Weekend Getaway: New Orleans

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Last weekend my Mr. and I packed our overnight bags and made the five-hour drive from B’ham to New Orleans for a 24-hour escape. It was my first visit to the Big Easy, and one thing I learned before we even pulled out of our parking lot is that everyone has something to say about how to spend your time there. With only a day in town, we knew we had to edit our itinerary carefully, and we did. Here’s how we spent our 24 hours.

We set our GPS for Mother’s, where we kicked things off with a massive grilled-shrimp po’boy, fries, and jambalaya. (The line was short when we arrived, so we were inside and ordering before we knew it. It was a different story by the time we left.)

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From there we headed to the newly renovated Q&C Hotel/Bar, where I scored a 12th-floor room at a pretty good rate on TravelZoo. The hotel is situated between the French Quarter and the Warehouse/Arts District, within easy walking distance of whatever your heart desires. Inside, the Q&C is a stylish space with exposed brick and bare lightbulbs, wood floors and ornate wallpaper, tufted leather headboards and subway-tiled bathrooms. One of the hotel’s two elevators was out of service when we arrived, but it was working again when we made our way out into the city a short while later. Too, our a/c, slow to kick on, sounded like a helicopter hovering overhead when it finally did, but neither of those issues was enough to lessen how much I liked the place. (Did I mention it offers valet parking? What broken elevator?)

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The hotel’s wallpaper pays homage to its namesake, the Queen & Crescent railroad system, which connected Cincinnati (the Queen City) with New Orleans (the Crescent City) and Shreveport.P1000313 P1000316 P1000317 P1000320 P1000459 P1000461 P1000466

Free of our luggage and ready to roll, we set out for the French Quarter, where we were treated to a full-spectrum freak show and scenes of R-rated revelry. The fearless leader of the pack arrived in the form of a pudgy 40-something woman cutting coolly through the Bourbon Street crowd, her dark button-down shirt fully undone and flapping in the breeze, revealing a plane of total nakedness from the waist up covered in shiny silver paint. (You’ll have to use your imagination here; I was afraid to take any pictures.)

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As you might expect, beads are everywhere in NOLA.

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Having loved A Confederacy of Dunces, we both laughed after spotting this hot dog cart. All that was missing was Ignatius.

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Then it was on to Jackson Square, packed with artists, tourists, and vagrants—and spectators clinging to an iron fence trying to glimpse a bride and groom on the other side. P1000356P1000402P1000401P1000400P1000399P1000396P1000364P1000362P1000360P1000358P1000357

With our eyes on the prize, we crossed the square to Café du Monde for those famous beignets and coffee. (Mind. Blown.)

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The forecast before we left called for rain (it never came), so to hide from it we’d planned to spend the afternoon at The National World War II Museum. With its modern architecture, huge collection of artifacts, and interactive experiences, the museum really is a must on a visit to New Orleans. A showing of Beyond All Boundaries and a ticket to Final Mission: The USS Tang Experience are certainly worth the $5-apiece admission cost.

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After the museum we cabbed it back to the French Quarter for dinner at Sylvain, a serene and cozy space despite its location on the front lines. We shared a shaved Brussels sprout salad and roasted butternut squash bruschetta before diving into our own entrees, which came pretty close to perfection (Gulf mahi for me; braised beef cheeks for him). For those excited by celebrities (I say I’m not until a sighting actually happens): Kate Mara (a.k.a. Zoe Barnes!) and Shia LaBeouf briefly took a table behind ours, eventually moving out into the restaurant’s courtyard. I took no pictures at Sylvain, lest my husband die of embarrassment.

After dinner, we turned the corner and posted up in line at Preservation Hall, easily the highlight of our quick trip. We squeezed into the standing-room-only space in the back of the room, and the Southern Syncopators promptly set the soles of our feet on fire. (Cameras weren’t allowed during the show, but you can take a look and a listen here. Also, how romantic is that swing dancing?!)

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We made our way back to the Q&C through more crazy crowds…

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…which were parted for a few minutes by a second line, a traditional New Orleans wedding parade. What a fun way to usher in married life!

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Back at our hotel after a whirlwind day, we fell into bed happy that not a single second had gone to waste.

Have you been to New Orleans? What are your favorite spots?

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