Birthday in NOLA Before Everything Changed

Little did we know that Jen’s annual Birthday trip would be our last adventure before the pandemic changed everyone’s access to travel. Like most we have been laying low and waiting for things to improve while reminiscing about past adventures. It has taken us nearly 8 months to gather ourselves and the memories to make this post so we apologize.

Let us wind back the clock to January and recall better times shall we? As some of our close friends know, as each January comes to an end a special trip must be in the works to celebrate Jennifer’s birthday. The location is always a surprise and typically only divulged with only 24 hours before departure. Past destinations have included Miami, LA, Atlanta, and many more. January 2020 took us south to New Orleans for fun, great food, and libations! And right in time for Madres Gras festivities to kick-off!

Please note at the bottom of the post we’ve embedded a map that includes all the exciting places we discuss her win the post!

Once on the ground we made our way to the Queen & Crescent Hotel, part of the Autograph Collection under the Marriott umbrella. We are becoming bigger and bigger fans these hotels. Each is a unique property in typically historically and architecturally interesting buildings. The Q&C was a fantastic home base to explore NOLA, sitting just 4 blocks off of Canal Street and only a few more steps to the French Quarter. Which is where we headed for lunch after dropping our bags! After a bit of wandering we decided what better way to get things started than lunch at Pat O’Brien’s with a hurricane. Yes we know, neither the food or drinks at Pat’s are anything but average but it’s still fun.

After lunch and a bit of strolling we made our way back to the Q&C to ready ourselves for the evening. After some rest we made our way to dinner at on of New Orleans icons and proving ground for many of the most influential chef’s in America, The Commander’s Palace. Such chefs as Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme have graced the kitchen. The food was great but not remarkable. The staff was wonderful and made Jennifer’s birthday dinner memorable.

With our first afternoon and evening in NOLA behind us we decided to take a little time to relax and reenergize. Off to the Ritz Carlton for afternoon tea and a couples massage at the spa.

The rest of our afternoon was spent strolling the streets of the French Quarter before returning to our room to rest for our second evening in NOLA.

On our way to dinner on the first night our driver asked us if we had ever had chargrilled oysters. Neither of us could recall, so he insisted that before leaving town make our way to Drago’s and give it a try. Drago’s is within the Hilton New Orleans Riverside only a 15 minute walk from our hotel. One taste and it wasn’t long before we quickly ordered our second round, simply spectacular.

After gorging on our newfound obsession we headed back towards our hotel but with a stop at Copper Vine Wine Pub. With 30 wines on tap it made for a nice nightcap to Day 2.

Day 3 we were up early and after enjoying breakfast at the Q&C before heading out for some sightseeing. For those who have followed our blog on past trips you know we are huge fans of the Hop on Hoff Bus Tours. Why pay for a rental car, scooter, ride share, or taxi service when you have an all day (or multi-way) pass to a bus service that’s probably going within blocks of anything you might was to see!? We easily bought our tickets via their app, hopped aboard, and set our sights on the National World War II Museum. As we made our way towards the Museum, we hopped off along Magazine Street to enjoy a few glasses of wine and small bites for lunch at The Vintage. The area has numerous eateries and small shops to browse and is a nice way to see more of New Orleans than just the French Quarter.

Somehow, we had no idea the Museum was located in NOLA, but we thoroughly enjoyed the fascinating exhibit. We spent a half day at the facility but one could easily take 2 or 3 days and immerse themselves in everything it has to offer. The facility chronicles all the major storylines familiar to most, but more interestingly shines a light on many aspects and battles unknown or forgotten by non-historians.

We spent as much time at the Museum as our day would allow before catching the bus back towards the hotel to catch some rest before dinner and a night out in the French Quarter. For dinner we headed out to the Garden District to Coquette, one of the more popular foodie destinations in NOLA. The food focuses on local products and we chose to go with the tasting menu and wine pairings. The food did not disappoint, however the dining room was a bit loud and with sparse mostly wood toned furnishing.

After dinner we headed to the French Quarter for what you do at the French Quarter on a Saturday night…

We woke up the next day feeling surprisingly okay and with a late flight back home struggled with how to fill our day. We settled upon a trip north to the New Orleans City Park near the southern edge of Lake Pontchartrain. This turned out to be a tremendous reprieve from the urban environment of the past three days and a relaxing way to wrap up our trip. The park has something for everyone, from paddle boats for rent, putt-putt golf, a sculpture garden, and for us the star of the show a large collection of mature live oaks, some nearly 600 years old. Traveling through the Garden District you could still see the “X” markers from Katrina on some homes and the stark difference between those who elevated and those who did not.

As the shadows began to lengthen we realized it was time to head back to the Q&C to retrieve our bags and make our way to the airport. Another birthday celebration was in the books!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our much belated post, stay tuned because we have some interesting domestic trips coming up in the coming months!

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