Journey Jotters

Bitten by the travel bug

The JJ family recently took a spring break getaway to New Orleans, LA; these are their stories. As you know, some trips work out perfectly, and flights delay some, and still others don’t happen. This trip is one of those times! Huh, you say?!

Well, our original plan was for Mr. JJ, Sonny JJ, and I to travel to Colombia. That country had long been on our travel list, and we were looking forward to finally visiting. First, Sonny JJ had to drop out, then Mr. JJ fell ill a couple of days before the journey. Given the very active itinerary we had created for Colombia, we decided to cancel. We couldn’t do justice to the itinerary and allow him to recover adequately. Fortunately, most of the flights and hotels were booked using miles and points, and we were able to have them reinstated.

As Mr. JJ gradually recovered, we considered a short getaway. Flight and hotel costs were excessive, forcing us to look for places within driving range. Eventually, we found reasonable fares to New Orleans and booked two tickets. Hotel options were either nonexistent in the French Quarter that late into spring break week. Or extremely high-priced, like a Holiday Inn with a room for just over $2000! The Hyatt Centric was over $600 per night. After thorough searches, we found a Hyatt Regency on Loyola Avenue for 54,000 points for four nights. It was away from the French Quarter but easily accessible by car within ten to fifteen minutes.

Anyone who knows New Orleans is well aware of its storied music and food culture. Bourbon Street is a must-do for many, as are plantation and swamp tours for some. The more I dug into the culture and history of the city, the more the itinerary started building up. Since there was so much to see and do in NOLA, we decided to pick some experiences as anchors and schedule the rest of the days loosely around them. With an early morning flight in and out of NOLA, we had a solid four days to spend.

A few months ago, I heard two Free Tours by Foot guides talk about NOLA on Rick Steves’ radio show. Their website offered multiple tours, and we chose their ghost tours to start off our first evening. One of the guides, Andrew Farrier, has multiple videos on YouTube, and I found some of them (French quarter highlights, tips for visiting, foods to try) very helpful. We had used the same company in Mexico City and liked their business model and the experience.

I also used Amateur Traveler’s podcast on NOLA and Nomadic Matt’s guide. From the latter, I chose the NOLA Tour Guy for our walking tour of the French Quarter on the second morning. Although I was very impressed with the other company’s videos, I wanted to try different operators and see them for myself.

Many guides recommended taking a Mississippi River brunch or dinner cruise on the paddlewheel steamboats. I couldn’t get a reservation on the Steamboat Natchez but came across a dinner cruise offering vegetarian options. So we booked a cruise for the third evening when the weather was the best. We also wanted to do a swamp tour that morning. Swamp tour options include airboat tours, individual kayak tours (led as a group by a captain), and private kayak tours for two with a captain. While we have kayaked before and Mr.JJ had tried an airboat swamp tour before, we felt a private tour made more sense on this trip. I called Wild Louisiana Tours, and it took them a couple of days to confirm the trip, but we felt it was worth the wait.

Beignets at the Cafe du Monde

As we started to plan, I was concerned about how freely vegetarian options would be available in a city known for its seafood culture. The website helped search for various vegetarian options in different parts of the city. I narrowed down restaurants with vegetarian options and perused their websites. It also allowed me to look at websites of legendary restaurants like Brennan’s, Antoine’s, and Arnaud’s and decide which to visit. Many of the uber-famous ones offered little options for vegetarians and were easy to forego. Of course, we made plans to visit the Cafe du Monde and possibly Cafe Beignet for their famous offerings.

As for music, Mr. JJ had enjoyed the Frenchmen Street experience on his last visit. So we allocated time for that. In addition, we booked a concert at the iconic Preservation Hall with a standing room only on the last night. The weather was supposed to be rainy that day, and it felt like a good time to be indoors with some outstanding music.

Exploring the French Quarter, the Garden District, the City Park, and the Treme were hopeful goals for the trip. Did we see some or all of them?

Join us over the next few days as we explore the charming city of New Orleans.

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