New Orleans! I was very excited to go to New Orleans, and it was not a let down. I happened to visit when the weather was beautiful, and the Corona crazies hadn’t yet hit in full force. I got extremely lucky by knowing Megan, another friend from work, who is from the area and has all the connections. She connected me with her good friends, Fred and Patty and family, who graciously invited me to stay with them for a few nights at their gorgeous home near City Park. I arrived in the evening just as they were heading out for a movie, which gave me the opportunity to explore the area. I navigated the bus and trolley system to check out the area and finished my terrible book (throw away murder mystery cozy in a series I should quit but am invested in) at a cool bar my friend Seth recommended.
The next day was again gorgeous weather and a weekend, so everyone everywhere was out and about. I spent most of the day in the French Quarter just walking each street, admiring the romantic architecture, and the vibe. I did a walk by of the legendary Cafe du Monde but it was Sunday brunch time and the line was blocks long, and while I love fried as much as the next American I hate lines even more. Plus there was more to eat! Central Grocery had been recommended for the Muffuletta, so I got a veggie version (yes, this is just olive salad and cheese… still so good!) and went to a park across the street to eat by the fountain. Added bonus: this park bench came with free viewing of ridiculous tourists almost falling in the fountain, homeless people yelling at passers by, and could hear the jazz playing at a nearby restaurant patio.
Full of carbs and oil, I kept wandering and in true New Orleans tradition did some street drinking. I stopped by Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar and had an excellent Bloody Mary, and checked out this funky place that claims to be the oldest structure in operation as a bar in the country… I guess this means it’s just the bar in the oldest building but it wasn’t always a bar? I assume it was actually once a blacksmith shop but who knows. Also it’s said to be haunted, but alas I didn’t feel any ghosts. There may have been a sort of famous person there? I’m pretty out of the loop, but people kept trying to sneak pictures unobtrusively but he kept catching them and just offering to take photos with them. I didn’t get one, and still have no idea who it was. Or maybe just a friendly guy who wanted to photo bomb everyone. Mysteries abound.
I tried to go to the voodoo museum, but the lady was weird about what times she wanted people to go so I just abandoned that idea. I popped into a fancy hotel where there’s a bar with an old carousel in the center that actually slowly rotates. It was cool, but looked very odd in the middle of this modern room. I did not stay for anything more than a photo, but they had a great bathroom. Overshare: I’ve never been a person who has to use the bathroom that frequently on a usual day, but there’s something about not having access to a toilet in your ‘home’ that turns a switch and now I make a point to use pretty much every bathroom I have access to, just in case another isn’t available for a while. I hope this is not a permanent change in my life. Routines are weird. I wonder if I can put “finding the best free toilet in a 5 block radius” as a skill on my resume one day…
At one point I realized I had forgotten my phone charger cord, so went back to the van and decided to use this detour for a little siesta. The small joys of van living- your bed is always there! My little nap was limited to about 20 minutes due to a random parade going by with small floats, marching bands, and a few people on horses? Welcome to New Orleans. I got my stuff together, changed my shoes (big mistake. I got terrible blisters from forgetting socks. Ugh), and started back into town where I had another bloody mary from a cool gay bar which I enjoyed on the steps of some building while listening to street musicians. One of the main reasons aside from the spicy that I get these drinks is for the garnish. The garnish! It’s like getting a drink with a side of veggies. These both came with pickled green beans and olives- delish- but the 2nd came with pickled okra, too. I keep trying to get on board with this vegetable, but blegh. Even my love of all things pickled did not combat the slimy grossness of okra. It’s one of maybe a handful of vegetables I don’t love.
In the sea of good music from the bars and streets, there emerged this odd and very loud song that reminded me of a child learning to play the recorder. It just got louder and louder as I walked toward the river. I had been contemplating taking one of those sunset rides on a riverboat. Luckily this decision was made easier when I discovered the monstrous sound was coming from the steamboat Natchez itself- the steam from the boat powers an organ on which someone was playing songs. I’m playing fast and loose when I say ‘playing songs’ in this case. Money saved!
It was now evening and the line at Cafe du Monde was down to just a few people, so to there it was. I did a quick walk by to see if I could really do the locals’ trick of just swooping in on a table vacating since there isn’t really a seating system per say, but decided the other tourists in line would actually murder me if I did, so I just waited 5 minutes and got a table. I shoved about 1000 calories of fried dough and powdered sugar in my face, which was yummy but not like the best thing ever and I remembered I don’t really love desserts or powdered sugar that much but dammit I am doing the New Orleans experience.
Before heading back to my home for the night I went to the Marigny neighborhood for some music, and saw a fun band playing and chatted with some ladies on a girls trip, one of whom spends a lot of time in the town where my parents live. Small world.
The following day I spent the morning in City Park. While waiting for the sculpture garden to open, I ignored my recent memory of not loving powdered sugar and went for round 2 of beignets at the park outpost of the same cafe. No line. Good views. Another 1000 calories.
Having killed enough time, the park was open and I walked every inch of path through the very cool garden. I loved it. It was my favorite time in the city. Except for the man who loudly cleared his throat and banged on the open door while glaring at me taking too long in his opinion to wash my hands and exit the park bathroom so he could clean it. I guess he didn’t get the Coronavirus memo.
Next I walked around one of the many cool cemeteries in town, filled with mausoleums thanks to the frequent flooding making underground burial less than ideal for a long time. Another group of cool memorials.
I found a waling tour map of famous homes in the garden district, so I checked out the lovely huge homes and did not see any of the famous owners like John Goodman, Sandra Bullock, Anne Rice, or the others I’ve forgotten.
Last stop before leaving town was back into the French Quarter to see some zydeco music. The lead singer/accordionist and drummer were personable but the other two guys looked like they hated life and never once cracked a smile. Weird. The accordion guy travels for gigs sometimes and had played in Glen Echo before so we discussed that and he tried hard to broker a connection between myself and the one other solo person, a dude from San Francisco who was sitting at the next table. That went nowhere but I appreciate the sentiment, sir!
New Orleans was a fun place, but the first city (aside from a little at Disney) where I could tell for sure it would be way more fun to be there with people than alone. An excuse to return!