Making it easy: Big tips for visiting New Orleans

Since my wife and I are semi-retired, we are taking more frequent vacations. When we travel, our favorite activities are parasailing, hang gliding and whitewater rafting.

But watching other people risk their lives has become a little stressful. We knew it was time for a change.

We spent this past week in New Orleans with our friends John and Jane Murphy. We decided to forgo the extreme spectator sports and opt for some more intellectual and culinary activities.

By the way, we did not go during Mardi Gras. As Yogi Berra once aptly noted in another context, “No one goes there that time of year: it’s way too crowded.” We did go to a Mardi Gras museum. Mary Ellen and I don’t usually like the same kinds of exhibits, but this museum was filled with the kind of stuff both men and women can both enjoy.

Ironic, because in the thousands of photos displayed, you can’t even tell the difference between the men and the women.

If you have any plans to visit the Crescent City, I submit the following warnings regarding the French Quarter, the hub of all tourist activity.

Cover charges: During one dinner, a three-piece combo played jazz. The restaurant tacked on a $6 cover charge per person for the music. “Wait a second,” I said to the server, “we came here to eat and talk. We didn’t even know about the music.”

“You were in the same room as the music,” said the waiter, impatiently.

“I’m also in the same room as a $700 bottle of Lafite Rothschild at the next table. But I’m just paying for my Diet Pepsi.”

Bread plates: We went to two places that served awesome rolls, and in one case, I mentioned to the waiter we were missing our bread plates. “We don’t provide those,” he informed us. “We encourage you to enjoy the bread. We’ll tidy up your mess.”

“Are you saying this because you know we’re from Indiana?” I asked sarcastically.

“Don’t feel bad,” said the couple next to us. “We’re from Kentucky and we didn’t even get utensils.”

Mary Ellen is a stickler for table manners and watches me like a hawk to prevent any transgressions. During that dinner, she was clearly uncomfortable watching me tearing into the warm rolls and leaving evidence of my sloppiness all over the table and floor.

I remembered once back in Indy chomping on some croissants before the bread plates arrived. I quickly hid the butter knife before she could insert it into my thigh.

The check: In busy restaurants, we learned that there is no check-splitting allowed. “No matter how many in the group, just one bill,” said the waitress. “No exceptions!”

Just for fun, John and I wanted to see if we could outwit the system. At lunch, I told the server even though we were sharing a table, we had just met this other couple out on the sidewalk, and therefore we required two separate checks.

The waitress didn’t fall for it. Now John and I were even more determined to circumvent this bizarre policy.

The next night, the food at Café Amelie was outstanding, and this time the Wolfsies got our own check.

“Well, I must admit, your plan worked,” said Mary Ellen, sarcastically. “But I wonder where the Murphys are having dinner?”

Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this syndicated column.