Today dawned overcast and sticky, enough to make me grateful we didn’t come here a month earlier. Humidity is draining. This, on the other hand, was a perfect day for riding the St. Charles streetcar through the Garden District, looking at the marvelous houses. Of course, most of New Orleans had the same idea, and we were fortunate not to have to wait long for a streetcar. We paid for a day pass and got a nice seat with a window and a strong breeze, comfortable even though the day wasn’t very hot.
Some of them are more like mansions. I scoped out the ones I would like to live in, though there were surprisingly few I’d want to settle down in. One mansion had hordes of people lined up along the sidewalk, looking at its elaborate pun-riddled skeletal Halloween display (“Marrow-lyn Monroe,” for example) There were also a ton of churches and a couple of synagogues. At a Jewish temple, a man was setting up greenery on a booth for Sukkot, which begins tomorrow. Many of the houses had been turned into apartment buildings, and a lot of those had women’s names, like Antonia, printed above the doors or in the front garden. It was a nice touch.
Our driver was some kind of speed demon, because we were chasing another streetcar the whole way up St. Charles until a supervisor told him to stop and turn around. This meant we all had to get off and go to the one ahead of us if we wanted to ride to the end, which we did. At the end of the line, we all got off again and waited for the driver to flip all the seat backs and start up the controls at the “rear” of the car, effectively turning it around without moving an inch. The driver was a little scary in her efficiency.
I felt guilty about having a nice comfortable seat when I saw how many people were using the streetcar as actual transportation and not as a tourist vehicle. Most of them had to stand, and at one point the car was over-full of people. I wonder if they resented the tourists. I certainly resented the tourists, once we left the streetcar at Canal St. and headed back into the French Quarter.
I don’t ever think of myself as a tourist when I’m here, though I do plenty of touristy things–I also shop at the local markets and avoid Bourbon St. So the flood of daytrippers that hit the streets on Saturday gets on my nerves. They clog the streets and fill up the restaurants and make walking around miserable. We ended up at Bubba Gump’s for lunch, one of the more expensive meals we’ve had, though it was delicious. The plan was to have lunch, get beignets for dessert, and finish our shopping for gifts.
Unfortunately, the tourists had descended on the Café du Monde like a horde of poorly-dressed locusts. Café du Monde has a number of features that make it ideal for tourists: it’s famous, the food is good, and it’s the cheapest thing you can get in the French Quarter, with a plate of three beignets costing an even $3 (cash only). There was a line stretching from the entrance all the way back to the little amphitheater across from Jackson Square. We decided we didn’t love beignets that much and went to do our shopping. Having finished this, the Plot Whisperer suggested seeing what the line looked like now, just in case. And for a miracle, the line had completely disappeared. We hurried across the street and were immediately shown to a table that hadn’t even been bussed yet. We didn’t care.
Full of seafood and beignets, we headed back to the hotel for a restful afternoon. I had enough of a headache I didn’t feel like facing the tourists again. We didn’t venture out again until 7, when we went to the Mona Lisa Restaurant for pizza and lasagna. On the way, we fell in behind a wedding party, complete with brass section and a bunch of guests waving little handkerchiefs. The bride was dancing. We left them at Royal St.; they turned right, we went left, and that was all we saw of them. Only in New Orleans, I suppose.
On the way home from dinner, a pack of bicycles playing very loud music overtook us, and we had to weave through them as they waited at the intersection we were crossing. Their wheels were all woven with lights, an excellent precaution when riding at night, but here it just looked like a party. We’d also seen a Segway tour and a couple of walking tours, making me feel slightly guilty at not making the most of our New Orleans experience by doing as many tours as possible. Then I remembered I’m here because I love the city, not because of the tours. We stopped at the market for more Coke and ambled along to the hotel. Tomorrow, we have a jazz cruise and a quiet Sunday planned. I’m looking forward to it.