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Going Home: New Orleans

January 4, 2018

26167331_10213524641703498_7691626078586467004_nWe went to New Orleans for a couple of days during our holiday season, for no particular reason except it was the southern destination that all four of us felt most enthusiastic about. I had hoped to introduce my kids to friends who live in the area, but they were too busy. So we had some free time and I thought maybe I shouldn’t schedule it up as I sometimes do, now that the kids are adults and have their own ideas about what would be fun. We’re four adults with different interests, physical capabilities, and strong wills, however, so it turns out that it would have been better for me to schedule more. Well, live and learn.

26165898_10213509549606205_7519713003892503773_nOn the day we arrived, we introduced our kids to the Louisiana custom of getting a drink and then carrying it around with you. We tried a “hand grenade” from a bar across the street from our hotel, which came in a tall, thin green plastic cup, perfect for carrying. Walking down Bourbon Street and exploring some of the little shops and art galleries on the streets nearby, we eventually found our way to Antoine’s, where we had a reservation because I’d always read about it and wanted to go. We had good food and a good time, sitting in a beautifully decorated inner room in front of an enormous Christmas tree.

The next day we went to the jazz brunch at the Court of Two Sisters, where the brunch was extensive but the jazz was too little too late, starting half an hour after we arrived and consisting of a few muted tunes before the musicians took a break and we left to walk around Jackson Square, 26001021_10213514856898884_7910038369079271250_nthrough the market, the St. Louis cathedral, and then through a little museum in a building called the cabildo next to the cathedral. We had po boys and muffaletta in an outdoor café with a jazz band (better than the one at brunch) and then embarked on a tour of bars recommended by a local we know from the Walker Percy Weekend. Alas, her recommendations were so crowded we could hardly get in the door, as football fans were already arriving in town. We found that we didn’t much care for the taste of a sazerac or the crowd at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel, and after a quick look at the Monteleone’s revolving “carousel bar,” we decided we needed another plan.

We went back to Café du Monde, where the line had been around the block earlier in the day, and found that it was only halfway around the block and shorter for takeout, so we got some takeout beignets and then strolled down Bourbon towards our hotel. I noticed a bar serving a drink called a “Resurrection” and posed for a photo with the bar’s skull-head mascot (the photo above). We heard zydeco music from inside another bar (they were all open-air) and went in to listen. The band consisted of a drummer, bass player, fiddle, and accordionist on a stage called the “Bayou Club” that was part of a bar called Tropical Isle. The other part of the bar had a band blasting the same kind of loud rock music we heard all along the street, but we liked the music at the Bayou Club so much that we came back the next night, when the accordionist was gone but there was another fiddle player, just as good.

We had tickets for a 10 pm show at Tipitina’s, so we all four crammed ourselves into a taxi and admired the Christmas lights in the garden district all the way over to Napoleon Street, where we had a good time listening to the opening band, DJ Soul Sister. After more than 45 minutes of DJ music, at about midnight (central time), we gave up on the advertised band, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, and got a Lyft back to the hotel, where we slept for a few hours before Eleanor had to get up for her flight. She had an early New Years’ Eve party to attend in snowy Ohio.

The remaining three of us got ourselves over to Café Beignet early enough to get in a short line for excellent beignets and eggs, and then hopped on a bus for a “swamp tour.” It was a bit cool, but my lined raincoat was warm enough. We saw more herons and egrets than usual, since the alligators were mostly buried under the mud in the (mid-fifties) “cold” weather. The guide told us that one part of the bayou we were looking at was “the bayou where The Princess and the Frog was filmed.” We assume he meant that this is one of the bits of local scenery that inspired the animators.26114276_10213522945261088_609581972964584910_n

After the bus brought us back to New Orleans, we strolled down the river walk to the aquarium and went through it. We like aquariums and have been to a good many (Columbus, OH, Baltimore’s Inner Harbour, Charleston, SC, the Shedd in Chicago); this one stood out for its quantity and variety of seahorses. Then we had an excellent dinner at the Red Fish Grill, which was recommended by local friends. 26112470_10213524548581170_6071457206719113789_nAfter more Cajun music at the Bayou Club, we had a few hour’s sleep before we got to see what our airport shuttle driver called “the zombies” still weaving their way up and down Bourbon Street at 5:30 in the morning.

I loved getting out of Ohio between snows and missing some of the shoulder-tensing below-zero temperatures. It’s always fun to get to go to Louisiana–it’s still exotic to me, but I love it more every time, and Sheryl St. Germain evokes some of that in this poem:

Going Home: New Orleans

Some slow evenings when the light hangs late and stubborn in the sky,
gives itself up to darkness slowly and deliberately, slow cloud after slow cloud,
slowness enters me like something familiar,
and it feels like going home.

