NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
I was in New Orleans once before and stayed in a charming hotel on one of the quietest, prettiest streets in the French Quarter. Although it was picturesque this time was better; I was in a home, with a family that I know and love.
My friends had been living in New Orleans, also known as “Nola”, for eight months. I promised I would visit them while they were there (working on Quentin Tarantino’s latest film “Django Unchained.”) I kept my promise and arrived just in time; We spent their final weekend together, making the farewell rounds at all the best local joints, savoring each favorite dish one last time, toasting friends with Sazeracs and Vieux Carre.
Their house was on a shady tree lined street, in laid back Carollton, a neighborhood of New Orleans which is situated at the far end of Uptown, a designation given to the area uptown from “the Quarter” and up river from the Garden District. It’s toward the end of the St. Charles streetcar line, still central but slightly removed, and tucked in by friendly neighbors. Early Saturday morning we passed an old man washing his car, while singing a duet, at full volume, with Toni Braxton (her song blared on the radio.) He noticed us, smiled broadly and called out “Good Morning!” His cheer and sincerity were palpable but I couldn’t help but wonder how his sleepy neighbors could be so easy going? There was a woman further up the street reading the paper on her front porch; she too looked up and a smile spilled across her face. And so it was, all weekend long. Was this the southern hospitality I had heard about? Or perhaps I was seeing the world through rose colored glasses? After all, the early May morning was balmy, I was with friends and we were on our way to Magazine Street for a bacon dappled maple donut.
New Orleans is captivating. Any one characteristic can hook you: a unique cultural influence, the light, the air, the food, the music, the architecture. The combination can be disorienting. Was I really in America? I noticed a passing scent, the broad palm trees, the humid air and felt momentarily as if were in Haiti, or perhaps the Philippines. I imagined long tipsy afternoons near Bourbon Street, pirates coming to port with fistfuls of gold doubloons, the faces of slaves, and slaves who were freed. I saw shiny plastic beads still strewn about the “neutral ground” between avenue lanes and imagined the colorful, noisy Mardi Gras parades. I walked on eggshells around Katrina, stepping over three inch high cracks in the road. I felt unnerved by images of that disaster which burst forth spontaneously from my mind. I heard local girls in a clothing store refer to it as “the storm.” I checked out Make It Right, Brad Pitt’s green building project in the Lower Ninth Ward and read “The House on First Street” by Julia Reed.
LAISSEZ LES BONS TEMPS ROULER!
1. order Eggs in a Jar at Luke
2.browse books and daydream at (William) Faulkner House Bookstore
3. sip a Sazerac at The Sazerac Bar, Roosevelt Hotel
4. personalize wooden toys at Idea Factory
5. devour Pappardelle Bolognese at Sylvain
6. nibble warm beignets with cafe au lait at Cafe Beignet
7. ride a bicycle through the Garden District
8. visit Cochon Butcher twice, once for Roast Beef, again for Muffaletta
9. sip Mint Juleps at Hotel Monteleone
10. drive through The Fly
11. don’t mind the wait at Irene’s, enjoy the lively atmosphere
12. just do it, finish the Krispy Kreme bread pudding at Boucherie
Posted on May 23, 2013.
Photos Left to Right 1. Streetcar in motion ©iStockphoto.com/gioadventures 2. Lunchtime at Cochon Butcher by Map and Muse 3. Pretty New Orelans house ©iStockphoto.com/christianl