For years, friends Nonny and Ernie have been talking to us about New Orleans Jazz Fest. While we completely intended to visit New Orleans, the idea wasn’t that appealing: crowds, sitting out in the heat, listening to music in a city full of music.
As it turns out, Jazz Fest is much more than music. It’s an experience. With 11 stages, there is constant music. You can walk all day long and never escape the music. Ever changing, diverging from rock to pop to jazz to blues, Jazz Fest tempts you to abandon your plans. Well intentioned goals for seeing a particular performance are often thwarted by the draw of music en route. And the food is crazy good.
But we just wanted to see New Orleans. The city has fantastic architecture and history, food and music. Post Katrina it’s a bit more gentrified – and safer, but still has most of the social qualities that make New Orleans livable and fun. Any city that lets you drink on public transportation is far improved over most places. With or without a drink, the street cars were a great way to get around and there are always taxis available.
Our vacation plans were firmed-up when we attended a charity auction and bid on a package to go to New Orleans.
We recommend thinking carefully before buying a vacation package at a charity auction. We have bid on hotels and services in the past, but the air/hotel package was a first. Ultimately, it was a mistake. The reseller, Winspire, operated in bad faith. Dates that were not blacked-out were made unavailable due to cost. Ultimately, we were extorted into paying to upgrade hotel rooms and flights in order to get the dates we wanted. Our recommendation: just give the charity cash and skip the vacation package that promises a retail value double that of what it actually costs.
In actuality, we didn’t go the dates we wanted. In order to accommodate the travel restrictions we stayed later into the Jazz Fest than we planned. This meant that we could be down at the same time as Nonny and Ernie.
We spend the first half touring the Garden District, an upscale eight block area full of historic properties. It is flanked by many of the cities trendiest restaurants and stores including Cochon and Pêche. We took a great walking tour and saw the National World War II Museum.
Then our friends show up. We had great meals at Commander’s Palace and August, the later being our favorite. We moved to the Hotel Maison de Ville, which is a fantastic little hotel in the center of the French Quarter. Sadly, when we return to New Orleans we will not stay in the Quarter again. It’s just way too touristy – something the city is fighting (and losing). The best thing about the French Quarter today are the art galleries. We were very fortunate to buy a painting by Jamie Kirkland from Gallery Orange, taking advantage of tax free art in the Quarter.