where to even start: we immensely enjoyed our time here, in the city that's still enduring katrina's wrath but refuses to go down. being both of our first visits here, i think we had some idea of what to expect based off of the tried-and-true cliches. yes, everyone knows of voodoo and bourbon street, the french quarter and the delights of cafe du monde (of which, yes, we became familiar) but there's so much more to new orleans than mardi gras madness. personally, it's like no other city i have ever visited. funky, eclectic, proud, dirty, traditional, beautiful, soulful. it's a city of contrasts. elegant fine cajun dining just down the block from 3-feet-long $5 margaritas. beautiful, ornate iron work overlooking streets littered with trash. the smell of fresh baked beignets next door to the smell of bourbon street. the stunning st. louis cathedral with fortune tellers perched outside its hundreds-of-years-old steps. (speaking of, we had our fortunes told and would like to request our money back.)
|a classic, and open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.|
|a quiet courtyard awaiting mid-day patrons|
|iconic new orleans ironwork in the french quarter|
|moon over the crescent city|
|looks like a perfect lunch spot. bloody mary's all around?|
|st. louis cathedral in jackson square|
|altar inside st. louis cathedral|
there's no shortage of cajun classics to enjoy like shrimp etouffee, crawfish, jambalaya and po' boys, and boy, oh boy, we sampled all of them. places like mother's are the real deal. nothing fancy but good down-home food. we savored beignets covered in powdered sugar with cafe au lait from the legendary cafe du monde, split a muffaletta from central grocery (supposedly the inventor of the famed deli sandwich), and indulged in adventurous ice cream from the creole creamery. (no really, check out their flavors!) let's just say that it's a good thing that MUCH walking was involved during our stay in new orleans.
|beignets and cafe au lait at cafe du monde|
|muffaletta from central grocery. the original.|
|the walls inside central grocery filled with italian imported goodies|
|sinful sampler. and worth every calorie.|
|po' boy and crawfish etouffee from mother's.|
we decided to stay at ponchartrain landing rv resort. it's worth sharing that it's in a really weird location; but try not to be put off by it, because we truly thought it was the best place to stay. it's towards the very back of some port authority property off of lake ponchartrain (yes, some sites are waterfront) and you'd never know it's there, which is truly a bit of an advantage when it comes to safety. it was clean, quiet, well-run, had a great open air bar/lounging space for guests, and we found the sites (gravel) to be just fine. there is another resort (french quarter rv resort) right in the french quarter, but it's quite expensive and pretty much in the thick of it, which means all of the good AND bad that comes with the territory. i don't know about you, but i'd rather visit the french quarter than stay there.
|voodoo window in the french quarter|
|no caption needed. bourbon street.|
|who's the man behind the mask?|
|mardi gras masks EVERYWHERE.|
we took a drive around the infamous ninth ward to witness this hardest-hit-by-katrina neighborhood. wow. sobering. years later, there are still homes with X's on the doors, listing body counts. roofs were collapsed. windows broken. yards overgrown with weeds. debris everywhere. i thought to myself, "why isn't this stuff cleaned up by the city? why are the people that still live in this neighborhood living amidst this sad rubble?" i don't have the answers. even just a mile or so from the RV resort were large derelict tracts of land that i assume belonged to the city. there was a texaco station that had all windows blown out and gas pumps overcome by weeds. if you have seen the movie "i am legend" or "dawn of the dead" then you know exactly what i am talking about. it literally looked like a zombie wasteland.
the things i think we loved most about the city were the smaller, quieter pleasures. taking the st. charles streetcar, with windows open, down to rue de la course on carrolton street (my favorite location, better than magazine street) for iced mochas and fresh almond croissants. the oddly beautiful chipped paint and antique fixtures on old buildings weathered from summer's brutal heat and humidity. walking through the french market vendors, selling everything from produce, hot sauce, alligator heads and sno-cones. wandering through the "city of the dead" above-ground tombs in st. louis cemetery no. 1 on a sunday morning. perhaps one of the biggest treats was seeing the paulin bros. brass band perform at preservation hall. talk about authentic new orleans. this place is standing room only, barely bigger than a garage, and has steeped in raw new orleans flavor since it opened in the 60's. the band played dixieland the way it was meant to be played – with heart, soul and sweat. lots of it. hats off to them.
|great for walking around. reminds me of the market in charleston.|
|sweet treats at the market.|
|produce and pumpkins!|
|outside pat o'brien's. one of my favorite photos from new orleans.|
|this ain't no faux finish.|
|bizarre goods for sale at the market. any takers? no?|
|worn by time.|
|new orleans street cars.|
|on the st. charles streetcar. wheeeeee!|
|the real deal. loved this place.|
|the inside of preservation hall|
|behold: the paulin bros. brass band|
|how great is this guy? a smile for everyone.|
|the tomb of infamous voodoo priestess marie laveau, at|
st. louis cemetery no 1. the custom is to leave"wordly treats"
in exchange for favors from the great beyond.
|aforementioned "treats". hmmm. aveda lotion and a crab claw? really?|
|eerie st. louis cemetery no 1 ironwork|
|there is nothing left of some tombs but rubble.|
|regal tombs amidst decaying tombs. a stark contrast.|
speaking of brass bands, we spotted the algiers brass band (from just across the river) marching down bourbon street one afternoon for a celebratory wedding procession. nevermind that the bride's white dress was black at the hem from the dirty streets; she could not have been happier, and it showed. loved that moment; there's no where else in the world to see that. bourbon street itself was a big disappointment. not that we had high hopes; it's one of those places that is what it is: touristy, tacky, in-your-face smut, filthy and smelling of urine and stale beer. yep. that about sums it up. there are much cooler parts of new orleans.
|algiers brass band wedding procession|
|bourbon street bride.|
we ended our time in the big easy with a meal at cochon. richard was so-so on it. i thought it was pretty good, although i think in retrospect we played it too safe with our choices and should have ordered some of the more unusual dishes. one thing worthy of note was probably the best cocktail i have ever had: the boss hogg. oh my. made with moonshine, it only takes one. refreshing, different, tasty and potent. i'll definitely be trying to recreate this concoction at home.
|cochon, french for "pig"|
|the boss hog is boss.|
|am i right or am i right?|
thanks for a great time, new orleans. we'll remember you as one of the highlights of our airstream adventure. laissez les bons temps rouler!