Thursday, April 5: Welcome to NOLA

We didn’t sleep at all. I don’t think it was just the excitement of the trip, but something didn’t let either of us rest. If I could say I had one goal for this trip it would be relaxation. I haven’t slept well for weeks and I plan to do some catching up. Not getting enough sleep last night is going to make for a very, very long day, but we will persevere. . . if it kills us. (Insert grin.)

Per our plan, we started the day off right with breakfast. There is something about vacation that makes me want to eat breakfast. I don’t typically take the time, but send me over 30 miles from home and I think I need the whole meal deal. . . complete with a muffin and yogurt and whatever else they’ll put on my plate.

The shuttle took us to the airport and we maneuvered our way through check-in, security, full body scans and the wait for our flight. The happy factor in the whole process for me was learning that Southwest lets you check not one, but two bags free. Not that I had a second bag to check, but it brought me much joy.

We had a short layover, enough for us to stretch our legs and before we knew it, we were landing in New Orleans and were sharing a cab to the French Quarter.

Our hotel, Hotel Mazarin, was on Bienville, about half a block off Bourbon Street. Sweet little boutique hotel with an on-street entry, marble floors, fountained courtyard and little chandeliers above each bed.

We dropped our stuff off, booked a few tours, whined about being tired and then decided on a little lunch and perhaps a Bloody Mary. That would make everything ok, right? We ate at Red Fish, officially kicking off a long streak of amazing food in NOLA. Food and music. Food and music. The makings of a great vacation.

We had some time before our first tour, so we walked around a bit, stopping for a few minutes in Music Legends Park on Bourbon Street for a little music, a margarita and a beignet or two from Cafe Beignet. Music, music everywhere. I may be in heaven.

Eventually we walked our way over to the start of the tour and began meandering with a small group throughout the French Quarter. For us NOLA was all about history and architecture (in addition to food and music!) so the twilight tour was a nice way to get us started and help is get the lay of the land, with a side of factitudes. Our guide, who had come to NOLA as part of the relief effort, was immersed in all things New Orleans, so it was informative and casual.

I couldn’t begin to list all of our stops, but suffice to say we enjoyed incredible views of St. Louis Cathedral, walked through the French Market, piddled around Jackson Square, made stops at multiple sites important to the history of not only NOLA, but the US as well (including where the Louisianna Purchase was signed) and even strolled along the Mississippi. I learned the difference between a balcony and a gallery. I got an opportunity to understand the significance of lack of wooden structures in the downtown. And we got a glimpse of a few iconic NOLA images. From voodoo shops to stately homes and everything in between, we got a nice overview of the quarter.

Our concierge recommended Oceana for dinner and that’s where we stopped for some crab cakes and pasta. We meandered along Bourbon Street a bit.

Remember, we didn’t sleep well, so eventually, even though the Red Light district was tempting (read sarcasm), we headed to bed. Tomorrow we’ll be hoofing it through the Garden District. And I need to be fresh and alert for our lunch with Angelina and Brad.

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