Thursday, March 12, 2015

How to Run Away From Home**

1. Make a plan

Remember a few weeks ago when I told you we were giving up restaurants for Lent? And I added the caveat of restaurants in Columbus? Here's why.

So there we were on Ash Gwensday Eve, eating our "last supper," so to speak, at Buffalo Wild Wings. I was lamenting that a year ago we were going to Jamaica and I wished we had done that again this year. Aaron said "let's go somewhere now." Jamaica was a wee bit too expensive for a last minute trip, but we found relatively cheap flights to New Orleans, which happens to be our favorite city to visit.

2. Leave

That was Tuesday. On Gwensday we double checked that we could actually do this. Then we booked our flights and hotel, and made sure the cats wouldn't starve in our absence. And on Thursday we were on our way! Columbus friends, check out Allegiant Air. They fly out of Rickenbacker and have direct flights to NOLA. Be warned, you pay for everything: checked bags, carry on bags, refreshments, having your boarding pass printed by them... But if you know that going in and you're prepared, it's totally doable.

3. Have a blast!

We stayed at the Royal Sonesta, which is right on Bourbon Street. That's not something we would normally do, but this was immediately after Mardi Gras so it wasn't super crazy. We got a room with a balcony on a side street and never had any noise issues (of course we also live in the city so we're used to some noise).

Selfie on our balcony

Famished, we went to the Napoleon House. They have muffalettas on the menu, which are a must-have for Aaron and he was not disappointed. I had a meatball sandwich, which I know sounds weird but I was super hungry and nothing else spoke to me. I actually was disappointed with my sandwich but that was the last time I didn't like anything I ate.

We stumbled upon a hole-in-the-wall bar called the Copper Monkey where we talked to a local for quite a long time. He was displaced by Katrina (and actually suffered through the Superdome debacle) and lived in Pittsburgh for a couple years, so we had things to talk about there, and while he liked Pittsburgh, he was homesick and moved back.

Recently we've noticed that while on vacation, we tend to get up early and thus, we're not exactly night owls. #middleagedeasterntimezone

Friday we had the requisite biegnets for breakfast (not at Café du Monde this time but at Café Biegnet, where we should have split an order. Then we were off to the New Orleans School of Cooking for a cooking class. We considered a hands-on class but that would have been $250 and the demonstration class was only $65, which includes the meal and beer. We met a cool couple from Calgary and had fun talking to them. On the menu: shrimp and artichoke bisque; crawfish étouffée; bread pudding with rum sauce; and pralines. And beer. We did a class like this way back in 1992 and our instructor this time wasn't as entertaining as that one, but we had a good time and ate great food.

Aaron playing Vanna White at the cooking class

Then we did some bar hopping and met even more interesting people, including a farmer from the UK who was in the midst of a three month US tour. Then we walked by Maison Bourbon and Aaron was in heaven. There was a five piece jazz band playing so we sat at the bar and probably stayed for four sets (and would have stayed longer if hunger hadn't set in). I think Aaron talked to four of the five band members and we were really struck by the trombone player who looked remarkably like Aaron's grandfather (who also played trombone).

Dinner was at Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar and Fish House. We had barbecued shrimp as an appetizer, which is one of those dishes that everyone has a different interpretation. This one was amazeballs. Aaron ate fried catfish with a side of jambalaya and I had a combo of jambalaya, shrimp Creole and crawfish etoufée. We really enjoyed this dinner, although our jambalaya was cold.

Saturday we decided to get some culture and exercise, so we walked to the New Orleans Museum of Art. Along the way we ate breakfast at Lil' Dizzy's Cafe. Freakin' awesome. We both had catfish (Aaron's was grilled, mine was fried), eggs (Aaron's scrambled, mine over easy) and then Aaron had grits and I had home fries (I can't do grits unless they're really doctored up). They also had a buffet, which I would have done but I knew I'd overeat.

Scenes from our walk to the museum.

What we really didn't think through was the fact that we'd have to walk three miles TO the museum and then walk AROUND the museum. But we did it and enjoyed it. The woman at the desk said she knew we were "foreigners" because we had short sleeves and no coats. It was in the 60s. Luckily, there was a street car right there that would take us to the edge of the French Quarter.

Then we did some shopping and bar hopping and eventually went to Pat O'Brien's for hurricanes, just because we had to. I've learned my lesson the hard way and only had ONE hurricane (that's a story for another time). We ate dinner at the Gumbo Shop and had a courtyard table, which was lovely.

Sunday we had reservations at The Court of Two Sisters, which is one of our favorite places for brunch. They have live jazz both inside and outside (we sat in the courtyard as this was the best weather day) and a wonderful brunch buffet. This is where I took my favorite picture of the weekend:

We checked out of the hotel, but our flight wasn't until late afternoon so we did some more shopping and finally ended up at The Boondock Saint, which is pretty much a locals bar and doesn't even appear to have a website. We met some of the best people here and had a great time talking to locals and the bartender. It was sunny and 80 degrees and yes, we were inside, but the door and windows were wide open. We talked to a guy who has lived there for 20 years. We've been to NOLA five times (you might call us "five timers") and he told us that the sixth time we have to move there. We met another guy who lives there about five months of the year and he showed us a photo album of pictures he took in the Ninth Ward after Katrina. Devastating. Then there was the couple from Slidell, about our age, whose high school aged daughter was doing a project in the Quarter so they were hanging out at the bar. So much fun! Naturally the last day was the best day and we didn't mind at all when we received a text that our flight was delayed an hour.

I talked a lot about food, but saved the pictures for the end:

1. Brunch and bloody Marys at Court of Two Sisters
2. Peel and eat crawfish and Abita beer
3. Breakfast at Lil' Dizzy's
4. Hurricanes to go
5. Biegnets and coffee

We're so fortunate to be in a situation in which we could just take off with no notice!

**Note that we love home, so we weren't really running away from home, but running away from responsibilities and frigid temps and snow.


  1. I'm so glad your NOLA trip was a great getaway for you! This makes me want to be there right now.

  2. Still one of the places in the country I would love to see! Steve has been, and I think once I get past all the surgeries, I'm demanding a trip there! :-) I'm so glad to see you guys just spontaneously packing up and going. Looks like you and Aaron both had a fab time!

  3. If I ever go back to NOLA, this is the kind of trip I need to have. Sounds like you had a great time!

  4. That is amazing! I dream of the day the kids move out and we can just pick up and go again. Although, we never picked up quite that fast! I've just recently heard of Allegiant Air. Good tips! Jacob and I are probably going to go to New Orleans next fall (see, all that planning? Ugh.) so I'm bookmarking this for future use! It looks like you had an awesome time!

  5. Oh my goodness what a FUN and spontaneous trip!!! I love it!!!! :) I've never been there but would love to!!

  6. What a fantastic spontaneous trip!


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