There are close to 100 stations on my Pandora playlist, ranging from classical and folk to rock and hip hop. Despite the selection of artists and songs at my fingertips, I always seem to find myself choosing jazz. It's comfort music, soothing my soul at the end of a long day, beckoning a liberal pour of red with a side of couch collapse and longneck candles.
My "go to's" are always the same: Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and maybe Norah Jones or Michael Buble to remind me that good music is not just a thing of the past.
With a weekend on my hands, music on my mind, and a city on the verge of celebrating its tricentennial, I couldn't think of a better time to visit the birthplace of jazz.
"Honey, pack your bags. We're going to New Orleans!"
It was January, the month NOLA turned the big 300 -- and just weeks before Mardi Gras on Feb. 13 -- presenting the perfect opportunity for my husband, Benjamin, and me to check this vibrant city off our bucket list. Despite thunderstorms in the forecast, our goals were to get lost in the French Quarter; drink Pimm's Cup before noon; dance in the streets; lose track of time at Cafe de Monde; peel crawfish like a local; eat oysters and maybe alligator; and above all, soak in the jazz.
We purposely chose to visit "New Oar-linz" (not "New Or-leenz") close enough to Carnival to feel the energy, yet far enough to avoid the chaos. We're crazy and all, but err on the side of 40-something caution. What little we knew about our destination was from word-of-mouth tales of debauchery, feathered costumes, and flash-for-beads. We set out to break all preconceived notions and simply discover the old, the new, and the whatever that came our way.
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Our lodging for the weekend was Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery. Located three blocks from the French Quarter, it once served as an 1850s warehouse in the port. A major renovation in 2015 resurrected the building into a swanky, boutique hotel with suites curated by local artists. Hardwood floors and exposed-brick walls lead to a rotating art gallery. On the ground floor is Compere Lapin -- one of New Orleans' top restaurants (not to mention our favorite of the trip) serving Caribbean-and European-takes on local cuisine.
Like most curious travelers who visit this magical city, we wasted no time on our first night, grabbing our coats and heading straight into the darkness.
Within the French Quarter is where beauty lies, boasting buildings dating back to the 18th century when the Spanish ruled. Tucked away on Chartres Street sat the charming Angeline by Chef Alex Harrel. The intimate dining room looked out onto the rain-soaked pavement where reflections of horse-drawn carriages and gas lamps danced with themselves. Happy Hour boasted $3 beers and $5 plates of crispy cauliflower and pate. We stayed beyond discounts for roasted oysters, cast-iron cornbread and honest dishes like herb-brined chicken and Louisiana short ribs.
Despite having yet to fully indulge (New Orleans style), the following morning was particularly painful. We had committed to a bike tour with Free Wheelin' without accounting for the two-hour time difference.