Monday, May 10, 2021

Adventures In The South - New Orleans, Part 3

Our final day in New Orleans, and the rain poured down.
No, I’m kidding.  Once again, it was wall to wall sunshine, with added humidity.  Taking a break from hiking around, we decided to saunter down to Canal Street, and catch a hop-on, hop-off bus tour around the Garden District.
This was another side to the city, where once upon a time wealthy types had moved from the French Quarter – though Garden District is a misnomer, because the gardens of the early nineteenth-century mansions were gradually sold off to provide plots for new houses in the later
A Canal St streetcar, on our way to the Garden District
nineteenth century.  Still, the architecture was impressive, in that typically Southern white-painted fashion.  But although our open-topped bus created its own light breeze, the heat was still oppressive as we tootled around.
We hopped off the bus as it approached the Warehouse District, and ducked out of the heat into the National World War II Museum, where a diner offered an option for lunch – and where all the accumulated heat of the bus tour was suddenly blast-frozen beneath our clothing by the air-conditioning.  Suitably cooled off, we then took in the Museum itself, founded by the war historian Stephen Ambrose – the guy who wrote the book Band Of Brothers.
If you think New Orleans seems an odd location for America’s National World War II Museum, there is a worthwhile pretext.  NOLA is the home of Higgins Industries, which manufactured a variety of naval equipment during the war, including the landing craft – or “Higgins Boats” – used during the D-Day landings.  In any event it’s an impressive and interactive collection, with a number of World War II veterans acting as guides at different points, and a collection of genuine aircraft suspended from the ceiling.  During our visit it also included the temporary exhibit “Final Mission: The USS Tang Submarine Experience” – which included a number of alarms and excursions reflective of the “Final Mission” tag.
Everyday Bourbon Street traffic
Having completed our tour of duty, we headed back towards the French Quarter, and took another wander up Bourbon Street to take in one more tourist attraction, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – the oldest building in the French Quarter, dating back to 1772.  But no, it’s not actually a blacksmith’s forge.  More prosaically, it’s a pub, and has been for a very long time.  It’s still lit by candlelight, and has pretty basic wooden furnishings, creating an overall effect that is – well, dingy, to be honest.  So after a quick beer we headed back to the hotel, and had a spell in the outdoor pool, cocktails in hand, to chill out for a while.
Refreshed, we set off for a nearby eaterie and our most upmarket dinner in about a week.  Sadly I can’t be sure of the restaurant’s name – Antoine’s, possibly – but it was smart and airy, with an acoustic jazz trio to keep us entertained as we ate.  Nothing fried, for a change  but instead some light and elegant fish, as I recall.
Fortified, we strolled on to our entertainment for the night, at d.b.a., a bar and club in Frenchmen Street.  After a warm-up drink in the welcoming bar - where I was amused to find McEwan's Wee Heavy, a resolutely old man's tipple back in Scotland, listed among the imported British beers - we headed to the adjoining room, and were treated to some genuine funky blues from local legend and recording artist Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington.  This, I’m pleased to say, was the real deal for the final night of our odyssey, with Walter singing and
The Wolfman gets funky!
playing classy guitar in front of an impressive, grooving band.  (A year and a bit later I came across the saxman playing with Mike Zito, at a gig back home in Edinburgh.  After the show I accosted Jimmy Carpenter – for it was none other – and, showing him a pic from the Wolfman show, said I was amazed to have encountered him again.  “Yeah, you look kinda familiar too,” he deadpanned in response.  He has a dry sense of humour, does Jimmy.)
Walter’s set was so good that a guy and a woman suddenly got together and started dancing – a real jiving display, with overhead lifts and all sorts, that earned applause and whoops of appreciation from the audience.  Remarkably, it turned out that they weren’t even a couple, and had just spontaneously hooked up together and done their thing.
And on that high note we stepped out into the still warm night air, and ambled back to Hotel Le Marais for a final nightcap and debrief.  Our adventures in the South were over, and the next day we’d be making the long haul back home to Scotland.

You can find New Orleans, Part 1 here.

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