So here it is, the post you've been waiting for: my review of our little get-away.
In a word, it was great.
We loved New Orleans. After all I had read about it being a huge party town, with drunken hordes interspersed with enterprising pickpockets just laying in wait all over the place, I must admit to being a little worried about whether we would even like it. As with most things I worry about, I needn't have.
So here's my list of things I learned about New Orleans, in no particular order:
1. It is a lovely unique city with gorgeous architecture, but not in any way, shape or form designed to deal with a prolonged cold spell such as the one that occurred while we were there. The pipes in our bathroom froze one morning (we did manage to get them defrosted), stores were closed, streets were empty, plants and fountains were icicles. Every morning a zillion plumbing and HVAC trucks could be seen zipping around dealing with all the issues generated by the cold. Those guys must have made a fortune.
2. Given the normal relative lack of cold weather, there was a truly stunning number of furs being worn on the streets. Do women down there buy them just in case of cold weather, then run and get them out of deep storage every 15 years? We never did figure it out.
3. Bathrooms are a big issue in the French Quarter. Signs abound about the availability -- or not -- of bathrooms. At the Cabildo, our first stop, the first sentence out of the ticket seller's mouth was the location of the bathrooms in the museum. I was a little mystified until after we had spent a few more hours in the Quarter. Guess it has something to do with all those people drinking all the time. Going along with item number 1, I was truly stunned to follow the signs for a bathroom in one of the jazz bars we were at, only to find myself outside in a courtyard, with just a thin door between the bathroom and the open air. I have no idea how they kept those pipes running. (Pardon the blurry photo of the bathroom door, I was halfway through my first -- and only -- Hurricane.)
4. Mardi Gras is a complex business. We went to an entire museum devoted to the celebration and, although it was fascinating and very informative, I still don't feel as if I have a clue about how exactly it works and what all goes on where. (Although I did get the sense that I didn't necessary want to know all that goes on.)
5. The town is Saints-crazy. Now even I, who normally don't care one way or the other about any particular football game (except perhaps the Giants, just because their winning or losing has an effect on the moods of the people I share a house with), am invested in the Saints season. Especially because, if they manage to make it to a Superbowl, we will be able to have a kick-butt Superbowl party with all the authentic New Orleans food we hauled home.
6. Which brings me to: the TSA people at the New Orleans airport being very, very nice. See number 5, all the food we brought home. Because we are not seasoned travellers, we did not really think about the fact that all that hot sauce, mustard and olive salad spread would be considered a "liquid" by the airlines, and thus verboten in our carry-on luggage. We blithely presented ourselves to the security inspection with an entire bag full of contraband material. Amazingly, they didn't toss it all in the garbage, as they would have done in Newark. In fact, I think the New Orleans guy was having a hard time keeping a straight face as he pulled it all out of the suitcase. But he kindly allowed us to repack it, told us we had to check it, and escorted us to the counter. This attitude was consistent with every person we met in New Orleans: unfailingly patient, helpful and kind.
7. The above-ground cemeteries are really interesting, more interesting than any cemetery has a right to be. A guided tour of one is money very well spent.
8. The best deal in town is to ride the St. Charles streetcar from beginning to end. For $5, we saw the Tulane and Loyola University campuses, Audobon Park, and many of the beautiful houses in the Garden District. Bonus for us: the trolley was enclosed and therefore somewhat warm.
Last but not least... go on a diet before you go to the city, especially if your time there is limited. The city abounds with culinary delights: beignets, muffalettas, po'boys, pralines, gumbo... We planned our days around various food stops and tried to fit it all in. As as result, I can barely fit in my jeans today, but that's OK. It was well worth it.