When my sister-in-law B.J. Adler was director of Interschool Orchestras of New York, a non-profit music organization providing programming in the city schools, she invited me to its gala. At the silent auction I bid on a trip to New Orleans and won!
So off I went and spent a long weekend in the magical city that my memory will cherish for its uniqueness. It’s a musical and dining mecca, and did I relish it all!
My friend Linda DeSabato and I flew Delta directly on a two hour and 5 minute flight into the warm, sunny skies of a city that is rebuilding from the ashes and destruction of Hurricane Katrina.
Most of the city is restored but there is still work being done, particularly rebuilding the population that fell from 700,000 to 300,000 and is now about 500,000 in the city proper.
We stayed at the Renaissance Hotel just at the tip of the famous French Quarter where the streets pulsate with musicians on many corners.
Since we are both busy businesswomen, we hadn’t researched where to dine and leaned on our hotel concierge for reservations and recommendations although my winning bid did include dinner at the famous Commander’s Palace restaurant and “skip the line status” for the jazz mecca Preservation Hall.
We had three nights to experience New Orleans and we had just begun.
The city sits on the Mississippi River and we decided to take a two-hour cruise on the authentic historic Natchez steamboat docked at the tip of the French Quarter. To get there, we walked through the narrow, one-way streets feeling the pulse of the quarter and stopped frequently to hear a jazz group or watch individuals dancing in the streets.
Famous Bourbon Street has become a loud, young bar scene with people lined up inside and out holding their drinks as they walk or sitting on the curbs. This is a vacation leisure crowd with nowhere to go but be where they are a lot of happy people!
Royal Street is parallel to Bourbon and it was my favorite because it had a mix of shops and restaurants, and even a place for a foot massage!
We had brunch at the famous, respected and popular Brennan’s despite our concierge being told it was booked. I’ve learned it’s best to go anyway because often the restaurant can accommodate you. I did give them my card; they graciously explained that they had 500 reservations for brunch that day in their stunning, recently refurbished rooms and patio, and didn’t want to overwhelm the kitchen or service staff or compromise the quality of either. But they would accommodate us and we were led to the charming patio where a jazz trio entertained us while we dined on delectable fare.
I splurged on dessert — flambée crepes stuffed with berries cooked at my table side but I did tell our accommodating waiter, who prepared it, to cut the butter and sugar in half and I’m happy to report it was superb anyway.
That evening, we decided to take a taxi to Commander’s Palace, located in the garden district which dates to the antebellum era with large white pillared houses featuring wrap-around porches almost hidden by the large leafy trees surrounding them. We pulled up to a large building with turquoise and blue striped canopies surrounding the building that faces a famous cemetery. By the way, there are “must do” history tours of the cemeteries around the city.
More next week!