The French Quarter’s wrought-iron balconies and flickering streetlamps; the soaring oak canopies of City Park; and balmy Southern nights combine for romantic only-in-N’awlins’ strolls. Or, snuggle up in a horse-drawn carriage or aboard a streetcar to kindle your date’s desire. New Orleans delivers in the nightlife department, with legendary music venues (try dimly lit jazz clubs like Snug Harbor) and watering holes fueled by classic New Orleans cocktails (300-year-old Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar ranks high for atmosphere). Or, indulge in neighborhood cafés (hit Café du Monde for café au lait and beignets for two) and restaurants flexing their culinary chops (Bayona’s lush courtyard is especially enchanting).
What woman wouldn't want to be swept off her feet in the historic neighborhoods of New Orleans, with the sounds of live jazz echoing through the narrow streets on a clear, Southern night?
According to Yahoo Travel: None.
However, what the site captures as the characteristics that make New Orleans one of the "Best Cities for Dating" is quite interesting (although romantic is their euphemism of choice). Judging by what I saw on Yahoo Travel's featured photo alone, I imagine this is how it was pitched in a Monday morning editorial meeting:
"In N'awlins, romantic couples always start their date with a walk on a beautiful sunny afternoon down their only street, Bourbon Street, where PDA and kissing along the line of strip clubs is just the first of many romantic gestures to come. You can even take your drinks out on your walk, so it's almost like a picnic at the same time. What's more romantic than that? Let's make sure that the couple is wearing matching red outfits in the photo, just to emphasize how romantic strip clubs and sugary alcoholic beverages are."
I was intrigued by this idea of love and romance captured in the image. The synopsis was more promising, yet still not accurate.
The description of the "wrought-iron balconies, flickering streetlamps, and soaring oak canopies" sounded less like a travel description and more like the beginning of a Nora Roberts novel. For a moment, I felt as though a shirtless Fabio would ride up to my wrought-iron balcony on a white horse to ask for my hand in marriage.
While descriptive of our illustrious city, the Yahoo Travel romance in New Orleans entry was followed by a series of fallacies.
Lie #1: "Balmy Southern nights combine for romantic only-in-N'awlins' strolls."
This was the first time I'd ever heard of New Orleans nights being described as balmy. Having grown up here, I don't remember a night that was pleasantly warm – it was either cool or hot enough to suffocate me on my short walk to the car. Never balmy, though. And, there is nothing romantic about the warm nights in Louisiana – I'm sweating profusely, I hardly feel beautiful once my hair starts to morph into an afro from the humidity, and don't bother coming near me, much less touching or kissing me.
Then, there's this whole N'awlins thing. There is nothing sexy about the word N'awlins, and absolutely no one who remotely knows the city ever says it. It's NEW ORLEANS, and anyone who at least knows what state the city is located in, knows better than to ever say that word. It's completely inaccurate, and a clear indication that this writer has never visited the city, much less knows anything about the city's dating potential.
Lie #2: "Snuggle up in a horse-drawn carriage or aboard a streetcar to kindle your date's desire."
Nora Roberts, there is nothing romantic about a carriage or streetcar ride in New Orleans. Unless, of course, your carriage is en route to a large plantation, where a man with six-pack abs will be reciting hours of poetry to you, the rocky rides are hardly the kind to create a romantic mood. While I am not speaking from personal experience (fortunately), I have seen those rides and subsequently scoffed at those couples. I can imagine it now - being held tightly by your man, taking in those lovely smells of horse manure that only the French Quarter can offer. It definitely makes for a lovely "only in N'awlins" moment.
And the streetcar is hardly better – loud and full of tourists. It's hardly my idea of romance either.
Lie #3: "New Orleans delivers in the nightlife department … with watering holes fueled by classic New Orleans cocktails (300-year-old Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar ranks high for atmosphere)."
Oh yes, how every lady wants to be wooed – in an unlit, loud bar drinking a nice, frozen "purple drink." No need to stay sober, hear what each other is saying, or even see each other's faces on this lovely date, because you will have a heck of a hangover to keep you thinking about that person the next day. But on the bright side, he won't see that awful face you make when you get a brain freeze from your "purple drink."
Lie #4: "Indulge in neighborhood cafés (hit Café du Monde for café au lait and beignets for two)."
No one has ever accused Café du Monde of being a neighborhood café, or romantic for that matter. The powdered sugar flying in all directions, tourists photographing their food, and the next table practically sitting on you are not what you would expect to find at your cozy neighborhood coffee shop. However, fried dough with sugar is always a nice finale to any evening.
While I might disagree with New Orleans' ranking as one of the "Best Cities for Dating," I will say, it's the best city to fall in love WITH. I love New Orleans for its distinctive smells, the sounds of streetcars and horses trotting down the street, the excruciating heat, fried dough, purple drinks, and the stereotypes it all conveys about us. Because one thing is for sure: Only if you've been here can you really understand how precious and distinctive our city is.
So, while I may not be getting a carriage ride, "purple drink," or a marriage proposal on my wrought-iron balcony this Valentine's Day, I am proud to call New Orleans my valentine.