- On our ferry day, we were waiting for the boat to arrive. A number of people were milling about, chatting with whomever they had come: teenage girls, an elderly pair of women, a 30-something couple. We’re standing there, being silly and talking with each other when the woman from the 30-something couple comes up to us and says, “How far can you bend your thumb back?” At first I couldn’t actually understand her, and wasn’t sure if she was crazy, but Boris had and starts looking at his thumb. I finally realized what had happened and we had a lengthy conversation about thumbs and double-jointedness, which turned to their asking us what we were up to, and giving us the low down on Algiers. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had invited us to tag along with them on their day, too.
- On that same day, just as we had crossed the river we were meandering along Rue Louis Armstrong, the path that runs along the river and gives details about Jazz greats. A middle-aged couple walking a couple dogs goes by. I don’t even know how they started talking to us (and by us, I mean Boris, who, despite the beard & muscles is one of the most approachable people on the planet). The husband told us to walk along Delamonde, that it was a nice street to see, and that there was a church with a park next to it. They asked where we were from, where we were going, whether we liked it in New Orleans. They revealed to us that they were transplants, and had moved there five years ago and there was no end in sight! Off we went, then, to check out their recommendation of the church/park combo.
- Walking along Delamonde, I was further ahead admiring the homes and Boris was behind taking photos. There was a man sitting on a front porch across the street. From across the street, he greets Boris, asks how things are going. Boris replies with a question about directions to the church, and the man runs across the street to answer him. Runs! Apparently his radio was on and he couldn’t hear the question. They had an entire exchange during which the man said he was visiting his father for his 90th birthday, he was from Ohio, asked where we were from, etc. etc. When we were walking back to the ferry about an hour later, we passed by and met his entire family sitting on the porch. We also got a chance to wish his father–who looked great!–a happy birthday.
For our last full day in N’awlins, we decided to take the ferry to Algiers Point, a historic neighborhood across the river. We figured we’d get to see the skyline from a new perspective. Perspective is usually good, right?
Again we took advantage of the cheap and convenient streetcar down St. Charles and disembarked at Canal, feeling like old hands at the route by the end of the week. This time, though, instead of continuing our walk straight ahead onto Bourbon Street, we stayed along Canal and walked toward the river.
The ferry to Algiers Point is free, and is actually a much shorter ride than I anticipated. To cross the river on the ferry only takes like 10 minutes or so, and it runs every 30 minutes. We used that time to enjoy the New Orleans skyline, and Boris took a lot of artsy photos.
|This is the ferry worker opening the doors onto the other side.|
|View from the river|
|Good thing we won’t be needing these! I wouldn’t care to swim in the Mississippi.|
Other than the Louis Armstrong walk along the river, there’s not a ton to do in Algiers Point. But you can learn about Louis Armstrong and other jazz greats while walking along the river path!
|Louis Armstrong immortalized|
We walked a short time along the river, and then got a recommendation from a passerby to go down Delamonde street for some lovely home viewing. With nothing else on the agenda, we did just that. Algiers Point was hit a bit less heavily by Katrina compared to other parts of the city, and so the houses were mostly still in tip-top antique shape.
|A yard! I want a yard like this!|
We walked along the sidewalks admiring the houses and yards and porches and gardens. After getting more help from a man on a porch (more on this later), we found a church with a little park next to it, which was kitty-corner to a small cafe.
An iced coffee and watermelon ice later, we headed back to the ferry.
Right along the river walk there is the Plaza de España, a gift given to New Orleans in 1976 by Spain. At first glance, I was really confused; these tiles with the shield of the Spanish provinces looked very familiar!
|A photo I took in 2007 at the Plaza de Espana in Sevilla; in each alcove is a provincial depiction, just like the one in New Orleans. Somehow I neglected to take a photo from the front…|
|Two of the tiles from the Plaza de Espana of New Orleans.|
Helen had said she might be able to come by for lunch, so we were surprised to see her walk in accompanied by none other than my cousin! He lives in New York (in fact, I’ve written about his work here) and it was a total shock to see him! We lunched around the corner at Joey K’s, a Magazine Street establishment dedicated to serving home-cooked deliciousness. I had a roast beef debris po’boy, which reminded me a lot of a Cuban style beef dish called ropa vieja, which means “old clothes.” Basically, it’s slow-cooked so that the beef becomes so soft it’s like it shreds itself. Tasty.
