Turbodog or milk?

Travel With Children Apr 28, 2005 No Comments

Cajun ease meaning: “Put the kids to sleep”
When Cajun people of yesteryear celebrated, their children came along with blankets in tow and would snooze while the adults ate, drank and danced the night away.
— New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

When our childless friends informed us that New Orleans would be the site of our annual reunion, and that they had found the perfect bed-and-breakfast, we never suspected that bringing along our 2-year-old would cause a problem.

Then our friends called one night and uncomfortably said that the cute, quaint, historic bed-and-breakfast they had chosen did not welcome children.

With a little annoyance and a lot of incredulity, we began to cruise the Internet and make long-distance calls in search of a place that would accept our darling.

This search substantiated our fear that not everyone, establishment or otherwise, is in awe of the prospect of spending a weekend with our child! Not only were B&Bs not interested in our independent two-year-old shattering antiques and keeping late-night partiers awake the next morning, neither were our voluntarily childless friends. They bade us good luck and kept their reservations at the cute, quaint, historic B&B they had chosen.

Meanwhile our waiting-for-the-right-time childless friends joined us in the search, and we found The Bourbon Orléans on Orléans Street willing to accommodate our youngest traveler. This place gave us slight hope that there may be a place for Sweet Pea (SP) in the French Quarter without us sacrificing our sense of style and architectural appreciation. Although the hotel was not a B&B, it boosted of its recent renovations that included marble floors in each bathroom.

The search took us several days to compare costs, style and kid acceptability and would have driven normal parents to find babysitting for the weekend. However, the blatant rejection of our littlest travel companion only fueled a challenge, and I set out to discover just how New Orleans felt about child tourists. We refused to believe that New Orleans preferred, and solely catered to tipsy, Mardi Gras revelers. Sure, Turbodog beer generates more profits than a carton of milk, but the patrons of milk are a lot more adorable after three drinks.

With lodging somewhat under control (I asked Ben several times if the hotel understood that Sweet Pea was two years old) we set out on an eight-hour road trip toward Louisiana. Our first stop into town was The Commander’s Palace, best known to visitors as Emeril Lagasse’s alma mater. Not our idea, but our friends who insisted on a $60 lunch partly to say that they had been there. Ben and I decided not to just throw SP into a stodgy, adult atmosphere without some conditioning.

We searched our bag of tricks for our best parenting travel tip and decided that the old let-her-run-wild-before-restraining-her-to-a restaurant-chair-for-two-hours was our best weapon. If this didn’t work we would flee the restaurant and reunite with our friends after naptime.

After SP’s run along the long, wide sidewalks of the Garden District and her climb up the gates of a New Orleans’s above-ground graveyard, we felt that she was sufficiently tired and hungry, and headed for the restaurant.

We were greeted by two valets, three hosts dressed in black suits, another host stationed in the middle section of the heavily decorated restaurant there simply to guide us to the bathroom, and up the stairs through a pastel painted room set up for a private party and to our table surrounded by ceiling-to-floor windows overlooking the city.

The bright dining area with white table linen and guests all above the age of twenty intimidated us, and we shifted our travel-with-a-child gauge to high alert. We removed all silverware from her reach, pushed the table candle to the other side of the table and watched her like a hawk watching prey.

This is when New Orleans first proved its willingness, if not desire, to serve those not ordering expensive cocktails and raw oysters.

The waitress endearingly acknowledged our daughter and told of her memories of her now college-aged son. She brought Sweet Pea special sized drinks, an extra plate (SP poaches most of her restaurant meals from mommy and papa.) and opportunities to select bread from the basket like the adults, which made SP feel grown up.

Next the water boy told of his time spent with adoring nephews in his off time and with his next refill of water, brought SP a bunch of pastel colored balloons.

So far, so good. Our voluntarily childless friends even warmed up to the idea of spending time with SP and read a few books to her while we talked and caught up with our lives.

Our hotel was no less welcoming, however, as we waited in line to check in,
we noticed the typical front-desk clerk posture awaiting us – heads down, eyes diverted from the possible hostile guest, fingers constantly keying and the use of laconic voices and bland expressions.

Once up to the desk, we conducted our business in the most unobtrusive
manner, and everything continued this way until our SP, a few feet below the
counter wanting in on the adventure of check-in, requested a lift up.

The clerk’s eye jolted up as her head peered over the desk to see our round-faced darling staring up at her. While doling out compliments to SP in her best juvenile tone, the clerk broke the trance of her surrounding colleagues demanding that they take a look at the baby.

And so went our trip throughout the weekend. Street performers hammed it up a bit when they noticed SP, neighboring tables at Café du Monde giggled as SP tasted her first beignet and restaurant staff brought highchairs the moment they saw SP cross the threshold.

Not only did we discover an extremely kid-friendly city, we discovered a tourist destination in need of a respite of the usual, and found it serving our SP.

* check out the link for things to do with children in New Orleans *


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