Saturday, November 15, 2014

So two scruffy van dwellers walk into the luxurious Hotel Monteleone...

No really, we actually went and stayed at a four-star luxury hotel in the heart of New Orlean's French Quarter on Friday. How, you ask? Well, it was all thanks to Camlow Cellars, one of our biggest, most generous sponsors.

People actually quite often ask us how we are able to take such a big chunk of time to travel — it can sometimes seem absurd that two twenty-three year olds are able to traipse at their leisure across the country. The secret is a combination of things: hard work, foresight, creativity, and scrounginess. Before leaving, we worked our buns off. We did some rough routing and mileage calculation and tried to figure out how much money we needed, and then to save that much money. Tressa does social media work, so she continues to work from the road to keep afloat. We spend a lot of money on gas and very little money on anything else, we eat simply, we avoid pricey tourist traps, we urban camp and couch surf.

We did a crowd sourced fundraiser that many amazing people and companies donated to — and this is where Camlow comes in. Camlow approached us about the possibility of choosing their own reward for our fundraiser, an option we hoped people would have fun with, and they did just that. They gave us a few bottles of wine and asked that in exchange for their donation, we take photographs of the bottle exploring America as a part of a Social Media campaign that we've had a ton of fun with. Now, as we come to the last leg of our journey, Camlow surprised us with a reward of our own; one night of pure luxury!

We checked into the Hotel Monteleone on Friday evening, a bustling and resplendent establishment far fancier than anywhere we've been thus far. Our room included not one but TWO luxurious beds, and we played music and danced around as we tried to figure out what in gods name we could get away with wearing for the next event of the evening — a sumptuous Creole dinner at Muriel's Jackson Square!

We walked the crisp, lively streets to the restaurant where we poured over the menu and tried to look casual and did our best not to devour the tasty warm bread and butter on the table too ravenously. Kelsey savored a cocktail called Honey Child, a sweet honied berry concoction, and Tressa lost it over a minty, cucumber cocktail called Autumn Rain. I hope you're ready for a blow by blow of our dining experience, because we want to brag a little:

(Left) Spinach and Granny Smith apple salad with sweet onion, walnuts, smoked blue cheese and sugar cane vinaigrette. (Right) Wood grilled eggplant roulade with three cheeses - goat, ricotta, and mascarpone - on baby arugula with smoked tomato-butter.

Muriel's Vegetable Soiree: Lentil quinoa cake with cilantro sour cream, roasted beets with horseradish vinaigrette, haricot verts with red pepper aioli and sweet onions, flash fried zucchini with creole tomato jam and feta cheese.

Pan Seared Maple Leaf Duck Breast: Roasted brussel sprouts, butternut squash hash and roasted duck.

Creme Brûlée

Sweet Potato donuts with caramelized pecan dipping sauce

After coffee and dessert, we decided to check out Bourbon Street, which was just as crazy, if not crazier, than we imagined — a long cacophonous stretch of wobbly bridesmaids and rowdy swarms of friends, plastic cups in hands, while people called down from balconies, hurling beads at cheering women and the occasionally lucky dude, and religious people decried the whole scene in clusters around big crosses, yelling into megaphones, and doormen danced to stay warm, vigorously waving passersby into their establishment, promising $3 shots and bull rides. We had a few drinks, wandering from bar to bar, people watching, befriending a leash cat and a street dog, watching a rather enthusiastic cover band of older men and their plump wives shaking their butts in wild and boozy adoration.

After a few over priced shots and beers, we meandered our way back to the hotel, where downstairs there is a famous bar that is an actual slow-moving carousel, so we stopped in to take a few photos of the Camlow bottle enjoying an evening at this historic watering hole before heading to bed, but were unexpectedly swept up by a rather inebriated local that thrusted us upon his friend group, and before we knew it we were circling the carousel lounge with them, chatting about New Orleans, about the aftermath of Katrina, the sense of displacement and community effort that went into rebuilding, until the bar closed. We felt incredibly lucky to be able to casually ride the elevator up to our cozy quarters and conk out.

Thank you so much Alan and Craig, we had such a wonderful time taking Camlow out on the town! Check them out on Facebook and Instagram to see all the photos we've been taking with the bottle, and California friends, keep your eyes out for this awesome duo's wine release.

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