We stayed at the Melrose Mansion on Esplanade, a converted Second Empire Victorian mansion that had been everything from a single family home to a low-key bordello before its life as a stunning hotel. Our days began from its front porch on the edge of the French Quarter. As an introduction to the city, we read Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer, and walked through the French Quarter to the Garden District just the way main character Binx Bolling does in the book. We dined with New Orleans native and debut author Morgan Babst and heard all about the effects of Katrina on the city, the event that inspired her novel The Floating World. And in light of Jewel Parker Rhodes’ novel Voodoo Dreams, based on the life of Marie Laveau, we got our fortunes told by present-day practitioner Bloody Mary. Sunday brought a lavish brunch hosted by Louisiana food historian Cynthia Nobles, featuring the 14 essential foods of Creole and Cajun cuisine, from scalloped oysters to red beans and rice, gumbo to bread pudding. Of course there were Hurricanes and Sazeracs. There were bookstores and beignets, wigs and glitter, a visit to The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and a promise to return to the Crescent City for another round.