You know those phone calls that offer you a 3-night getaway for $99? Well, they’re not fake. For $99, and two hours at a timeshare presentation, we opted to return to our beloved New Orleans for four days. “But what about the airfare costs?” I hear you cry. We have plenty of points with Southwest Airlines, and Stephanie has seen to it that we have had the Southwest companion pass for several years. This pass means that when you book a ticket, you can bring your companion at no additional charge – even when you book on points! Translation: 2-for-1 flights, baby!
So off we went to the land of jazz and gumbo. The actual hotel we would be touring was full, so they put us in a Sheraton spitting distance from the French Quarter. (It’s okay, spitting probably isn’t an arrestable offense here either.)
So what do you do first when you have a day or two to kill in New Orleans? Well first, you head over to Café Du Monde for beignets and chicory coffee (or hot chocolate in Stephanie’s case). If you’ve never had a beignet, it’s basically an amazing doughnut without the hole – made fresh and served warm under a mountain of powdered sugar. It’s a New Orleans tradition, and there’s almost always a line for seating at this outdoor café. Pro tip: Don’t wear anything black.
A stone’s throw from Café Du Monde is New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. This is a park dedicated to the evolution of Jazz music in New Orleans. A federal site dedicated to music? Awesome!! First we listened to Richard “Piano” Scott as he demonstrated the evolution of New Orleans Jazz. We also walked to the museum area of the park a few blocks away to listen to the Down on Their Luck Orchestra. This is a band made up entirely of National Park rangers, and man, were they good! We learned that almost every ranger at this site is a musician.
One of the best things to do in New Orleans (or NOLA, as its known) is just wandering the French Quarter soaking up the atmosphere and the architecture, which is what we spent most of our time doing. Here check it out…
We did eventually go to our timeshare presentation. Sometimes, they can be pretty high pressure, but the guy working with us got us right away. He understood our couch-surfing, points-traveling, sleeping-in-airports lifestyle, and he didn’t push us very hard. This particular timeshare actually was a pretty good deal, just not the right deal for us. In the end, they thanked us for our time with another voucher good for a two-night getaway in exchange for sitting through their presentation again. They even said we could come right back to the same property, we just had to wait six months. In the end we declined. We’ll hold out for another three-nighter. On our way back to our hotel though, we stopped at VooDoo BBQ for some killer barbecue.
With another day at our disposal, we went to see the National World War II Museum. Ironically, we had seen the National WWI Museum only about six months prior in Kansas City. The museums are similar in that they are both so amazingly well done and comprehensive, a day is not enough time to take in all the information they contain.
That evening we walked the entire length of Bourbon Street until we came to the very end. We did finally get past the touristy area and see the block or two of flamboyant and more “local” stuff. Coming back, we walked along Royal Street, which is one block closer to Jackson Square.
On our last day we attended one more presentation from the National Park – we watched as “Gumbo Marie” showed us how to make a jazz gumbo. While she worked her cooking magic (and I took some great notes), she would talk about the different cultures that influenced gumbo over time, and a park ranger would discuss the influence those same cultures had on Jazz music.
New Orleans is one of our favorite cities in the U.S., and we will absolutely return. Until then, Laissez les bon temps rouler!
New Orleans, N’awlins, NOLA, Southwest Airlines, Southwest Companion Pass, French Quarter, Café Du Monde, beignet, New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, Down on Their Luck Orchestra, NOLA, timeshare, Gumbo Marie, Laissez les bon temps rouler, Richard “Piano” Scott