I’ve already received one comment on my last post, from @aleksawal. She is currently in NOLA, as well, and is very behind in her blog posts. More evidence that there is so much to do here. In truth, I have rewalked the same roads several times. In just three days, I have walked the same stretch of Royal Street, from Elysian Fields Ave. to St. Peter, that some might consider that wasted time – looking at the same scenes over and over again. Except that it’s not; it’s different every time you revisit a spot. There are new people to see, new street performers, new musicians, and sometimes you’re just going back to that restaurant or shop you passed by earlier, but didn’t have time to stop at.
For how late I stayed up last night, writing a blog post, I awoke fairly early this morning. I decided that it was the right time to cross a few more drinks off my list. Not at 8AM, mind you, but at some point during the day. The weather forecast projected a nice sunny day, around 75 degrees, and that signaled the supposedly refreshing Pimm’s Cup. This is a British drink, made with Pimm’s #1 and cucumber, but a well known version of it is made at Napoleon House. Napoleon House is a site in itself – an old building which was offered to Napoleon Bonaparte to escape his exile 200 years ago. He never arrived but the building holds his name in tribute.
With my camera in tow, I again wandered the streets of the French Quarter, strolling the waterfront and watching the ferry go back and forth to Algiers, the historic neighborhood across the water. I walked down to Jackson Square, saw the enormous line for Beignets and moved on. I also enjoyed the sights and smells of the nearby Foodfest, a smaller-than-expected fair of food tents from both local and not so local. I noticed a couple very famous restaurants, including Memphis’ Central BBQ. I didn’t try anything, but perhaps best of all there was a stage of local music. A great band was playing jazz and exciting the crowd. I think this group was from a part of NOLA called Treme (truh-may) and I think they were high school aged or possibly just older. I watched for a while and continued on with my camera.
At this point, I realized that I hadn’t yet stopped by a highly recommended bar in the French Quarter, Erin Rose. It’s a small bar – a real local bar, not a tourist-sized bar, and it has a small food joint at the back called Killer Po-Boy. I ordered a veggie po-boy; I forget the ingredients but it was good. I think it had squash or sweet potato, perhaps. I took a seat at the bar and paired this po boy with a Bloody Mary, Portland’s breakfast drink of choice. To go, I got a frozen Irish coffee, and quickly determined it is my favorite of those I had tried within the city.
A couple hours later, I ordered that Pimm’s Cup and it was tasty. Best of all, I was impressed with the bartender. This was a crowded place, but the waitstaff at Napoleon House was dressed in its best black and white, and seemed very classic and professional. Let me tell you, this bartender was amazing. Mario, a 50-something (I’m not good with ages) man with a classic moustache was on auto-pilot, was totally in charge of his space, and I really felt like I was in the presence of a legend. He told me about a drink called a Ginger Pimm’s, which as it sounds, is like a Pimm’s Cup but with ginger ale. I took it to go and wandered toward Louis Armstrong Park, just a few blocks north with a very historic spot called Congo Square. Way back when, slaves were given Sundays off and they would congregate here and play their African beats. This is widely thought to be the birthplace of jazz. I visited in silence for a few minutes, pondered, prayed, imagined, then quickly walked back into the city toward the Cathedral of St. Louis, the main church you see in all the NOLA literature.
I arrived after 4pm, which is when it opens to the public, but there was a mass scheduled for 5pm. Being that it is pre-Easter week, there were palm branches in a basket and waiting to be blessed. I decided to stay for the service, my first Catholic service. After all, I’m open to a new experience and Easter isn’t just Catholic. My palm was blessed and I quietly found a seat. I participated by following along, reading the hymnal (I forget the name), and everything else that was in line with the services I am used to. At the end I took my palm, and walked out into Jackson Square and toward Frenchmen Street.
Frenchmen Street is a wonder alternative to Bourbon Street; this is a more more refined assortment of music clubs, nice restaurants, and one can carry a drink in a to-go cup and wander from club to club. Multiple performers play music and each of the clubs has a schedule each night. A music club/bar (with a large selection), named d.b.a. had a band that I was interested in. On a previous day, I looked at the clubs’ calendars and this particular group, which I’d probably describe as a Dixie band, was on at d.b.a. at 6pm. I enjoyed two new beers and then went toward the performance space and enjoyed the rest of this band’s set. They were known as Tuba Skinny, and here is a Youtube video of a previous performance, actually filmed at the same club.
I wandered in this street, basically just hanging out, talking to some people, peeking in some windows, and just before heading back home, I went into an almost-cartoonish hot dog place on Frenchmen Street called Dat Dog. I ordered a chef’s choice gator dog and the chef chose to adorn it with cheese sauce, spicy salsa, and mustard. So ends day #3. Hopefully great things are in store for tomorrow.