A couple of weeks ago, I met my friend in New Orleans for a girls weekend. She lives in San Francisco and I live in Denver, so we don’t get a lot of chances to hang out – so we decided to choose a place neither of us had been and make a long weekend of it. New Orleans turned out to be the perfect place to relax, reconnect, take a break from the kids, and…well, eat.
We got in late on a Thursday night and checked into a hotel near the French Quarter, the Hotel St. Pierre. It is a super quaint, smallish inn that’s close enough to the action to pop in and out several times a day, but far enough away that you can still get some sleep! The staff was excellent, the building full of original features, and the pool areas perfect for some late-night feet-soaking. They have free breakfast every day, and 24-hour snacks and drinks available in the kitchen, including bottomless bowls of cereal, which is perfect for ending a night with something besides rum punch in your belly!
On Friday morning, we met our Big Easy Bike Tour guide, Bob, outside the hotel, and he had 2 lovely cruisers complete with baskets ready for us. We picked up another group of 4 guys from Chicago who were in town for a bachelor party, and started the tour from their hotel.
Bob was so great – he customized the tour for us and took us through the French Quarter, down to the Riverfront, and then through the Lower 9th Ward, all while pointing out great places to eat and hear live music, like only a local can.
He knew so much about the history of New Orleans and its architecture, as well as less well-known points of interest (including Brad and Angelina’s home) . But, most importantly, he really gave us a feel for what the residents of New Orleans went through during and after Hurricane Katrina. He took us through the Make It Right project that is working to build beautiful new homes for former residents, and he showed us where the levee failed. He explained the symbols left by rescue teams on every home, and he taught us all about the different stages of restoration that homes across the area were in.
He thoughtfully showed us Fats Domino’s former home and studio, and also the Habitat for Humanity project supported by Harry Connick Jr, both of which are striving to keep musicians in the community.
I learned so much about New Orleans from Bob, and I highly recommend his tour – I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job of showing visitors the “backstage area” of this beautiful city that has so much history and heart, and I can’t imagine a better way to get around than on one of his cruiser bikes!
Bob had done a good job of steering us away from the “super touristy” parts of the city – like Bourbon Street – and towards some of the places that locals love and embrace. We ended up having drinks at Cafe Amelie, lunch at Oceana, dinner at Snug Harbor and listening to street musicians along Frenchman Street.
On Saturday, we took the recommendation of the fabulous bartender at Cafe Amelie and headed out of the French Quarter with frozen margaritas in hand (did you know that you can get to-go cocktails everywhere in New Orleans?!).
We walked across the business district down Magazine Street, and were rewarded with blocks lined with gorgeous homes, lush greenery and overflowing flower baskets, and some of the best shopping I have ever seen. Boutiques, specialty shops, locally-owned restaurants and an all-around welcoming feeling made it easy to wait out the short bursts of heavy rain.
We made it to Sucre, which was definitely worth the trek – cases full of handmade chocolates, decadent plated desserts, and a full bar in a hip little shop. I loved it, even when the power went out for a while!
We caught the Preakness at a local bar, and then headed to K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen for our dinner reservation. Best. Food. Ever. Enough said. We danced off one of the best meals I have ever eaten at a place with great live music that we just happened across, which turned out to have a good band featuring Eric Neville. So great.
After breakfast and a little souvenier shopping (an alligator head for my boy, and voodoo doll purses for the girls) and we headed to the airport fully satisfied and determined to return to the Big Easy sometime soon. It is a really special place full of some of the nicest people I have ever met. If you are looking for a good place to get away with your girlfriends or your partner, I totally recommend it!