Two weeks ago, I had no plans whatsoever for any fun travels or adventures for this past weekend. That all changed with a phone call. A former co-worker who was moving to New Orleans and needed someone who would be willing to drive a car 645 miles from Orlando to New Orleans. It was an opportunity I couldn’t resist. Sure, it meant making a long drive, but it also meant finally going to one of the cities on my 5 list of U.S. cities that I want to visit (right after Chicago, New York City and Portland).

So on Saturday I hopped in the car and made the drive to the Crescent City. The drive itself was easy. Traffic was light on I-10, and I listened to NPR and various comedy CDs along the way. I also stopped and visited a friend I knew in Pensacola. The trip took about 11 hours and I saw the high rises of New Orleans at sunset.

After dropping off the car I went to the Baronne Plaza Hotel.  The hotel is located just one block over from the French Quarter and two blocks down from Bourbon Street. It’s not associated with any hotel chains, so no stay points. But I did get the second night 50% off by booking it through The hotel itself is quite nice- the rooms are neat and well-maintained. The staff was the highlight of the hotel- they were always friendly to me and never failed to greet me whenever I walked through the lobby. The only downside of the hotel is that it’s undergoing some renovations that will not be completed until November. But I didn’t notice any construction noise while I was in my room, and the hotel kept the noise limited to daytime hours to minimize disruptions to guests.

Acme Oyster House

Once I checked into my room for the evening and dropped my luggage off, it was time to hit the town and find some dinner. My former co-worker had mentioned Drago’s or the Acme Oyster House as good spots to get tasty

chargrilled oysters. I chose Acme as it was closer to the hotel. Less then three minutes after leaving my hotel I heard a jazz melody being played and saw people dancing in the street. I had come upon the first of many jazz bands that I would see playing around town.

Acme’s already had a line out the door with people waiting to go in- usually a good sign to me that it’s worth the wait.

So I got in line and ended up getting into a conversation with a couple from Ft. Worth, TX. Like me, they were also making a last-minute trip to the city just to see the place. We ordered the oysters as an appetizer and they were delicious. They had a nice grilled Parmesan flavor to them. I also had their “Fried Peace Maker” po-boy, which has fried shrimp and oysters with a Tabasco-infused mayo. Spicy and very tasty. I’m normally not a big fried food fan, but they did a very nice job with seasoning

and breading the seafood just right.

After dinner, I took a walk down Bourbon St.

Oh. My. Goodness. My first thought was that I had stumbled onto the world’s longest bar crawl. Every other person walking down the street was holding either a bright green hand grenade drink or had beer in clear plastic cups.

Bourbon Street at Night

Bourbon Street

People on the balcony were tossing beads at strangers. Loud techno music from the dance clubs clashed with the jazz music from the swing clubs. Promoters stood on the street and beckoned to anyone who looked their way to come into their club. Strippers stood quietly at the entrances to their cabraret clubs to lure customers in. It was easy to tell Bourbon Street from the other ones around the area- all the buildings had brightly lit neon signs and lights that separated it from the dark alleys of the other streets. I didn’t go into any clubs the first night- I just walked up and down and took it all in. The street was quite busy for a Saturday night on a weekend with no major event going on. I suspect that if Mardi Gras or Jazzfast had been going on, the street would be packed shoulder-to-shoulder with humanity.

As I got to the end of the street, the noise and the faitgue of the day’s drive finally got to me and I headed back to the hotel. I went to bed dreaming of beignets.

Stay tuned for Day 2’s report tomorrow.