Hi there….I’m back. Took the weekend to recover. I think I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things after returning from vacation. Seems to be taking longer than usual. Hmmm…wonder why that is? I’m thinking NOLA had quite the effect on me. Must be true what you’ve all said, the city gets under your skin.
So where was I. Oh yes, WEDNESDAY, MAY 14, 2014.
Absolutely fabulous day! It was sunny, not a cloud in the sky, gentle breeze and forecast to be in the low-mid 70s. Couldn’t have asked for a better day! Figured I’d try being wild and crazy so I slept in until 6:30am instead of 6:00am! (Tip: This is what happens when you get used to waking up at 5:00am without an alarm clock…people, USE an alarm clock every day!!! Trust me, you’ll thank me later when you’re on vacation). My friend on the other hand, you guessed it….sleeping.
Went down to the lobby and grabbed a cup of coffee and sat in the courtyard and caught up on a few emails. About a half hour later, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my friend tore herself away from the sheets and came down for breakfast all on her own. We both grabbed a bite to eat, but I reminded her not to overdo it, we were going to CAFÉ DU MONDE so she could try their awesome beignets first hand. (Bought some of their beignet mix to take home and actually made them this weekend! I was SO impressed with myself. They turned out really great – minus the atmosphere of course). Went upstairs to change and then headed out.
Like I previously wrote, CAFÉ DU MONDE is a totally different place after 9:00am. This time, all of the tables were taken, except for a few with empty coffee cups and plates covered in powdered sugar. A few people stood by the entrance trying to figure out which way to go so my friend and I quickly grabbed one of the empty tables hoping someone would come by to clear it up. Unlike the other day when the man on the sidewalk played Moon River on his Sax, this time, there was a guy more interested in selling his cd’s to everyone that he didn’t get halfway through a single verse of any one song the entire time we were there…so annoying! How did he want anyone to buy anything if they weren’t able to listen to him play?? It was so busy that it took about 10 minutes before someone acknowledged we were there and came to clear the table and take our order. I told my friend to order the CAFÉ AU LAIT and a small order of BEIGNETS (3 per order). She thought it would be too much (we’d just had breakfast) but I told her to hold off on making that decision until she tried them. About 5 minutes later, the waitress arrived with the three warm, fluffy, golden beignets and coffee. She took her first bite….the expression said it all. We chit chatted while she devoured the beignets, occasionally dunking them into her coffee, and before you knew it, they were all gone. “Told you you’d eat them all up. They’re addictive. Once you eat one you can’t stop.”
We made our way through the streets, making sure to look in every direction, especially up. We couldn’t get enough of the beautiful architecture, the wrought iron balconies (each a masterpiece) with their colorful flower boxes and hanging planters, Mardi Gras beads hanging from lamp posts and Saints /Who Dat paraphernalia. Eventually we made our way back to JACKSON SQUARE.
Our first stop, the PRESBYTERE. I had read good reviews about this museum so we wanted to check it out. What caught our attention was the fact that it is a combination of a Hurricane Katrina exhibit as well as a Mardi Gras exhibit. As our time was limited, we had been against taking a tour of Mardi Gras World or of the Ninth Ward as they would involve too much time. This seemed like a perfect compromise, albeit a more condensed version. The admission price was $6.00 each for adults which I thought was quite reasonable.
The first exhibit is right in the lobby where you first enter. Hanging overhead, the beautiful exhibit is comprised of 1,600 glass bottles each with a note inside, honoring the people that died in the Katrina floods, as well as several outreached hands that represent the first responders. A light display makes the glass bottles turn various shades of aqua and purple. It is a really moving tribute. Also in the lobby is the actual piano belonging to Fats Domino recovered from his home after the hurricane in the very same condition it was found, with a picture of it in the very room of his home after the storm. For those that have never lived through an actual hurricane or tropical storm (like my friend), the next exhibit gives you a sense of what it feels like (on a VERY SMALL scale). You enter a small, dark room with various large screens showing video footage of Katrina ravaging the streets, the flooding and the noise. The actual emergency news reports play over the loudspeakers in the background while a fan blows on you to give you a sense of what it could feel like in a storm. (Mind you, about 100 mile/hour winds stronger). My friend was shocked at how scary it all felt/sounded. Even having lived through Hurricane Andrew in So. Florida and Hurricane David in the Bahamas, it brought chills down my spine. The entire exhibit is very sad, yet quite informative. As for the Mardi Gras exhibit, never having actually experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans, we really enjoyed reading the history and seeing several of the beautiful costumes and video footage.