It’s all there in the disappearing light:
all the evenings of slow sky and slow loving, slow boats on sluggish bayous;
the thick-middled trees with the slow-sounding names—oak, mimosa, pecan, magnolia;
the slow tree sap that sticks in your hair when you lie with the trees;
and the maple syrup and pancakes and grits, the butter melting
slowly into and down the sides like sweat between breasts of sloe-eyed strippers;
and the slow-throated blues that floats over the city like fog;
and the weeping, the willows, the cut onions, the cayenne, the slow-cooking beans with marrow-thick gravy;
and all the mint juleps drunk so slowly on all the slow southern porches,
the bourbon and sugar and mint going down warm and brown, syrup and slow;
and all the ice cubes melting in all the iced teas,
all the slow-faced people sitting in all the slowly rocking rockers;
and the crabs and the shrimp and crawfish, the hard shells
slowly and deliberately and lovingly removed, the delicate flesh
slowly sucked out of heads and legs and tails;
and the slow lips that eat and drink and love and speak
that slow luxurious language, savoring each word like a long-missed lover;
and the slow-moving nuns, the black habits dragging the swollen ground;
and the slow river that cradles it all, and the chicory coffee
that cuts through it all, slow-boiled and black as dirt;
and the slow dreams and the slow-healing wounds and the slow smoke of it all
slipping out, ballooning into the sky—slow, deliberate, and magnificent.

 

 

 

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2018 9:20 am

    Beautiful post Jeanne. You make me want to go there. Looks like you had a wonderful trip!

    • January 4, 2018 10:28 am

      You should go! They’ve done a good job of renovating since Katrina. There’s a lot less construction now than the first time I saw New Orleans five years ago.

      • January 4, 2018 11:01 am

        The last time I went was about a year after Katrina and people actually stopped us in the street to thank us for visiting. They were so happy to see things starting to get back to normal. There was still a long way to go at that point.. I am due for another visit.

  2. January 4, 2018 9:31 am

    Thanks for sharing your pictures – that’s how I see the world. I thought those were icicles in the swamp picture, but 50s is too warm for ice. Nice.

  3. January 4, 2018 12:32 pm

    I love this travel-account. I think I am too old for bar-music that starts at 10 PM, but I’m entirely behind the eating of many carbs.

    • January 9, 2018 9:24 am

      We had hoped to see Dr John the night before, when the music started at 8 pm, but he cancelled and we had another reservation. After the time I got tickets for the midnight show at the Globe Theatre, though, I try to never say never.

  4. January 4, 2018 12:34 pm

    I would love the jazz but all those people would finish me. I’m so glad you had a good break, though.

    • January 9, 2018 9:28 am

      We did! The trick with all the people, for us, is to enjoy the watching the crowd and only occasionally becoming part of it. It was a great moment in my life when I had to squeeze in between people packed from one side of Bourbon Street to the other, around a live jazz band, to get to somewhere else we were going. It was like being in a James Bond movie.

  5. Jenny permalink
    January 4, 2018 4:06 pm

    The only time I’ve ever been to New Orleans was when I was there for a National Women’s Studies Association conference. I ditched half the panels so I could explore. I took the swamp tour, too, in an “eco-boat,” which went quickly, The thing that struck me most was how wonderful the swamp smelled! Cypress and eucalyptus. I think I expected it to smell moldy and stagnant, but it was delicious. And I love zydeco.

    • January 9, 2018 9:33 am

      New Orleans struck us as like Paris in that it seemed to have lots of delicious little pleasures sort of hidden away in courtyards.
      I showed some video of the zydeco band to my fiddle teacher and she said “oh, you could go to a workshop and learn that style.” Don’t know if I’ll get to the point where I can sing (in French) and fiddle at the same time, though!

  6. January 4, 2018 4:42 pm

    I LOVE THAT POEM.

    I have never really wanted to go to New Orleans before, but since you mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about it. And now that I’ve read your post, I really do think I should go there!

    • January 9, 2018 9:35 am

      It’s fun to go with adult children. For some of the hidden pleasures, the kids had to show ID. Actually, I got carded for about the fifth time in my life to get into Tipitina’s.

  7. January 5, 2018 2:48 am

    You all had a very busy time of it! I have only been to New Orleans once. I liked exploring the weird world of back alleys. Interesting shops, sometimes a little scary. I remember that the food, wherever I ate, was really good.

    Love the top photo!

    • January 9, 2018 9:35 am

      Yeah, the top photo really captures my attitude, doesn’t it?

  8. January 5, 2018 11:55 am

    Sounds wonderful! Love the first photo especially 🙂

    • January 9, 2018 9:38 am

      I’d seen the skull-head figure out in front of the bar the first night but didn’t get over there with Eleanor for a photo before he took a break. The second night (when she had flown back already) I crossed the street as soon as I saw him, thinking I would take a selfie (Ron was at our table at the zydeco bar, and I didn’t want to lose our seats). A woman who was passing by on the street saw me holding the phone up and volunteered to take the photo.

  9. January 10, 2018 3:56 pm

    Sounds like you had a lovely warm time. I hope you’ve managed to keep warm since!

    • January 10, 2018 8:13 pm

      I’ve been miserable in the single digits with ice and snow, but looking forward to another trip at the beginning of February!

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