When the Cabana Boy and I decided we’d take a few days south for a respite run, we agreed we’d take some of our carefully-hoarded vacation funds and spend a day in New Orleans. I’d been there a dozen years ago during Mardi Gras season, thanks to my fellow writer Hank, but E had never been there.
My usual modus operandi when it comes to travel is to plan, plan, plan. I research all kinds of possibilities and then figure out how to fit them into the available time, taking into account each attendee’s personal taste, etc. I take a substantial amount of flak for this, as we often end up more exhausted when we come back from vacation than when we left. (But by gum we saw it ALL!! I insist)
So I’d done some advance looking, guessed (correctly) that he might enjoy the VooDoo Museum, being into things weird and wonderful. Hank and I brainstormed all sorts of culinary delights, because one can’t experience NOLA without the food, clearly. And of course, on our first foray without children in months–Bourbon Street.
E on the other hand, poked about on the Internet for half an hour the night before we left and came up with a place that would make you into someone new and different, wigs, costumes and all, for the night. Frankly, I’m the one who earned a night off; I intended to experience it as myself. If he wanted someone else, there were plenty of them hanging round, you know?
Upshot: no plan.
We arrived in the Crescent City early in the afternoon, and drove through the Garden District checking out the big, beautiful mansions along St. Charles, where the trees were hung with leftover finery from previous Mardi Gras parades. When it was time, we checked into our hotel in the French Quarter. Now what? No plan.
Each new glare of neon promised some wonder yet unexperienced, some of which made me blush. Music filled the street, not the jazz I’d expected, but a lot of rock and roll. It was early, though. Maybe the jazz came later. Meantime there were musicians on the street and freedom to relax.
We ducked down a shadowed brick hallway into a small courtyard off Royal Street, where we picked up some coffee just to de-stress. (Yes, I know that sounds funny to you caffeine-ophobes.) I thought after that, I’d release my usual control-freak directing and let E decide where to go, since it was his first time, after all. So we walked. And walked.
The Quarter is pretty at night. Many of the houses and balconies were decorated for Christmas, which added an extra layer of festivity.
So we wandered for an hour or so, then I made some gentle hints, wanting to have some point to our direction. We headed toward the river, and came past Jackson Square in the cleanest alley I’d ever seen (next to the police station) to find the crowd gathered at Cafe du Monde.
But my companion wasn’t ready for beignets, or shopping, or even the Brewery, so we turned back toward Bourbon Street and kept walking. We went past several places which purported to be VooDoo cultural places, but were instead places to buy voodoo-related merchandise, and plenty of places to get beads and T-shirts with phrases on them you really wouldn’t wear in public. We settled at last for a bar that didn’t have any music playing yet, to begin our Adult Evening.
Realizing we probably ought to eat, I sent E to ask where the nearest somewhat authentic Cajun/Creole food could be had. The bartender pointed us up the street, but we couldn’t find anything that sounded like what she’d said. Then we met Ashley, the Queen of Bourbon Street, our very own Angel Dumott Schunard, who not only sent us to a delightful restaurant on Conti Street called Oceana, but when we told them she’d sent us, we even got a discount on dinner! Turtle soup and crab cakes and alligator sausage, oh my!
A couple of Irish coffees later (cuz it was a bit chilly) we found a blues bar and spent the rest of the evening listening to a wonderful group called Barracuda. When they got their CCR rolling, it was definitely a real night in N’awlins!
Stay tuned for more photos and wild tales tomorrow!