Background: We were two 60-something couples meeting up with other family members for a wedding being held at the Pharmacy Museum. My husband and I had been to New Orleans (and loved it!) six years before--our New York friends have never been. They were going to be attending the reception as well (we were not) with their 2 adult daughters, son-in-law, and 1-year old granddaughter. Everyone arrived and left at different times: It was a short weekend trip for most except for our friends and us—we extended our time there.
SATURDAY: We had a 10am pickup for our 12:00 flight from CT (with a 2-hour layover in Atlanta) and ended up landing at 4:15—1/2 hour early!! BUT our luggage arrived at the carousel ½ hour late. :::sigh::: Once it arrived, I was impressed with the very efficient taxi system at the airport: we got in line, were handed a paper with a vehicle ID number on it “In case we left anything in the cab”. (I thinking it is also a very good system to keep the cabbies honest), and we were on our way! $33 set fee from the airport to the French Quarter.
We found it quite cold in the airport with the air conditioning set very low, when we got in the cab, we asked our driver how the weather has been, to which he replied, “ Hot, Very, Very HOT”. He was from Haiti, so I was very, very nervous. We found the air conditioning set very low at almost every place we went—had I known, I would have packed a very light jacket. As far as the heat: I found it quite bearable, maybe because we were coming off a very cold New England winter??
We arrived at the Crowne Plaza on the corner of Canal & Bourbon Streets at 6pm, stood in line for ½ hour or so, only to find the room was not ready…. It took a good 40 minutes more before they could ‘find’ us an available, clean room. To kill a bit of time, I asked to use the Business Center to print out a document and found that the 3 computers and 3 printers were either not working or were in great need of many updates. (I later had to email the document to the gal behind the front desk and she printed it out for me.) Let’s just say my first impression was not too good and it certainly was not a hotel I would have chosen to stay, but because it was part of a wedding package we got a decent price: $159 a night (with all the taxes and fees, it totaled $184.45 per night).
After a quick unpack we headed around the corner to the Acme Oyster House only to find the line down the block and nearly around the corner, which was to be a common thing over the course of the week. (Even Felix Fish across the street had a long line.) We tried the nearby Red Fish Grill and were told there was 1.5 hour wait. It was now 7pm and we were a bit hungry, so we ended up at Le Bayou and were seated upstairs by the window overlooking Bourbon Street. I ordered the Cajun Bloody Mary, the boudin appetizer (4 good sized, very well-seasoned breaded deep fried boudin balls) and a dozen raw oysters--which were HUGE…there were a few so big, even my husband wouldn’t eat em all. All in all, a good first taste of New Orleans!
We made our way through the wall-to-wall *I-N-S-A-N-I-T-Y* that is Bourbon Street down to the Funky Pirate for 8:30. On our last trip 6 years ago, we stayed at Le Richelieu on the opposite, “quiet side” of the French Quarter, thus never really experienced the Bourbon Street mayhem. Let’s just say Bourbon Street at night is a part of New Orleans I do not care to see again! It makes me wonder how many people come to here and don’t leave Bourbon Street, only to come away with a very warped view of the city.
Anyway, back at the Funky Pirate, Big Al Carson took to the stage shortly after 8:30. He came in the front door aided by the use of a couple of canes and slowly...very slowly… made his way up to the stage.…and then it took a good 10 minutes for him to catch his breath. It was actually difficult to see. But once the big man started singing and bantering with the audience, the sad entrance was soon forgotten. He is quite the showman and quite the New Orleans institution! (I’ve added another CD to our collection).
Our friends texted us to say they had arrived from the airport and would be babysitting for their grandchild at the JW Marriott on Canal (nice hotel!) while their daughter and husband hit the town, and would see us back at our hotel later. We stayed for 2 sets then finally decided to head on back. (Sadly we missed meeting up with Teena99 from this board by minutes).
SUNDAY: Up at 7:30, 3 of us decided to walk to check out the breakfast places while we waited for the ‘young-uns’ to wake up from their very late night of the pre-wedding festivities. We found Red Gravy had 1.5 hr wait, and were not really impressed with Café Beignet on Bourbon (couldn’t find the one on Royal) so we just decided to stay back at our hotel and eat at the Bourbon House….it did not disappoint! The Shrimp & Grits were yummy and husband liked the Andouille omelet. We ran into the bride & groom-to-be having breakfast on the morning of their wedding--just one of the ways they were ‘bucking tradition’ (as you will read later).
On our way to check out the Mighty Mississippi, we timed our walk to the location of the wedding to be held that night (the Pharmacy Museum) as well as the location of the reception (Muriel’s) and were happy to find that it wasn’t too far, especially if we were to be dressed up in the heat. We stopped in at Tajaques for a rum punch and some cool air and decided to get a ‘nosh’. Their beef brisket with horseradish sauce filled the bill well. We located the French Market and wandered the flea market for a bit, then went in search of the highly recommended El Gato Negro Mexican Restaurant to check out their Pineapple Cilantro Lime Margarita. YUM! (the Blood Orange was good too!). We headed back to the hotel hoping to get some oysters at Acme, found a long line again, so once again we ended up at the Bourbon House for appetizers: BBQ bourbon shrimp, delicious ‘crawfish boil’ soup and raw oysters.
(And, yes, it IS all about the food with us, as you will see if you read the rest of the report. In fact, very often I’ll remember the ‘look and feel’ of the restaurant, simply by knowing what food I ate there.)
Next up: The VooDoo Wedding Ceremony