Friday, January 22, 2010

Love at first sight... chere!

Hold on tight. Lots of pictures.

So... Is it possible to fall in love at first sight with a city? or should I say a section of a city?

Be careful mon cher! Falling in love with the French Quarter might be like falling in love with a Rock Star or a Movie star. Real nice sounding on the surface... a whole lot of fun at first... but probably a baaaaad idea in the long run.

We saw the French Quarter in nearly all her phases. We arrived in the city of New Orleans on a Saturday afternoon. The day of the playoff game and so we decided not to brave the streets that evening after the Saints (Who dat!?!) won a playoff game... so we waited until Sunday morning.

(Just so you get the reference... ‘Who dat?’ and ‘The Who Dat Nation?’ is a saying for the New Orleans Saints & fans... we heard it a lot and then we joined in, hollered it, and danced to it even more. Turns out ‘Who Dat’ is a very old jazz term... according to wikipedia anyway and they are always right. Heh. Anyway, EVERYONE was chanting it down here. The whole chant is "Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Who dat? Who dat?" and sometimes is played to a NOLA jazzy mambo-type tune.)

This is a secret tip...
It works in a lot of cities actually... parking on a Sunday morning is easy in the French Quarter. Shhhh. Don’t tell. You see the street signs only cover until Saturday and so we parked for free all day right by Arnaud’s on Bienville Street.

Of course in some cities you will miss a lot if you try to visit on a sunday.
Not this city.

Everything was so clean and fresh...

Probably because we arrived just after the streets were being hosed off.

Don’t ask what was being hosed away... just ignore it... think about that another time... la la la. Along with the wash down, the clean up crews were just finishing so there was no litter to be seen anywhere and the first on the scene were the street artists staking out their spots.

However, the homes and business were still sleeping... shuttered off from the world. It was fantastic. I kept saying... "Man I love this place! I could totally live here!"

We got to watch the French Quarter bloom from her sparkling morning glory into the wild flashing revelry of the night... and a Sunday night at that.

I was surprised to see that much of the French Quarter actually contains residences. Many people live there, their “front yards” are the hidden interior courtyards away from the street.

If you were lucky or brave enough to peek through a grate now and then that was squeezed between the buildings you would be granted a glimpse of a garden tucked away.

The street entrances or back doors are opened in the morning to soak in the day. Then they are closed, locked, and shuttered again to the streets as evening starts to fall.

These are great buildings.

Some needed a little attention. I loved the idea of the interior courtyard and the shuttered doors... in particular the 3/4 shutters.

The houses are surprisingly secure I think. Not only are the doors and windows closed but then they are also shuttered to the streets. You will have no luck trying to hop any gates, or climb any poles... folks took care of that.

We started the day off right. We zigzagged up and down the awakening neighborhood just to get our bearings. Don't be confused by these signs... they were on nearly every corner. You see the French Quarter spent a long time being Spanish.

Anyway... once we got the 'floor plan' of the quarter semi-figured out, we then went to Cafe Du Monde to get coffee and beignets that includes a pound or two of powdered sugar.

Then we zig zagged back through town and .. I will be darned!
Jean Laffitte’s Blacksmith Shop was open!

Well, heck. We might as well see what this Hurricane business is all about. We were the only ones in the bar and the barkeep was having his breakfast so we chatted with him for awhile. He took a liking to us and we saw him periodically throughout the day... for a wink, a smile, a quick chat... and a hurricane. In fact, we ended our evening with a visit to him and he reached out and shook both our hands as we told him thanks, good night, and good luck to him in his life ahead. (He is getting married soon.)

Just in case you are unfamiliar... a Hurricane is a rum, rum, and rum drink with splash of rum for color and a drop of some kinda juice.. oh yeah and ice. Halfway through this drink and you are just as happy as everyone else is walking down the street.

Then we had THE best lunch/brunch at Green Goddess in the world.

