Thursday, March 25, 2021

Adventures in the South - New Orleans, Part 2

It was a lazy start to our first morning in New Orleans.  We’d promised ourselves that after driving all the way from Nashville over the last ten days or so, we were going to kick back and take it easy in the Big Easy.  So we took a leisurely breakfast in the dining room of the hotel before setting out to explore.
We sauntered down to the wide boulevard of Canal Street and then towards the Mississippi Riverfront.  Passing by the hulking mass of Harrah’s Casino, we made our way to the stop for the Riverfront Streetcar – never can resist a historic streetcar.  And there we waited  in the
That there is Satchmo's cornet, on display at the Jazz Museum
sweltering mid-morning heat.  For quite some time.  Early August, it has to be said, ain’t the most comfortable time to visit New Orleans, but other commitments had dictated our holiday period.  Even wearing a hat it helps to find any scrap of shade you can – and have a bottle of water to hand.  Eventually though, the streetcar arrived, and pulling away towards the Lower French Quarter we could immediately feel the movement creating a blissful breeze through the streetcar.
Getting off at the French Market, we had a stroll through the (thankfully covered) Flea Market.  Chatting with a local artist from whom we picked up a couple of pictures capturing the colour of the French Quarter, we mentioned our interest in music and asked if he had any tips.  Nearby Frenchman Street was the locale to aim for, he reckoned, and added that we should try to catch local legend Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington playing in a club there the following night.
From there we headed for the Old US Mint in Barracks Street.  Now a museum, the Mint neatly tells the story of New Orleans’ chequered history through its frequently changing currency, as it changed hands from one “occupying power” to another – French, Spanish, then French again before the United States acquired it through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.  It also houses the excellent New Orleans Jazz Museum, during our visit including a temporary exhibition about the historic venue Preservation Hall, which can be found in nearby St Peter Street.  For some reason we didn’t cotton on to the Louisiana State Museum, so the Mint was the closest we got to exploring the history of New Orleans.
Having done the culture vulture bit, we returned to the French Market for a spot of street food
There's always a gig somewhere in New Orleans
lunch – gumbo for me and a po’ boy for Jill, and very tasty it was too.  Much more satisfying, for my money, than the much-vaunted but disappointing beignets we sampled at Café Du Monde, the “Original French Market Coffee Stand” since 1862.  I mean, I like a good doughnut now and then - and that's all beignets are - but these didn't strike me as anything special.  What’s more, much of the icing sugar in which the doughnuts were swimming ended up on the tiled floor, turning it into a skating rink.
Meandering back towards our hotel, we passed through Jackson Square, with its statue of former president Andrew Jackson, and took in some jazz musicians playing al fresco, in relaxed but still impressive style.  And so back to the hotel, and some reading and cooling off around the outdoor pool.
That evening we set off for Mulate’s Cajun Restaurant and Dance Hall in the Warehouse district, where cajun music is played every night.  Having failed to score any cajun music a couple of nights earlier in its heartland of Lafayette, we were intent on making up for it now.  Mulate’s is a large and airy, pleasant room, but on this Tuesday evening customers were sparse.  Maybe we’d arrived too early, but while we did get a band knocking out some cajun stuff on the stage, the atmosphere was far from energising.  The food seemed uninspired too – or perhaps I’d had just had a surfeit of fried stuff after nearly three weeks on the road in the States.
Somewhat deflated, we walked back to the hotel in the decidedly warm and humid night air.  On the way, rather surreally, we passed two police horses tied up next to a multi-storey car park, their riders nowhere to be seen.  The horses seemed entirely unconcerned.  Taking a leaf out of their Big Easy nonchalance, we spent the rest of the night chilling out over cocktails in the cool of the hotel.

To read Adventures in the South from the beginning, go to the Prologue.

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