Monday, October 19, 2015

NOLA in a Weekend: The Jazziest Spot for a Destination Wedding

How is it even possible to experience one of the most sought after travel spots in the US in one weekend? Well, we tried our best. My husband and I just spent a fabulous long weekend in New Orleans, celebrating the wedding of my best friend. We tried to cram a lot into one very full weekend, and there were so many things we wanted to see and do, but just didn't have the chance.

New Orleans sits on a bend of the Mississippi River, and has been a busy port since the 1700's. This charming town has seen its share of devastation, and lively celebrations.  Most recently, New Orleans is known for the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, some of which can still be seen today. This bubbly party city has bounced back, however, offering its artistic and culinary charm to the world, one visitor at a time.

Where we stayed...

We made the decision to stay outside of the city for two reasons:
1- It was cheaper.
2- It was quiet.
We stayed 3 nights at the Comfort Suites off of Bullard Ave, and got a pretty great rate (just around $110.00/night), with friendly service. This is a fairly new hotel, with a full complimentary breakfast, and non-smoking rooms, free wifi, etc. It had all of the amenities we expected, and the hospitality couldn't be beat. We would absolutely stay there again.

Our NOLA Experience

Friday Night

We drove 13 hours straight from NC to NOLA- and it was a long drive. We checked into our hotel, and then decided to head to the NOLA Business District, where we were able to find parking (metered- we paid about $3.00 for 2 hours). We did a lot of walking over our weekend in NOLA, but thankfully, there were a lot of places to eat in the business district. We happened upon Gordon Biersch on Poydras St., which serves up authentic German cuisine in a casual atmosphere. I had schnitzel with spaetzel and hubby had a burger with a German beer. We spent around $40.00 on our meal. We were exhausted, so we headed back to the hotel after dinner.


We had until about 5 pm Saturday to walk around and explore NOLA. I really wanted to spend most of the day in the French Quarter, and around Jackson Square- where all of the best shopping, dining, and artists are. 

We had breakfast at The Royal Oyster House in the French Quarter.

For breakfast, we stopped in at The Royal Oyster House. We didn't have to wait for a table, which was wonderful. The entire restaurant was open air, with balcony seating available. Our breakfast was pretty standard- eggs, potatoes, sausage, biscuits... and it was fabulous! We would absolutely go back to this spot for lunch and dinner!

Walking around NOLA's French Quarter...

We spent some time just walking around- turning down side streets to listen to live jazz music (there are musicians everywhere!), and to see the live artists paint in the streets. The shops are quaint, many of them with NOLA trinkets. There are bars aplenty in NOLA. Since I'm expecting, we couldn't really enjoy the bar scene, but to tell you the truth, they were all so smokey and overflowing with loud people, I'm not sure we would have wanted to, anyway. We were sure to take a walk along the Mississippi River, which was lovely- a word of warning- swindlers like to hang out down by the river, so just do as you would anywhere else, and keep walking.

Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed a walk through the French Market. I really wanted to do this, as we heard it was fabulous, but if we go back to NOLA, this is something we will skip. It reminded me so much of the Street Fairs we used to go to when I was a kid, living in NJ- lots of vendors with tables to sell their trinkets- lots of stuff that looked like it was made in China... cheap, junky stuff you could find anywhere. I was under the impression we would come across unique finds and treasures, but sadly, we were disappointed. There were a lot of food vendors in the market, though. If you like seafood, you'll love some of the market stands. If you go to NOLA with little kids- don't bother with the market. It's too crowded, and space is too tight to try to push a stroller through.

Charming architecture of NOLA.

Jackson Square

Horses everywhere- and only $90.00 per 30 minutes, for up to four people!

The one thing we knew we had to do on Saturday, was to try some fresh Beignets. These treats are a NOLA staple- a warm, fluffy and crisp pastry covered with powdered sugar. There were beignets on every corner, and popular spots like Cafe Du Monde had lines down the block! We weren't about to wait three hours for these things, so we wound up at New Orleans Famous Beignets and Coffee on Decatur Street. There was hardly a line when we arrived, but within minutes, there was a line out the door to the street! These flaky pastries were so delicious! They were freshly made, and just melted in our mouths as we ate them! We wanted more, more, more of course... but we'll just have to learn to make them ourselves.

Try not to be too jealous of us! (Taken at New Orleans Famous...)