No seriously. The BEST. It is in Exchange Alley, seats maybe 10 people inside, and we found reviews on the internet. We also found the menu and studied up before we got there we were ready when the waitress arrived. We both ordered Grits and Grillades.

More precisely:
Organic Painted Hills Beef tri-trip, seared and served with a rich comforting red wine sauce over creamy grits. We also had an order of sweet potato biscuits with red pepper jelly and some kinda irish hippy organic butter. Good grief.

After we ate, we wandered back out into the streets to find the musicians had arrived.

Music was everywhere... in the bars, in the restaurants,

and of course in the streets...

You could not get away from the sounds, and for criminy sakes why would you want to?

It all blended together in the most magnificent symphony that only New Orleans could compose. People laughing, talking, dancing, singing... truly enjoying themselves... and every once in awhile someone shouted out to someone else across the street... "who dat!?"

A little music history.... here is Preservation Hall. Tag line is that it is the birthplace of jazz:

We returned to wandering and went back through the streets and starting going into the shops.

The voodoo shops were fun, but upon exiting one both the proprietor and myself were driven back into the doorway by a kamikaze dove/pigeon who just about nailed us when we were coming out the doorway. Hmmmm....... I decided to take that as a good omen and not wonder what happened to the previous dove/pigeon creature that had flown this way... I just hope it made for a good reading.

Anyway... speaking of little bit spooky even before we had gone to lunch or to Lafitte’s we were on one of the side streets of the French Quarter that contained mostly residences. There was only one other person with us in that section of street and he was walking on the same side as us coming in our direction. He seemed to have been making his way home from the celebratory evening before. We crossed paths and then after he had gone 20-30 feet past us we hear him behind us yell... “David!” We rounded the corner and then wondered the rest of the day about it. Well, at least I did. David did not recognize him at all. Perhaps a ghost of one kind or another.

We walked on to see how the neighborhood was changing ... oh... and another tip about the French Quarter? Leave the kids at home. This is a grown up section of town and there is nothing for them to do. The only possible thing they would enjoy is the left over powdered sugar on the beignets... other than that they get underfoot and make you spill your drinks. heh.

Umm... curious about that sign?
Here is a better view:

Anyway, suddenly it was happy hour!

We were already pretty happy as was EVERYONE around us and had not realized the hour was upon us until the bars started touting their special 2 for 1 or even 3 for 1 deals. Still, we had not noticed all of this until we were at a bar listening to an absolutely rockin’ cajun rock blues zydeco band and David ordered a beer.

The bartender reached into the ice and pulled out literally a handful of beers and went pop pop pop with the opener. “Dere ya go, tree for one. How you like dat chere?” I laughed and told him he "better drink ‘em quick or they would get cold! DANG that’d be a bummer!"

Get this... during those special times when you order a cocktail you only get one drink but as they mix them they pour in the shots and instead of the usual 1 shot they pour pour pour.. 3 shots in one drink. Heck, what a bargain! And you can carry it right on down the street to the next bar to see what kinda specials they are having! A person could save a lot of money here! It's downright frugal!

This gal was really going the REAL frugal route. She decided to do the BYOW thing:

(This photo just for reference was taken around lunch time.) She came out of the store with her bottle, dug out her corkscrew out of the bottom of her purse, yanked out the cork, took a big swig, and wandered off down the street with her friends.

Well, I ran out of batteries in my camera before nightfall which might be a good thing. No photographic evidence. We took the truck and Delta back to the KOA West RV park in New Orleans and tucked her in and rode the free shuttle back into the French Quarter. We had to end the evening right! We did... and then took the longest taxi ride in the world back home.

The next day we also drove through the Garden District. Beautiful homes and of course... we saw the trolley. Here it is, a great way to get around apparently... and check out the bead trees. When beads go flying during times of celebration here in New Orleans, they leave them lie where they fall. Limbs, wires, houses, cars sparkle with beads. It's just like Christmas!

Man oh man I loved this place!!!
We gotta get outa here!

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