New Orleans, LA 2011

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 9, 2011
This year sees El and I taking two vacations back to back. It is like our two cities for three days each...only with six days each. The timing is a little precarious and could be thrown at any moment due to weather, but nonetheless, we made it to the Azores and arrived into Boston last night at 9:15pm, drove home by 12:30am, unpacked, repacked, bed by 1:00am. Then, up at 6:00 to make an 8:30 plane to New Orleans (through Baltimore). We are both tired, but happy made it this far. As for New Orleans, neither of us have ever been there and are looking forward to discovering it. This winter, my parents rented an apartment for three months and have been there for two already, so we are hoping they can show us a sight or two. Truthfully, I try to be prepared with options for places to go and things to do when we go on vacation, but because of our trip to the Azores and some other things that have taken my time, I am not as prepared as I usually am. That's not to say I have no idea what to do, just that we will be relying more heavily on guidebooks and friends' recommendations. Having never been here before, I am excited to see the nightlife, and (not excited per se) also wanting to see the Lower Ninth Ward where the devastation of Hurricane Katrina can still be seen and felt. The food is also something I look forward to- as I have heard good things and it can’t possibly be worse than the food in the Azores, so we have got to be on an upswing there. A few weeks ago my brother ran into some friends of ours and it turned out they are going to be visiting New Orleans at the same time as we will be there! We are both excited. We have dinner reservations with Shelley and Dave on Friday. Now that the trip to the Azores is complete, I can focus my time on finding fun things to do in this town that I have heard so much about. We arrive in New Orleans in the early afternoon and we are exhausted. We are picked up at the airport by my parents who are a little familiar with the city by now. They drive us through the city on our way to Algiers Point, where we are staying. We take the car on the ferry. The ferry runs every half hour. After we cross we head to a local cafe called Tout de Suite for a light lunch. I get a Reuben sandwich and a tall bottle of Coke. Why do the tall glass bottles taste different than a plastic bottle of Coke? After lunch we head to mom and dad's bed and breakfast. We meet the landlord briefly and spend the rest of the day and night telling them about or Azores vacation. Mom cooks a homemade dinner and we have a slice of buttermilk pie made by one of the neighbors for dessert. We spend a bit of time charting our plan for the next couple of days. First stop is Cafe Du Monde then onto the self-guided tour of the Garden District.

THURSDAY FEBRUARY 10, 2011
Up at 7:00. We walk to the ferry and wait for the 8:00 push off. First stop is Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter. Their menu is limited to coffee (and maybe hot chocolate) and beignets. I get a cafe au lait and an order of Beignets (fried dough with powdered sugar) to share. Touristy, but also fits the bill for breakfast. By the way, most disgusting bathrooms on our trip- and that includes some dive-y bars! I recommend waiting and going to the free public restrooms near the tourist info center towards the French Market. We go to a different tourist info center on St. Ann’s Street just half block from café on Jackson Square. Super helpful! Walked through the French Quarter and took Royal St. to the corner of Common where we caught the St. Charles streetcar. We bought the one day pass that you get on the street car for $5.00 each. We take it to the garden district for our self-guided walking tour that we got the map of at the tourist info center. First stop, Lafayette Cemetery which is small, dirty, and does not look as well kept as other cemeteries we have seen. We walk around the Garden District for about 1-2 hours. Some houses are nice to look at or have significant features. Since most are private homes today, you cannot get closer than the street and many have large trees and shrubs designed for privacy in the yard. It was also pretty cold, so it wasn’t as great of a walking day as it could have been. After seeing the 19 houses on the tour, we stop to warm up at a cafe called Still Perkin' (2727 Prytania St. #1, New Orleans, LA (504) 899-0335). My parents called and will pick us up here to take us to the Camellia Grill for lunch. It is an old style looking diner. The recommendation for first timers is to go with the burgers. The food is OK. Like a glorified Waffle House. Do NOT get a “coffee freeze” thinking it is the New Orleans version of a “coffee milkshake”, because it was more like iced coffee. After lunch, mom and dad go home and El and I start to walk towards Magazine St., but our map shows it is too far to walk to the strolling part of the street (there is a retail district that starts around cross street of Nashville St.) So we jump on the St. Charles streetcar and take it to Jefferson St. and then walk to Magazine from there (about 7 blocks). We stop at Bee Sweet Cupcakes for a coffee and I get an Almond Joy cupcake. Then across the street to the Blue Frog Chocolate Shop for a little sampler box. Then to Vom Fass which is an infused vinegar and oils shop. We walk to the end of the strolling district and turn around. Both still full from lunch, we decide to try to walk back to the ferry which is 6.1 miles. We committed to be on the 6:15 ferry, so we could go out with mom and dad tonight. On the way we stop at the Bulldog Bar for a beer. A nice dive and the bartender recommends a restaurant called Jacques-Imo’s to us. We spend an hour here and start walking again. The walk is a little longer than I expected, but it is not bad. We get to the 6:15 ferry at 6:10. After walking through more rough looking neighborhood with even rougher condition sidewalks, sitting down is easy on the feet. Mom meets us at the ferry dock and we head to their place to rest before heading out for trivia night at the Crown and Anchor, a local bar. I have been told that the questions are very difficult, also that the bars here are very smoky- more so than the bars in the Azores. The trivia game was tough, and we did not win, place or show in any of the three rounds. The beer was good, and we were home by 11:00. Tomorrow we would like to go to the French Quarter for another self-guided walking tour.

