Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! Day 2 November 14, 2008

I got up around 6:30. M finally seemed to be sleeping, although still rather fitfully. She had taken something for the nausea, so the vomiting at least had stopped. C and I were the only ones up for a while, then we were joined by S and D an hour or so later. M got up around 8:30, groggy, looking a bit worse for the wear, but feeling a little better. We sat around talking, ate some cereal, poured some mimosas - none for M, though. Finally around 10:00, we started getting ready to venture out. It wasn't our intention to begin the day so late, but that's what happened! It seems that while we were chatting, it started raining. During the course of getting ready, it began to rain really hard! So we waited for a bit to see if it would abate, and then decided to leave. We had discussed doing some tours, but decided the swamp tour was out, as were the walking tours. We tossed around the idea of doing a carriage tour, but didn't make any set plans before we left. We all ended up with our own umbrella, which was nice because we were able to stay pretty dry. Did get splashed a couple of times by rude car drivers, but nothing terrible.

We walked across the street, past the Federal Mint Museum that was across from the condo, aptly named Hotel de la Monnaie, and window-shopped our way through the French Market (read: flea market-style setup with booths), got ideas for souvenirs to take back to our families, and then spent some time wandering down the streets, looking into the myriad shop windows, checking out restaurant menus along the way. As it was late morning, we decided to eat first. Go figure! Hard to make a choice, but we finally settled on a little corner place - Cafe Beignet. This was a little cafe, where you place your order at the counter, seat yourselves, and they bring your order out. Nothing fancy, to say the least. But still good fare. I had a ham and cheese croissant with a cafe au lait. The food was very good- but the service. OY! The attitude that came rolling off the woman who took our orders...I have grounded my children for far less attitude than she was dishing out, no pun intended!

C and I had already placed our orders and went to wait for our food. C had put two tables together to accommodate the five of us, and immediately the woman is sassing her about putting them back when we were finished. Had we not already paid, I would have suggested leaving right then.

S, M and D placed their orders, and D went down the street for a different flavor of chips. S sat down and said she heard the woman complaining that "all those b*tches, not a one left a tip!" Now, there was a tip jar on the counter, but I was planning to leave a tip on the table. Not happening after that!

Anyway, we all enjoyed our food, except for the perpetual attitude - although the man who actually brought us our food was very nice - put our tables back where they went, and left. I did not tip, but I think M had actually placed her tip in the tip jar, so Attitude Wench was wrong. Ha! We were going to get some beignets there at Cafe Beignet, now dubbed Cafe Attitude, but obviously we weren't giving them any more of our money, so away we went.

Because it had been raining, and was supposed to continue, we decided to take a carriage tour. Just outside Jackson Square we found a line of carriages, all wanting to give any one who walked by a tour. We checked the price on one, compared it to the next one and found them to be about the same. So we decided to hop on the second carriage - covered, thankfully, as it began to rain again during our tour. I cannot remember our tour guide's name, but the mule was named Dixie, and she was an old pro! Our tour guide was pretty good, entertaining and informative. (We ended up eating at a couple of places she recommended later on our trip, and tried to eat at least on other, but it was too crowded.) One thing about our guide - she had an annoying way of saying "Andrew Jackson" so that it came out sounding like "Angie Jackson." We joked about that the rest of the trip. One funny story she told us - Tennessee Williams had a place in New Orleans, and every year there is a "Stella!" yelling contest. Last year, one guy actually yelled, rather than "Stella" - "FEMA!!" Everyone thought it was so funny, he won! A good story....

Our tour ended back at Jackson Square, so we paid, and headed into the square. The first thing you see is the grand statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback, tipping his hat. Beyond that is the grand St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest active cathedral in the US. I had been there before, but it had been years, so I was eager to see it again. The interior was even more beautiful and serene than I remembered! What a gorgeous building. The original marble floor down the center of the sanctuary, the dramatic murals, the glorious stained glass windows, the beautiful wooden pews and confessionals, the amazing organ, the marble, Latin-inscribed tombs of early prominent parishioners, the candles...I could go on and on! I bet it would be amazing to sing there...but, I digress!

Jackson Square is flanked by rows of shops, and after we left the cathedral, we wandered past the shops on one side. Because of the rain, there weren't as many vendors in the square as I have seen in the past, but there were a few fortune-tellers, and a few vendors selling portraits and other things. It had mostly stopped raining by now, but things were still pretty wet, so there weren't that many artists out.

