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“C’mon, honey, you have to show me more than that to get some beads!”

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I was walking to my last bar for the evening, having thrown back a few Abitas and a Vieux Carré, when I turned onto Bourbon Street and suddenly found myself in the middle of a pre-Mardi Gras party, complete with three men throwing beaded necklaces to the drunken tourists willing to lift their shirts and bare skin.

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“Come on, let me see them,” one man coaxed me in his thick New Orleans’ drawl. “I have a special gold necklace for you, sweetheart.”

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So there I was, in the heart of the French Quarter, contemplating revealing my breasts for a tacky necklace I cared absolutely nothing about.
How does this happen? I blame it on the intoxicating atmosphere. There’s something undeniably seductive about The Big Easy. While strolling the cobblestone streets lined with the romantic French- and Spanish-fused architecture, breathing in the humid air filled with the luring scent of warm beignets and fried oysters atop freshly baked French bread, and being enticed by live jazz wafting onto the street from inside tiny, smoke-filled bars, one can’t help but embrace the city’s energy and unabashedly let loose.

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Because of this, narrowing down the best bars was far more challenging than I expected.[related]

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When I sought out eat and drink suggestions for this trip, the responses came from every angle: While eating at a crawfish boil in the East Village, two neighboring women at the bar informed me they were from the Crescent City and rattled off a dozen or so places I must try, which I quickly scribbled on a napkin covered in hushpuppy grease and crawfish juice. Waiting on the subway platform, doing laundry at the Chinese laundromat, having a beer at my neighborhood pub — no matter where I went in New York City, someone would happily dish on their favorite happy hours, trashy Bourbon Street watering holes and noteworthy spots outside of the Quarter (no one calls it by its full name). I was armed with a lengthy list of where to find the best of everything from classic NOLA cocktails to who has the best po’ boy sandwiches. Even once I arrived, locals, squeezing in between bar stools with me, freely shared their own favorites (something New Yorkers often covet and hesitate sharing with out-of-towners). By the third dive and nearly 20 more suggestions later, I realized this wouldn’t be my last trip to this sexy city.

What’s that? You want to know if I showed my breasts for that “special gold necklace?” Let’s just say, when in the South, my inhibitions weaken. Read into that what you will.

Day 1

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