Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Orleans - a touristy day

Today is a full day of touristy things.  First stop "Cafe du Monde" for breakfast.  Well Jim and I and everyone else in New Orleans seemed to be at the Cafe du Monde where your only choice for breakfast is a beignet and coffee.  After lining up for 15 minutes, we finally got a seat and voila within seconds our breakfast was there.  Not knowing any better we ordered 2 beignets and 2 coffees.   Well 1 order consists of 3 beignets (donuts), that white stuff isn't snow, it is icing sugar.   And I like sugar in my coffee so you can imagine how much sugar this body absorbed before 10 am.  Thankfully we had walked down to the French Market from our hotel.  btw they were delish :)
This bustling area is known as the French Market, it is right beside the water but luckily because it is above sea level, did not flood that bad during Katrina.  Every day Jackson Square is full of artists and musicians getting ready for the large influx of tourists.  

At the top of Jackson's Square is Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, also called St. Louis Cathedral, built in the 1700's and a witness to all of New Orleans history.  Take the cars out of the picture and you would think you were back in time.  

The organ was damaged during Katrina when a tree fell on the roof and allowed the rain in.  It was totally restored and reinstalled in 2008.

Artisans, Artists, Architecture all displayed beautifully around Jackson's Square.  And you can also get your fortune told.  Not sure why but I just couldn't pick up any voodoo stuff or have my fortune told.  Probably something to do with all the books I have read, if there is someone who is going to be able to see your future it is probably in New Orleans.  

Next stop was the Hop On and Off Bus for a tour of the city.  The astrodome was renamed the Mercedes Benz Centre after Hurricane Katrina.  The Mercedes people were instrumental in helping to rebuild the city and bringing relief to so many people who were stranded in the dome.  According to our tour guide, there is no better thing to add to your trip to NOLA, then a ticket for a football game, party central.

Our tour guide did such a good job of describing the beautiful Garden District, that Jim and I finally decided to hop off.  A wee walk was needed before we ate again.  This area has lots of shops and some great restaurants, it was hard to choose.  This market was open with some lovely jewelry and a home made ice cream stand.  Still too sugared out to partake.

I love these, old beer taps being used for a lovely water display in their patio.
Our tour guide said if you want to buy something authentic this is the area to buy it in.  These are all local artisans.  The shops all survived the flood, but most of the owners homes were destroyed.  Because tourism took so long to rebound it took these shop owners a long time to recover.  This was an interesting little shop, they take old keys, cabinet hardware, etc and turn them into jewelry, knobs, etc.  I picked up a Christmas Mouse for my collection.

Finally time for some food, a pizza for 2 and a local beer.  Perfect before we set off again.  

Our next steps took us through a beautiful residential area full of large houses and large trees as we headed towards Lafayette's Cemetery #1.  This cemetery is open to the public and have guides waiting at the doors to tell you about the movies that were filmed here and the resident ghost.

 Most of the tombs were above ground.  Because of the heat in New Orleans the tombs are like mini ovens.  If this is a family tomb, then they can be reused in 1 year and 1 day, that is how long it takes for you to turn to ash.  At that time the ashes, which are still very sacred, are pushed usually to the back of the crypt where there is a hole and you head down to join your other relatives while a new body is placed in the top.

Some of the tombs are bought by societies, like the one below which is owned by one of the fire departments.  Each crypt would over the years have been the final home for many a firemen, each rotated based on the 1 year 1 day principal.

 A number of the tombs are crumbling, the fronts were made of marble, but over the years they discovered because of it's porous nature, they started cracking.  These broken tombs are still considered a tomb, so if you think you want to crawl inside you will be charged with desecrating a body.

 This family buried 5 children and a grandchild.  One of the many sad stories from the 1800s.

 Back on the bus and next stop was the casino and waterfront.  Once again my vision of New Orleans was totally different, I was expecting a beach, nope.  Again this is a working harbour with cruise ships and freighters coming in and out.

Back to the hotel and after another 13000 step day, we are going to Arnaud's for dinner and then up to Fritzels to watch the Saturday night band.  Camera is being left at home.  Saturday is twice as busy and twice as wild as Friday.  Don't think my camera could handle all the x-rated pictures it would be tempted to take.  Our early night turned a wee bit later then we expected.  Our favourite seat by the door was waiting for us, for the first bit we shared the table with a couple our age celebrating their son's engagement.  They were from Ann Arbor.  Next up was a couple from Houston who Jim tried to talk into opening a Mexican restaurant in Toronto and finally a lovely couple of Australia who are coming to Toronto next week.  A wonderful way to end a wonderful holiday.

New Orleans is situated on an amazing piece of the environment.  On the drive over from Texas, for over 30 miles the road we were on was a bridge (like the Gardiner expressway), over the swamps and bayous and this was just one piece of it.  They are so surrounded by life and by water that at times they must feel like living on a sponge.  For 200 years New Orleans has survived floods and hurricanes, the land comes back, the people come back, it truly is an amazing part of the world.

