After supper last night we decided to mosey on into the Big Easy, just to check out the night life. Let me just say this: the Big Easy is CRAZY wild! I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the brightly, and often gas lit, French Quarter in America's second largest port city. Mardi Gras is officially some distance away but don't tell anyone in the Quarter. They have clearly begun celebrating early. Or, maybe the atmosphere is always like that on Saturday night. Perhaps they were just celebrating the revitalization of the city, post-Katrina, whose destruction can still be seen in some places. At any rate, I found myself laughing right out loud at the amazing music, delicious smells, raucous laughter, stumbling folks and colorful (purple, green, yellow) decorations everywhere. I also found myself holding tightly to my oldest son's hand while Donald held the hand of our youngest. We strolled pleasantly for nearly two hours, just feasting on the sense-smorgasbord that New Orleans offers.
Then we strolled into the Cafe du Monde, established in the early 1860's, for beignets and chickory coffee, two delights I have been dying to try for years. The beignets (a square-ish French doughnut) were delivered steaming hot and piled high with powdered sugar. The coffee is blended with chickory roots and was served "au lait," just as the locals drink it, strong, milky and oh, so good! I'm generally a black coffee girl but this stuff made me a believer! The boys had cocoa and deemed the beignets the best thing they had ever eaten.
This morning we went back to the Quarter in a softly pattering, warm rain. Armed with umbrellas we ambled through one of New Orleans most singular attractions, an above ground cemetery. The cemetery we chose has been featured in several movies, notably, "Interview with a Vampire." The city's ancient and not so ancient dead are buried in large wall type vaults or individual family vaults. All are built along narrow pathways, cheek by jowl with each other, giving a very crammed in impression. After the cemetery we walked for hours through the streets which were only slightly less subdued than last night. Plenty of live jazz and blues music on the sidewalks and lots of people out and about, drinks in hand and beads around their necks. It was difficult to tell if they were left over from last night or if they were getting an early start on tonight! We had an early lunch and I was so proud of my adventurous children; one ordered catfish and the other ordered chicken and andouille gumbo. I had a Rockefeller, a tasty omelet of creamed spinach and oysters served with grits. Everyone was quite satisfied with their main courses but we were sadly disappointed in our shared bread pudding. The whiskey sauce was good but the pudding itself was very stale. Of course, we lingered over the chickory coffee!
We ventured to the French Market, the oldest city market in the country. Lots of produce and typical flea market type stuff. It was a great way to spend a rainy Sunday. After that we just walked and walked the streets of the Quarter, admiring the cast iron tracery adorning most of the buildings, the Provencal antique shops and historical placards until we all pleaded exhaustion and headed home to rest our weary feet. We have one more day in the area before moving on again and we are trying to decide between a plantation tour or a swamp boat tour. I'm pretty sure it will be a plantation but make sure you check back in so you know!