Damn you, New Orleans-you have forced me to fall in love with yet another great American city! I have been here 4 days (not including my arrival evening). Here is my report of the first part of my trip-with many thanks to those of you that gave suggestions:
Friday night-arrived from Philadelphia at 8:30 PM. Good thing that I ate at the airport before my flight left. Louis Armstrong airport concessions shut down early. Checked in at Hyatt using a suite upgrade. Had a little bit of a discussion at the front desk about whether the suite was mine for all 4 nights of my stay (2 paid, 2 free on points). Got a smallish suite-separate living room and bedroom, but not much bigger than a regular hotel room.
Hyatt good-cool views of the Superdome, lovely Regency Club with friendly and helpful staff and tasty Continental breakfast/appetizers and desserts at night.
Hyatt bad-the location-a bit of a trek from the French Quarter and CBD/Warehouse. Hopefully, all the walking that I did burned off a few of the massive number of calories I have consumed.
First full day-breakfast at hotel, then hopped on the charming St. Charles streetcar to the Garden District for my Free Tours by Foot tour of Lafayette Cemetery #1 and the Garden District. Our guide Scully was a lifelong Garden District resident who was a terrific guide. The tour lasted 2 hours-well worth the time. Lots of lovely homes and good stories about some of the well known residents and the cemetery's history. After the tour, I wandered around Magazine Street for a little while and got a free sample of King Cake at Sucre. Picked up some insanely great smelling candles at Belladonna (90% off-scents included Peppermint Bark-yum!).
Got to Coquette=what a pretty little place! My wonderful meal had such an interesting mix of spices. Had my first ever shrimp and grits. The 3 course lunch menu is a good value. Warm, caring and unrushed service.
Took the streetcar back to the Warehouse District-stopped in at Cochon Bakery to pick up a sandwich for a late dinner. The place was mobbed, but not much of a wait. My muffeleta was incredibly fresh and tasty even after sitting in the mini fridge in my room for a few hours. Only problem was that they forgot to give me my receipt or the mini King Cake that I ordered. Went back on Monday to retrieve a fresh mini King Cake and they were very kind and apologetic. Still hopping there on Monday.
I was going to head out to one of the hotels to listen to music, but I happened to see a news report about a free 20th anniversary concert at House of Blues. I decided to chance it even thought I was a little nervous about being a woman alone. SO glad that I went. All different ages there. The first set was the Treme Brass Band, so everyone was swinging and swaying to them as I walked in. The next act was a guy named Colin Luke-he featured harmonica player Johnny Sansone as a guest. Incredible and great rock/blues. Then Kermit Ruffins came on. His guests included Irvin Mayfield, Nayo Jones, James "Sleeping Giant" Whitmore, Kermit's own 3 daughters and other talented guests. I stood there mesmerized for the 3 plus hours that I was there. My shoulders never stopped swaying and my feet never stopped tapping. I will never forget all of the great music that I heard that night! I finally left at 12:45 and Kermit was still going strong. A little tough to find a cab, but a nice group of women who left HOB when I did helped me locate a cab near Cafe Du Monde.
On Sunday I went to the New Orleans School of Cooking for a 2 1/2 hour class. Well worth it. Our teacher was an older woman named Harriet who was a hoot and a half. It was a demo class and included gumbo, jambalaya, bread pudding, pralines and Abita beer, iced tea and water. The Rock and Roll Marathon took place that day, so I got to hear some outdoor music walking around before the class. After class, I wandered around in the French Quarter fir the rest of the afternoon. I saw Jackson Square and visited the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbytere. I stopped at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel for a lovely Ramos Gin Fizz and then headed to Domenica for Happy Hour half price pizza and wine. I could not decide between the wild mushroom or the duck pizza, so my server offered to prepare it half and half so I could taste both. The pizza had a wonderful mix of flavors-I was not sure about the egg atop the wild mushroom pizza but it worked very well.
On Monday, I spent the morning at the Ogden Museum of Art and then headed to Emeril's for lunch. I got the 3 course lunch-soup of the day was a wonderful bacon, crab and tomato bisque. I was offered a seat at the chef's counter, so I got to watch my meal being prepared. The andoiulle po boy was great and the chocolate peanut butter pie was oh so rich! This turned out to be "Linner" since I was so stuffed. After lunch, I wandered around the French Quarter some more (such a lovely place to wander) and then stopped off for a Pimm's Cup at Napoleon Bar before heading back to the Hyatt for a food coma induced catnap. Later that night, I caught the 9 PM Preservation Hall show-I appreciated the tip to buy a seat in advance-great small venue and terrific musicians.
On Tuesday, I went to Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras for their tour. It was fun to hear how the floats were made and to learn about the Mardi Gras and its traditions. After that, i did some work in my Hyatt room before switching to the Sheraton on Canal for a conference. Not happy with checkin there. I had asked for a king bed away from elevator and was given 2 doubles next to the elevator. This would not do for my 6 foot tall light sleeper husband, who is headed here. i called the front desk, and they tried to suggest that because I had booked the conference rate (the only way to get a room this week), I was not entitled to a king bed. Such BS. I escalated things to the front desk supervisor, who was very gracious and told me that there were no CLEAN king rooms available yet and that I could certainly get a king if I did not mind waiting. So I waited. She gave me a couple of Starbucks vouchers-a nice gesture-final room assignment was lovely.
Dinner tonight was at Bayona-what a pretty place with very kind service. My roasted beet salad and the chocolate carmel hazelnut dessert were both outrageous. I did not love my pork chop quite as much-the red beans and sauce were wonderful, but I did not care for the bitter collard greens on the side. I also observed the the main servers appeared to have a set speech that they had to recite, which got a little tiresome after a while. My assistant server was wonderful, thoug-very attentive and genuine.
Tomorrow my conference starts-had a reservations at K-Pauls, but a colleague attending the conference graciously invited me to Antoine's for dinner with herself and her husband. So I will go there with them and then perhaps head to Irvin Mayfields with them for a little while-looks like Irvin may play on Wednesdays.
Will try to post Part 2 after my trip is over-I don't want it to be over, though :)