Step 1: Try to make sure your birthday is St. Patrick's Day. It works out really well this way.
Step 2: Also, try to make sure Spring Break and the NCAA Final Four hit that same week/weekend. It'll be crazier than ever, if you arrange for all these things to happen at the same time. Trust me.
Step 3: Find out that your husband is going to a work conference in New Orleans, the week AFTER your birthday, so decide what better thing to do than tag along the weekend before, (partially) on the company's dime.
Step 4: Convince your parents what better thing to do, on your birthday weekend, than to take off to New Orleans with your husband, and leave your kids behind with them.
Step 5: Book your tickets. Realize gas prices have gone up so much that tickets are ridiculous expensive these days. And realize that getting a non-stop flight to New Orleans is actually kinda hard to do. Weak.
Step 6: Anxiously and excitedly await your big trip. But, because you're so flippin' busy at work, don't do anything logical - like read up about New Orleans before hand, or plan out where to eat and shop. That's madness talking.
Step 7: Besides, you visited the French Quarter what, 25 years ago? How can it possibly be any different?
Step 8: Have your husband drop off the kids at school in the morning while you furiously pack - at the last minute - for the two of you that weekend.
Step 9: Call the cab and let them know to wait another 10 minutes since your husband is caught in traffic.
Step 10: Watch the minutes tick by and calculate how late you can actually leave the house and still make it to the gate. They close the gate just 10 minutes before departure time, right? Pleeeeeeenty of time.
Step 11: Fly to New Orleans! Flights are slightly delayed but WHO CARES! You're on vacation! And holy crap there's no internet connectivity on the flight so what the heck are we going to do -- TALK?!?! :)
Step 12: Arrive in muggy New Orleans and wait in a long ass line to catch a cab into the French Quarter. But WHO CARES! You're on vacation!
Step 13: Check into your luxurious hotel - ask the desk clerk what places she'd recommend for dinner, then promptly forget everything she just said during your ride up the elevator, because WHO CARES! You're on vacation!
Step 14: Look up yummy dinner options while waiting for your phones/iPads to re-charge a bit. You wouldn't want to be caught outside without a charged phone, would you?
Step 15: Head to dinner, at a delicious and cute creperia called La Crepe Nanou, which looks like some place right out of the side streets of France. Stuff yourselves silly and act like a tourist taking pictures of your super tired date.
Step 16: Decide to walk back to the Quarter while waiting for the next streetcar (not named Desire - ha!) to stroll by. Take more random tourist pictures of street signs, southern home porches and necklaces strung up in the trees overhead. Locals give you a few side glances but WHO CARES! You're on vacation!
Step 17: Stop and chat with a friendly elder couple visiting from Arkansas while waiting for the next streetcar.
Step 18: Climb aboard an impossibly packed car but WHO CARES! You're on vacation. Besides, you've got first class entertainment right in front of you, via the outgoing driver who loves to hit on every black woman with a large behind, within a 5 mile radius. ;-)
Step 19: Since your husband has never been to NOLA, and has never seen Bourbon Street, you decide well we MUST go. Like, right now.
Step 20: Wade through hundreds of drunk college kids on Bourbon Street. Find the bar that serves the green hand grenades everyone is carrying around. Buy one, take two sips, spit it out (it tastes like cough syrup) and march on.
Step 21: Find a quieter street one block over for the walk home. MUCH better. Admire all of the gorgeous antiques in the shop windows. Don't hate for one minute that you are really just too old for the crowd one block over. It's okay.
Step 22: Pat yourself on the back for staying up until 2:00am with all the booze hounds outside.
Step 23: Disregard the fact that you're still on Pacific time. WHO CARES! You're on vacation!
Step 24: Wake up at a leisurely hour. Meet up with friends and walk to Cafe du Monde for birthday beignets and a delicious cafe au lait. The line to get a seat stretches down the block but WHO CARES! You're on vacation!
Step 25: Hunt for a green shirt that you might like to wear longer than a day in New Orleans. Finally find a shop willing to print a shirt for you and pay more than it's worth but WHO CARES! You're on vacation!