Friday, March 10, 2017

New Orleans - Impressions and Temptations

OK I think I am finally recovered from my visit to New Orleans, and then again maybe not.  Parts of it so reminded me of Nashville.  People everywhere, all ages, couples, groups, singles.  If you had anything to celebrate these 2 cities seem to be the place to go.  Now if I had my way, my children and my husband would never go to New Orleans without me.  I would need to be there to keep an eye on them.  :)

Our hotel, the Astro Crown Plaza, was on the corner of Canal St (a lovely street with lots of big hotels) and Bourbon St.  Day or night you could sit on a corner of Bourbon St and be entertained for hours.  I am surprised you don't need to show ID to be on it.  Right behind our hotel was the Acme Oyster Bar, from 11 am in the morning until closing there was a line-up to get in.  I was trying to figure out why everyone was lined up on this grungy street beside the garbage cans, but I guess Oysters are very popular in New Orleans.

Bourbon Street has balconies all the way up and down the street and by nighttime, you couldn't get a spot on them.  I gather you stand there with your beads and when a young man or girl comes down you offer to throw them your beads for a little peek or a full tops-up experience if you are lucky.  Jim was lucky and he didn't have any beads, he was just walking down the street.  When you hear the roar it's impossible not to stop to watch.

Nothing like some great cajun and creole spices to bring home to thank the kids for taking care of the cats :)

Yes that is Darth Vadar above, there were entertainers every 100 feet.  Most of them had permits and that was their spot for a couple of hours, then they would pack up their equipment and move off to the next corner.

There seemed to be a number of Irish men wandering around.  Seems like NOLA goes from Mardi Gras to St. Patrick Celebrations.  I presume these Irish gentlemen didn't give up alcohol for Lent.

If you had a talent, you could work the streets.  Musicians, Mimes, Magicians, Poets, whatever your expertise was there was someone willing to pay you.  Very important to remember that Nashville and NOLA are still cash societies.  The acts both indoors and outdoors live off their tips.  The restaurants and bars are good with debit and credit.

I would have to say someone is very happy to be in New Orleans.
These young men were on Bourbon St on Friday and then down by Decatur on Saturday.  It was like a gigantic jam session, both days new musicians showed up to join the original 4.  They were amazing.  Nashville had a lot of fiddlers and NOLA had a lot of brass instruments.
I was looking for a Mother of the Groom dress, too bad this was so short :)

We passed 2 of these young men.  They typed, on an old manual typewriter, your very own poem.  A new twist on street entertainers for Jim and I.

After an amazing dinner at K-Paul's, we headed down to Frenchman Street.  Thinking this might be more our speed over Bourbon Street.  It was a little tamer on the road, but the bars were hopping.  We stopped in at Bamboula's and stayed for 2 acts, both amazing, before we headed back up to Bourbon St and our hotel.


I am not sure why, normally I am pretty good at directions (unless I am in the Toronto underground) and Jim is amazing, but somehow we got turned around and ended up in this beautiful residential area.  

 Rather than look at our phones, we just kept walking, like eventually we will find Bourbon St, it is so noisy and busy, right.  NOPE.  Thankfully we met this charming man who stopped us and asked us what we were doing and did we have any idea where we were going.  Of course we do we are going to Bourbon St, he looked at us like we were from another planet and said we probably wouldn't survive the next block and to follow him.  We had met him earlier when he was trying his hand at getting people to give him money.  His schtick was "I know where you got your shoes".  $20 bucks and I'll tell you.  Jim talked him down to $5.  And he said "look man they are on your feet and a good job with how far we got to walk".  Jim handed over the $5 and another $15 when he got us to Bourbon Street.  The best $20 we spent all week, he was very entertaining.  I became, "Mama", as I stopped to take pictures he would yell back "keep up Mama, I am going to get you home safe".  And he did.

 There seems to be no rules for alcohol, Fritzels where we stopped for a beer on the way home, had a "To Go Bar".  There was nothing unusual in seeing people walking down the streets with bottles of beer or large margaritas.

We didn't hear any country music in NOLA, but we did hear alot of the old favourites that my parents used to listen and dance too, a fair bit of rock and a lot of originals.

Time to head back, it took a while as Fritzel's is at the top end of Bourbon St, so we got to see Bourbon St at midnight just as things were heating up.

 The beads were flying.  You would hear this roar up and down the street and sure enough someone was giving into temptation.  I can't believe the balconies could hold so many people.  I also can't imagine what Mardi Gras was like, they said they had 750,000 people in for the weekend and you couldn't even cross the streets.  

14,000 steps - definitely time to say Good Night, see you in the morning New Orleans.