Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Orleans Part II

Brigid's porch on Sunday morning

Bright and early on Sunday, Brigid and I walked from her house to the Wakin' Bakin' Cafe for breakfast. I had a delicious bowl of yogurt topped with hemp granola, berries, and Louisiana honey. Then we headed for the famous St. Charles Avenue streetcar and rode into the Garden District. This is the oldest continuously running streetcar line in the world. We hopped off at Washington Street and walked to Lafayette Cemetery.

During an earlier visit to the cemetery, Brigid had found a tomb with a bit of the top broken off, a view of the bones within, and a mysterious mason jar containing a mysterious thing that, viewed through the clouded glass, could easily have been an eyeball, or was perhaps something innocuous like a tulip bulb. At any rate, we searched for it at some length and finally stumbled on it, just as Brigid had remembered it, only now, offerings of coins and a string of Mardi Gras beads were piled by the hole in the tomb. It's funny about Mardi Gras beads - here at home I see them as clutter and toss any beads that make their way into my house, but they look so right in New Orleans. They're everywhere, draped on fences and houses - we even saw a huge pothole in the street that was filled with them. They're like an integral part of the city itself.

Mystery mason jar
We left the cemetery and walked over to the Irish Channel, on the other side of Magazine Street. This is where the Irish settled when they first came to New Orleans and I was curious to see it. My own Irish ancestors went to Pennsylvania, but there's a long and interesting history of the Irish in New Orleans. And we shopped a bit on Magazine street and I bought Jon a leather card holder made by a local artisan.
In the Irish Channel

My house in Cville has a similar stained glass window

(Side note: most of my pictures are awful. I forgot to pack my camera and had only a phone. Plus, I was mostly focused on absorbing the surroundings and talking to Brigid, so I left my phone in my pocket and missed several good photo ops.) Anyway, we headed to lunch at the house of one of Brigid's friends, who, with a group of friends, transforms her backyard into a restaurant or theater. It's called The Pepper Lantern and is in the Faubourg Marigny.  

You squeeze yourself through this tiny alley and emerge into a backyard where there was a fire, a bar, tables and chairs arrayed on the grass. We ordered a sampler plate to share - one of each dish on the menu, which was a hot African groundnut stew, sweet potato hummus with flatbread, a delicious salad with chard, beets and oranges, and a latke topped with pickled red cabbage. We also ordered a yummy cinnamon oatmeal baked apple for dessert and ordered mimosas from the bar.

Our sampler platter

New Orleans is THE place to see vintage typewriters in the wild

There was live music, so we hung around for a while, drowsing in the sun. It was a cold day, but we were in the sun and sheltered from the wind. (It was so cold and windy in New Orleans that my face is as chapped as if I'd spent the weekend skiing.) We left after a while and stopped at a market to buy a bottle of Gingeroo (a bottled rum/ginger cocktail) and headed to City Park to drink it and watch the sunset under the Singing Tree, a live oak, hung with wind chimes. There's no open container law, so it's totally acceptable to do this. Brigid says you can pop into a cafe on Sunday mornings and order a bloody Mary to go. It's not like I want to run amok in the streets but honestly, some alcohol laws are ridiculous. Why shouldn't you be able to stroll about with a beer - an eminently civilized activity, in my opinion - if you feel like it? .

The Singing Tree

Live oak in City Park

But now it was late afternoon and I was acutely conscious that my flight left the next day at 5:30 am. We ate a simple dinner in a French restaurant and then said our goodbyes. The whole trip had been magical and it was just so wonderful to see my daughter in her own surroundings, meet her friends and see her life. I think what struck my the most was when Brigid said that in New Orleans, people don't ask what you do, they ask what you make. I love that.

The trip home was uneventful except for one incident I'd like to relate because it was so silly on my part. First of all, the rental car area of the New Orleans airport has a very robust anti-theft system. In my experience, you stop at the kiosk, are given keys, and you drive away. In New Orleans, once you're in possession of the car, you must stop at a second kiosk, where, while you show your contract to an agent, a security bar comes down and a plate of vicious spikes elevates from the floor, ensuring serious damage to the car should you decide to make a run for it. That's right. At the New Orleans airport, they would rather wreck the car than let you steal it.

So anyway, I was anxious about several things that morning, including missing my flight and not being able to find the rental car return. And then I was delayed leaving my hotel because my windshield was frozen and the car didn't have an ice scraper and THEN, despite my maps app, I got onto the highway going in the wrong direction and had to loop back and wasted several precious minutes. I finally got to the rental car return, a multi-level parking garage, and I missed the Alamo sign on the second level and drove up to the third level which was for cars from different companies. I realized my mistake immediately, but now I was stuck because of the above-mentioned theft precautions, it was literally impossible to exit the garage and drive down to the second level, and of course no one was manning the kiosk at 4:00 am. So I left the car with the "Thrifty" company and went off to catch my flight.

In Atlanta, where it was now a more reasonable hour, I called the "customer care" phone number from the email about my reservation and explained the whole situation. The person I spoke to was very kind but when she tried to call the Alamo office in New Orleans, no one was answering the phone. She told me not to worry and I hung up and then realized I'd called Orbitz' customer service number and not Alamo's itself. But here is the thing, I'm one of those people with a phone call phobia. It had taken much resolve to make even the call to Orbitz. (I had considered just not calling anyone and hoping it would sort itself out.) The thought of making another phone call and having to go through the whole rigamarole again was unbearable. So I left myself in the fate of Orbitz customer service and consoled myself with the thought that surely I wasn't the first person to make this mistake and that the Thrifty people would probably soon notice that a car that didn't belong to them was in their lot and it would all be sorted. Which it was, apparently. I can see from my credit card statement that I was charged $10 more than the contract, but if $10 is the fine for being a dumbass, I am OK with that.

Otherwise, I got home with no problem to find that Jon, in my absence, had painted a surprise mural on one of our walls. It's growing on me. I mean, why not?


  1. The mural seems very NOLA.

    Oh, and the open container law of NOLA is one that has stuck with me my entire life.

    Sounds like a wonderful trip.

  2. But the $60,000 queztion: did you get sick after the flight home? If your sickness is from the flight, one would think it would happen both ways.
    Hoping you are well.

    1. No I didn't! It makes me wonder if anxiety is part of the problem. I was really looking forward to the trip, but I was also anxious about arriving on my own in a strange city and setting out in a rental car.

  3. I enjoyed these two entries on NOLA so much. I'm so glad you got to see and experience so much during your visit. As you may recall, my sister lives there and it is one of my favorite places to visit. We will be down there for several days in a few weeks for Mardi Gras, an event I have no intention of ever missing as long as I live.

    1. Thanks! I knew you had a NOLA connection. Have fun at Mardi Gras! My daughter is very excited to experience it for the first time. It seems like it was already in its early stages when I was there.

  4. What a great adventure you had! I really like that question--what do you make? I think I may adopt it. The conversations that stem from it would be more interesting. I never knew there was an Irish area in New Orleans, but of course there would be. Such a melting pot of a city. That jar is beautifully mysterious. Can you believe you could rediscover it? Crazy.

  5. Thanks for excellent travelogue! So many places I want to see! I think your travel sickness may be pent up anxiety being released, Like when you withstand all kinds of viruses and bugs and then get sick the very first day of your hols.