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 11, 2011
We take the ferry for our self- guided walking tour of the French Quarter. We have dinner reservations with Shelley and Dave and will meet them at 4:30 at the Napoleon House (500 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA (504)524-9752). We start our tour of the French Quarter on Chartres St. We walk along taking pictures and reading about points of interest. We stop for a “Baccus au lait” at Antoine's Annex (513 Royal St., New Orleans, LA 70130 (504)581-4422).  It’s kind of a cross between a cappuccino and a hot chocolate. Afterwards, we press on to the end of the first half of the tour. Mom and dad will meet us at the Presbytere at 12:30 so that we can all go to the Hurricane Katrina exhibit that has just opened there. As we walk down Royal St. it is closed to cars, as they do every day, and there are street performers at every corner. The thing that strikes me is both the quality and the diversity of the musicians. Our first corner is a five piece band with a banjo, guitar, stand-up bass, violinist, and a virtually one-man band working his washboard with his thimbled fingertips and occasionally referring to his tin cans or cymbals attached along the sides while he plays his kazoo or other noise maker. Each member takes turns singing lines from the songs and they have a respectable crowd in no time playing their zydeco inspired psychobilly tunes. El takes a quick video of them and throws a couple of dollars into the open case in front of them. We continue to the next corner that features a middle aged black woman wailing away on a clarinet like she was auditioning for the Preservation Hall. Her side kick is playing a bass drum with his foot, a snare and high hat with his left hand, and fingering the valves of his tuba with the right hand. Just as we get out of earshot, we come upon an acoustic guitar player working the harmonica on his shoulder harness, playing a traditional blues riff. I suppose in this business you need to get good or pack it in, and these folks look like they have been doing this routine for a while. We wait for mom and dad at the corner of Chartres and St. Ann’s St. and the plaza there adds a new dimension to the street performance with an array of tarot readers, living statues, caricature artists, and even more musicians who are set up to entertain (and get tipped by) pedestrians as they pass. We went into the exhibit which costs $6. I thought it was really interesting learning about the plight of the victims from the people who were there, as much of the pain did not seem to translate when you were as far removed from it was we were. It takes me about 1 ½ hours to go through the exhibit, stopping to look at the multimedia displays. What a mess it was for the victims and only after seeing the exhibit and visiting the Lower Ninth Ward, do I even begin to have an appreciation for what those people went through. Devastating.
After the museum, El and I leave mom and dad and continue our tour. Both hungry, we look up in our travel notes to see if there is a place nearby for lunch. Sure enough, a place called Stanley (also on the corner of Chartres and St. Ann’s) has been recommended for their “kim chee po’ boys” which, I would never get, but the rest of the menu looks good. We don’t want to ruin our appetite for dinner, so we will just get a Caesar salad and an Ultimate Stella for dessert (think banana split made with carrot cake!) to hold us over until drinks at 4:30. Turns out to be a fun little place and a great recommendation. After lunch we finish our walking tour of the French Quarter. One of the stops on the tour is the Soniat House which is an old hotel on the east side of the quarter. A great building with a great reputation. Now, ever since we got here, El has been remarking how she would love to get some pictures of the wrought ironwork on the balcony porches taken from the balcony looking out. We have asked around and have been assured that all of the balconies belong to private apartments, making them impossible to get onto. Well, El takes the opportunity at the Soniat House to go in and ask if there would be any way to go up and shoot from their balcony. Like they have never had a request like this before, they are more than happy to give her the access she needs! She goes up and gets the pictures she has been wanting to take. This did cause a little bit of a delay, but our pre-dinner drink meeting was a bit of a relaxed timeframe, so if we are a few minutes late, we are OK. After Soniat House, we quickly finish up the last few stops of the French Quarter, since we are not sure if El will be able to make the time to get back here again. When we did get to the Napoleon House to meet Shelley and Dave, mom and dad were already there and the first round had already been ordered. No matter, we are able to pick up right where we left off with them the last time we saw them. Always a good time! Dave recommends the Jazz Beer, but I opt for the house specialty drink called a Pimm’s Cup. It is made with Gin based Pimm’s, lemonade, lemon-lime soda, and garnished with cucumber. It sounded pretty bad and tasted even worse! But, at least I could say we tried it. For the next round I went with the beer, which was OK. I probably would have been better off just getting something I was familiar with. But the company was good and the drinks were secondary. Just before 6:30 we walked around the corner to the Oceana Grill for dinner. You need reservations, so I am glad we had them. As we left the wait for 2 was more than 40 minutes! The