Sunday, April 15, 2012

New Orleans Day 2 (Wednesday)

I am an early morning person rather than a night owl as a rule, so my second day in New Orleans started with a 7 am visit to the famous Cafe du Monde for their beignets and cafe au lait. As I turned from Canal St. onto Decatur, I noticed some interesting architectural features--gas lanterns lit with actual flame outside hotels and restaurants, and drainpipes that looked like something out of Lovecraft's story about Innsmouth.

At the cafe I noticed that most of the waitstaff was Asian, and some of them didn't speak much English (or French). Beignets are the only thing you can order, and they give you a plate with 3 of them, absolutely smothered in powdered sugar. Beignets are often defined as "French doughnuts". They are not circular with a hole in the middle; they look more like puff pastry, and they are delicious. I contemplated getting beignet mix to bring home, but I notice that they need to be deep fried. Not having a deep-frier, and not really inclined to buy one, I think such an experiment with frying in my kitchen would be nothing short of disaster. The cafe au lait is made with their special coffee, which is blended with chicory. I already like chicory-based coffee drinks, and you need to like strong coffee to like this.

I wandered out to the "Moonwalk" (their name for the walkway along the river) to see about catching a ship over to the "Fly", about 3 miles outside the Garden District. However, there was no sign that there were going to be any ships until afternoon, so I opted to walk around town a bit more and take a cruise on the last Mississippi steamboat, the Natchez. The French Quarter Festival was going to begin on the following evening, and there were lots of golf carts whizzing up and down the Moonwalk by the Aquarium, and lots of ringing of hammers and tools as stage sets and booths were being put together.

Around 11:00 I boarded the Natchez with lots of other people, got myself a glass of red wine and settled in at a table on the top deck, enjoying the breeze off the river. The cruise was about 2 hours. That section of the Mississippi does not have a whole lot to see--oil and sugar refineries, the distant site of the monument of the Battle of New Orleans, a couple of plantations, and lots of other boats. They did allow us to visit the steam engine room (and this is truly the last steamboat in New Orleans, others just have a wheel stuck on the back of a regular boat), but I didn't go down. I didn't care much about the scenery, I just liked being out on the water. You did get a spectacular view of the New Orleans skyline, and the Jackson Square area. While sitting on deck, I had a chat with a woman who was in a tour group. She lived in Phoenix, but was originally from Scotland. She told me she used to live in New York State, and when visiting family there she would routinely take the train to Toronto and fly out of there to Phoenix just to avoid Newark. "I don't miss Newark Airport at all," she said. It's hard to blame her.

After the cruise, I headed over to the Marigny section of New Orleans for lunch. My friend had told me about a great restaurant there with reasonable prices, and I remembered finding their menu appealing. I headed down the other end of Decatur Street towards Frenchmen Street. I couldn't exactly remember the name, but I had a feeling I'd know it if I saw it. As I passed the French Market and headed towards Esplanade Ave., a couple of young skate rats were sitting on the curb. One called out to me, "Hey there, you've got a nice ass!" I turned around and shouted back "thank you!" and we both started laughing. I got a lot of compliments, most of them not quite so blatant, as I walked through the city over the three days. Sometimes I find these remarks to be creepy, but I can't say that was the case in New Orleans. They felt like genuine compliments, and that's how they were taken.

Esplanade Ave. had some spectacular houses, and if I'd had time to visit the Mid-City area, I think I would have seen more of them. But I headed up Frenchmen Street, and found the place I was looking for--the Marigny Brasserie. The place seriously lives up to the hype--excellent food, great service, good prices. I was more than satisfied after I left. I wandered into a bookstore down the street, which was largely a purveyor of gay porn, to my amusement. However, for the dedicated book shopper who is not particularly into gay porn, you could dig through and find a lot of local history and folklore material as well.

As I headed back down Decatur Street, I passed another witch/voodoo shop called Hex, and opted to have a reading and consultation there, which was very worthwhile. The woman who read for me was spot-on with everything, and I don't say that lightly. I have read myself for many years, and I'm pretty good at spotting frauds and "face readers". She scarcely looked at me while she did the reading, and she came up with many very specific things that would not generally fit most people. One of her first questions was, "So, what's stopping you from working on your doctorate?" She was also right on with many family and relationship issues, and in the end she gave me some good advice and remedies regarding both. She only recommended buying one inexpensive thing in the store. At one point she looked up at me and said, "You know, you don't need me, or this store. You already know everything I'm telling you. You have that guidance on your own, you just need to listen." I told her that was true, but I need to hear it from someone else who doesn't know me. Sometimes I don't know if what I'm "hearing" is my own Self (in Jungian terms) or my own delusions. She said that was entirely reasonable.

I felt like dessert after this, so I headed back towards Bourbon Street and stopped at La Divinia on one of the side streets for some Italian chocolate chip mint gelato, which was very good. The sky was darkening at this point, and my umbrella was in my room (naturally), so I ducked into an Irish pub called Flannigan's. There were two older men there, visiting from Ireland. I ought to have bought them a drink, on account of them saying my name properly ("Breej" rather than "Bridge-id"), but they bought me Guinness instead. Another young man came in after they left, and we sat talking with the bartender. They had McSorley's dark, so I had that, and he started pouring me Jamieson shots. I don't typically do shots, but these went down smooth. Then he told us he just got a surprise shipment of authentic French chartreuse. He opened it, let me read the pamphlet that went with it (which was in French), and then poured me some. It was good, but went down like fire. I'd contemplated having a cognac, but after that, I knew I would not even remember my name after another drink. So, I paid for what I had (I don't think I tipped him, I was so out of it, and I do feel bad about that), and made my way back to my hotel. I have no interest in being so far gone that I don't know what I'm doing or where I'm at, and all the heavy liquors will do that to me.

I did wake up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a couple having sex in the next room. I have a rule about people having sex in the next hotel room. They have a right to do it, but I have a right to critique it if it disturbs my slumber. It sounded slightly kinky, and the girl seemed excited, but there were times when I wasn't sure if she was enjoying herself or throwing up. (Could have been both.) Compared to the couple I once heard in a Paddington, London hotel room, I'd give them a 6, but the guy still lost points for moving too fast. If you know what I mean.

Tomorrow I will discuss my last, much quieter day in New Orleans.

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