Subtitled, "The Garden District."
Ever since I had read Anne Rice's "The Witching Hour" I have been dying to see the famous "Garden District" of New Orleans, which is where the rich Americans built their homes. Visiting the Garden District was a High Priority for me. And it was All That AND a Bag of Chips. I could have walked for hours, up and down every single block, just looking at the beautiful mansions. We had hoped to find an Open House so that we could actually go in one of these incredible homes but alas, denied. Sigh. I would have gladly made a "donation." The architecture of these mansions varied from Italianate to Greek Revival. I loved how many of them had the roofs of their porches painted a bright blue. I want to do that to the porch roof of my 1950's California Ranch house so that passers-by will ask themselves, "Am I in the Garden District of New Orleans or Long Beach, CA? I can't tell!" I think it'll work.
This is the most famous house in the Garden District. This is the house author Anne Rice lived in and was the setting for her book "The Witching Hour" (one of my absolute favorites!) After the death of her husband, Anne sold this house, became a born-again Christian, moved to Rancho Mirage and turned her back on the books that made her famous. She now only writes books with a religious theme. Yawn. Fans from her "Interview With a Vampire" and "Witching Hour" books still make pilgrimages to her former home. And you too can live in this famous Garden District mansion for the low, low price of $3.7 million. Check it out on Realtor.com. The address is 1239 First Street.
Sadly, the battery on my camera started gasping for breath and I had left the battery charger at home because I am an idiot. At this point, Jamie & Tracie were tired so after stocking up on reading material at the Garden District Bookstore, where I purchased "New Orleans Architecture Volume III: The Cemeteries" (Duh), we headed for the St. Chuck's Streetcar and returned to our hotel for lunch and siestas. And more Masters Golf.
So after we get back from the Garden District and hitting the Cemetery Jackpot at Lafayette Number One, we were STARVING. Finding an open tomb with the coffin still inside works up an appetite, doncha know. We really didn't feel like eating at Cafe Adelaide again and we didn't want anything fancy, either. While looking out the window of our room, we see the brick building at the lower right. You can't see it but since around 10:00am, there had been a non-stop line out the door. Obviously, this was something work checking out.
This was Mothers, a soul food cafeteria that claimed to have the World's Best Baked Ham. This was a no-frills, don't give the staff any lip because they'll cut ya type of joint. Awesome red beans and rice, Po' Boy sammiches, World's Best Baked Ham sammiches, Gumbo, etouffee, shrimp, crawfish, fried chicken and lots more nummy food. And "cost-effective" too. Check out the menu at www.mothersrestaurant.net. But don't read it if you're hungry, I'm just saying.
After resting up (and watching The Masters...again. I hate golf. I'd rather watch Curling. At least they use brooms.) we once again headed to the French Quarter and enjoyed the local color:
I had made a list of specific places in the Quarter that are supposed to be haunted (you know me and my ghost stories). One of them was the Lalaurie Mansion, supposed to be one of the most haunted locales in New Orleans. Madame Lalaurie was a high-falutin' Creole Society lady who, it seemed, had a sadistic streak and liked to torture and kill her slaves. Witnesses saw her chasing and whipping a terrified young slave girl who leaped to her death from the roof. Her body is alleged to be buried in the courtyard garden. One day the cook, who was kept chained to the stove, couldn't take it any longer and started a fire in the kitchen. When people came to put out the fire, they discovered several slaves chained in the attic. They had been tortured in all sorts of gruesome ways. Madame Lalaurie escaped the enraged mob that gathered but her house is said to still be haunted by the slaves she tortured and murdered.
We stopped to watch a performance of street breakdancers and they put on one helluva show. You can check them out at www.DragonmasterShowcase.com. They got Bippy in on their act but I don't they they expected her to just jump right in. They and the crowd loved her!
As it got dark, we headed back to Bourbon Street, which was a little more active on this Saturday night. One memory that sticks out was getting a "Go Cup" of beer at a bar and the bartender was watching "The Ten Commandments" with closed captioning. THAT was surreal. And the NCAA Hockey Championship game was that night and I kept stopping at every bar that had the game on to check the score. One of the locations that was showing the game in the doorway was one of the strip joints. Yes, I loitered outside the door of the titty bar so I could find out the hockey score. Too bad my camera didn't work so I could get a picture of the ho slouching in the doorway.
But I was able to get some crappy shots of Bourbon Street with my BlackBerry:
I really, really wish this picture would have come out better. It's hard to tell but this gentleman was wearing a wedding gown with a cathedral length train and he looked like he had put on his makeup on an airplane that was experiencing extreme turbulence. He was a drunken mess, staggering along and tripping over his train and he yelled at me for taking his picture without paying. You can't make this shit up.
A few nights earlier, we saw this gentleman performing. His "tap shoes" appeared to be crushed beer cans attached to the bottom of his shoes. He would dance on top of the manhole cover and clap along with his tapping. We think he had a touch of the kookoo but he was quite talented and had good rhythm.