place reminded me of a cross between Red Lobster and a finer establishment. We got a plate of alligator bites for the table to share. They we decent. A little greasy and the sauce was not my favorite, but the flavor was fine. Next, I got the house specialty crab cakes. They too were good. In fact very good. The amount of sauce served over the cakes was a bit over the top. For the entree I got "A Taste of Louisiana" which was plate with jambalaya, smoked sausage, shrimp étouffée, and red beans and rice. Again, the food was good, putting all of those flavors on one plate did not work so well, and all of the food started to mix, so it just became a jumble of indistinguishable components. Someone wrote, "not Michelin quality, but it's better than McDonalds", to which I agree. Our group all seemed happy with their meals and the company was great. A very decent pick. After dinner, we skip desserts and coffee, leave mom and dad, and head over to St. Peter Street to go to the 8pm performance of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. It costs $12 and except for a few seats up front most of the 100 or so audience is standing room. They allow pictures, but not with a flash and video is out. Tonight we see Leroy Jones and The Preservation Hall Jazz Masters present a Tribute to Jazz Trumpet Great, Thomas Jefferson. I only knew one of the five songs they played and after the 5 song, 30 minute set, they ask you to file out so they can get the 9pm group in. Ordinarily, I would have been a little disappointed in the short set, but with my personal interest in this type of music, I would say it was the perfect amount of time for me. I think Dave and Shelley might have stayed all night if they could have, as they really seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards, we are on the lookout for a quiet bar to sit and have drinks and discussion with our friends. Finding that on Bourbon St. at this hour on a Friday night is a near impossibility! As we walk with our eyes peeled, we stumble upon a marching band of what appear to be elementary/junior high kids lining up to do a march through the French Quarter. We stop and hang back as they start the march following them. It is 9pm on a Friday night and they are playing their hearts out setting off car alarms in their wake. They turn down Royal St. and turn the corner a few blocks down, leaving us once again looking for an evening spot. We spot a place called Touché Bar which at first just looks like a small bar with a few people inside. I go in to see what the situation is and they have a downstairs lounge with no one in it. Perfect! Some comfy big chairs and bar service, just what we are looking for. We spend a couple hours catching Shelley and Dave up with our lives and vice-versa. We decide to take the 11:15 ferry back to Algiers Point and walk with Dave and Shelley until our paths diverge. A great night had by all.

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 12, 2011
Today is our day to hit the things we want to see in a car. Mom drives and the first stop is the farmers market in Gretna which is only a few miles away. Mom has been here before and points out some good spots. We get an order of homemade tamale balls and a chocolate chip cannoli. In addition to other things, we wind up spending way more than we expected to. Our next stop is the Lower Ninth Ward, but we make a stop for lunch. Mom and dad take us to a place they like called Bacchanal which is a wine shop that sells food. You can just come in and buy a bottle of wine and leave, or you can have it to stay, which is what we do. We are the first customers of the day. We order sandwiches and El goes to the cheese refrigerator and selects a hunk of Gouda for us to share with crostini as an appetizer. Again, we are the first, and for most of the meal, the only customers. The food took so long to come out that we actually had to walk into the kitchen area to get our appetizer- which consisted of toasting a tiny baguette, unwrapping the cheese, and garnishing with a couple of pickles, olives, and capers. We couldn’t figure out what was going on for it to take so long. Eventually everything arrived and the sandwiches were good, probably not worth the $11 each, but I liked the oddness of the place, and of course the company! After lunch we drive to the Lower Ninth Ward specifically to see the steamboat houses at 400 Egania Street (type that address into Google Maps and zoom into street level and you can see the house too!) and across the corner on Douglas Street. These two houses were built/designed by/for a father and son in the shipping industry and look like no other houses in the area. Especially now, since Katrina. The neighborhood is mostly deserted with some rebuilding peppered among the still boarded up houses and shops. Depressing to say the least, but walking through the streets and standing so close to that history one can only see potential for this area to be vibrant again. I am sure it will take years, but eventually it has to come around again. As for the steamboat houses, honestly, it is unclear if they are still occupied or not. One had mail in the box, but it was not possible to determine if it was new mail or weathered junk mail that had been in there for ages- I didn’t care enough to spy on the people. We walked up to the levee and around the block taking some pictures. We didn’t really need to spend too much time here, so after we were done we headed over to Lake Lawn Cemetery (also called Meterie Cemetery) which was out by the airport. We, like many tourists, had an interest in