Plan Your Escape to the Big Easy

Worries about office politics and your messy playroom will disappear on this classic weekend in New Orleans

Cafe du Monde by Gourmet Reise

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Europe too far and out of your price range? No problem. In just a few hours, you and your beloved can be in America’s European city, New Orleans, enjoying unapologetically lavish and historical shopping, dining, and accommodations with only a minimal layout on babysitting and vacation time.    

Start by taking Amtrak’s City of New Orleans from Memphis’ Central Station (545 S. Main Street). At nine hours, the ride takes a couple of hours more than driving, but you’ll be able to begin your relaxation early and sleep off the weekend after-effects on the return for little more than a tank of gas. Private sleeper rooms are available, as is a second-floor lounge with full restaurant and bar ($108 round-trip per person).

Upon arrival in the Big Easy, check into the St. James (330 Magazine Street) a charming boutique hotel with rooms decorated in a West Indies-themed décor, complete with hardwood floors and 10-foot ceilings. You’ll forget what country you’re in immediately if you get a room with a wrought-iron balcony or eight-foot French doors leading to a secret brick courtyard with a fountain. Only two blocks from the Quarter, the location is quiet and offers fantastic value (rates from $62.)

Head for a relaxed dinner at Sylvain, one of the Crescent City’s newer and more unique restaurants. Named for a comic opera performed in that location in 1796 (625 Chartres St.), this quirky eatery serves up a Champagne and Fries appetizer ($50 or $90, depending on how much Yellow Label Veuve Clicquot you want). Entrees like pan-fried pork shoulder with Coosa valley grits, mushrooms, mustard jus, and a creative throwback cocktail menu featuring such concoctions as the Aviation (Brokers gin, maraschino liqueur, and crème de violette) will make your taste buds forget all about the leftover mac and cheese you ate last week.

After spending a few hours soaking up New Orleans’ wild side on Bourbon Street, Café Du Monde beckons from the corner of the French Market across from Jackson Cathedral. It’s only a good place to visit at two times: Day and night.       

 Fortunately, it’s open 24/7. People here have mastered the mantra “do one thing and do it well,” producing tender-crunchy fried squares of dough, called beignets, buried under mounds of powdered sugar. They sell for the ridiculously low price of three for $2.35.  Don’t worry: the drinks make up the difference.

Jackson Square by Jane Schneider

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