By this point in the afternoon, the skies had cleared up enough to be able to meander back down to the Quarter. So, we hit up the trolley again. Can I just say that cities that have practical public transportation really rock? When I lived in Portland, it was super easy to take the bus and the MAX line, and visiting big metro areas with subways is pretty spiffy. Tucson is working on it with the light rail being built, but it’s going to take some time. What’s cool about the New Orleans trolley car* system is that its origins are quite old and established; NOLA was the first city to use passenger streetcars west of the Alleghenies.
*In doing some research, I just discovered that apparently “trolley” is almost never what New Orleanians call the vehicles. It’s always “streetcar” in the Big Easy! I’m from out of town, I guess I can get away with calling it a “trolley”?
By the time we got back to the Quarter, the skies were darkening again. We popped into a few shops and galleries again, and then sought refuge and a warm drink at the Royal Blend on, you guessed it, Royal Street. Hot chocolate heated our tummies and we watched a pair of charismatic kitties play in the courtyard.
Still in search of that tarot reading, we inquired at the coffee shop for recommendations. New Orleans takes its cartomancy pretty seriously, as it does for voodoo, etc. Only a block or so away from Royal Blend is Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, named for Marie Laveau, the famed Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. If you need simple souvenirs, you can get them there, but you can also get gris-gris, spell kits, mojo bags, crosses & saints, and more. You can also get readings done by spiritual mediums, which is what we did for Boris. There are many options when it comes to getting these types of readings performed; you can do aura readings, past life readings, Egyptian tarot, even Vedic palmistry (reading using the structure of the human hand). We opted for the basic palm/tarot combo. The medium covered everything from Boris’ health to his current life plans to future fatherhood, a lot of it seeming to be spot on, some of it not so much.
To me, the most interesting thing is how these mediums read people more than a hand or card (although it truly depends on where you stand as to the validity of these practices). My reason for not getting a reading done this trip is because I got one in New York a few years ago and I’m pleased with what the lady told me. So far, a lot of it has come true, albeit in a general sense that would be easily applicable. I could have sworn I wrote it down somewhere, but now I can’t find it. These are the major things that I remember from mine:
I would meet my significant other in the next 3 months. This turned out to come true, although not in the direct way I expected; I did meet Boris in that 3 month window, but we didn’t start dating for another 5 or 6.
I would not work for others, I would soon start to work for myself. This is basically coming true now! Perhaps only for a little, but with the long-term goal being to write and earn some money for it.
She predicted a number of things for me, many of which I can’t vouch for yet. She said I’d have a happy marriage, and that I would have a total of 3 kids, including miscarriages, which was slightly disconcerting. She said I’d live a long life, well into my 80’s. I hope she’s right about that one.
Anyway, to hear the medium be reading Boris in such a specific way was fascinating. Time can only tell whether his predictions will come true…
That evening, we went to the chic bar attached to Arnaud’s, French 75. Arnaud’s has been in operation since 1918, and as such, has a rich history. It was opened by a count to serve authentic Creole fare, and has remained a family-owned business for the entirety of its existence. President George H.W. Bush and many others claim Arnaud’s as their favorite restaurant, and the hallway leading up to the Mardi Gras Museum is lined with signed head shots of celebrities and politicians who have enjoyed their time there. We enjoyed ours, to be sure. Also, the cheese plate was stellar.
For our last stop of the night, we made our way to Herbsaint for a late dinner. Probably this was one of the top 3 best dinners of my life; definitely the best in recent memory. Every bite was perfect; I ordered “butter poached gulf tuna with criolla sella chili and lemon,” and Boris & I split the dirty rice. Paired with a light rosé and a “warm chocolate pudding cake with salted caramel, cashew ice cream and cocoa nib caramel corn,” I would say I was more than satisfied by the end of the meal.
No wonder that guy thought I looked pregnant. 😉
After a right onto Napoleon and another left onto Freret, we finally reached our destination : Beaucoup Juice. Only in its second year of operation, Beaucoup Juice specializes in healthful, filling juices, smoothies and snoballs. A realtor would call the shop “cozy,” and the menu chalked onto the walls was colorful. I got the Freret, which featured beets, lime, cucumber and more; Boris ordered one with beets and ginger. Yummy!
