This spring, I decided it would be okay to break last year’s pact with myself to make an annual March mecca to the Gulf Coast and get some sun on my winter white skin.
There’s nothing wrong with an early beach trip, but the truth is—you never know what the weather will do. True, you REALLY never know what the weather is going to do. It could rain in the middle of summer and destroy all hopes of getting a golden tan. But, after I spent last year on the Emerald Coast covered up in a blanket, I decided that March trips to the white sands might be a bit of a gamble for my family. After all, it is rare that we can all get our calendars in sync and get out of town together!
So, the question lingered as to where we might find some R&R and create some fantastic memories to frame my son’s 9th year. I hit the jackpot when we decided to head down to the Big Easy. There was more to see and accomplish than we could manage, and most of it on foot when we purchased all day passes on the trolley.
We checked in at a Mid-City Bed and Breakfast built in 1896, The O’Malley House, just a couple of houses down from the Canal St. streetcar line and the original 1905 Angelo Brocato’s Fine Italian Ice Cream Parlor. How convenient for us being that every 9 year old on spring break deserves a nightcap of gelato while Mom and Dad enjoy a café au lait with homemade herbed biscotti. This old world throwback is a family owned New Orleans tradition.
There was nothing that hadn’t been prepared by the staff of The O’Malley House. Every comfort was at our beck and call, from Disney movies to a refrigerator filled with our favorite drinks and a basket of Zapp’s Potato Chips nearby. If it weren’t for the city calling our name to come and revel in it’s graces, we could have just as easily taken pleasure in sipping tea while enjoying the front porch swing and enjoying a light breeze.
We decided to take advantage of New Orleans by doing a progressive dinner. Following h’ordeuvres at Antoine’s and dinner at Royal House Restaurant, we took in a some live theatre at the Mahalia Jackson Theatre, now reopened following hurricane Katrina, just one of many venues available to hear the sound of music while in one of the most artistic cities in the nation. We were able to discuss all the music and acting of the Broadway Across America tour while at Brennan’s enjoying their signature dessert, Banana’s Foster, a dish that was made famous in an effort to use all of the goods coming into the port of New Orleans. The dish, en flambé, prepared tableside is a show in and of itself.
Warning: Breakfast at the O’Malley house is not a good hangout for protein-lovers or diabetics. In spite of our great night’s rest and spacious accommodations, I feel it is my duty to tell you that you may want to bring some extra insulin to offset the delicacies you will find waiting on a plate of fine china in the AM. I felt like a kid in a candy store, being given the green light to eat blueberry bread pudding for breakfast with no guilt. That was just before going into sugar shock after already downing some fresh fruit and a homemade cinnamon roll with a rather large glass of orange juice.
We tried to balance out our breakfast with a healthy lunch at Herbsaint where we found everything from artisan breads to homemade gumbo, but I think we may have been profiled as one of those repugnant “families” rather than the more desirable casual business luncher based upon their reluctance to seat us in the all but empty main dining room. Other than the hair on my bread plate, our minute outdoor table for 3 proved to be acceptable enough to take in the fair cuisine. As someone who walked in off the trolley, I would have preferred the hostess to simply inform us whether our vacation clothes met the business casual dress code rather than trying to call my tribe into order with catty snobbishness. I thought I looked pretty darn cute in sundress #2 of 11 that I borrowed from my pregnant sister. Overall, if you can handle the Soup Nazi experience of Herbsaint, you may actually get a taste of that delicious bread, just try and avoid the hairballs.
New Orleans has much more to offer than can be accomplished in a single trip, and in the spirit of the city’s resurgence, more attractions and experiences are being added by the day. The highlight and MUST SEE of a trip to New Orleans is a trip to the National World War II Museum. If getting to New Orleans involves a road trip with upper elementary to middle school aged children, I highly recommend The Boy With the Striped Pajamas audiobook read by the very engaging Michael Maloney. This will provide a partial understanding of one component of WWII and all it’s horrors, yet is told in a most engaging and insightful way for the young student.
Once in the WWII museum, the multi-sensory elements of the 4-D film Beyond All Boundaries exceed creativity’s boundaries. Be prepared for a 45-minute movie to allow you to live the WWII journey. Plan to add another 3 hours to your visit to see the entire exhibit.
Overall, the Crescent City is so much more than Jackson Square, muffalettas, and beignets. It is a place to ride, relax, and read, and rejuvenate. It is a place where deep thinkers and partygoers alike will find more than their fair share of habitat for a weekend. The food is world class, the music delightful, and the heart of a people striving to say, “We are home,” shows the fighting American spirit in a city that has never shied away from reinventing itself. But, underneath all her glorious garden canopies, one thing will be added to you that can never be taken upon your departure from this colorful city. You will truly know what it means to miss New Orleans.