the cemeteries when we came to New Orleans. We were told, “if you want a tour, you will go to St. Louis Cemetery”, but,  “if you want a self-guided tour, Lake Lawn Cemetery will give you maps”. Since El would only be able to do one cemetery I let her choose if she wanted the $20 guided tour or the free self-guided tour. She chose Lake Lawn. It was a little awkward to walk into the funeral director’s office and request a map of the place, but when the receptionist smiled and said “sure which tour were you interested in?” I knew I wasn’t the first to ask. Turns out that they offer two CD’s for free. One is called Great Families and Captains of Commerce. The other is Civil War Soldiers and Patriots. Since it was well after lunch and the office closes at 5:00pm, we knew we would only have time for one. We took the Great Families tour and put it in the CD player of the car. I guess it was designed to be a walking tour using a Walkman, but who has a Walkman anymore? And how could the 4 of us do it walking? We drove around the cemetery listening to the commentary and taking pictures of the tombs. We have seen a more impressive necropolis, but there was enough beauty in these to warrant following it to every stop. Unfortunately, we got only to stop 15 of 30 before we had to get the CD back to the office. Some agreed that was enough cemetery for one day anyway, while others vowed to return at a later date for the conclusion of the tour. On our drive back, and with no dinner plan we make a spur of the moment decision to try the restaurant Jacques-Imo’s (8324 Oak St., New Orleans, LA 70118 (504) 861-0886). We get there are 5:30 and the place is virtually empty. We walk right in and are seated immediately. As I open the dinner menu, I see this place is a little on the pricy side. Ordinarily, not an issue, but as I sit there and evaluate my current hunger level, I think that any dinner I get will probably be getting half taken home in a doggie bag. A brief conference of the table agrees to get a round a drinks and everyone will get one appetizer to share. This works perfectly. My dirty martini is excellent and my fried shrimp stuffed with crab is really great too. In fact, I liked all of the tastes I had and wish I could have had an entrée, but it just would have been a waste. As we walk out the waiting area and sidewalk are packed with people waiting to get in, so I am sure our waitress appreciated the turn of the table. After dinner, mom and dad join us at a bar called Cooter Brown’s where the sign says "400 beers, 40 on tap". We get some beers and play trivia, check email and hang for a little while before heading back to Algiers Point. At some point early in the evening they take us to see their local dive bar, The Old Point Bar. They have live music almost every night, but we are looking for a quick, and bandless, beer, before heading home and calling it a night. The tap beer selection is weak and I get a NOLA Blonde. It is OK. Nothing special. One of the striking things about this city, though, is that there is no open container law here, so people just walk around on the streets or on the ferry with beer or other liquors. The thing that is funny to me is that the bars have plastic cup dispensers at the door, so that if you are in the middle of your drink and want to leave, you can transfer your potent potable into a potent portable and leave the serving glass behind! We don’t need that…tonight, and head back to the house.

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 13, 2011
Today is El's last day in New Orleans. She has to get back to work on Monday and we have to get her to the airport in the afternoon. Since we tried to cram as much of the downtown area in in previous day, we saved the most local thing on our to-do list for today. We found a self-guided walking tour of Algiers Point to take us around and give us a little bit of history and point out places of historical significance along the way. One of the stops on the walking tour was the Episcopal church. As we stood outside of the church reading the information on the brochure, one of the church representatives came out to greet us and tell us that since the services had just ended, we were welcome to come in and get a tour of the church. It was certainly a nice gesture on his part, but there did not seem to be anything remarkable about the church itself. There was an interesting part of the story when the church used to be on another street, but it was eventually moved around the block. Some of the stained glass was from the original church. Pleasant to look at, but a little difficult to get away from the people who were showing us the room. We kept trying to make a clean break in the conversation to move on, but found it increasingly difficult to leave. Everyone especially wants us to know that there is a “king cake party” today at the church down the street. I do not remember what the band’s name was, but I kept calling them Bungee and the Jumpers. These people were so excited about the king cake and that Bungee and the Jumpers were playing. I mean, from the sounds of it, you’d have thought he was the second coming himself! I had a vision of a band playing, while four retired ladies and one man sat in the audience, clapping off rhythm, so happy to be bearing witness to Bungee and his Jumpers. Of course, mom was all over it! She was going no matter what. It started at noon. The day is nice and we stroll along taking in the tour. El continues to take pictures and we are done with the main part of the tour within two hours. The tour is designed to start and end at the ferry terminal. Not included on the tour, but located near the ferry is the Jazz Walk which is a paved strip of the levee near the ferry where the light posts are adorned with street signs bearing the name of, well…jazz legends.  