OK, so now that we had done our sightseeing for the day, it was definitely time for a cocktail…and maybe two (who’s counting). A block away down a small alley we came across a tiny little bar, PIRATE’s ALLEY CAFÉ AND ABSINTH HOUSE. Very cute. Not sure if it was too early, but other than the bartender sitting outside with two of her friends having a smoke and dressed up in her official pirate’s garb, we were the only ones there. Wasn’t feeling too adventurous so I ordered a gin tonic and asked to use the restroom. When I came back out, the place was hopping (I was gone less than 5 minutes). The bartender had lined up about 10 empty glasses (5 plastic, 5 glass) and began making what looked like Bloody Mary’s. Turned out to be the spiciest Blood Mary I’d ever had (after seeing her make them, I decided I needed to try one). She poured so much tabasco that at thought it was tomato juice, not to mention the horseradish and pepper she added. AWESOME!!! The group that walked in got down to business fast. They each ordered a French Absinthe which they drank as though they were each having a shot of tequila, with a spicy Bloody Mary chaser. Turns out they were from California and were in NOLA celebrating one of their son’s 6th birthday….did someone say Birthday?? (Someone needs a BIRTHDAY DOLLAR!) Apparently this was their third time in NOLA and as everyone else, they fell in love right away and have been back every year since. They told us PIRATE’s ALLEY CAFÉ is always their first stop because they make good, strong drinks. As for the French Absinthe….definitely an acquired taste, but we did enjoy the entire “production” of preparing it. We really loved the beautiful jars where the absinthe is kept. Saw several at various antique stores on Royal.
Out of nowhere it became quite overcast and looked like a downpour was inevitable. We had each brought an umbrella on the trip (safely tucked away in our hotel room) so we needed a place for lunch and to ride out the storm. Ended up at MURIEL’s. Again, our timing was a bit off as the lunch rush had finished and we were the only ones there. They seated us at a table in the covered courtyard by the bar. We had actually been there earlier wanting to get a drink, but the bartender totally ignore us while taking care of another group of women so we walked out. Can’t believe he would be our server! (Hopefully he wouldn’t spit in our food). I told my friend he was probably having a bad morning but I was determined to “turn him” and make him smile. (Needless to say, by the end of lunch he was all giddy and telling us about his son. Kill them with kindness I say, works every time). As for lunch, fabulous! My friend ordered the Blackened Mississippi Catfish and I ordered their Crawfish and Goat Cheese Crepes….died and gone to Heaven!!!
The rainstorm was a false alarm. When we emerged from MURIEL’s, the temperature had dropped about 5 degrees, it was clear with absolutely no humidity and a little windy. Actually a little chilly in the shade. Jackson Square was full of tourists, palm readers, fortune tellers, a few artists selling their artwork and a lovely little group of musicians right in the center playing some sort of Cajun music. We briefly sat on the steps to listen and enjoy the moment. I suddenly remembered I’d read that BRAD PITT would be in town on Friday for a benefit so decided on doing a little recon of my own. We walked over to his house to see if our lucky streak had not ended. (Yes, I too have been known to drool every so often). Apparently we were not the only ones doing recon. When we arrived, we found about 6-7 paparazzi hanging out. There seemed to be some activity going on in the JOLIE-PITT homestead as several people were seen entering and leaving. We hung around for a while, took a few pictures of the paparazzi and then decided to head back to the hotel for – you guessed again – the infamous NAP, before we headed over to FRENCHMEN STREET for dinner and entertainment. (Turns out Brad Pitt and Matthew MCConaughey had a fun exchange involving Brad throwing a beer from his balcony across the street over to Matt).
It was still light when we headed out so we decided on walking to FRENCHMEN STREET. So far, my friend had missed out on my morning walks so this gave her an opportunity to check out several of the shops on DECATUR STREET.
