36 Hours in New Orleans
Come along for a weekend in the big easy
One of the nicest things about living in Houston is the close proximity to the Big Easy. That’s right: It’s easy to get to, easy to have fun in and easy to get home. So, pack your bags and head east down I-10 as soon as the five o’clock whistle blows. Drive for about five hours, and you’re there. Believe me, it doesn’t matter what time you get to NOLA – it’s always open. Now, let’s make the most of our 36 hours.
10 p.m. – Check In
The Château Sonesta Hotel New Orleans is the sister property to the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street. You can save money by staying at the Château, and we’ve heard they have the biggest rooms in town. Once you check in, just head one block to the infamous thoroughfare, and the party has begun.
11 p.m. – How to Have Fun
Razzoo Bar and Patio. If we lived here, we wouldn’t become regulars, but this concept combined with Bourbon Street really works. Bachelorette parties, businessmen and revelers let down their hair and jam to the pop tunes blasting from the speakers. At first, you might think it’s karaoke night, but no, those guys on stage actually work there. Their job is to make sure you have a good time and experience the truly trashy feeling you can achieve only in the French Quarter. Any girl can jump on stage and dance with the staff, but guys better not try it.
Tropical Isle. This bar pays homage to one of the Crescent City’s biggest cheerleaders: Jimmy Buffet. The live band belts out his cover tunes that every Parrot Head knows by heart, such as: “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Margaritaville.” With a signature drink like the legendary “Hand Grenade,” we were smart to end our night after this bar.
12 p.m. – Day Two
Start off the day with some grub. We tried to eat at Petunia’s, but the more than two-hour wait detoured us. We ended up at Deja Vu, which serves breakfast 24 hours a day. One friend commented that he had never seen Deja Vu in the daylight. Good hearty omelets provide staying power for the day or night.
2 p.m. – Let the Shopping Begin
No matter what you are looking for, you can find it here. New Orleans is full of fabulous antique shops, souvenir stores and clothing boutiques. There are simply so many cute, eclectic shops to rummage through. Of course, we could have spent hours searching for the perfect beads, a necessity for Bourbon Street.
2:30 p.m. – Jackson Square
Perhaps the most romantic and picturesque square in the South, Jackson Square is home to numerous artisans, a glorious fountain and landscaped scenery. The historic St. Louis Cathedral smiles down upon the square and its patrons and is one of the most beautiful European-style churches in the country. Surrounding Jackson Square are many local artists displaying their wares. Here you can have your portrait drawn or your fortune read.
The most commercially noted location in Jackson Square is Café du Monde. You must pop in to check out the home of the world-famous beignets. This original coffee shop is always packed with tourists listening to local musicians and coughing on powdered sugar.
4 p.m. – More Shopping
A trip to NOLA would never be complete without a stroll through the infamous French Market, located at Decatur Street and St. Peter. Check out the Farmer’s Market, filled with tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. You’ll also uncover every spice imaginable to help you try to re-create the wonderful flavor of New Orleans at home. Keep shopping, and you’ll end up in the Flea Market section. And it is just what you’d expect: jewelry, purses, T-shirts and knick-knacks. We bought sunglasses, a cell phone carrier, a wooden pen and a hammock. Where could you get such a great mixture with such ease?
Nellies. We were beckoned by a sign that read, “Best Bloody Mary in New Orleans,” and we seek the truth. Nellie does have the best. We tried to persuade her to come to Houston and teach us how to make them, but she said she’s had much better offers than ours.
At Sole Starr the jeans lured us in, but the shoes knocked our socks off. There were Mary Janes of every design imaginable (stars and flames, even). But it was the too-cool western boots that made their way back to Houston.
6:30 p.m. – Let-s Eat
Court of Two Sisters takes up a city block in the cramped Quarter, providing a beautiful courtyard and many distinct dining areas. Don’t miss the fixed meal called the Table D Hotel, for only $38, you get hors d’oeuvres, salad, entree and dessert. We had the baked onion soup, Creole seafood gumbo and Court of Two Sisters Salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. The entrees we devoured included Trout Wellington, an original Court of Two Sisters dish. This fish is surrounded by a dressing of shrimp, crawfish and crabmeat and encased in a flaky pastry. The Duck a L’Orange, which was glazed in a brandy orange sauce, and the Pork Tenderloin, which was stuffed with Cajun blanc and marinated in Louisiana cane syrup and balsamic vinegar, were also delicious.
If you’re not pressed for time, you might try Dick and Jenny’s in the Garden District west of the Quarter. Locals swear by the French-Creole cuisine offered by Richard Benz and wife Jenny in this unassuming building festooned with Christmas lights year-round. But be prepared for at least a one- to two-hour wait on any given night.
10 p.m. – Night life
You haven’t been to New Orleans if you don’t make the obligatory stop at Pat O’ Brien’s. The celebrated hurricanes have been the topic of many divorce proceedings, we’re certain. There is always a line to get into the piano bar, but the sports bar and the patio are just as much fun without the wait. The bright flaming fountain on the patio serves as a centerpiece, meeting place and a source of heat when it is cold. So many people run through this establishment, you might even stumble into someone you know. The best thing about Pat O’s is that everyone is instantly your friend.
At midnight, the doors of the Dungeon open for business. A little hard to find but easy to appreciate, this Gothic bar has a unique appeal. With heavy metal music blasting on the dance floor and a dangerously long wait to have the chance to sit in the “cage,” the Dungeon is definitely an adventure. The history of this bar is that at the turn of the century, it was a working dungeon where women were kept as they awaited the chance to join the Turkish prince’s harem. And you can’t miss the restroom, or at least try not to miss it. The powder rooms are actually hidden behind a wall of books. Choose the right book, and voila.
It must be the throbbing crowds that drew us back to Razzoo. This place really packs them in and provides a good time for all.
Pack up the car and head home. You’ll be back in Houston by 3 p.m. – just enough time to plan your next New Orleans getaway.