I do not have much interest in jazz so I figure all I need is to see the light post highlighting Louis Armstrong and that would be enough for me. Well, to my delight, he was the first one! I took my pictures and we all remarked how the information about the musician was posted so high on the lamppost that no one could read the small writing. That probably needs to be redesigned? After our brief stop at the jazz walk we head home to get El’s luggage into the car, that way we can go to the king cake social and be ready to leave when we return (since the social was within walking distance of the house). The four of us walk up to the king cake social and it is virtually exactly how I had envisioned it…only better. The old ladies were not sitting, they were standing at their walkers as Bungee laid some wicked 50’s riffs on them. There were more people in the audience than I thought there would be, but the absolute best thing was the keg of beer being sold by the glass in the yard! I cannot recall ever seeing draft beer being sold at a church function, but maybe I just don’t go to enough of them. Opting to pass on the beer, mom and dad take us in to taste what this town is all about…THE “king cake”. Every place here seems to sell king cake, obviously we are at a “king cake social”, they sell so much king cake it is unreal. There are monstrous displays of king cake at supermarkets and we saw someone buying not one, but two shopping carts full of king cake. If you are like me, you may ask, “OK? What is king cake”? Well, now I know. It is a pastry/cake that has something to do with the time leading up to Mardi Gras. It has the consistency of a day old Danish, with nowhere near the amount for filling to moisten it- making it like a semi-sweet rice cake…and nowhere near as deserving of the hype it garners in this town at this time of the year.  To make it a little weirder, they bake a small plastic figurine of a baby into each cake, with the tradition being that if you get the piece with the baby in it, you are supposed to bring the king cake to the next function. Luckily, I did not get the baby in this one, lest I have to eat king cake again. Once was enough. In fact since the four of us split one piece, one quarter of a piece was enough for me. The next stop on the agenda is to go to the bakery that is said to make the best Po’ Boy sandwiches in the city. It is in mid-city and the story goes that after Katrina, the power crews were working to restore power to the neighborhood and when the crew saw that Parkway Bakery and Tavern was out, they restored the restaurant first to feed the crew. We go there at 2:00 and the line was out the door. The have inside and courtyard seating, but you have to walk up to the window to order before finding a seat. Keeping a watchful eye on the time, it takes us almost an hour to wait in line and get out order. The naming system was sort of humorous as the order taker would assign you a name to listen for to pick up your food at the window. The guy in front of me was Kevin and she said “OK, you are now Kevin Costner”. Marilyn behind me became Marilyn Monroe. So, it was funny to hear food ready for Joe DiMaggio, Oscar Wilde, and Reba McEntire. I ordered a Parkway caprese Po’ Boy (fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar) and it was really pretty good. The bread was excellent and made the sandwich hands down. I actually think it was worth it to endure the hour wait (the weather was warm). Not sure if that would be true if it was 30 degrees out. We eat and get going to get El to the airport. As we leave the bakery we hear a single saxophone playing. With a quick look around we see a kid, maybe 13 years old, playing his instrument on the corner in front of the building. We stop, I take a picture, and throw $2 into is tip case. Maybe someday he’ll make it to Royal Street? We drop off El in plenty of time to make her flight. When we get home, mom suggests her and I go to finish the last “optional” stops from the walking tour of Algiers Point. There are 10 such spots, mostly centered around Opelousas St. and include a school, a fire house, and a park. At the now peaceful park, there are several flyers attached to the trees around the perimeter. Upon a closer inspection, it is a reward poster for information leading to the owner of a pit bull in the area. As I read, mom recounts the story being told on the flyer of a young woman who was walking her pet Chihuahua in the park when it was savagely attacked and mortally wounded by a pit bull that then turned on the little dog’s owner, biting her face! The owner of the pit bull then took off with the dog and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. It was a sad story, especially with the little dog’s picture in the photo. We do 9 of the 10 stops, opting not to trek all the way to the last one, since it was so far removed from the rest and from where we currently stood. We go home and ready for going out. We have been invited to martinis and snacks at the neighbor’s house. His name is Richard and he turns out to be a funny, well-rounded soul. He is my parent’s age, and seems to be at ease having discussion with either me or dad. He is a nice guy and serves us some very stiff martinis. We all leave there thinking that it is a good thing that we are walking home to next door. We silently call it a night.