Step 26: Because you're gluttons for punishment, walk back to Bourbon Street to see if the craziness is just as crazy during the day light hours as it is at night (it's not - however people are ramping up for the evening parade!).
Step 27: Find another hand grenade (or two) for your friends. Egg your husband to join in a washboard "duel" with the bar's band and laugh till your sides hurt.
Step 28: Since beignets can only tide you over so long, head back to the best place for lunch, Central Grocery.
Step 29: While waiting in another line (which also stretches down the block), your friends go hunting for more drinks and come back with (gross, more cough syrup tasting) jello shots. But WHO CARES! You're on vacation!
Step 30: After eating just half of your heart-stopping artery-clogging sandwich, head back to the hotel to rest and relax those old bones of yours. It's okay.
Step 31: Dress up in some swank birthday dinner attire and head over to Arnaud's with your hubby, for your birthday dinner, complete with jazz trio, overlooking (the crazies on) Bourbon Street. Love every minute of it.
Step 32: Full from dinner, walk out to find the end of the St. Patrick's Day parade still in full swing. It started at 6pm and it's now 10pm. That's sooooome parade!
Step 33: Make sure to stand as close to the parade as possible, so you can be front and center, collecting a ton of sparkling beaded necklaces from creepy old men.
Step 34: Insider's tip: there are plenty of beaded necklaces to go around. So, don't feel obligated to stoop over like the drunk woman next to you, grabbing beads off the dirty disgusting puke infested ground. Nor should you feel obligated to kiss the creepy old men in the parade to get one - someone will throw you a necklace without even a peck! ;-)
Step 35: Join part of the parade with your husband, because it's way faster walking IN the parade, than alongside it. Wave to those poor people stuck in the crowds on the sidewalk. And WHO CARES! if you're not a part of the parade! You're on vacation!
Step 36: Meet up with your friends again. Share a few more drinks. Snap as many pictures with your camera phone as you can, but no matter how many you snap, you won't be able to capture the amazing sheer numbers of the crowds out that night. All there to help you celebrate your birthday. Awwwww.
Step 37: Decide to find an Irish bar to continue celebrating somewhere inside (there's got to be a nearby Irish bar around, right?)
Step 38: After walking in a few circles, stumble into the Kerry Irish Pub, a fantastic little joint with a live band covering many of your husband and your favorites.
Step 39: Find a seat up front and drink in all the joy and merriment (and drunkenness) in the room and realize you're having one of the best birthdays ever. Squeeze your husband's hand real tight to thank him.
Step 40: Also realize your friends are about a decade younger than you and don't recognize any of the awesome covers the band is playing. But WHO CARES! You're on vacation! And, it's okay.
Step 41: Head back to your hotel again once the band takes a break and your body starts to ache. It's okay. Hey look! It's 2am you party animal!
Step 42: Sleep in because WHO CARES! You're on vacation!
Step 43: Bug your husband to hurry it the hell up, because you need to hit a few nearby shops for some must-have presents to bring back to the boys (cheap feather masks).
Step 44: Make sure to grab a coffee/beignet mix set for your parents too, since they so graciously babysat the rascals while you skipped town for the weekend.
Step 45: Meet with your friends again, this time to gorge yourself silly at Breakfast at Brennan's. Super famous, super delicious, super heavy, and the only meal you'll need to eat the entire day. But WHO CARES? You're on vacation!
Step 46: Bid your friends good-bye, somewhere on the streets of the Quarter, and walk back to the hotel to pack.
Step 47: Kiss your husband and hug him tightly before having to head back to the airport and fly home.
Step 48: Miss your husband dearly, the minute you wave goodbye from inside the cab. But also get nervous and excited, looking forward to seeing your boys you've been away from for two whole days.
And that, my friends, is your step-by-step guide on how to see the Quarter in 48 hours (or less). And have one of the best birthday weekends ever!
(To view all photos from our trip, visit our album online.)