We got hungry around 9:00pm and had a bite to eat at a little seafood joint on Bourbon Street. I had the gumbo which, once again, I could have gone swimming in because it was so good! We walked around a little longer and then headed back to our hotel to finish watching the Campiest Movie of All Time: The Ten Commandments. The line, "God parted the seas with a blast from his nostrils" sent me into spasms of hysterical laughter. I'm so going to hell in a bucket.
Final Day (Easter)
On Sunday, Easter Sunday, our final day in New Orleans, we had reservations for Easter Brunch at the World Famous Commander's Palace restaurant, the Flagship of the Brennan Family restaurants:
We got all dressed up quite colorfully (it was Easter! In New Orleans!) and headed for the St. Charles Streetcar to take us back to the Garden District. There was storms a-brewing and, in fact, tornado warnings were in full effect. It was pretty windy and the weather was not kind to our coiffures.
Commander's Palace was oh-so elegant and everybody was dressed up in their Easter best. Seeing all those ladies in their silk dresses, I felt like a country bumpkin and my hair-don't didn't help. Our hairs all look like crap but aren't we colorful?
We had a dee-licious meal (more turtle soup! Yummm-meeeee) and a trio played us a song. And there was a lady there who could have been Ruth Gordon, or her twin sister. Jamie named her "Maybelle". She was all dolled up with lots of heavy eyeliner and blue eyeshadow and had a satin "headache" bandeau on her head. Quite a character, she was. After brunch, we headed back to the streetcar stop only to have a dude walking by inform us that the streetcars were stopped because of the St. Charles Easter Parade(s). So back to Commander's Palace where the valet hailed us a cab and we headed back to the hotel to pack up and check out.
We had a couple of hours between checkout and airport so we decided to walk over to the National World War II Museum, which was several blocks away. Some friends of mine had suggested it but it was one of those places that wasn't real high on my list of things to see while in New Orleans. Well! I am SO glad we took the time to visit it. It was incredible and awesome and moving and fabulous and emotional. We didn't have enough time to see everything or watch any of the movies and personal narratives and Jamie had to leave before we did but we got to see enough. I would suggest putting tissues throughout the exhibit rooms because it's so emotional. All I can say is thank goodness for waterproof mascara.
Bippy and I headed back to the hotel to claim our luggage and got into a taxi to take us back to Louis Armstrong Airport and our flight home, which was interesting thanks to the people who changed their kids shitty diapers in their seat and then threw the soiled diapers on the floor, letting the stench permeate the cabin. Nice.
While I'm not a big traveler, I have been to a city or two in my lifetime: Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Rapid City, Waterloo, International Falls AND Fort Frances but I have never, ever fallen head over heals in love with a city the way I did with New Orleans. It's a city I had always dreamed of seeing and I had worried that it would fall short of my expectations but from the moment Bippy and I stepped outside our hotel for our first walk around town, that was it. It was everything beyond what I had hoped for.
I loved walking everywhere (my feet did not share my feelings) and seeing all the people: the drunk but happy guy on Bourbon Street who asked if I would be so kind as to share some of my beer with him (of course I did!), the guy loitering outside a Bourbon Street bar who told us that we "wuz lookin' mighty fine, ladies!" the not-quite-sure-of-the-gender bartender who served me a beer and Jamie & Tracie their virgin daquiris in Go-cups (and Jamie got brain-freeze), the gentleman in the Gumbo-YaYa Gift shop next to the Larry Flynt strip club who had such a thick Cajun accent it was hard to understand him, the hilarious guys of Dragonmaster Showcase who just kept the one-liners coming fast and furious and literally picked up Bippy and brought her in to their act.
I loved how the French Quarter can be so seedy, with the smell of stale beer, vomit and urine and the bars and strip clubs (Hello, Big Daddy's Love Show!), yet so beautiful and elegant at the same time. I wish we would have had more time to visit some of the museums in the French Quarter, such as Gallier House and the Beauregard-Keyes Mansion (Haunted!! and a helluva lot bigger than it looks in photos, by the way) as well as the antique shops that were closed by the time we got to the Quarter in the late afternoon/early evening. I would have loved to have hung out in a French Quarter bar, listening to zydeco and just people watching.
If we had had more time, I could have walked every single block in the Garden District, taken the St. Charles Streetcar all the way to the end of St. Charles, rode on the Canal St. Streetcar, done a 2 hour Mississippi River tour on the Natchez Queen and taken a Swamp tour.
And I would remember to bring my camera battery charger!
Since I've been home, I've had several dreams of being back in New Orleans. I miss it. Alot. I miss the food, the food, the incredible food! I miss walking everywhere (something we don't do here at home), the friendliness of the people, the history and just the all-around atmosphere. Would I want to live there? Hell to the NO! Did you see how bad my hair looked???? But I will go back, as soon as I can...in a non-summer month of course. I think this line from a book I once read sums it up: "Everybody that gots a soul in 'em loves New Orleans."