"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Orleans: The French Quarter

Like every other tourist in New Orleans, we started our day off in line at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter.  It took about 20 minutes for us to get seated in the big tent-like structure that covers the tiny tables crowded with ecstatic consumers of beignets and cafe au lait. 

 After our brunch we hit the streets, just following our noses in no particular direction, admiring the architecture that seems to be never ending.  This was the building right across from Cafe Du Monde. You'll notice too the line of horse drawn buggies (one of tourism's greatest inventions) waiting for business in front of Jackson Park on the left. 

 Here's one of the prettiest buggies in town.

In the center of Jackson Square there is a statue of Andrew Jackson with the engraving "The Union Must and Shall be Preserved." Strange sentiment for the south, I'd think, but then I'm not familiar with where New Orleans stood during the "unpleasantness." I know it was crucial because of it's position at the mouth of the Mississippi, and I've heard that both sides decided not to destroy it because of it's value.

The French Quarter is 78 square blocks of historic buildings, about half of which are commercial enterprises: bars, restaurants, boutiques, hotels, and inns. The remaining are either museums, municipal buildings or private residences. The four main streets are Bourbon, Chartres, Royal and the road that runs along the River. Bourbon Street is the road everyone associates with New Orleans, but it's a bore. Mostly bars, loud music and people out to get drunk. Royal St. however, is a treasure. It's where we found the most interesting shops, nicest architecture and the best quality street music. 

One of the most attractive and thoroughly stocked shops was called Sugar and Spice, and carried every kind of edible treat that had anything to do with New Orleans, such as pralines and hot sauce.  Great artwork too.

NOLA is all about partying and costuming, and the Mardi Gras spirit is everywhere, 
even when it's not Mardi Gras season. Lynn got into the spirit with a tutu.

And of course masks were everywhere too. Most are the feathered, inexpensive souvenir type, but we did find a couple of shops that sold exquisite one-of-a-kind, hand crafted masks of all kinds, many costing hundreds of dollars. 

For lunch we stopped at Le Bayou Restaurant and had the good fortune to be able to sit on the second floor balcony and watch Bourbon St. go by. We all tried local favorites, jambalaya, barbequed shrimp (NOLA style), crawfish (my first!) etouffee, andouille sausage gumbo, and more.  Everything we had was great.

NOLA starts the day kind of sleepy, but after noon the streets begin to fill with wandering tourists, partiers and street performers. This was one of the more unique ones, rolling around like a little car (look closely under the back bumper)...

...and transforming into...whatever this guy is.

NOLA is such a creative town, in its funky retro way that always honors tradition. 
As I mentioned earlier, the street musicians on Royal St. were superb, and colorful.

Everyone gets in on it.

One of my favorite performers was a compound band, called the "Super Band." I loved their Bohemian attitude. Doesn't this picture look like something Renoir could have painted in Paris at the turn of the 19th & 20th century (sans the ball caps)?

I appreciate the unique combination of extremely laid back attitude 
and intense commitment to what they're doing. 

 Many of the street bands are not only grateful for cash in the hat, (or maybe pecan pie in the instrument case?), but also sell CD's of their work for about $10-$15.  I bought the Super Band's CD.

Not everyone performs jazz with friends and sells CD's. We saw a solo opera singer, and lots of fortune tellers and magicians. This folkie guy found a quiet, kind of out-of-the-way place to peddle his passion.

We visited the French Quarter three times and I feel like we really got the feeling of it. I'm so glad we got off Bourbon Street. We also visited the Garden District and the Lafayette Cemetery. Rick and Glenn visited the WWII Museum and liked that too. Today is our last day, and we're closing our week here with lunch at Commander's Palace. Hope to post one last time to share a little about these final days. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Want to leave a comment?