When I take a trip somewhere, if I don’t do a day-by-day recounting, there’s usually a bunch of tidbits left over that I either couldn’t write more than a few sentences about or don’t have any photos for or would drag out the series far beyond what any human could be expected to tolerate or that would involve telling more personal stories about people who haven’t necessarily agreed to have their lives permanently archived on my blog just because we’re friends. All combined, however, they make for something a little more substantial, so here’s yet another one, this time about New Orleans.
I arrived in New Orleans after sunset and ravenous. I immediately headed out to get dinner at Muriel’s, and since I had a little time to kill before my reservation, I wandered around the area and saw that the next street over was closed off for filming. A crew member told me they were working on a new Tom Cruise film with a Halloween parade, and while that he personally was not allowed to take pictures, I could be as nosy as I wanted to be as long as I didn’t cross the street barriers. The next day, I noted that entire area was decked out for Halloween, so I’m glad I was a little nosy and asked questions otherwise I would have been wondering what was up with all of the cobwebs, pumpkins, and skeletons in mid-December.
Every list of New Orleans must-dos includes a visit to Cafe du Monde for beignets and chicory coffee. I’m nearly convinced that all of these publishers must be getting kickbacks from Cafe du Monde as neither thing is all that great…and that’s being charitable. It’s an overly powdered sugared sorta soggy doughnut with mediocre coffee from a shop where the service blows ass and you can either battle people at the shop for a powdered sugar covered seat or you can do like we did and find a bench along the Mississippi and be hassled by people who would like nothing better than an opportunity to tell you where you got dem shoes because your powdered sugar covered face points you out as an easy target. I think some tourist things become staples for a reason and that no one should be ashamed of doing touristy stuff on their trips, but I also think you could safely cross this one off your list and find a better beignet within easy walking distance. The sweet potato beignets at SoBou, for instance, which have a chicory glaze and are to-die for, which you can pair with a twenty five cent martini at lunch and live like a drunken lunch king.
You can also pass on the flea market down the street, which is essentially tables and tables full of the same stuff over and over again. One person near the entrance was working us hard on a stone tea set, saying how rare it was and that we’d never again see its like…so it must have just been intense deja vu when we saw the exact same set at the other end of the market. Everywhere there are signs insisting you don’t take photos, and I have to assume it’s because they don’t want people to see how crappy their wares are and just how much of it you could find on alibaba if you were motivated.
For a great non-drunken lunch, I really enjoyed the central grocery muffuletta. It’s a little different (and spelled differently) from the muffo-lotta sandwich of the italian deli of my youth, but still rich, meaty, and delicious, with the world’s best sandwich bread. And sizable at that, we split a half sandwich between three people and were good until dinner. I’m not typically an olive lover, but this sandwich is an exception.
I wasn’t as taken with the Cabildo museum as I was the Presbytere. I think mainly I just wasn’t in the mood for it–a combination of being hot and tired and full and wanting a nap which didn’t play well with enthusiasm for learning. They did have one of Andrew Jackson’s coats on display which was pretty cool, and a video about the various presentations of The Buccaneer and how it contrasted with the real Jean Lafitte. I’m also glad they didn’t shy away from the history of slavery in the state–it would have been so easy to just conveniently ignore how the state and the wealth in it was actually built. History can be so ugly and cruel and it’s important that we acknowledge it.
After I went to the Cabildo, I went into some antique shops along Royal Street, which are absolutely nothing like any antique store I’ve ever been in anywhere else in my life. All of the antique shops I’d been to prior to this were like upscale Goodwills–in exchange for being pretty sure you wouldn’t find poop crusted on anything, you’re charged a higher price for the same items you could probably find at a regular Goodwill if you weren’t all that concerned about maybe running into a rogue poo. I’m not actually certain I could afford anything in any of the antique shops on Royal Street. Following the adage of “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it”, I didn’t bother to inquire. What I did ask, however, was to see the secret room at M.S. Rau Antiques. Everything in the store was already so elaborate and magnificent–furniture owned by flipping kings, jewelry owned by popes–that I wondered what they would even bother to put in a secret room…the dregs, surely, and then somehow things got even more amazing and beautiful and rare. Marble sculpture. Alabaster sculpture–I’m not sure I’d ever even seen alabaster before that day. Multiple Monets. Their secret room is actually three floors of multimillion dollar art and furniture, like a museum you can buy and then have in your house and look at and touch whenever you want to. I wanted to touch everything. I’m sure I looked like a drooling yokel, but at least I managed to keep my arms pinned to my sides and not put my greasy powdered sugar monkey mitts on anything, though some paintings I did look at very closely. I’m so glad they did take me back there, as they could certainly tell by looking at me and my clothes that there was no way I was going to pull out a black card and tell them I’d take the lot.