After our juice pick-me-up, we kept a straight course to run into Tulane, a great university. Boris had the idea to check in with their classics and English departments, to see whether they might have programs either of us was interested in. What with the world being so small, it turned out that the woman we talked to in classics knew some of our professors! Alas, no Ph.D programs. Next stop, English Department. I was told brusquely that Tulane did not have an MFA program “and never will.” Someone thought there were too many already. Fair enough, I suppose, although we laughed about the disparity between our interactions.
Tulane was checked off our list, and we continued our wandering, this time in search of lunch. Yelp came to the rescue, and we meandered past Audobon Park, through a neighborhood and to an unassuming house that had been converted into a restaurant space. Tartine. They specialize in French-style open-faced sandwiches of the same name. Brie with ham and a wasabi mustard on a baguette was my choice, while Boris got a salmon paste/caper/jam affair. The catch with his, though, was that he had to dress the sandwich himself. Life is tough. 😉 Both sandwiches turned out to be stellar. If you’re ever in the Tulane area, definitely check this place out.
Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent checking out the work my aunt had been doing, which was a real treat. The highlight, though, came when one of the drivers walked up and started chatting with Boris. He had glanced at me and said to my oblivious boyfriend, “Ah, you’ve got a little one.” Any woman hearing these words knows exactly what that means, but Boris, being a dude, was bewildered and thought,”Little? She’s about 5’4, that’s not too little.” As soon as the words “little one” emerged from this poor old man’s mouth, I blurted the first thing that came to my head, “ha, yeah, a FOOD baby!” At which point we cracked up and the gentleman proceeded to backpedal like crazy, trying to talk about other women he knew who were pregnant. I don’t think he helped himself much when he said, “well, Carl’s wife is starting to show and she’s about your size.” Honestly, if I were built differently, I would have been pretty horrified, but it was mostly just hilarious. In his defense, too, we had just eaten and I was slouching, so I looked a bit pregnant. Guys, a word to the wise: NEVER ask a woman if she’s preggers, EVEN IF she’s about to pop unless you are COMPLETELY sure that’s what’s up. Just a general rule of thumb.
Luckily, my aunt got off at a reasonable hour, and we managed to catch the sunset over drinks and dinner along the lake. The food was mediocre (which is still pretty good in New Orleans), but the view was fantastic. Sailboats pulling in and motor boats going out while the sun drifted down.
Our evening ended at One Eyed Jack’s, where much of the clientele looked like they a) missed the 70’s, b) shopped only at the Hell’s Angels Depot or c) were stand-ins for Moe from The Simpsons. One of Helen’s crew was about to go on tour with his band, which played hard rock. And oh, did they! I was expecting not to enjoy it as much as I did (after all, it was loud and I am getting old, ha ha) but it ended up being pretty good. All in all, we saw a lot of the city, ate some more good food, and slept well that night.
Pictures are now up on my Facebook page! And don’t forget, if you use Facebook, want to stay connected as I begin my travels in July and beyond, please “like” my page on Facebook or find me on twitter @saramelanie14!
From there, we took the streetcar down to Canal St and wandered around the French Quarter, popping into galleries and antique shops to cool off and admire the wares. One shop we perused featured dozens of antique chandeliers; checking the price tag, I saw a loopy $450,000 cursived on. Boris and I estimated that the ceiling in that shop alone was worth approximately a jillion dollars.
|Home of the many antique French chandeliers|
As we sought a place for lunch, we spotted a postman taking a break by his truck. In true Boris fashion, we asked him where he, being a local, would recommend eating. He named a few places, and we found one: Desire. Continuing on our streak of eating local cuisine, Boris ordered a gator burger and I got a fried catfish po’boy. We weren’t disappointed, although I think I was initially confused about what makes a sandwich a po’boy. We asked the waitress, who said it had to do with the bread, and upon further research (thanks, Wikipedia ), we discovered that all it really was was a sandwich with meat or seafood, a type of baguette- ish bread and pickles, sauce, lettuce & tomato. Basically, a Louisiana sub.
|Desire on Bienville.|
Our trek continued back to where our ghost tour had led us the previous night, St. Jack’s Square. A giant sculpture of Andrew Jackson on a horse rears up in front of the cathedral; in front of the church fortune tellers camp out to give palm readings, and on the other side, horse & carriage tours wait under the sun to entice tourists to go on a buggy tour of the French Quarter.
