The Great New Orleans Adventure, Day Six

Another gorgeous house.
Another gorgeous house.
These are some of the skeletons on the lawn. There were a lot of them.

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.

I like the stairs. Very different.
I like the stairs. Very different.

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.

This was one of my favorites.
This was one of my favorites.

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.

You’d pretty much have to decorate if you had a big house on St. Charles–even just a token couple of pumpkins.

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.

The Great New Orleans Adventure, Day One

wp_20161010_003
This house is just a couple of streets over from our hotel. There are several of these much-decorated houses throughout the French Quarter.

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.

wp_20161010_005
The view from the door into our living area. There’s a refrigerator in the cupboard where I store Coca-Cola, one of Nature’s essentials when you’re out walking all day.

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.

The garden tub. This was definitely not part of the original slave quarters, or whatever this building used to be.
The garden tub. This was definitely not part of the original slave quarters, or whatever this building used to be.

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.)

The bedroom. We've got a tangle of wires behind the headboard because we are hopelessly attached to our electronics.
The bedroom. We’ve got a tangle of wires behind the headboard because we are hopelessly attached to our electronics.

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.