MONDAY FEBRUARY 14, 2011
This is my first day in New Orleans without El. So, we all wake up at our own rate and casually get ready for our day. I have some ideas of things to do today, but no plan or set schedule. After some discussion, I mention that I would like to go back and finish the tour of the Great Families and Captains of Commerce at Lake Lawn. If they don’t want to go, they can just lend me the car and I will go myself. But, both mom and dad are on board, so we all head back. When we get to the funeral home to ask for the tour, the receptionist offers us both tours, but unfortunately she does not have the paper map to accompany the Civil War Soldiers and Patriots. We take both discs anyway, knowing that it will be next to impossible to take the tour without the map as some of the directions are not very clear on the disc. And since each tomb’s directions are based on coming from the previous stop, if you miss one, you could be lost for hours! We finish up the Great Families one we started yesterday then we put the Civil War one in and quickly decide to bail on it for that exact reason. When dad takes the discs inside to return them, the receptionist has now found the map. So, he returns to the car and we start the CD again and now it is much easier (or should I say less impossible). The Civil War disc though only covers half of the tombs on our map as if we are missing disc 2 or something. When we realize that the CD has started over, we head back to the funeral home and return it. There are so many people waiting for consultation in the lobby of the funeral home that it seems inappropriate to be discussing our cemetery tour (and asking her to check for a disc 2 while she is at it). We all agree, that while interesting, we could call an end to our cemetery at this point and be content that we did not miss much. We then head home for lunch. After lunch mom suggests that we take a walk up on the levee. I had been interested in that walk since we got here and remembered that there was still that one last stop on the Algiers Point walking tour that we did not see yesterday because it was too far out of the way. I pulled out the map to see that the stop, which was a house that writer William S. Burroughs once lived in, was only a few blocks from the levee in the direction we were headed. We did just that. We walked 2 blocks to the levee and headed South towards the fenced off Navy yards. That boundary was just about the distance of the street that we were looking for to see the Burroughs house. We walked to the address, that sure enough, it had a plaque outside stating that it was indeed a house that Burroughs lived in…for one year in 1948! Really? That is the entire connection to the writer? One year, more than 60 ago? The place was a dump now and part of the plaque was a quote from Jack Kerouac about how the house was a dump then! Whatever. I guess we can now cross every stop on the walking tour off with the stop. We continue on and make our way back to the house. Tonight we are eating at home. We bought a stuffed artichoke at the farmers market on Saturday and mom had some shrimp and scallops that she would sauté and toss with pasta and a little tomato sauce. It was starting to get a little chilly, so the idea of eating outside was dashed when we had before dinner martinis and the artichoke in the backyard and decided that dinner would be more comfortable inside. After dinner, dad and I walk over to the Old Point Bar to catch some live jazz. This place has live music on most nights and it starts as early as 6:30. Tonight is the Brent Walsh Trio featuring Romy Kaye on vocals. Although it was a style of jazz that I do not particularly enjoy (crooning), Romy did a pretty respectable job with it and the audience seemed to dig it. Having learned my lesson with the poor tap selection, I opt for a bottle of Heineken which hits the spot. One thing that irked me about this place was that evidently the owner is a dog lover and brings his dog to work with him often. It is one of those little dogs that is small enough to sit and parade along the bar like a catwalk. With this in mind, the bar is decidedly “dog friendly” and patrons are asked to put their dogs on leashes when they bring them into the bar. I don’t think that flies in New York, and I like it that way. After a couple of beers we head home for the night. Over the course of today, I evaluate all of the things that I would like to do before I leave on Wednesday. I have all day Tuesday and until about 2:00pm on Wednesday. Although my plan did not go over so well with my hosts, I knew that if I got too late of a start, I would have to figure out what I wanted to miss. So I made the decision to start with a 9:30 ferry to downtown.  Anyone is welcome to join me, but with some things timing is everything.

TUESDAY FEBRUARY 15, 2011
I got up and had breakfast at the house. Dad and I grabbed the ferry to downtown at 9:30. The first stop of the day is the Cabildo museum on Jackson Square which is dedicated to the history of Louisiana. Among the sites in the Cabildo is the precise room where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803. They also have one of four original bronze cast death masks of Napoleon Bonaparte. Otherwise the exhibits were interesting and informative and visually enticing. There just didn’t seem to be much to it for my money. The entrance fee was the same $6 as the Presbytere museum where the Katrina exhibit was. I suppose for $6 it was worth it, but not more. I got my pictures and left. I suppose the disappointment for me was that I was most interested in the Louisiana Purchase signing. Unfortunately, there were very little actual Louisiana Purchase artifacts in the exhibit! Everything was either a replica or just a description of the items present in the room at the time. I was hoping for more "this is the actual pen used" kind of stuff, but to no avail. It was laid out nicely, just not the authenticity I was hoping for. After making our way through the Cabildo, we walked to the corner of Rue St. Louis and Royal St. to go to Antoine's Restaurant. This is the actual restaurant where Oysters Rockefeller was invented. We arrive around 11:15 and can see that the dining room doesn’t open until 11:30. Also, I am dressed in long shorts and a t-shirt, so I figure that getting a seat might not happen. Dad goes in to ask and they tell him they will seat us regardless of how I am dressed, however, since we have 15 minutes to kill, I look around next door and see a bar called Hermes. It turns out they are connected (so much so that when you use the bathroom at Hermes, you have to go into Antoine's). We are told that they are serving drinks now, but will not have food until 11:30. I also confirm that this place is connected to Antoine's in that if we do order the Oysters Rockefeller here, will we be getting the "secret recipe" version and not the "we tried to guess what's in it" recipe. He confirmed the former. This is fine with us and much more comfortable than a stuffy dining room. I get a Black Russian and read the menu.  