|Andrew Jackson. And a horse.|
We walked down along the river side to the French Market, where we ogled the gator jerky, jewelry and chatted with a nice young woman who sold natural spa products. I bought a floppy straw hat, which was much needed considering the fact that a) I had brought mostly sundresses to wear and b) forgot to pack sunscreen. (Don’t worry, Mom, we got some at the drug store later.)
|Me in my floppy hat!|
Eventually, we strolled back to a trolley stop and took it to the Garden District, only to get off a little earlier than we meant. At least I got some gelato out of it… Dinner that night was a delicious steak cookout with some of Helen’s coworkers. Boris helped man the grill, and we ate well and enjoyed good company. Whew!
|Preparing the grill!|
|One of the houses in the Garden District. I want one!|
Our first order of business was to get some grub. This was another experience I was anticipating with much relish; I’ve never really eaten true Southern fare! We ended up on Magazine at The Rum House, where I had perhaps the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. Louisiana crab meat, melted jack cheese, a fried green tomato with wilted greens and a red remoulade sauce on a house -baked Cuban roll. YUM. SERIOUSLY. I thought I took a photo of it on my phone, but it turns out I ate instead.
Boris had some tasty fried oyster tacos, as well as a lamb vindaloo taco, jerked vegetables, and coconut mango rice. I won the food-choosing challenge, though. We all agreed. 😉 After a much needed nap, we headed down to the French Quarter for our ghost tour. New Orleans has a rich history, which is really another way of saying there are a lot of ghosts here. At least, according to legend. Whether or not you believe in a postmortem sojourn on Earth, the stories on these tours are usually pretty interesting if you can stomach them. Our tour lasted about two hours, but I’ll share a couple of my favorite stories.
The Vampire Girls: back when NOLA was still run by France, there wasn’t a huge female population for a while. To rectify this, the Ursuline nuns came and campaigned to bring some demure young ladies to be wives to some of the gents. They arrived late one night wan and pale and their baggage looked suspiciously like coffins (turns out, coffin-style trunks were the cheapest options). This raised eyebrows, as did the (completely coincidental ) outbreak of tuberculosis that immediately followed their arrival and the fact that the windows of the convent where they lived were totally fettered shut (privacy for teenage girls was apparently also strange to the then+residents of the Crescent City). All of these thrown together equaled a lynch mob one night outside the door of the convent urging for the death of the vampiresses. A clever priest volunteered to fix the problem, and “exorcised” the demons from the convent, which really entailed a lot of theatrics to convince the angry crowd that there was no threat and allow the terrified women to escape. Not a real ghost story, but an interesting one.
|This balcony belongs to a house that is supposedly haunted by the spirit of a young woman whose love for a boy from the wrong side of town went awry when her father found out…|
The Love-sick Kleptomaniac: on St. Philip St. There was a funeral parlor owned by a man who had a lovely daughter. She fell for a good kid from the wrong side of the tracks, as it were, whose family happened to be no good. Dad got wind of how she had been sneaking out and caught her one night. Some say she slipped shimmying down from the second floor as she had so many tines before to meet her beau, others say her pop pushed her, but in any case she didn’t survive the fall. Now, the house is the presidential suite for a nearby hotel. Guests frequently report jewelry stolen, specifically engagement and wedding rings. If you’re forceful enough with her spirit, she’ll return them. Otherwise, she walks the balcony where she met her demise…
|Even the only photo I managed to take of the scariest place on the tour looks creepy!|
The scariest one of them all involved a rich woman, mistreatment of her help that involved insane human body experiments and a clean getaway…Suffice to say, this place is so haunted that the cops have stopped responding to calls of people witnessing a girl plummeting from the second story.
My laptop is not coming with us, but I will be posting a lot on Twitter (@saramelanie14) and Instagram (SaraMelanie14), and updating my bumblings with my little Blogger app a la NYC in March. Never fear, you’ll get a full report on our adventures in the Big Easy!
And don’t forget, if you have a Facebook and you haven’t “liked” The Bumblings of Miss Button already, please do! 🙂 It’s a great way to get easy blog updates to your newsfeed if you don’t use google reader, etc.
Soon we’ll be able to send postcards like this!
|Photo courtesy of Vintagraph.Squarespace.com|