This year is my 25th wedding anniversary, which stuns me. To celebrate, my husband and I are in one of my favorite cities, New Orleans, for a week. The last time we were both here, it was June, which is a crazy time to go, and our anniversary is actually two days after Christmas, so we settled on October as a good not-too-hot time of year. It’s beautiful here, actually, particularly when it gets a little overcast and the breeze picks up.
Getting to our hotel was not at all a given. Our taxi driver was going 80 on the freeway, in and out of traffic, and his little minivan (note: most of the taxis serving the airport are minivans) had no working seatbelts. So I pretended we were at Disneyworld and the driver was just a disgruntled dwarf working the Mine Cart ride. He did get us there in one piece, deposited us right at the door of the Inn on St. Ann. The Inn on St. Ann is near the edge of the French Quarter, within spitting distance of Louis Armstrong Park (which has a big ol’ arch over the entrance) and is in two parts: the Inn, and the Marie Laveau Annex. We’re staying in the Annex.
Unfortunately, the Inn was locked up tight. Ringing the bell did nothing. The instructions said to go to their sister hotel, the Inn on St. Peter, if no one answered. So we picked up our bags and, after a short wrong turn, ended up at St. Peter, where they told us we were in the wrong place and of course there was someone at St. Ann. We trekked back in the company of a lovely
Sherpa assistant, and they got us straightened right out.
Our room is up two flights of stairs, but it’s worth it. Bedroom, marble-floored bathroom, and a living area…just what I need for unwinding after a day of sightseeing. (I’m also supposed to be working on this vacation, so the computer came along.) There is a robust air conditioner right above the couch, so it’s downright chilly–very welcome after the heat of the day. It’s not terribly hot, but I was dressed for the weather in Salt Lake City and that was just a little too warm for trekking back and forth, dragging my little wheeled suitcase, carry-on bag, and purse. I worked up a sweat and was extremely grateful for the air conditioner.
We made a quick expedition to the corner market, which also sells sandwiches and po’boys, to get some Coke (ah, sweet elixir of life!) and scope out the neighborhood. The last time we were here, for the Plot Whisperer’s business conference, we stayed at the Marriott, which is on the other side of the French Quarter, and we rarely got out this way. St. Ann (the street the hotel is on, naturally) is home to a lot of bars, and it wasn’t until we went out a second time, for dinner, that we got far enough to find restaurants. You have to go most of the way toward Jackson Square, past Bourbon Street, to get a place to eat. We chose Pere Antoine’s mainly because we were hungry and it was the first non-Chinese restaurant we came to. (Of course there are Chinese restaurants in the French Quarter. There are Chinese restaurants on Mars.)
One of the things I observed on my last trip was that it’s impossible to find a truly bad meal in the French Quarter. This time I intend to see if that’s true. With Pere Antoine’s, it certainly was. I ordered red beans and rice with sausage–stick to the basics, I say–and the first bite nearly killed me, it was so good. I love how it’s served with the rice on the side so you can sop up the beans with as much or as little as you want. And the flavor…just the right amount of burn. The sausage might as well have been lagniappe–a charming custom of giving some little thing for free on top of your purchase. The Plot Whisperer, who is a creature of habit, ordered an omelet. But it came with the cousins of the sausage I had, and he said it was incredible–ten times as good as a regular omelet.
Fat and happy, we rolled out of Pere Antoine’s and decided we might as well go as far as the Café du Monde, though when we got there, we were too full for beignets–delicious puffy pastries dunked in about a gallon of powdered sugar. So we walked back, passing the cathedral and the buildings flanking it, the Cabildo and the Presbytere, both of whose facades are under construction. Fortunately, the museums themselves are open, so we’ll be going back. It was past twilight at this point, but the Tarot readers and palmists and Reiki experts were still at it around Jackson Square. I had to wonder how the palm reader could manage her craft in the near-dark, but she seemed content to simply enjoy the quiet evening.
We returned to our room, tired and ready to call it a day even though it wasn’t much past 8 local time. Tomorrow we have a cemetery tour scheduled, and maybe a few more museums. Right now, I’m in the relaxed state I think most visitors to the French Quarter end up in, relaxed and content even if I’m not in a beignet coma. That day will come.