Arm Chair Road Trip Days 19 + 20: More Big Easy-ness

September 24, 2020 — 2 Comments

nola marker

For our first full day in New Orleans we made the pilgrimage to Cafe du Monde. We weren’t impressed; they taste like fried dough you get on Boston Common. Even the obscene amount of powdered sugar they’re buried in can’t hide that. I told Mtuseni it was just something you had to do, like having boerewors in South Africa. The best part of the experience was the trio playing some snappy jazz right outside the cafe — a great way to perk up the morning.

bb

beignet big deal

The requisite beignets at Cafe du Monde. We didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I knocked most of the sugar off mine, I wanted to keep my teeth through the day.

bb

du monde pair

Yep, we’re at Cafe du Monde. I’d prefer another trip to the Waffle House.

bb

We crossed over to Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral, which is stunning. For someone who attends church in a strip mall, Mtuseni doesn’t get the opulent church thing. Growing up Catholic and ringing gold bells as an altar boy, it’s old hat to me. I lit a candle and sat for a few minutes and talked to my father, who passed a few months earlier. He would’ve loved this trip.

St. Louis Cathedral exterior in New Orleans

St. Louis Cathedral looks a bit like Cinderella’s castle with the multiple spires.

bb

Painted ceiling and altar at Saint Louis Cathedral in New Orleans

bb

Altar in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans

The altar reminds me of my grandmother’s church, Our Lady of Czestochowa, in Massachusetts.

bb

The beignets weren’t a very substantial breakfast — we were used to filling up on free hotel buffets. We scouted someplace for an early lunch and the Johnny’s Po’Boys sign drew me in. I’d been craving a fried oyster po’boy since we crossed the Louisiana border. But the recent hurricane had stirred up algae — no oysters! I got a tuna po’boy that was as big as my arm (not my intention). I gave half to a homeless guy sitting in front of the cathedral. 

bb

poboy shop

I love old sandwich shops like this. Kinda got the diner thing goin’.

bbbb

Johnny's Po-Boys sign in New Orleans

I swear my tuna po’boy was not much smaller than this guy’s!bb

bb

bb
We strolled through the French Market until the heat again became stifling, so we popped into the Jazz Museum. I had no expectations other than air conditioning, but I was totally impressed! Well-curated exhibits, tons of cool photos, artwork and mementoes: they pack a lot into what looks like a small space.

bb

good jazz sign

bb

jazz mural

bb

Louis Armstrong's first cornet in New Orleans Jazz Museum

Louis Armstrong’s first cornet. I remember seeing him on the Ed Sullivan Show as a kid. “Well Hello Dolly!”

bb

Mtuseni immersed himself in an exhibit on Professor Longhair. He listened to every recorded narrative and song clip — and was fascinated that he taught himself to play piano on a broken one he found on the street.  We ended up meeting the professor again at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland weeks later. He was a cool, talented cat!

bb

longhair better

bb

We even got to see a free jazz concert by the Nicholas Payton Trio in a sweet little studio. Great show, great talent! The museum was a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening break from the heat.

Check out video of the Nicholas Payton Trio on our Instagram!

bb

concert stage

Great space for a free concert at the Jazz Museum. Mtuseni doesn’t know jazz — but he loves live music.

bb

After dinner we took the trolley to Frenchmen Street for a little more live music and a little less crazy chaos. Weeks of togetherness and relentless heat finally got to us: We had a sidewalk screaming match that entertained and spooked the tourists, but then hugged it out and watched a great band in a little bar, sitting right up front. You can’t be angry too long in New Orleans! 

Check out our Instagram for some music from Frenchmen Street!

The next morning we had breakfast at The Governor — a great spot with caricatures of Louisiana politicians from times past… and their criminal exploits. One young woman’s job seemed to be just going from table to table asking people if they’re happy. She was like sunshine moving through the room. NOLA felt like our first taste of real Southern hospitality.

bb

governor pair

Good breakfast. Great, friendly vibe. We loved this place — and we’re not big smilers in the morning!

bb

After breakfast we took a trolley to the Garden District to check out the pretty homes and lush streets. We walked round a while but — surprise! — it was super hot! So we hopped on the trolley back into town and just strolled the streets, enjoying the architecture. The ornate balconies reminded us of Long Street in Cape Town, a similarly lively and fun street in Mtuseni’s neck of the woods.

bb

pearl oyster balcony

This image could be from Long Street in Cape Town, South Africa!

bb

fern balcony

bb
Far down Bourbon Street I noticed a building that looked much different from the others in terms of age and history. Sure enough, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was built in the 1770s — and is one of the oldest bars in the country. It looked like the Hobbit lived there! 

bb

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar in New Orleans

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar — tell me a hobbit didn’t once live there!

bb

blacksmith bar sign

bb

blacksmith hearth

bb

Inside you could sense the old blacksmith doing his work at the brick hearth. I would have easily sat and enjoyed the ambiance and a beverage or two. But our time was winding down. Mtuseni could see how smitten — and a little bummed out  — I was, so he convinced me to get a frozen purple voodoo cocktail to go. It was so cold. And so good. And so strong! Thank god we still had a little walking to do before we took off.

bb

purple drink

Damn, two sips of this voodoo cocktail and I look drunk. It was the heat, I swear! I tried to save the cup; it didn’t last the trip.

bb

We returned to the French Market and got some souvenirs. Mtuseni got a hat that said “laissez le bons temps rouler”— once I explained to him what it meant. We did have good times — great times — in New Orleans, and were sad to leave. Mtuseni says we really celebrated his birthday there, since Montgomery was such a bust.

bb

french mkt

bb

We took one last look around the city from the rooftop where the car was parked, then headed down Canal Street and onto the highway. Next stop… Memphis.

trumpet bw

I loved this photo from the Jazz Museum. It seems to capture the energetic, laid back, fun vibe of New Orleans.

2 responses to Arm Chair Road Trip Days 19 + 20: More Big Easy-ness

  1. 

    Just read your article in the NYT. Congratulations.

    Elizabeth from SF (your old neighbor)

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think?...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s