Arriving in New Orleans I took a taxi a standard $36 into town. I knew I was in the land of tipping everything that moved, when I handed over my $40 bucks and got no change!
The Hotel Monteleone boasts the only hotel bar with a carousel in it. Installed in 1949. If you are lucky (and I was once) you can hop on and spin round, 360 degrees in 15 minutes. This plus nightly music contributes to it being the busiest and noisiest hotel bar I have ever been in. That said I did get chatted up by Mr Concrete from Fort Worth who bought me a drink one night and had a chat with a retired teacher and her daughter another.
Walking around in the dark on a Wednesday evening, the street thronging, bars buzzing, and music coming from all directions was more than I was expecting. Little did I know that this was pretty sedate and as the weekend came nearer things would heat up. More of everything. Bourbon St becomes pedestrianised in the evenings and a posse of policemen hang around keeping order. Though there doesn’t appear a lot for them to do. That said I didn’t stay up all night. I did however wander into Cafe Beignet and watched Steamboat Willie and his band (they appear nightly), while having a Margarita.
The food scene must be one of the best the US has to offer. Portions are sensible, as are the prices and so a three course dinner is not out of the question. Waiters are formally attired in DJ’s and dickie bows and tablecloths abound.
Cafe du Monde or Cafe Beignet are both good for breakfast and Beignets are the order of the day. Three deep fried bits of dough dusted in icing sugar for $3.50. I had one and gave the other two away. Akin to doughnuts without the jam. When in Rome.
The next day rained so much so I schlepped over to Frenchmen Street where there are an unlimited number of bars, with assorted bands, the only requirement is you buy a drink per set. So for $10 you are happily entertained and then can wander off to the next joint. So I started in the Spotted Cat then made my way to Bamboula’s where a doormen started chatting to me as I entered, as I wasn’t paying attention I got him to repeat his missive. He was advising me that I needed to buy a drink, really …… “I’ll write that down” ….. He says the drinks pay for the band. I don’t think so, the audience pays for the band as they come round with a bucket afterwards, which of course is fine.
There are plantation houses around and I visited Oak Alley in the morning. As it was pouring down, an hour each way on a bus didn’t seem like a bad idea. When the sun shines it can be very humid here and we are only early April, so I won’t be coming in the summer.
A trip on a street car is a must do, so with Claire and Mike who had joined me from Scottsdale we took the St Charles street car the end of the line, past some lovely antebellum houses (before the war, specifically the Civil War for those who aren’t Latin scholars). Plus some shot-gun houses. So called as there are no interior walls so if someone comes to the door and you are in the garden (and you don’t like them very much), you have a clear view and you can shoot them. We would probably call this open plan these days. End of the line found the Camelia Grill a great dive with counter seating and cheery wait staff in vintage uniforms, white jackets and bow ties.
Brennans for dinner and Mr Brennan seems like the Corbin and King of New Orleans as he has a chain of restaurants with no two the same. Lunch one day was the best (supposedly) barbecue shrimp in town at Mr B’s bistro and as that counts as an entree, during the week you can have either a Martini or a Bloody Mary for $1.5 bucks. There are a lot of happy hours and happy hour deals. 25 cent Martini anyone! You can drink in the street and pretty much anything goes. Smoking dope in the street too I saw one day. That may not be legal. Drinking in the street is. In fact for the nerdy among you there are only 7 places that you can drink in the street legally in the US. Savannah, Hood River, Sonoma, Las Vegas, Fredericksburg, Memphis and New Orleans. More of Savannah later.
I decided I ought to learn how to ride a Segway so took a tour with the only Segway company in town and had a tour of the area and the outskirts. Many of the houses in what was the poor black area have now been renovated, painted gaily and now command $500k and upwards, in the French Quarter the houses hide courtyards, swimming pools in places, and fetch up to $10M US. What they don’t tell you before you go on a Segway ride is that your feet will hurt. They should sell you a foot massage as well. As we rode out of the Segway shop I saw a massage shop advertising all manner of massages little knowing that I would be availing myself of their services an hour or so later.
The rain stopped play a bit in New Orleans but it is certainly a fun place. So much music everywhere, people busking on the street, in the bars and restaurants. I didn’t manage to eat my way through all the special dishes here but managed Etouffe, Gumbo, barbecue shrimp, grilled oysters, all excellent and the southern hospitality shines through everywhere.