I did consider pulling out the credit card for this sun and moon tray from Venice, but figure I’ll save that purchase for when I’m actually, you know, in Venice. Also it doesn’t go with anything in my house, but that’s a problem for post-Venice. A more New Orleans-based souvenir I did splash out for, however, was an old cast iron horse head hitching post topper that I found in the sort of antique shop I’m more accustomed to in the garden district. I didn’t find its match in the french quarter (the horses are different from street to street or even on the same block–some of them aren’t even metal anymore) and I can’t be sure it was ever out on a New Orleans street, but it reminds me of the lovely time I had there, and if it came down to brass tacks, I could probably kill a man with it if I had to, which can’t be said of most souvenirs.
Also in the garden district: H. Rault Locksmith, full of awesome hardware for the home, some new, some restored vintage, and a really cool unique selection of locking jewelry. The owner also has a very public dispute with some douchebag on Yelp, which I personally found delightful because I have some issues with Yelp myself. If I had more bag space or a clear idea of exactly how much hardware I needed, I would have totally invested in some cool vintage hardware for my house…I just may make a list before the next time I go to New Orleans and make this love affair official.
Also ALSO in the garden district is Sucre, which I read has possibly the best macarons in the United States. I wouldn’t go that far, I actually prefer the ones at Mon Amie, but what was thrilling and kind of shocking was that I asked what flavor a macaron was as it wasn’t labeled, and they not only told me, but popped one over the counter for me to try. Seriously, free macaron, which probably cost them two cents in materials but it made my damn day. By the way, it was absinthe flavored and it was delicious. They had a number of really beautiful treats in their cases but I was already full and kind of on sugar overload from my earlier visit to District. I ended up buying a variety pack of their NOLA inspired macaron flavors: bananas foster, chicory, pecan, and salted caramel and ate them all in the hotel bed, because I am a little piggy.
Speaking of the hotel, I stayed at the Hampton Inn New Orleans. The room was fine, the free wifi was a nice touch, I appreciated that the fridge was there for my use instead of crammed full of things to purchase, and my only complaint was something that I mocked as being ridiculous when I was searching for hotels to book. “Look at this guy, he’s complaining about the water pressure in the shower, what a manbaby.” No, the babyman was correct, the water pressure in the shower was beyond terrible. It was like standing under a giant’s mouth, waiting for him to slowly dribble lukewarm spit on your head. I felt dirty the entire week. I probably stank. Sorry everyone. Sorry for judging you, babyman. Sorry for still calling you babyman even though you were completely correct, it’s the only name I know you by.
At W.I.N.O., where you pay for wine by the ounce, we learned that Jason has a knack for picking out the least mouth pleasing wine at any given price point. My favorite wine of the evening was one that they said tasted like an Italian grandma’s hug. An expensive Italian grandma’s hug. Only cashmere for this granny, watch your saucy mouth before she goes in for a hug.
If you’ve been to a game bar, you basically know what Barcadia is like–I appreciated that they’re less slickly corporate than a Dave & Busters or Gameworks so you can have fun without feeling a vampiric drain on your wallet and you don’t need to load a card to play. It’s all quarters, like it should be. I had so much fun hanging out with Carrie there, playing giant connect 4 and jenga, putting down a couple of deceptively delicious not-your-father’s root beers, getting ripped off on skee ball, and learning that we can both kick over our heads but that Carrie, being taller, could straight kick me in the face if she wanted to so I’d better watch my mouth. So I guess we’re still a little rock ‘n’ roll.
A bar at which I sincerely hoped I would have fun but did not is the Carousel bar in the hotel Monteleone. I don’t know what fricking hour of what fricking day you need to go in order to get a seat at the actual rotating portion of the bar, but I can tell you it’s not worth the effort. I tried on at least three separate occasions, finally got a seat in the bar if not at the bar, got a mediocre sazerac which I paid out the wazoo for, and it was so loud inside that you couldn’t really have a conversation even if you wanted to. Blech. It was hyped as one of the top twenty bars in the world, which I guess means I’m not all that interested in checking out the other nineteen if this is the standard. You know where the best bar is–it’s the place that makes those drinks you like in comfortable surroundings with people whose company you enjoy. Before she ran away and joined the office and got promoted sixty times, the best bar for me was Pegasus because Carrie was there, mixing up grey. Now, the best bar is wherever we can hang out and be ourselves. Carousel is not that place.
Hidden down an alleyway in the French Quarter is Green Goddess. Unless you knew it was there, you could easily walk right past it. You shouldn’t, though. The dinner I had there was superb, but the best part was the bacon sundae. Oh my. Praise the lord and pass the caramel sauce.
I laughed until I almost peed a little when I saw this sign at the Audubon Aquarium. The gulf of mexico, sponsored by the corporations who are actively destroying it! How about a healthy living exhibit, brought to you by Cheetos? This cancer ward sponsored by: lead paint! The last remaining ice floe, also brought to you by Exxon! This abomination against language, brought to you by me!