Day 1 / Wednesday, April 25

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Our seventh Jazz Fest trip began a day early. The reason was purely financial, although who could argue with extra time at each end of the trip? United Airlines has apparently has figured out that a lot of people want to fly to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, so the airfare was hundreds of dollars more if we would fly tomorrow, plus we couldn't use miles. Bottom line is that flying on Thursday was way more expensive than an extra night at the hotel and a meal, so it really was a no-brainer. 

This year our trip took place while we were doing a big kitchen remodel in our house, so while we were getting ready for the trip we were also packing and storing everything from the kitchen. Then, on the day we were leaving, the Details crew was ripping our our cabinets and getting a few other things ready for the work they were going to do while we were gone. Hopefully when we got back it would all be finished.

Oh, don't forget that you can check out a complete record of our trip on the New Orleans 2018 page of this website, including separate pages with the embedded videos that I took (with the usual caveat that they are not professional grade and as much for listenting as watching). As I have said in the past, enjoy it all, or as much as you can stand. So, with the preliminaries out of the way, off we go ... 

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This year our ride to Dulles Airport was courtesy of our friend Jackie. We used our TSA Pre-Clearance status to bypass the shoes-and-stuff type airport security, which relieves much of the stress of traveling by air. 

However, they seem to force you to use those dumb "mobile lounge" things when going to the United gates, despite their multimillion dollar underground train system that goes to the same place. Those things are stressful. Anyway, we made it, and Laurie didn't slug me for complaining too much. We grabbed some snacks beverages to have on the plane at a Starbucks (Laurie) and a Capitol City News stand near the gate. 

As you can see above, the weather was rainy, and United is now boarding aircraft like the Canadair 700 Regional Jet on the tarmac instead of a gate. Thus you have to walk down a long ramp and out onto the tarmac, with your bag (which you drop off planeside), and your beverage, in the rain, and make sure you are at the right one of three smaller planes boarding simultaneously. And don't slip on the narrow steps going into the plane. But, hey, we made it, and we were on the way to Jazz Fest! 

Our 5:11 flight took off on time and arrived at the Louis Armstrong International Airport almost 20 minutes ahead of schedule, as seems to be the case most of the time.

Our approach to the airport along Lake Ponchartrain gave us a great view of the city, beautifully sunset-lit (that's it above), before crossing the Mississippi River a couple of times. On our final descent into the airport, we saw a spectacular sunset reflected in the river. That picture is at the bottom of this page.

We stepped outside the airport around 7:30 p.m. local time. If you didn't know, New Orleans is in the Central Time Zone. The temperature was still 79 degrees, with a bit of humidity but nothing oppressive. Because our first priority was going to be dinner, for the first time there was no post-flight snack at the Smoothie King in the United concourse.

We zipped onto the Airport Shuttle and headed downtown to the hotel. The Staybridge Suites at the by-now famous corner of Poydras and Tchoupitoulas was the first shuttle stop, so the trip to our home away from home simply could not have been easier. Our experience makes it stress-free because we know how to do it. By now we'd better know how!  

Our room this year was on the third floor, with no view. That had some advantages (less time spent in the elevator) and some disadvantages (well, actually just the lack of a view ... we were across from the parking garage of the office building next door), but we're not really there for the accomodations, we're there for New Orleans. We couldn't wait to get out into the city!

We quickly settled in and immediately headed to the French Quarter for dinner. What a treat to be here again, walking by the familiar shops and the street musicians, breathing the warm Gulf Coast air. 

Our goal was the traditional first meal at the Royal House Oyster Bar at the corner of Royal and St. Louis Streets. Every other year we have been here for a lunch, but since this was the first first-day evening since the first year, we had to make some adjustments.  

Two Abita Amber lagers christened the trip. Then we shared a dozen plump Louisiana Gulf oysters on the half shell, fresh and very tasty. 

We must have been very hungry because we both selected Creole-Italian dishes with very rich sauces. Laurie had linguini with eggplant and fried oysters with a marinara Alfredo sauce with spinach and mushrooms on the side. She requested more marinara than alfredo, and that's exactly what she got. I had ravioli filled with ricotta and crabmeat topped with a creamy crawfish sauce. That's what I call getting started!

       

After dinner, we continued down a quiet Royal Street to the back of St. Louis Cathedral and then down Pirate Alley to an even quieter Jackson Square. From there we walked back to the Staybridge. With this morning's last-minute house remodeling preparations combined with the travel, we were ready to call it a day. And tomorrow we get the whole day to hang out and get ready for Jazz Fest. Bonus day? You bet!


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© Jeff Mangold 2012