We meandered out of the square and back onto the sidewalk lined with carraiages. Everyone was ready for a snack by then, so we ran across the street to Cafe du Monde for some cafe au lait and beignets. Cannot go to New Orleans and not have beignets! For those who might not know, beignets are a light square doughnut, served hot and with powdered sugar on top. Messy to eat, but yum! When eating beignets, be careful not to breathe out, or inhale, for that matter, as you take a bite. Powdered sugar everywhere! Cafe au lait is half coffee with chickory and half hot milk. A perfect accompaniment to the warm beignets, especially on a rainy day! (Come to think of it, I pretty much drink my coffee at home the same way, minus the chickory....)

There is always some sort of street music happening in New Orleans, much as in the New York City subways. At Cafe du Monde we heard a small band playing for the patrons, with one of the players doing some singing, too. Sometimes the patrons sang along. Throughout the weekend we heard guitar players, at least one violin players, other small bands, drums, and of course, more singing. All pretty good, too! Something else we saw on practically every street corner - mimes. They were covered in either gold or silver body paint, with matching gold or silver clothes. I guess you would call them mimes. They would freeze in some pretty tough-looking positions, and you had to watch for quite a while sometimes to see one of them move. Hard way to make a living....

After our treat, we walked around some more; window-shopping, people-watching, just enjoying ourselves. Because you have to experience it at least once each time you go to New Orleans, and because one of our group had never seen it, we ended up on the chaos that is Bourbon Street. Whew! I had forgotten just how wacky it is. It is amazing how different the French Quarter is depending on where you are. Alternate realities existing at the same time! Bourbon Street means loud bars, street performers, hand grenade stands, drunks, topless/bottomless spots, pictures of nude women in compromising positions, and it wasn't even dusk yet. (Night time on Bourbon Street is a whole other world, and I am not going there....) Walking down the street, we passed a 'performer' standing outside an all-nude place, wearing a yellow bikini and some funky shoes I didn't really see, just heard about from D. From across the street runs some guy, drunk, I am sure, waving five bucks and yelling, "Titties, titties!" So for his five bucks, the 'lady' pulled down her top and gave him a look. Quick, easy five bucks! Thanks, but no thanks.

Not two streets over is another world altogether. Quiet, charming balconies with window boxes, and then if you go too far you are in the ghetto. Talk about a melting pot.

We did some more walking, and then decided to go back to the condo, rest, pick a place for dinner, and get changed. It was nice to be on our schedule, and not our kids' schedules! After some rest and research, we decided on The Court of Two Sisters. I know the jazz brunch is a big favorite of tourists, but we opted to experience Two Sisters at dinnertime. Everyone cleaned up and changed, and away we went! We took the street car, which had a stop just outside the condo, so we didn't have to walk that much in heels.

I had eaten at Two Sisters years before, but I didn't remember that much about it, except the jazz and the food were great. This night the food lived up to my memory, and then some! We were able to sit outside, thanks to the rain stopping. We were covered by a gorgeous canopy of vines, and were graced with a falling leaf every once in a while! It just added to our salads. There was also a nice fountain, but no jazz playing that night, at least none that I heard.

We had a great waiter, very friendly and helpful. I think we all decided on the prix fixe menu, which was a good amount of food for a pretty reasonable price, I thought. I had a salad, turtle soup, duck confit, and pecan pie. The food was delicious, especially the turtle soup and duck. M ordered the veal, and she and I shared our entrees. The veal was also delicious! The pecan pie was good, but not really any better than I can make at home. But that was okay, I love pecan pie, good or bad. S and C each had the Bananas Foster and Cherries Jubilee, so we got to watch the show, and then got to sample!

We had a lovely, leisurely meal, although there was some confusion at the end of the meal regarding our tab. According to our waiter, it was worked out, so I guess everything was okay. I still think we ended up not paying the tax on our meal, but I tried to bring it to his attention. Oh, well....

After such a great meal, we had to walk it off, so we ended up strolling up and down the streets, looking into shops, going into a couple to look at the (overpriced) jewelry. S got at least one proposition - an older gentleman wanted to know if she was married. He took her affirmative answer very graciously and left her alone. Later, another guy yelled at her, "Amazon!" We ended up in the Gay District, where a drag queen wanted to know if we knew what HBIC meant. We were wracking our brains when S blurted out, "Head Bitch In Charge!" Who knew she was so hip?!! Now, I want a shirt that just says HBIC.

Long walk back to the condo, with me cursing my shoes the whole way. I think a couple of the other ladies weren't happy with their footwear by this point, either. Sucks getting old, sometimes!

We got back to the condo around 11:00, I think, and spent the next couple of hours chatting. I am chagrined to admit that I did doze off periodically during the chatting, but I don't believe I was the only one. I have never been much of a night owl. I tried, but just couldn't stay awake! Off to bed....