To this day only three people know the exact recipe for the dish. I have had Oysters Rockefeller at least once in my life, and that one was made with watercress puree and Pernod (among other ingredients). It was terrible (tasting like licorice and oysters!). This time I ordered a half dozen and split them with dad. I have to admit they were excellent. They are oysters baked on the half shell with the secret Rockefeller sauce created at Antoine's in 1889. For my lunch I got an Antoine’s shrimp Reuben Po’ Boy which is fried shrimp on toasted French bread with tomato horseradish sauce, sauerkraut, and melted Swiss cheese. Also, quite excellent. After lunch we walk only two blocks to Brennan's. I ask if we could get a seat and two orders of their house specialty, bananas Foster? They seat us, looking every bit the tourists, but did I care? No way! I was sitting in Brennan's with a gentleman cooking bananas Foster tableside and telling me all of the ingredients he is using as he uses them. Then he tells me to get my camera ready as he does the flaming. The hot banana, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, banana liqueur, and rum concoction is poured over vanilla ice cream and served immediately. It was really excellent, but the thing is that everyone knows the recipe for bananas Foster, unlike the Oysters Rockefeller, so this recipe can be duplicated and has been, by my dad! In fact I liked his better because he used better vanilla ice cream! I am so glad I did it, and so glad I did it with my dad. After, Brennan's we call mom, and tell her to meet us at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. They had already been here and it was a place that was recommended for me to see. The seats at the Carousel Bar actually spin slowly while you are sitting at the bar. For the hotel, the bar itself the attraction, so I did not feel any obligation to get the house drink that, from the looks of it, was probably similar to a Manhattan. Anyway, dad and I sit and wait for mom. I get a 7 and 7, while dad opts for a Plymouth martini. A debate ensues as to whether it is practical to order a call at a high end bar. My contention is that most bars have the good stuff on the shelf but the well brands are cheap and under the bar, so when you order a martini, unless you name the brand of gin, you will get the bad stuff. However, there are bars that are so upscale that they don’t even own the bad stuff. So why would you call a brand in one of these bars? All it does is cost you about five extra dollars. New Orleans could be the first city I have seen that has no open container law. It is quite alright to walk down the street with a bottle of beer. The funny thing is that if you are in a bar and decide to move on, you can’t take the glass with you, so you can either ask for a plastic to go cup, or some places just have a dispenser at the door where you can help yourself. Mom suggests that she has finally sunk to her personal low as she walks down the street with the second half of her Vieux Carre in a plastic cup. The three of us walk to the World War II museum on Magazine Street. There are a couple of facets to this museum. There is the actual WWII museum, the Victory Theatre and then the cafe and gift shop. After some brief discussion, we decide to just buy the tickets for the film Beyond All Boundaries. You have to get separate tickets for the exhibit and the film, so we just go with the movie. While we are waiting for the film, we are encouraged to look at the part of the exhibit in the entrance hall which is a little taste of the entire exhibit. Among the displays is a table with a gentleman sitting at it. I read the card and it says to "ask Lloyd about his service during WWII". So I do. Lloyd turns out to be a very friendly gentleman who gave us a short explanation of his time in the Navy when he was stationed in the Marshall Islands getting airplanes ready for action in the Pacific. He answered my questions and was a fun conversation. I thanked him for his service and headed out to the theatre. The 8 minute introduction worked fine, but unfortunately, the main presentation crashed. After two false starts, they cancelled the showing and sent us out to get refunds. I told mom and dad that I thought I might like to use the movie refund to get a ticket for the regular exhibit. They both said they did not want to do that, but encouraged me to- instead choosing to wait in the cafe for me. It took me about an hour to get through the museum. It was jam packed and the quality of the presentation of the exhibits was high. I did not think it was necessarily worth the $18 entrance fee, but I could see where the money goes! A nice presentation of information that we mostly already know. After the tour, I go back and meet mom and dad at the cafe. They cannot stop talking about how great their time here was. I understand that one of New Orleans' best chefs is the executive chef for the cafe and the food was well above par because of it. After they settle up we need to get to the Hotel Roosevelt back near Canal Street. Dad has no interest in walking any more today, so I suggest taking the St. Charles streetcar back to Canal. He says "it was fine", but his actions and mannerisms lead me to believe that the last thing on the planet that he wanted to do was to take the streetcar. He would opt for a taxi everywhere if he could, I think. Don’t get me wrong, I think taxi's certainly have their place (like for getting home late after a night of drinking too much). But instead of a city bus, subway, or in this case, streetcar- it is not even an option for me. The reason we are heading to the Hotel Roosevelt is to have a drink in the Sazerac Bar. I had compiled my list of things to do in town from many sources and one of them said to go to the bar in the Hotel Roosevelt and enjoy a cocktail in this really fancy bar. It was a nice experience. The bar was really fancy and we each got a decent drink. Sadly, my martini was made with vodka instead of my preferred gin, but for a vodka martini, it was really good. This stop concluded our day in the downtown area. We made our way back on foot to the ferry. When we arrive in Algiers Point, it is close to 6:30. Dad and I walk direct to a place they like called Vine and Dine, right by the ferry terminal. Meanwhile, mom runs home to get the car so that dad can get to a prior commitment and then mom and I walk home afterwards. Vine and Dine is kind of like a wine store with food...good food. We got there at the end of happy hour and order the buy one get one free wines by the glass. We start with a hummus plate and a cheese board with 3 selections. Dad chooses 2 and I get a Gouda with red peppers and spices. Each choice is served in approximately a 4oz. wedge. I am really happy with both the hummus and Gouda. Also, the Pinot Grigio I got wasn’t bad either. Then dad leaves and mom and I order dinner. I get a turkey and smoked cheese Po’ Boy and it too is really nice. The Ruffles potato chips on the side were a little pedestrian, but if that's my only complaint, the place is a winner! Mom and I walk home and I am pretty tired and go to bed early.

