Escape For A Date: New Orleans And Beyond
New Orleans and Beyond
By Linda Holloway
Photography by Larryhollowayphotography.com
Now is the perfect time to plan an “Escape for a Date” with your spouse. I am not referring to the weekly evening night out to dine, but at least a long weekend out of town. Now, after reading the previous sentences, are you in “guilt mode” yet? It is easy to escape parental guilt by remembering your family started with the two of you, and the most important lesson you can teach your children is that quality time as a couple is important.
The famed author, Mitch Albom said it best, “Life is a series of pulls back and forth…a tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. A wrestling match…which side wins? Love wins. Love always wins.” For your anniversary, Valentine’s Day or just because you need a break, New Orleans is a perfect destination to celebrate. So, hop in the car, pop in your favorite “date song,” and allow memories to take you back to the springtime of your love.
Romantic New Orleans
New Orleans is one of the most romantic cities in the world where European traditions blend with Caribbean influences. Here, the chefs are famous, and it is okay to sing the blues. You may choose to be energized by the crowds or a walk down centuries old Pirate’s Alley—perfect for intimacy. Here, you will find the Faulkner book store, the structure where William Faulkner penned his first novel. Celebrated for its resilience, New Orleans, Louisiana, offers couples a uniqueness that cannot be found anywhere else.
When my husband and I first stepped off Royal Street into the grand lobby of the AAA Four Diamond Hotel Monteleone, we were not disappointed. Luxury prevailed from the opulent crystal chandelier to the famous clock. The Monteleone family has welcomed guests to this designated Historic Hotel of America since 1886. Monteleone is one of only three U.S. hotels to receive the prestigious Literary Landmark designation by the Friends of Libraries, USA.
Many of our favorite authors such as William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote have lodged here and written about the hotel using it as settings for their stories or novels. The hotel features 600 luxurious guest rooms including 55 suites. Our suite had views of the Mississippi River with a Jacuzzi and separate glass shower. After splashing in the rooftop pool, relax at the hotel’s Spa Aria. For an over-the-top experience, reserve the Penthouse Suite on the 16th floor. The suite has a private area outside of the master bedroom which has a mesmerizing view of the city skyline.
Monteleone’s, Criollo Restaurant offers a unique New Orleans approach through the use of fresh ingredients. Respecting the French, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and African styles, Criollo serves a seasonal interpretation of “Louisiana Fusion.” Just steps away from the lobby, sits the famous Carousel Bar & Lounge, the city’s only revolving bar. Yes, this famous 25-seat, bright circus-clad Merry-Go-Round actually revolves around the room. The bar was transformed into a clothing store in the film, Double Jeopardy, starring Ashley Judd and Tommie Lee Jones. While the Monteleone is “base camp” for your romantic adventure, the city begs for exploration.
New Orleans by Day and Night
Make morning walks along Royal Street a daily ritual. Here, wrought iron balconies with hanging baskets, decorate buildings dating back to the 1700’s. We noticed businessmen in their seersucker suits, bow ties and straw hats, welcoming patrons to their prominent antique stores with European treasures.
Head for Jackson Square, the location of an outdoor artist colony, and have your own portrait drawn for a lasting momento. This is where you can embark on a romantic carriage ride through the French Quarter. Directly across from Jackson Square, visit Café’ du Monde where coffee and beignets have been served since 1862. Take time to shop at the open-air French Market for carnival masks, jewelry, arts and crafts and…don’t forget your voodoo dolls. Leave the French Quarter by boarding the St. Charles Avenue streetcar to the stately mansions and shops of the Garden District. Magazine Street is where you will find art and eclectic stores. Check out the ghost tours or brave the bayou for a swamp tour.
New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz. Visit the famed Preservation Hall where you will discover authentic jazz. A walk along Frenchman Street is where you will find a variety of music venues including the popular Snug Harbor. Be sure and stop by for the outdoor entertainment at Café’ Beignet on Bourbon Street.
World Class Dining
The culinary industry is synonymous with New Orleans. We have tried numerous restaurants over the years, but we always come back to Restaurant August and Arnaud’s Restaurant for delectable cuisine combined with a romantic atmosphere. Breakfast at Brennan’s is a must, and for lunch, Mother’s Restaurant is where the locals dine.
Restaurant August: Located in a French-Creole building dating from the 1800’s, you will want to reserve a table in the Wine Room. The elegant chandeliers alone are enough to set the tone for romance. Located in a French-Creole building dating from the 1800’s, owner Chef John Besh is known around the US for his twist on local cuisine. The “Tasting Menu” is amazing, but we can cheer for the “Breaded Flounder”, the most popular dish and rightfully so. The “Dirt Cake” is amazing. The James Beard Foundation previously named Restaurant August owner, John Besh, “Best Chef-Southeast.”
Arnaud’s Restaurant: Boasting patrons from numerous U.S. Presidents, royalty and celebrities, the legendary Arnaud’s Restaurant has been a New Orleans tradition since 1918. With the classic chandeliers, the tiled floor, and tuxedo-clad wait staff, the main dining room is vintage New Orleans. As for romance, ask for the table where Benjamin (Brad Pitt) and Daisy (Cate Blanchett) dined on their first date in the film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Arnaud’s scrumptious signature dish, “Shrimp Arnaud,” draws repeat customers. We tried the Filet Mignon Au Poive and Ponchartrain---topped with crabmeat, and it was one of the best meals we have ever eaten. You must try the Soufflé’ Potatoes—best in town. Finish with Strawberries Arnaud and Café’ Brulot—comprised of coffee, lemon and orange rind, cloves, cinnamon sticks and Orange Curacao—flamed with Brandy.
Brennan’s: You know the pop phrase, “Breakfast at Brennan’s” where Bananas Foster was born. The flames from this dish create quite a show. The Eggs Hussarde and Turtle Soup are favorites also. Ask for a table in the courtyard where lush plants and the fountain are pure New Orleans. For lunch try Mother’s Restaurant where their claim to fame is “The World’s Best Baked Ham.” It’s true! This is the best of home-style cooking, and while patrons love the ham, the fried chicken is just as popular.
Beyond New Orleans – the Great River Road
Stretching from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, River Road winds along the Mississippi River revealing architectural gems of the past where sugar was king allowing land barons to build grand mansions in the early 1800’s. Extend your trip for an additional night, and visit the Inn at Houmas House. Located on the grounds of the historic Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, the upscale cottages offer décor with romance and privacy in mind. A tour of Houmas House, (circa1828) and breakfast come with your room. The on-site restaurants, Latil’s Landing and the Carriage House, evoke romance with culinary delights. Can you say White Chocolate Bread Pudding? The Café’ Burnside is perfect for a casual lunch. The beauty of Houmas House, and its grounds dotted with ancient Live Oak trees, was impossible for Hollywood producers to duplicate. Numerous times movie crews have packed their gear and filmed on location at Houmas House. For more information: www.houmashouse.com. For additional information on River Road tours visit www.PlantationParade.com