Susan's Blog

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Already Missing New Orleans

“…Ole Mississippi, she’s callin’ my name.”

Just got back from a trip to New Orleans with Ned for our anniversary.

We stayed in a glorious old hotel, the Monteleone. Our room was smallish but very sumptuous, with a wall of windows looking over the rooftops out to the Mississippi.  Ben had given us a book about haunted New Orleans and we found out that there were twelve spirits in our hotel, one of whom hung out on our floor! Never saw him or felt his presence though. They had a nice pool on the roof, and just off the lobby was the Carousel Bar, that actually rotates.

First day there we ate beignets at Cafe Beignet:

Then we walked to Jackson Square where there was a street performer and many Tarot card readers set up before the park. I chose a reader who looked happy and full of life — she was wearing bright yellow and listening to her music, whereas the others were all trying to look somber and important. I’m not telling you what she said, but after a 30-minute conversation, she and I parted as dear friends.

That night we ate dinner at Cafe Amelie, in a shady courtyard with old-fashioned string lights and a large fountain.

We asked for the table for two by the fountain but they told us it was reserved for a couple and that the guy intended to propose. They arrived shortly after us, a big man in pink shirt and white pants and a small dark-haired woman, also in white with high pink strappy sandals. We ate slowly and watched them discreetly, waiting to see what he’d do. Nothing happened until they’d actually finished dinner. They walked over to the fountain and finally he knelt in front of her and gave her the ring. They hugged and kissed, we applauded and told them it was good luck because it was our anniversary.

The next day we explored the French Quarter, and the Garden District, just taking in the sights block by block. We visited the House of Broel, which is a wedding venue, a dressmaker, and a Dollhouse Museum(!) They had tiny vignette after vignette of miniature Victorian life.

The Garden District is full of stately homes, the Lafayette #1 cemetery, and Magazine Street, with artsy and funky shops.

We got some Snoballs (flavored shaved ice) to cool off, just in time for it to start pouring rain, with drops as thick and hard as shots of bourbon.

Our dinner reservation was in a courtyard restaurant, but because of the weather the courtyard was closed. Our next choice turned out to be closed for the week, so we just ate dinner on a second-floor balcony of a casual place, Curio. I had my first po-boy, a fried shrimp one. Later we went to Frenchmen Street to check out the jazz scene. We usually don’t like jazz but we loved it there; it was magical, and really fun wandering in and out of the wide open bars and taking in the music.

We especially enjoyed the impromptu brass band that spilled over from a street corner actually into the street, delighting pedestrians and frustrating people foolish enough to try to drive there.

Next day was our bayou boat ride. An old guy picked us up in a van with another couple and a young Brit and drove us to Honey Island, telling us all about Hurricane Katrina. Eighteen feet of water out there (East New Orleans), just as bad as the 9th Ward within the city. On the boat ride we ventured down the brown Pearl River and deep inside some strange cypress groves. The captain got many gators to approach the boat by offering them marshmallows. Who knew that gators ate marshmallows?

That night we went back to Frenchmen St and enjoyed it even more than the night before because we knew which bars we liked. We ate dinner in one of them, Bamboulas, and stayed a while. The street scene was as wild as ever, even on a Tuesday. Ned played washboard with a guy named Windex Pete.

The next day we went to the Botanical Gardens. They were gorgeous: section after section of tropical or more typical perennial gardens, with an exhibit of rain forest and also of prehistoric plants (mostly many many different kinds of ferns).

We also went back to Magazine Street and walked the other end, all the way up to the Snoballs place. Before we got there we found a lovely little outdoor cafe, Bordeaux, and had lunch there, with a frosé (Frozen rosé with peach and lemon vodka). Delicious and beautiful.

Terribly hot outside, though. Bordeaux, like all other NOLA cafés, had big ceiling fans as well as wall fans that had water misting from them.

And back to Frenchmen St. after a dinner at Napoleon House, where I had a roast beef po-boy. This time we watched a fantastic Zydeco band, Crawdaddy T, whom I loved so much I tipped them twice.

July Fourth we tried beignets at the famous Cafe du Monde and then took a steamboat ride down the Mississippi on the Natchez, which is one of two remaining authentic steam-powered ships in the US. We learned more Katrina history, including seeing where the levees were breached by eighteen feet of water, and the damage that still remained.

That night we ate dinner at the Original Pierre Maspero’s, which was the spot where Andrew Jackson and the Lafitte brothers (pirates) plotted what was to become the Battle of New Orleans, the final battle of the War of 1812. And of course, on to Frenchmen St after that. On the way, we ran into a second line for a wedding party. Very New Orleans!

Fourth night in a row of great music. We had to be sure to be back at our room in time for fireworks, a stunning but surprisingly brief (10 min?) display from a barge on the river.

Our last morning we had a full breakfast on a tiny balcony in the French Quarter, a little souvenir shopping, and then off to the airport. Gotta go back again sometime, just loved it there.  Where else do strangers call you “darlin'”?

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