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 16, 2011
Last day in town. I go to the French Market with mom. We take the ferry and walk towards the market. On the way, we walk on the Riverwalk, which is basically an esplanade built along the waterfront. In one direction there are food and souvenir shops, but in the direction of the French Quarter, there is a nice park with some artworks and sculptures to commemorate people or events having to do with New Orleans. There was one striking piece that was called "kinetic art" which, I can only assume has to do with the fact that the display changed depending on the angle at which you viewed it. It was really an interesting looking piece that was built as a monument to those who perished in the holocaust. We kept going and eventually made it to the French Quarter and then to the market. This is a place where vendors of many different things come together to sell their wares. Everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to "inspirational poetry". We walk through the market and I notice that several of the stands are selling the same trinkets and souvenirs. The market was just opening, so there were not that many people there yet making it easy to walk through at a decent pace. And since I wasn’t on the market for a "Who Dat" T-shirt or mardi gras beads, it made it all that much faster to get through. As we exit, I ask mom if she wants to head up to Magazine St. to go to the infused vinegar and oil shop that we told her about a few days ago. We take the streetcar up St. Charles and get off Nashville St. then walk down to Magazine. I guess mom had been on the lookout for black current infused vinegar and they had it here. We shopped for a little while and got what we both thought we needed. When we were done, we jumped on the Magazine Street bus. The first reason being that since Magazine and St. Charles converge at Canal St, it is a lot farther to walk from St. Charles to Magazine at Nashville than it is at Canal. The other reason, while riding a streetcar is a tourist must do, the bus actually makes so many fewer stops than the streetcar, that it is much faster to take the bus. And since they are the same price and there was a bus stop right there on Magazine, it just all worked out for us. We take the bus back to Canal which lets us off just two blocks from the ferry. We make the 1:45 ferry and call dad to meet us at the Dry Dock Cafe for lunch (near the terminal in Algiers Point). While on the ferry, I take the opportunity to ask the gate operator about the curious sign we see that no one has been able to explain to me yet. As you walk up to the ferry there is a sign with general ferry information on it. Then there is a spot that will read "operating" or "closed" depending on the status and finally a number 1 light and a number 2 light. Sometimes just the 1 is lit up, and sometimes the 1 and 2 are lit. I asked what the significance is. Well, there are two ferries. One to and from Algiers Point and one to and from Gretna. The Gretna ferry only runs from 6am to 6pm, where the Algiers runs from 6am to midnight. The non-shared times would cause the 1 to be lit without the other. The Algiers Point ferry runs from downtown at 15 and 45 and to downtown on 00 and 30, whereas Gretna is a lot farther away and runs from Gretna only at 00 and then leaves downtown only at 30. By the way, the ferry is free for pedestrians and costs one dollar exact change only for a car. If you only have a $5 bill they will turn you around and make you exit. The ride between Algiers Point and downtown is 6 minutes.
We meet dad at the Dry Dock Cafe. One of the other New Orleans foods I have not yet had is a muffuletta sandwich. Unlike a Po’ Boy which can be filled with almost anything, a muffuletta is always sliced Italian deli meats with a spread of something like olive tempanade that I guess is unique to the place selling the sandwiches. The large round roll is toasted and the sandwich is served warm. The sandwich was good, although the Italian meats are not usually my favorite combo because they tend to be a bit on the salty side. Nonetheless, I think the place made a good version of a bad recipe. I have had one and don’t need another. After lunch we get back to the house, grab my bags and head to the airport to make a 4:45 flight home.

In Conclusion:
As I leave New Orleans mom asks me what I thought of the city and I freely admit, I really enjoyed my time here. I am not sure how many more days I would need here to get to the point where I would be out of things to do. I like the little community of Algiers Point which reminds me so much of my hometown of Round Lake. It is so unlike the downtown area and is only 6 minutes by ferry. I would come back to this town in a heartbeat. The food variety is amazing and I love the bohemian feel of the French Quarter. I would love to spend more time in the French Quarter to decide if it would be like my time living in Greenwich Village or if the craziness would get old, fast. Either way, I am so glad we visited New Orleans. I am also glad I stayed a few extra days with mom and dad- I love them so much and the amount of extended time I get to spend with them these days is limited. This was exactly what I needed, just when I needed it.

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