The road to hell is paved with fried oysters.
So New Orleans is the kind of place you should go every three or four years. You should plan to spend a long weekend or four or five days. You should plan to eat and drink and eat a lot and leave feeling like your liver is turning into foie gras but manage to depart just before that feeling overtakes you and leaves you feeling repulsive. You should go to Elizabeth's for breakfast and Jacques-Imo's for dinner. Although it is blasphemous to say so, you should skip Commander's Palace. You should walk by the river and listen to music and go to Bourbon Street once for the spectacle and then give it a miss and frequent bars uptown or in the Faubourg Marigny instead.
New Orleans is a peculiar place. It's the South and it's not the South. It's the South, but it's Catholic. It's Catholic, and eating seafood every day including Friday is practically the law. Or it should be. My co-worker today described New Orleans as the opposite of California. That's the right way to think of it. It's a different kind of mellow. New Orleans represents a long, slow descent into hedonism that you have no choice but to jump into head-first if you're there for only a few days. Which probably isn't the right way to do it. But do it any other way, and you're back to that foie gras feeling.
You'll have the best breakfast you've ever eaten at Elizabeth's. Rum-soaked French toast with loads of strawberries and clotted cream. Pecan-crusted praline bacon. Eggs florentine with ham and the richest hollandaise I've ever tasted. Cheese grits and at least four varieties of pork-derived breakfast meat. Fried oysters. Fried oysters go with everything at every meal. Steak and fried oysters. Eggs and fried oysters. Dinner salad and fried oysters. And thank heavens for the po' boy sandwich with fried oysters. If a better, more perfect food exists, you're not sure what it might be.
You might go on a swamp tour (disappointing when the weather's been cold and the alligators lethargic, and when the guys giving the tour aren't actually speaking Cajun French with each other, but fun nonetheless). And because you have the car for the afternoon you might drive on to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to look at still water protected by islands and ridiculous mansions that overlook it. You'll reflect that some of them are beautiful houses. In general around the South you'll see two kinds of homes: the big, imposing, beautiful and sometimes ostentatious, and the five hundred square footer that the real estate agent might charitably describe as a fixer-upper. It needs a new roof, a paint job, a new foundation. New Orleans and the area around New Orleans is the land that the middle class forgot.