would Touchdown Jesus Do? Because he is the awesomest.

    2. She's slowly making her way all across and around the US - making me incredibly jealous as she goes.

      At this point we're mostly doing the east coast, (New York, Boston, Washington) and Canada (Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City) and a couple of days in LA before we fly home.


Please, sir, may I have some more? (Comments, that is!)