NEW ORLEANS DAY 3 – JUNE 12, 2016: More Frenchmen Street and The French Quarter on a Lazy Sunday
We were winding down my send-off by friends with our New Orleans girls trip. Sunday was going to be a lazy day with no schedules. Rindy and I got rolling about noon and walked over to Maison on Frenchmen Street for a Jazz Brunch. On the way over, we stopped to listen to a man practicing his bagpipes in Washington Square. It have been threatening to pour all morning with dark skies, rolling thunder and a lightning show but surprisingly little rain. We took our chances, unwilling to give up any more of the day to the chance of showers. The bagpipe’s melancholy sounds complemented the coming storm and we stopped to listen for awhile. Then hunger drove us on.
Rindy found a a flyer for the jazz brunch at Maison in the info packet left for us at our house. She’d been looking forward to a cajun breakfast. We got to Maison in time for food but too late for the featured band. Instead we got the Slick Skillet Seranaders, a bango/kazoo player who sang lead with another guy on a bass fiddle and a third alternating between at mandolin and a steel guitar. They specialized in jazz and swing from the 1930’s. From Braveheart to Rudy Vallee in under three blocks.
Saturday, June 11, 2016 : New Orleans’s Magazine Street and the Quarter (at night)
We are getting to know our temporary neighborhood. The Marigny is immediately downriver from the French Quarter but I still feel turned around and keep walking in the wrong direction. This area was once a creole plantation whose owner made “craps” (the dice game) popular. He was enormously wealthy and stylish. After the property was subdivided in 1806, it retained his mark by developing a distinctly European and cosmopolitan mix. We are staying close to Royal Street with a good mix of homes, restaurants, clubs and food stores. When we walked home around midnight last night, the area was quiet but active, much different from our experiences staying in the quarter or across Canal Street. This morning, Rindy walked a few blocks over to a 24/7 food store/deli and brought back all kinds of goodies for brunch – salami, cheeses, egg salad, pickles, fruit. People were walking dogs and babies, visiting with neighbors. Ubering home this afternoon, we passed an extended family holding a crawfish boil that extended on the sidewalk in front of approximately four homes. We haven’t seen a front or backyard on our walks so an inflatable water slide to keep the kids’ cool was in the parking area of a nearby warehouse.
We shopped and stopped for nourishment at Juan’s Flying Burrito. As a rule, I am true to my favorite Houston Mexican restaurants so I don’t visit many when I’m traveling. Juan’s made me feel like I wasn’t cheating on Carmelitas because they put crawfish in everything, including the chili con queso which was technically mudbug with cheese. Portions were huge and we should have just stayed with the queso because we didn’t do justice to the bacon blue quesadillas. Cucumber margaritas was different enough from my favorite Los Tios Gold to seem like I was branching out but I also left most of mine. Some are true to their school, I’m true to my Los Tios Margarita.
We ubered back to the Marigny and our converted lodgings. Every uber driver has been a delight. This guy had just finished his pharmacy degree and wanted to know where we would suggest he move – Austin or Houston. All the hipsters we met on Magazine wanted to talk to Judy about Austin but this guy was immune to its lifestyle charms so Rindy and I pitched him on Houston’s medical opportunities. Score one for H-town. He was creole in every sense of the word, which we understood now that we had the education at the Laura plantation. He claimed European, Native American, and a little African in his bloodline. Our waiter at the wine room had just gotten here from Torino, Italy but looked like Bruce Springsteen until he opened his mouth. Our uber driver looked Italian until he spoke and had that distinctive NOLA accent that approximates the boss’s patois. Go figure.
We met people who lived and worked in the quarter including love sick T who kept casting eyes at his former lover and Otis the dog and his person. Otis was a overweight, brown, houndy-type, as mixed up as the creoles with chow, beagle and whatever else. His person said she got Otis after she divorced and husband got custody of their shared dogs because he had the yard. It was lonely living by herself and the people at her restaurant job told her about a dog that was hanging around. At first she opened her house but not her heart to Otis. He seemed to feel the same. “For the first two weeks, we didn’t like each other,” she said. “I’d be walking down the quarter with Otis, and people would call out, ‘do you two like each other yet?’ Finally we both decided we’d do for each other. There was still a little reserve going on between them but Otis was certainly loved by the off duty waiters and bartenders who made B Mac their second home. Otis would bark a greeting as different ones came in and he’d get a good scratch in return.
On Friday,June 10, 2016 – Odometer 385 Miles – New Orleans Màrigny District
We’re off. Picked Rindy up a little after 8a and got message from God that we were heading in the right direction – a sign at Liberty Kitchen annoucing “Oysters, Oysters, Oysters”. That is the plan as we head to NOLA for seafood, music and more. We drove east on 1-10, always a delight. A little outside of Baytown, we passed a blue pick-up truck traveling to some kind of weekend trade show. At first his over-loaded trailer seemed like a hazard to navigation but as we scooted past him, we realized is was another omen that good times were ahead. All the metal signs hanging off the side were welcome signs – welcome to the beach, welcome to the farm, welcome to the barn.
We exited I-10 just east of Lafayette and took LA-31 to St. Martinsville and New Iberia. St. Martinsville was considered the heart and birthplace of cajun culture. It was where the first Acadians from Nova Scotia landed after France was defeated in by the British in the Seven Years War. Later it was where New Orleans creoles escaped when epidemics threatened the Crescent City. St. Martinsville became known as a cultural mecca, a “Petit Paris”. It is the third oldest city in Louisiana and I’m so glad Rindy directed me off the road at this exit.
From LA-31, we took Highway 90 east to avoid Baton Rouge and I-10 and check out the creole plantation, called the Laura. I’d read Laura Locoul Gore’s memoirs based on a friend’s love of the Laura Plantation. Having visited other plantations and seen “Gone with the Wind”, we expected the Laura to be a sumptuous home. This was a working plantation where the family lived and worked from April through December for the planting and harvest. Their bedrooms doubled as offices and up to ten people (with house slaves) slept in the small bed chambers. From December through March, they had a well- appointed home in New Orleans and celebrated Christmas, New Years and Mardi Gras in style. That is where the family flaunted their great wealth. Laura’s father, Emile Locoul, was a new breed of man who was questioning the humanity of keeping slaves which alarmed his mother, Elizabeth and caused her to plot with his sister Aimee. If he didn’t have an heir, according to creole law, Elizabeth and Aimee could sell the plantation and move to France, away from the never-ending work of a sugar mill farmer. Laura’s birth foiled their plans and felt their fury from the time she was young. She eventually sold the plantation and moved to St. Louis, marrying a Presbyterian, a cardinal sin for Catholic creoles. Ultimately, Laura lived almost 102 years. She was born when Lincoln was president and died when Kennedy held
At DBA, a popular band was fronted by a lead singer who played the squeeze box. Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers was a radical change for Houston bands and just what we cam e to hear in New Orleans. Laissez les bon temps roulez and more wandering tomorrow.