After our snack, it was time for us to return to our hotel to freshen up and get ready for our rehearsal dinner. I did mention we were there for a wedding, yes? This was definitely a point during the weekend where we wished we could have stayed in the city. Some of the wedding guests stayed in the Business District at the Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery.

Here we are, at our hotel, pre-rehearsal dinner.

For dinner, we dined at Muriel's on Jackson Square. Let me just say- this was the best dining experience we have had in a very long time. It was incredible! The restaurant was so elegant, and our table hosts and servers were phenomenal. Everything from the service and wine selection to the meal choice were out of this world wonderful. Since I had to be careful of what I was eating on this trip, I opted for a three course meal with a Gorgonzola Cheesecake Appetizer, Double Pork Chop dinner with Candied Sweet Potatoes and Greens, and a delicious Bread Pudding for dessert. Hubby had a fillet, and ate my app and dessert. I did taste the duck entree, and it was fabulous!

Dancing in the streets of NOLA!

After dinner, we just headed out into the street. We were given 'to go cups' for the wine at the table. It's crazy to me that you can just drink out in the streets in NOLA. The streets are so crowded there (no, not in the same way NYC streets are crowded- this is a totally different vibe), and like I said- the city is overflowing with bars and nightlife. We hopped over to a couple of bars with friends, and then decided to call it a night, because we knew we'd have a busy day ahead on Sunday.

The Court of Two Sisters


On Sunday, we headed back into the French Quarter for a Jazz Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters, a NOLA hot spot. The crowds were lining the street to get into this place at 9 am. 

Delicious brunch and live jazz music- a winning combination, at around $30.00/person.

On Saturday afternoon, we got ready for the wedding at the Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery. I had a fabulous time helping my gorgeous best friend prepare to get married. The hotel room was so spacious, and gave us plenty of room to beautify ourselves.

I found this super fun mask at one of the shops in the French Quarter, and thought it was perfect for the Second Line March that would be taking place after the wedding ceremony! What do you think?

My hubby, Sacha, checking out The Tree of Life at the Audubon Park in New Orleans.

The wedding ceremony took place at the Audubon Park in NOLA, under The Tree of Life. It took us about twenty minutes to drive from the hotel to the tree on a Sunday afternoon, due to traffic. It was pretty much a straight shot, and you can't miss this big old tree once you're in the park.

To give you some perspective as to how big the Tree of Life really is, here's Sacha standing at its base.

A beautiful spot for a wedding.

The bridal party: myself, Veronica, Jonathan, Perego.

Couples photo!

In between the wedding ceremony and reception, we were invited to take part in a traditional New Orleans Second Line March. We paraded through the streets of NOLA, behind the bride and groom, and a small marching band from St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, to Cafe Soule, where the reception was being held. It was so much fun! We couldn't believe that the streets were lined with people taking photos, video, and just cheering on the bride and groom and their wedding guests! We donned our masks, hats, parasols, and drank in the streets as we marched! We waved red hanker chiefs in the air, and danced our hearts out!

The Second Line March

Our fun parade accessories!

When we reached Cafe Soule, we headed upstairs to the Paris Room, which was beautifully ornate. There was a light buffet set up, with an open bar, and we were offered indoor seating, as well as outdoor terrace seating.

The Paris Room at Cafe Soule

The Groom's Cake was a NOLA Jello Shot Cake!

Sacha, enjoying the NOLA scenery on the balcony at the reception.

Street view from the balcony at Cafe Soule.

More charming NOLA buildings.

Sacha, showing off his gorgeous eyes...

The happy couple!

The wedding was the most fun wedding we have ever attended. I fully understand why my friend wanted to get married in NOLA. Our weekend was fabulous, and we received a lot of great tips and offers from the NOLA Tourism Board, which we were so very thankful for. We wished that we could have taken in more sights, and eaten way more food! I would love to visit the NOLA Zoo, and just eat my way through the city. Two days in town just wasn't enough time, but we did feel like we packed a whole lot of stuff into our short trip, and we didn't leave disappointed. We even got to see glimpses of some of the NOLA cemeteries, though we wish we could have taken a spooky NOLA Cemetery Tour. Maybe next time. Since I was pregnant on this trip, I didn't get to enjoy drinking in the streets and staying out until the wee hours of the morning- so we'll save that for next time. There will definitely be a next time.

Is a trip to NOLA on your bucket list? It should be!

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