Romancing the Quarter

February 12, 2014
While some romantics might think that looking for romance in the French Quarter is like Indiana Jones searching for the Temple of Doom, the truth is that romance is littered in every corner of this unique, American neighborhood we call home.

Investigate the nooks and crannies and take refuge from the wild side with one of the many walking tours offered through local based tour guide companies. Stop by the information center at the French Market to choose a tour and a company that best fits what you want to see and experience. These tours offer us a chance to see a different wild side to the French Quarter by highlighting some of the most exquisite gardens in the neighborhood. Discover a romantic oasis on one of their self-guided tours, or let a tour guide bring you to the perfect place hidden deep within the courtyards and bustle of the Quarter. Jasmine-lined brick walls that are interrupted by bamboo and banana trees separate century old structures that now serve as hotels, restaurants, and, in many cases, still serve as family homes. Decadent water fountains lead you to small treasures along the man-made waterfalls and ponds in these mostly man-made gardens. Lose yourself, and your GPS.

Emerge from the jungles and enjoy some refreshments at my favorite wine spot in the city, Patrick's Bar Vin (730 Bienville St.). It's not just my favorite wine spot, it happens to be one of the top ten wine bars in the country. A romantic courtyard connected to the Hotel Mazarin, and a lively entrance courtyard, make Bar Vin a perfect date spot. The inside is as cozy and comfortable as you can get without being on your own sofa. The wine list is so impressive that I know you'll have to take at least a hot minute to decide. But rest assured, if you can't commit (don't say that too loud you are on a date!) one of the bartenders can make your taste buds happy. Let's not forget the bubbly; all champagne bottles are 20% off on Valentine's Day.

Take a walk down one of the most romantic streets in America. Romance comes in many forms and Royal Street serves them up, one after another. Shopping is at its best on Royal Street. From shoes to chandeliers, you'll find everything to make your heart content. Is there anything more romantic than art? If you said "no" , you'll be in heaven as you cascade the crowds and street performers to enter some of the most important and respected galleries in the country. Artists from every corner of the world have found homes on the walls of Royal Street galleries making the entire street an impressive collection. If it's jewelry you are looking for, adorn her hand with something sparkling from the high-end selection of fabulous jewelry at Maison Royale (501 Royal St). There is no shortage of bling here to commemorate romance. Then, stop for a minute, look up, down, and all around, and realize that you are standing smack in the middle of American history as Royal Street disappears in both directions; one to the skyscrapers and modern world of downtown and one to the historic neighborhoods that connect at Esplanade Avenue.

Snuggle up in the dark, warm tones of the Bombay Club at the Prince Conti Hotel (830 Conti St.) and sample their more-than-impressive Martini collection. While many places can boast martini bars, none can lay claim to the fiery flavors of the Bombay Club's martinis. You simply must try the violet fields; it is a smooth as glass and makes a perfect breath freshener, if you know what I mean. Reserve a cozy booth for two and dig into the French-style menu. The BBQ shrimp will make your eyes roll back into your head, and the Duck Duet is specially made for two. Have some fun with the Louisiana Crab and Creole tomato fondue; I know I did.

The word on the street, or my street, that is, would be that Maximo's (1117 DecaturSt.) is the place to eat. This Italian grill features amazing dishes and specially crafted meals by Chef Justin Daw; each course is paired with a regional Italian wine. Every course you get wine. Hello! The best part is that the restaurant itself seems made to order for a date night. First date adventurers should stick to the "grill bar" and be entertained as you watch your meal being created, while those of you who are a little more convinced that this is "the one" should make sure to reserve a cozy booth made for two in the front dining room. You can't beat the atmosphere, and the fact that you won't have to deal with all the formalities of fine dining. You'll feel like you are the only people in the restaurant.

Allow the history, the food, the spirits, and the love to carry you away in a place that is hailed for its party life and rambunctious reputation. While the Temple of Doom remains a mystery, from foliage to fine dining, you have found romance in the French Quarter.