Espen visited New Orleans back in 2013, when he went in July (!) with his friend Inge as part of a road trip across America. (How two Norwegians survived the heat that time a year is a mystery.) Of all the cities he has visited while living in the states — and there have been many — New Orleans remains one of his absolute favorites.
I don’t get the same amount of enviable vacation time he gets, so we try to make creative use of long weekends courtesy the occasional federal U.S. holiday. With Memorial Day as yet unplanned, he suggested New Orleans. “You have to see it!” he insisted. Who am I to argue?
We spent our first day wandering the French Quarter. According to Espen’s fancy watch, we walked 8 miles that afternoon, dipping into random shops and bars. We even got into Cafe du Monde (no line!) for some of its infamous beignets and coffee before going to the French Market, where we split a muffaleta sandwich. After a quick nap (OK, it was two hours) and a trip to the mall (how could both of us forget our chargers?), it was time for dinner and jazz and the occasional libation.
On Saturday, after breakfast we headed to the visitors’ center for the Hop On Hop Off bus. Since we were still wiped out from all the walking on Friday, the plan was more Hop On Stay On. It turned out to be a smart move: By the time we made it back to the visitors’ center, the sky had decided to open up and we were able to hang out there while we waited it out. Espen considered calling Uber to get a ride for the three blocks to our hotel … that is, until he saw that the rates had tripled because of the thunderstorm. Once the rain went from being biblical to merely torrential, we braved the walk back. Of course it stopped almost the moment we made it back to our hotel room.
Dried and refreshed, we headed back out to take a streetcar to the Garden District. Can I just say I love the Garden District? Such a chill vibe and the homes are gorgeous! Lots of cute shops to browse and many tempting restaurants, which was great since we were getting peckish. We settled on the uber-hip District: Donuts.Sliders.Brew, where we each had the best slider we had ever had. His: pork belly with pickled onion, purple radish sprouts, and garlic-anise creole mustard. Mine: a fancied-up BLT with peppered bacon, arugula, tomato (of course), and a mint-chipotle mayo. Yum! We passed on the donuts, though, despite the allure of the one called The Elvis. Was it worth the line of people 20 deep? Yes. Yes, it was.
We spent Saturday night much like the night before: strolling the streets, browsing the occasional shop, and hunting for some good music around Bourbon and along Frenchman Street. There are reports (ahem, and a video) of one of us (that would be me) dancing to Cupid’s Shuffle in the middle of Bourbon Street. Hey, what goes on in N’awlins stays in N’awlins!
Sunday was education day. After the late night, it was good to take things slow. First up was part of the mass at St. Louis Cathedral, near Jackson Square. Next? The state museum, which we both agreed was far from stimulating. At least it helped us escape the heat for an hour.
Lunch was at Dat Dog on Frenchman. Now, I’m a fan of Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C. (the U Street location, of course; I’m not insane), but the dogs at Dat Dog?! Yo! Oh my, they were good. Mine: beef dog with chili, cheese, onions, mustard, and jalapeños. His: a brat with the “bartender’s choice” of toppings. Fun fact: It was supposed to be the chef’s choice, but the bartender shrugged and said matter-of-factly, “It’ll be bartender’s choice. The chef doesn’t have any taste.”
Later that night, we finally made it into Preservation Hall, though whether it was worth the $30 is debatable. It’s very small, and if you don’t manage to be among the lucky few who make it into the room itself for a proper seat — “proper” meaning anywhere in the actual room, including the floor — you’re stuck near an interior doorway looking in. The view is fine enough, but there’s a ton of ambient noise coming from outside, so you can’t hear the band leader’s comments between the songs, which is part of the show. Oh well. At least we had the experience.
More fun, though, was Fritzel’s, which we had found the night before during our tour of spots along Bourbon. This turned out to be by far our favorite spot. Great seats, great music, and great people sitting nearby. And if that weren’t enough, there was a guest singer who seemed to channel Louis Armstrong. What more do you need? What a wonderful world, indeed …
Monday was a river cruise, aka an excuse to sit on our butts and relax before heading home. It was after the cruise when things got really exciting. There we were, sitting down at Pat O’Brien’s to order some lunch and escape the latest thunderstorm when I, for reasons I’m still not sure of, checked our calendar and discovered that our flight was not at 6:35 as previously believed, but at 4:25. It was already 2:10. Rain or no rain, asses had to get in gear to pick up our luggage and get to the airport. Thankfully, our Uber driver put the muscle into his muscle car and got us there in time.
One last note: I don’t know why Las Vegas is called Sin City. New Orleans … now that’s a city with some sinnin’ goin’ on. A walk along Bourbon Street beats the Las Vegas strip leaps and bounds. So much more character. So much more grit. Way more fun. I’ll take grit over commercial splash any day of the week. Laissez les bons temps rouler!