Planning a Trip to New Orleans — Smell the Roses (or Sweet Olives)!
For months I anticipated my first trip to New Orleans with excitement. And I was determined to make sure that the little time I had was put to the best use. I spent countless hours researching what I wanted to see, where I wanted to eat, and what I wanted to do. I was obsessed with my itinerary and making sure that not a moment was wasted. On top of that, my plans included one extremely aggressive eating schedule. I relentlessly prepared a binder full of menus, maps and other information that would come in handy during my stay (this was before I had handy gadgets like laptops, iPads, and smartphones at my disposal; I mean, really, who carries maps anymore?).
No stone was to be unturned. I planned to have Jazz Brunch at Mr. B’s, explore the French Quarter, have an elegant dinner at Bacco’s, take in a ghost tour, have fun on Bourbon Street, and maybe take a couple of shots at a jackpot at Harrah’s Casino. Mind you, that was all for the afternoon our first day down. The next day was just as hectic. Beignets at Café du Monde, a self-guided tour of the French Quarter, lunch at the Red Fish Grill, a quick snack at Croissant d’Hor, perhaps a little shopping at the French Market, another snack, a Pimm’s Cup at Napoleon House to wash it all down, museums, and well, we ran out of gas. That was as far we got. Clearly, I had become the victim of over-planning. By the end of the second day of our stay, we were bloated, tired, and extremely irritable (even more than usual, in my husband’s case). We decide to make a fresh start the next day and to scrap the aggressive schedule.
We adopted a philosophy that we continue to follow to this day and many, many trips later:
The best plan in New Orleans is no plan at all.
One of my favorite things about the city of New Orleans is its laid-back nature. Part of the charm is adopting the laid-back attitude for yourself. You’re on vacation, after all. Make a list of things you would like to see and do on your trip, but be flexible. Don’t let your itinerary beat you down. Remember the National Lampoon vacation movies where Chevy Chase drove his family crazy with his vacation goals. Don’t be like that. Stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes.
Your first day in New Orleans, free yourself to wander. Keep your eyes, ears, and nose open and note places and activities you want to revisit. Take a stroll down Royal Street and admire the balcony-lined street. Do some antique shopping, or dreaming. Stop into a bar for mid-afternoon cocktail. Wander on down to the river and sip on an Abita while you watch the boats sail up and down the Mississippi River.
Stop and take in the street performers. They are synonymous with the laid-back attitude of the city. Hop on a streetcar if you feel the urge. Relax and have fun.
I look forward to each of my visits to New Orleans with the same anticipation of the first one. In a way, researching before the trip is almost as much fun as being there and helps to prolong the vacation experience. Instead of just the few days you have on the actual trip, I get to spend weeks daydreaming about new activities and restaurants. But don’t get caught up in the details. The best advice I can give about planning a trip to New Orleans is to remember the best trips can’t be planned.
They just happen.