Saturday, April 25, 2009

The long-awaited New Orleans weekend wrap-up

We left for New Orleans on Thursday evening, April 16. Leaving on a Thursday meant that I missed my first NYRO rehearsal since I joined the orchestra almost three years ago Instead of being in my usual seat in the orchestra for three hours, I spent that time on a plane sitting behind a group of girls who were on their way to a bachelorette weekend. They each drank more than a few glasses of wine and talked loudly for the entire flight. Later, they all got out their iPods, cued up the same song, and sang and danced in their seats. They were highly annoying. When the plane landed, they called their hotel and were disappointed that "the fire marshal" wouldn't let them get a cot in their room for one of their friends.

We took a cab to our hotel, the Astor Crowne Plaza on Canal Street, just around the corner from Bourbon Street. There was a brass band playing out on the street, and I felt right at home. The lobby was impressive, full of luxurious old marble and a swanky-looking bar. But the first room they gave us looked like a dressed-up prison cell. It was tiny, one of the walls was painted cinderblocks, and there was no closet. Kate declared this room to be unacceptable, and I agreed. We tried to call the front desk, but one of the two phones in the room didn't work. (The room wasn't really big enough to require two phones.) After some discussion, the hotel moved us to a different room down the hall. This room had two double beds (I had reserved a room with a king-size bed) and a closet, so it was an improvement over the Riker's Island-themed room.

On Friday morning, we went for a quick run along the riverfront and through the French Quarter. When we got back, I took a shower. Immediately, I discovered that the shower leaked from a faulty gasket connecting the removable shower head hose to the faucet. Even with the shower curtain closed, water sprayed all over the smooth tile bathroom floor and it became extremely slippery. I mopped up as best I could with some spare towels, wringing them out in the tub, and warned Kate. She told me to call the front desk, but I suggested that she should shower first in case they wanted to send someone up right away. After her shower, she stormed out of the bathroom and went straight to the phone and called downstairs. They offered to send someone up then, but we told them to wait 15 minutes so we could get dressed and leave.

Our first stop on Friday was Cafe Du Monde for coffee (should have had beignets too but you can't have everything), then we met Kate’s parents in Jackson Square to hear some music. After all, one reason for the trip was the French Quarter Festival, a free local music festival with stages all over the French Quarter and the riverfront. We spent the rest of Friday afternoon drinking bloody Mary’s, listening to live jazz and blues, and sampling local cuisine at the festival. We got back to the hotel at 4 PM to find that they hadn’t even cleaned the room yet. The maid came to our room just as we arrived and since she was quitting in 20 minutes, we agreed to let her clean the room while we went down to the front desk to see why they still hadn’t fixed the shower. When we went back to the room we had fresh towels but a still-leaky shower. We dressed for dinner and stopped at the front desk again on the way out to ask about the shower repair. The woman at the desk said she would see that someone took care of the problem right away.

We went to dinner at Clancy’s in the Garden District with Kate’s parents, some of their friends, and some of her cousins from Louisiana. We returned to the hotel around 10 PM to find our room door was open. Not wide open; the door was ajar. Nothing was missing (though Kate later insisted she was missing $40 she thought she put in her handbag) but the shower was still leaking badly. So we called the front desk again. They said that the engineer looked at the shower but he needed a part to fix it, and asked if we could wait until tomorrow to get it fixed. We said that wasn't an acceptable response and we couldn't stay in this room. It took them 12 hours just to get someone to look at the problem. And by the time they checked it out, every hardware store in New Orleans was closed, so they'd have no way to get the part until Saturday. So the hotel upgraded us to the “Executive” suite, and we packed our stuff and went to the lobby to get our new room keys. The executive room had a king size bed, a normal shower (not the removable hand-held kind) and was basically the room I had reserved four months ago. After all that excitement, we went to bed.

On Saturday morning, we worked out in the hotel gym, then got a free breakfast from the executive lounge down the hall. (Excellent coffee there, by the way.) After breakfast, we walked to Mother’s, where I had the "Ferdi’s po’ boy" and Kate had the sausage and grits. The po’ boy was just as incredible as advertised on an episode of "Man Vs. Food" that I saw in February. I have never before had a sandwich that had me near tears from sheer delicious joy. I wanted to get back in line and order another one as soon as I was done. We spend the rest of the day listening to different bands and souvenir shopping in the French Quarter.

We had dinner with Kate’s parents and friends at Cafe Giovanni. The meal was a tasting menu of five courses, and they had opera singers serenading the patrons with arias and show tunes. After dinner, Kate’s family and friends went to the Harrah's casino, and we went for a stroll through the Quarter. We had a drink at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Pub, then walked down Bourbon Street to our hotel. A little of the noise and excitement of Bourbon Street goes a long way. For instance, there was a guy in gym shorts standing in the middle of Bourbon Street looking up at some girls on a balcony and pleasuring himself. Kate saw him and made sure I noticed him too. You can't find entertainment like that in New York.

On Sunday morning we went to Commander's Palace for brunch. I had the eggs Sardou and crawfish and pork, and a bottomless cup of their outstanding coffee. And I couldn't pass up the Creole bread pudding for dessert. After that meal I wasn't sure I'd ever be hungry again. We spent the afternoon shopping and listening to a little music, and then took a break at the hotel for a couple of hours before dinner. We met up with the family again for dinner at Broussard's in the French Quarter, where I had a crabmeat crepe and redfish with crawfish, shrimp, and crab. We walked down Bourbon Street again, this time with Kate's family, and one proprietor of a strip club tried to entice us by saying "it's family night!" We called it an early night as we had to get up at 5 AM for a 7 AM flight.

Next time, we'll have to plan an extra day on the front or the back end of the trip. Three full days was just too little time, but an extra day would be perfect. We could have gone to Acme Oyster House and the WWII Museum, or gone on the swamp tour. But until then I will enjoy coffee in my souvenir Cafe Du Monde mug. And I look forward to drinking more bloody Mary's now that I know how much I like them. Every vacation should include new discoveries about yourself.

1 comment:

Carol Smith said...

Sounds like an awesome mini-vacation! I've only been there once (drove down for one night) and I really enjoyed it.

Josh got to spend some time there after Katrina with the Red Cross - while everything was in shambles, he reported the food was as awesome as expected. :)