Our first stop per the recommendations, THE THREE MUSES. Hostess was sitting outside the door and said there was a 45-minute wait. We put our name on the wait list and decided to walk across the street to THE SPOTTED CAT for a drink. What a cool little place. Great vibe, nice band playing. Wasn’t very crowded. A lovely older couple was dancing up a storm when we walked in. Couldn’t help but look at them they were so good, but did turn away briefly to look at the band. (This is where our almost perfect trip took an unfortunate turn.) All of a sudden we all heard a loud thump. I turned my head (it all seemed to happen in slow motion). The older gentleman who had been cutting a rug a few seconds earlier, lay on the floor, cold, convulsing. Several people quickly surrounded him trying to see if he would regain consciousness while a few of us ran outside to call 911. Once rescue was called, I asked my friend if we could please go somewhere else. This had really taken a toll and I wasn’t feeling well. We crossed the street and walked to the end of the street to a lovely little restaurant, MARIGNY BRASSERIE. Found a couple of stools at the bar and I ordered a Cucumber Collins! (Loved all of these cucumber drinks). Needed something quickly to calm my nerves. I believe my friend ordered another Sazerac. Still shaken up by what had just happened, I couldn’t help but look out the window. I could see a large crowd gathered. By now, the ambulance had arrived. Still hoping we could get a table at THE THREE MUSES, we opted on ordering a small appetizer to hold us over. My friend ordered the Crawfish Fritters. They looked a lot like the conch fritters we have in Florida but unfortunately, I still wasn’t feeling up to eating anything. In the meantime, a great group of ladies (three of them, turns out they are sisters), were putting on quite a show – THE PFISTER SISTERS. Sang lots of oldies but goodies, great harmony! (By now it had been ½ hour since the ambulance had arrived. I found that to not be a good sign. The fact that they didn’t rush him out immediately told me something much worse had happened, but I simply did not want to ask.) Eventually the ambulance did take off and everything went back to normal. We walked over to THE THREE MUSES. Perfect timing. Our table was ready.
We sat at a lovely little table, not too close to the stage which was perfect for holding a conversation. I ordered their signature cocktail, THE MUSE (Cucumber infused Gin, homemade strawberry syrup and St. Germain). Perfect! My friend on the other hand decided to mix it up and ordered wine. (Guess she had trouble remembering what she felt like the other day when she mixed things up). We ordered some marinated olives, TWO orders of their fries with feta and gremolata (O.M.G.) and the Gulf Fish Tacos (very fresh). They messed up and brought us a small order of the tacos and when we told the waitress, they were so nice they sent us another large order of tacos on the house. How nice was that!!!
Turns out my friend had a work colleague that was in town visiting her boyfriend so we made plans to meet up at D.B.A. to listen to WALTER “WOLFMAN” WASHINGTON & THE ROADMASTERS. How fun! Stayed for about an hour. I ordered a gin tonic and again, my friend ordered something she probably shouldn’t have. By now it was around 12:30am and we all decided to head over to BAR TONIQUE. (This was on my list but I was beginning to wonder if I’d get a chance to fit it in…glad we did). As we walked outside to go to the car, there was a guy on a bike peddling a small, make-shift living room (sofa, chairs, coffee table) which was attached to his bike. In the living room were three people, hanging out, smoking and drinking and enjoying getting wheeled around…oh, and there was a dog in this crazy scenario as well. They even asked us if we would like to join them. Some crazy characters!!
Drove over to BAR TONIQUE. There were about 10 people hanging around at the bar. We’d read all about their craft cocktails so we checked out the drink menu. Again, I didn’t want to be too adventurous (after all, we were getting up tomorrow at 6:30am to drive to the plantations – I being the driver) so I needed to keep my wits about me. Ordered a Gin Fizz. The rest of the gang had no problems going down the menu trying every drink known to man – Vieux Carre, Whiskey Old Fashioned, Bitter Harvest and Blanche Dubois, and those are just the ones I can remember. Wasn’t as thrilled with my Gin Fizz as I had been with the one at the SAZERAC BAR, but I tried the Blanche Dubois, definitely having that next time.
10 drinks later, a couple of crazy spectacles and a short video that I will hold hostage as blackmail material for later, it was 2:30am and time to head to the hotel. My friend’s colleague had been kind enough to volunteer to drive us the following day to visit the plantations so no need to rent a car. We could sleep in until 9:00a.m. (Boy were they ever going to regret this final stop tomorrow morning….if they even remembered it).
Hasta mañana (until tomorrow). More to come.