As a Concierge for Singles Vacations, I always find it amazing how singles from all over the country and the world converge on a location, and fast become good friends in such a short time. Such was the case this year at FRENCH QUARTER FEST 2013, Past friends and travelers like Judge Bill, Brooke, Marianne (who came all the way from Holland!) Birgit, Ken, Joe, Cindy, Kellee, and others joined many new STI travelers for a weekend of fabulous food, music, and good times!
As the group arrived and settled in at the La Quinta Hotel on Thursday, we met for pre-dinner drinks at the LOA BAR across the street at the Hotel International at 6pm. This is the perfect place for people to meet and get to know each other over cocktails. At 7, we headed over for dinner at the PALACE CAFÉ. We had our own section of the restaurant and enjoyed our first taste of the fabulous food that only New Orleans can offer! After dinner, I offered to give a personal tour of Bourbon Street to anyone that was up for it. Little did I know that the majority of my 40 peeps who journeyed all day to get to NOLA would take me up on it! I love to introduce Bourbon Street to those who have never been there before. We stopped at 3 or 4 clubs where the music was amazing. I could see that my travelers, who at first, were a little apprehensive, were getting into the groove of the experience! We ended at our last club where Brooke was dancing with the saxophone player from the band on the dance floor, and Troy was playing the spoons, a tradition in the Quarter. What a great night.
The next morning after a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we headed off on a first class bus for a city tour and to visit to the Oak Alley Plantation with our Guide Marty Looney! I know, great name, right? Marty is a native of NOLA, and really knows her stuff! We passed Louis Armstrong Park, and paid a visit to a traditional NOLA Cemetery, where we visited the graves of Marie Laveau and other notables in the sorted history of the French Quarter. Then it was off to the OAK ALLEY PLANTATION. There we enjoyed an original Cajun Creole lunch complete with authentic Jambalaya, Crawfish, and Sausage. Mmmmmmm Good! After lunch, we toured the Mansion, and then it was back to the hotel. I gave everyone a half hour break to freshen up and then it was off to the FRENCH QUARTER MUSIC FEST! 8 to 9 sound stages in Woldenberg Park featured bands that were belting out some great music. The park is stretched out along the pier of the Missisippi River with great views. We visited them all, and then headed to Jackson Square on Decatur to catch more music. At night, 20 of us headed over the GUMBO POT for dinner. We scored a big table outside for all of us, and had a blast! We ended the night with a new and pleasant find that we discovered….FRENCHMEN STREET. Frenchmen Street is located on the western end of the Quarter, away from the hustle and bustle of Bourbon Street. The area reminded me of Old Greenwich Village in NY. It’s different from Bourbon Street but just as popular. The streets are filled with jazz and rock clubs, devoid of the typical souvenir shops, but filled with locals that give it a totally different but pleasant feeling! We danced the night away before heading back to the hotel, exhausted!
On our final day, some of us enjoyed another day at the Music Fest, while others did excursions such as the SAWMP TOUR, CAJUN COOKING SCHOOL CLASS, and a CREOLE RIVER CRUISE which I took as well. We got the boat at the RIVERWALK, which is another pier that has a mall and outside restaurants. The cruise took us up the Mississippi River with a stop at the original battlefield of the War of 1812. There was a museum there as well that was very interesting. The vast area of this battle ground is now covered with manicured grass fields with scattered mementos such a cannons used in the war. Onboard the River Boat they served another fabulous Cajun Lunch. Whew! At night, we all met up for a final group dinner at the HARD ROCK CAFÉ on Bourbon Street. Yes the Hard Rock, New Orleans style that is! We started out with 15 peeps in a long tab le, but they quickly had to add more and more tables as the group grew to about 30! The menu offered a variety of meals, for those that were possibly ready for a burger, as well as the usual NOLA Style fare. After dinner, we ventured back to Frenchmen Street for one more night of dancing.
The next morning, it was time to say our goodbyes at breakfast. It’s always a little sad to end such a great weekend. One by one, my group departed back to reality. But at least they left with the greatest of memories, and looking forward to getting together once again on another adventure with great new friends!
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