Days 114 & 115: Final Days in NOLA

Day 114 (2016-12-18): Rainy Sunday Fail.

Holly and Bert invite me to join them for breakfast this morning which turns out to be an assortment of fresh fruit, applesauce, and nuts. Holly is vegan and I get the impression they don’t cook a whole lot, so it makes sense. But I am left wanting, and I start the day by walking to the Wayfare Cafe on nearby Freret St for brunch. Today’s food adventure: Cajun-style pulled pork on cornbread, topped with poached eggs and a Cajun sauce. Side of buttery garlic grits rounds out the heavy, filling breakfast. So good, yet so unlike my typical food with its extreme richness. It would be a health struggle to live here.

Although it does not look like a ton of food this brunch is a monstrous undertaking compared to the scant vegan fruit things this morning.

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Although it does not look like a ton of food this brunch is a monstrous undertaking compared to the scant vegan spread this morning.

It pours on and off during brunch and I manage to catch a bus before it begins to truly downpour. But by the time I get off it is raining again, and I scrap my plans of joining a walking tour. I try the main library but it is closed for repairs, so I head to the grocery store. By this point I am soaking wet and pretty chilly so I try to catch a bus to another library branch. The bus never shows and I am getting frustrated, so I just get an Uber back to my hosts’ house. They’re not home yet and did not give me a key, so I sit at a nearby coffee shop and wait until they return. Once back, I don’t leave again. It just keeps pouring!


Day 115 (2016-12-19): Walking Tours, Food, Music

Well, it is cold but at least it is dry this morning so I catch a bus and join a walking tour of the French Quarter. We start in Jackson square, a historic square with a statue of Andrew Jackson commemorating his defense of the city against British invasion during the War of 1812. Picturesque NOLA town homes border two sides while an imposing lineup of museums and a church look out over the square towards the French Market. I won’t go into a big history lesson here, but I learned a bit about the history of the city through French, Spanish, and American rule. The current architecture is strongly tied to the Spanish fire code, instituted after the city burned several times.

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The Spanish fire code required buildings be rebuilt without porches so owners instead built beautiful balconies overhanging the sidewalk.

 

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Part of the fire code required courtyards with water access. The legacy of this is beautiful, private green spaces scattered throughout the Quarter. Some belong to hotels and restaurants, others to very expensive homes (mostly on the outer fringe), and some very small and expensive apartments.

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Another view of the Quarter.

After the tour I follow our guide’s suggestion and wander to Coop’s, a no-frills bar known for its jambalaya. I order the rabbit and sausage jambalaya and it is great, if a little small for the $6 cup. I want something warm so I go with a buttered rum as per the bartender’s recommendation, but it is way too rich for me. Next time I’ll stick to hot cider or a spiked hot chocolate.

I meet the guide again shortly after lunch, this time for a tour of the nearby Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, home of iconic jazz clubs along Frenchman Street. We stroll through this traditionally Creole neighborhood learning about the difference between Creole and American slavery (can you guess which one is slightly less terrible), the Free People of Color, and even a bit about the infamous Marie Laveau, Vodoo Queen of New Orleans. The heart of Frenchman Street is just two blocks but packed full of food, drink, and music.It’s supposed to be far milder than Bourbon Street and more authentic – I’m curious to come back tonight because it seems a lot more my style. Plus it’s Monday, so I figure it should be pretty chill.

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Staples on a utility pole in front of Snug Harbor, one of the premier Jazz Clubs in the neighborhood. Clearly, nothing exciting ever happens in this town.

I wait out the afternoon by finally getting to the Main library where I doze off reading the Atlantic and am woken by an irritated security officer. After struggling with NOLA’s terrible transit system I return to Frenchman Street and stop at 13, a small bar recommended by my guide for cheap eats. I go for the $5 red beans and rice, a NOLA staple. It’s good but having skipped lunch I opt to jump right into another, non-traditional dish: vegetarian chili tachos.

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Vegetarian chili tachos. Tachos, for the uninitiated, are tater-tot nachos. Perhaps a gimmicky urban millennial thing, but they were so good and inexpensive!

After getting my fill I walk a block down to The Spotted Cat and enjoy a drink or two while listening to the Frenchman Street All-Stars play typical NOLA jazz music. It’s Monday night and the place is quiet, but as the band begins to play a crowd slowly fills the small space. I get the sense that the band is neither exceptionally popular nor terribly close-knit from their furtive glances ta each other and hesitation when improvising. Eventually they loosen up though, and I enjoy a relaxing night of music.

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The Frenchman Street All-Stars performing at The Spotted Cat jazz club

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