Last month, I had what’s known as a “stay-cation.” Thirteen people ranging from my closest friends to complete strangers arrived in New Orleans to join the mass movement of NOLA bachelorette parties.
This city has become one of the top bachelor and bachelorette destinations, and if you live here, you’ve seen the scene — tiaras, sashes, penis lollipops — people live this way because they are far from home; it’s the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” mentality, because you’re anonymous. This was true for 13 out of 14 of us.
As the honorary New Orleans resident, I was tasked with overseeing the creation of the group’s itinerary. I was determined to make this experience different, to fill our time with neighborhoods beyond the French Quarter, to avoid matching outfits, do a few activities sober, and, most importantly, not embarrass myself in my own city. The balancing act was achieving the trip I envisioned while still appeasing a group of, at the end of the day, tourists.
I’ve had some time to reflect, and decided to share the identity crisis of an itinerary that was my friend’s bachelorette party (which, yes, had its own hashtag).
Most of the group arrived midday on Thursday. They dropped off their bags at the Air bnb rental where we all stayed (yes, I stayed at an Air bnb, and yes, I live here) in the Marigny Triangle right off Frenchmen Street. I met them for dinner at Mariza in the bywater, and we spent the night bar hopping on Frenchmen (Yuki, Spotted Cat, Maison) ending with a nightcap at The R Bar.
We started the next day with brunch at Cafe Amelie in the French Quarter. We sat outside in the beautiful courtyard and enjoyed the food and one another’s company, while preparing for the day’s adventure. Instead of coordinating such a large group to do some sort of day trip (like, say, a swamp tour) I decided that Friday would be “see Laine’s neighborhood day,” beginning with a walk from the Quarter up Esplanade Avenue all the way to Bayou St. John.
We got drinks to go at The Golden Lantern on Royal Street and began our journey. We got all the way to Buffa’s Lounge before half the group needed a refill, so made a pit stop there and continued on. Those of us that weren’t drinking yet grabbed coffee at CC’s on Esplanade, and a few ran across the street for some Tutti Frutti (New Yorkers). We made another stop at the St. Louis Cemetary No. 3 before hanging a right on Moss Street and walking all the way to the end where it meets Florida Avenue.
We rented single and double kayaks and made our way up Bayou St. John along Wisner Avenue for a while, before everyone got tired/was ready for another drink. So we walked toward my house, stopping at Canseco’s along the way, and essentially had a three-hour block party with all my neighbors. By the end of the trip, this porch hangout was everyone’s favorite memory. Imagine that.
It got dark and we realized we were hungry. So we got back on our feet and walked to Parkway Bakery and Tavern where everyone enjoyed Abitas and po-boys. This was a big hit. What didn’t go over as well was the hour it took to get a cab back to the Marigny — it was Memorial Day Weekend, but come on, United! I think it was Nawlins Cab that eventually came to our double mini-van rescue.
After such an amazing day, it was much to my dismay that folks wanted to go to Bourbon Street that night. Saturday night was slated as “the big night out” and I tried my best to only see Bourbon Street that once. But my friends reminded me that some people come here for four days and don’t leave the Quarter, so going twice was not the end of the world. No comment.
We regrouped at the house, hung out on the amazing balcony that overlooks Chartres Street, and then it was out again. We started low-key upstairs at Mimis in the Marigny, but that wasn’t the vibe most people wanted (except me). So we walked toward Bourbon Street, and I could not believe the stench. Well before we reached Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, the Quarter smelled disgusting, like hand-over-your face disgusting. My friends were equally affected by the odor. To be honest, the combination of sights, sounds, and smells kept the actual Bourbon Street stroll very short.
With three gay guys and 10 women, clearly the overwhelming desire was to go dance at Oz. And that’s what we did.
Needing to recover from the night before, we woke up and walked to Cake Cafe for brunch. The rest of the day was about people breaking off for the first time and doing their own thing– some people taxied to the Garden District to stroll, some to Magazine Street to shop. I took this day to do exactly what I would do if 13 people weren’t visiting: I worked out.
We reconvened for dinner at Herbsaint in the CBD, and having been there before, I was nervous that we would be a nuisance to the rest of the guests. We were, after all, a huge and relatively rowdy party. But we were the least of the restaurant’s worries; I walked in to find three other bachelor/ette dinners going on. We were seated in the back room with another huge party, and one two-top. Halfway into the meal, I looked over to the couple in the corner and just mouthed, “I’m sorry.” They smiled. Kind of.
And then it was back out on the town — I tasted my first-ever Hand Grenade (seriously) and we went to perhaps the guiltiest pleasure in the quarter: The Gold Mine. The first half-hour was concerning — college kids, a well-lit dance floor, flaming Dr. Pepper shots … which prompted half the group to leave and go to Pat O’Brien’s. The half that stayed ended up having an epic time dancing and sweating, and walking home at 4 a.m. The Gold Mine ended up delivering once again.
Sunday was a close, close second to our Friday at Bayou St John. What was meant to be an hour-long brunch turned into eight hours at the Country Club in the Bywater. Food, drinks, pool, strangers, nudity, my friends couldn’t get ENOUGH of this place. Success.
Except for the fact that this was the day we wore the matching tank tops.
That night was the last and yet we didn’t leave the apartment. A truly full day of partying and sun led to ordering Pizza Delicious and playing Celebrity.
This was the last hurrah — everyone’s flight was Monday afternoon, and we put our hands in and decided to go for one more brunch. Even though we could hardly move our bodies, and definitely didn’t need to eat for days. So what better to do than head to Elizabeth’s? This may or may not have been the group’s most pathetic moment. I was so impressed (mostly with myself) by our stamina and dedication to “go hard” from beginning to end. Yet we sat at the table in total silence, with hardly enough energy to get our orders out to the waitress. Everything hit us all at the same time, and when the food arrived, we just stared at it. Praline Bacon, Boudin Balls, Fried Oysters, Eggs Sardou … it had sounded good on the menu, but what we had done to our stomachs and livers over the past four days did not put us in good standing to finish as strongly as we’d hoped. We left our last meal with all but a few bites taken from the plates as they were presented to us. No one even asked for a to-go box.
Everyone got on their planes, and I went home to a bed that I had forgotten even existed. Despite spending almost every hour doing something I would never by choice participate in (except for the Country Club!), I look back on this entire experience with a huge smile on my face. Old friends reunited, new friends were made, it never rained, and everyone walked away loving New Orleans, seeing it from the top of the Crescent Park Bridge to kayaking through Gentilly.
Take, share, mashup this itinerary with all of the people you know who will be coming down here sooner or later, in all their matching tanks glory.