New Orleans Part One

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend four amazing days in New Orleans with our lovely mother. I've always wanted to visit the South, and was thrilled to get the opportunity to explore this gorgeous city. I'd jump at the chance to go back!

There is quite the selection of historic hotels in the French Quarter. I decided to book a room with a balcony at the Omni Royal Orleans. I wanted to be able to sit outside at night and hear the music playing on the streets below. After a 5 hour flight, and bumpy cab ride, we were so excited to check in, only to be told someone had vomited in the last balcony room the night before and they couldn't get the smell out. I was definitely bummed, but still trying to be polite. The gentleman at the check-in desk asked if I was a reasonable person. I replied "of course" -- and he proceeded to tell us that his only option was to give us the Penthouse at no extra charge for our entire stay! Cue fireworks and confetti. My jaw dropped to the floor and I had to ask him about four times if he was kidding.

Never in my life will this happen again. I took many mental pictures, and gleefully skipped around every inch of this suite. It was so luxurious -- 1500+ square feet including a sitting room, dining room, wet bar, gigantic four-poster bed, two bathrooms with a jet-tub and my favorite part --a  gigantic private balcony overlooking the French Quarter (see first picture for incredible view). It was also about four steps away from the rooftop pool and observation deck.

Our first night we ate dinner at the hotel's restaurant, The Rib Room. Every dish was delicious, but the bread was the most noteworthy. Each table gets its own gigantic loaf, still warm from the oven with the perfect mixture of crunchy crust, and soft and airy center. Who doesn't love a good loaf of bread? The other magical aspect of dinner was a Wedding March parading through the street with musicians and dancers. We were advised it's rare to catch one of these, and this happened to be a random Monday night! The incredible energy and looks of pure joy on the participants' faces brought an instant smile to your face.

My first experience with beignets (fluffy doughnuts with mountains of powdered sugar) was at Cafe Beignet, just a few blocks away from the hotel. They were delicious in all the right ways, and well worth the 40 minute wait and line out the door. Believe what everyone says about not eating them while wearing black...

We also did a City Tour to explore New Orleans beyond the French Quarter. The tour took us through one of the neighborhoods majorly affected by Hurricane Katrina. Over 9 years later there are few remnants of the devastation caused by that storm. If you look closely, you can still find houses with markings from the search parties.

Along this tour, we stopped and walked around one of the city cemeteries. The above ground graves are pretty incredible to meander through. Our tour guide gave a really interesting explanation of what happens to the bodies, and how these grave sites are used for so many generations. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but definitely take time to walk through one if you get the chance!

Later that afternoon, we took a walking tour of the most haunted parts of the city. I can't begin to recount the many gory details, but it was fascinating and a fabulous way of learning about the rich and colorful culture of the French Quarter. Several days after the tour, I was flipping through a book in one of the local gift shops about the most haunted parts of New Orleans, and every place we visited (restaurants, museums, hotels, etc.) all had at least one associated ghost story.

The best meal we had in New Orleans was at Brennan's. We walked by this restaurant on our way to Cafe Beignet. There's a gorgeous window that looks into the restaurant's enormous kitchen and everything looked so delicious we decided to come back for dinner. We learned the restaurant just reopened about 4 months ago after a long renovation. It has a magical twinkling courtyard and the most amazing drinks and food I've had in a long time. I had the best Gin & Tonic of my life at this restaurant and highly recommend the Steak Diane. This is also the birthplace of Bananas Foster, and it did not disappoint.

In my next post I'll share more about our trip including the Garden District, Steamboat tour down the Mississippi River, Jackson Square, Cafe du Monde, and the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. Until then, Happy Spring Break!