Around 60 Friends of La Leche League, plus a few family members, descended upon the French Quarter in New Orleans from November 7-11, and a good time (bon temp) was enjoyed by all. While we had lots and lots of planned activities, we also scheduled in free time, so that the more energetic among us could choose our own adventures, while others were free to rest, relax, and catch up with friends.
It was my first Friends trip, so I’ll share some of my impressions. First, the hotel we stayed at, the Astor Crowne Plaza, was really interesting and beautiful. It was really two hotels combined, which made it a lot of fun to navigate!
On Thursday, I helped set up, then had a lot of fun meeting people as we checked in. Then we all headed to Deanie’s, a beautiful old place where they set up a room just for us. We all wore crowns and beads as we ate a family-style meal. It was a short walk from the hotel, which made getting back part of the fun.
Friday is when the fun really got going! Whoever had the idea to take a bus tour around New Orleans as our first activity was a genius. (Evy? Carroll?) We all really enjoyed our driver’s commentary, and the chance to see the whole city gave us a chance to see things we might want to return to later on the trip.
We got to get off the bus a few times, and who’s to say what was more fun, a chance to explore an old New Orleans cemetery or eating beignets at the Cafe du Monde in the beautiful city park? I liked BOTH. We saw all sorts of things out the windows (in fact, I saw a wookie, but didn’t get a good photo).
After the bus tour, we took a very short walk to the historic Court of the Two Sisters restaurant. It was a great introduction to New Orleans architecture and music, both, since there was a jazz combo playing during our buffet meal. All the food was lovely, but I must note that the bread pudding was most popular. In fact, I’d say that was true of many of the places we ate. It was like a tour of bread pudding recipes, each with its own charm.
The excitement in the room rose when Marian Tompson and her daughter arrived. In fact, one of the musicians asked me who that woman was, thinking Marian was a celebrity. I said, she’s famous to us!
Right across from the Court of the Two Sisters is a hidden gem of the city, the Williams Residence, which is part of the New Orleans Historic Collection. We were privileged to have a docent-led tour of this home, which preserves the lifestyle in the French Quarter once people started renovating the buildings after years of disuse. The courtyards, elegant “morning room” and entertaining areas have been meticulously maintained, and we learned a lot about the Williams family and their contribution to preserving the historic architecture of this unique city.
After all this excitement, we got some downtime, and then got to explore the French Quarter for dinner. My group went to the Redfish Grill, right across the street from our hotel. I was happy to see that my beautiful redfish was served on a bed of roasted vegetables. They were so good that I had to come back later on the visit, after the Board meeting!
— Sue Ann Kendall
The fun continued on Saturday. Several of us met early each morning for a walk along Canal Street, then along the Mississippi River bank, and back to the hotel winding through the nearly deserted French Quarter streets. But those streets were busy again by the time we took our morning guided walking tour of the French Quarter. We broke into groups based on how long and how fast people wanted to walk. The guides were both knowledgeable and humorous, and very willing to answer questions.
After the tour, we had time on our own for lunch and individual adventures. Many people decided to stay in the French Quarter with so many fabulous restaurants. I went with a few others to a restaurant area across Canal Street in the business district. That put us close to our chosen adventure for the afternoon, the National World War II Museum. My only complaint about my choice was that I would have liked to have spent a whole day at the museum – the place was huge and the exhibits were first-rate. That evening I enjoyed hearing about the adventures others’ chose – including cemetery tours, the Mardi Gras Museum, the Jazz Museum, or just window shopping at all the unique boutiques.
Saturday night we met at the New Orleans School of Cooking where we learned about traditional regional cooking techniques as we ate a creole feast. The demonstration kitchen was exactly large enough for our group, and the chef was so gracious and funny. Full up on good food we stumbled back to the hotel where we all had a chance to share stories from our adventures of the day. Our evening ended with Joan Crothers, Susan Thomas, and Marian Tompson leading the touching We Remember Ceremony honoring LLL Leaders who had died since the previous ceremony at our San Diego trip.
Sunday morning offered an informal coffee where we heard an update of activities in LLL and chatted with LLLI Board member Laura Goodwin-Wright. Next we headed out in the breezy, sunny day, towards the riverfront. Listening to the lilting sounds of the old calliope, we took our place in line to board the Steamboat Natchez. We enjoyed a lovely buffet brunch on a jazz cruise up and down the Mississippi River. With more great bread pudding!
We spent our last afternoon revisiting some fun sites, while others tried to squeeze in one more big adventure. That night in the hotel club lounge we share light snacks and stories. Then a group of Tucson, AZ leaders regaled us with skits and songs. And the trip came to an official end as we all sang “Happy Birthday” and enjoyed birthday cake with Marian Tompson.
The Friends of LLL Board all stayed over through Monday for our annual Board meeting. We were thrilled that so many trip participants joined us in the morning for a brainstorming session and initial discussions about where to go for our next trip. We’re really looking forward to our next chance to connect in person with so many!
– Anne Hutton
Video of LLLI Co-Founder Marian Tompson and her daughter Sheila Doucet, at the celebration of Marian’s 90th birthday!