Monday, June 6, 2011

Louisiana Trip Part 4: The French Quarter

No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a trip to the French Quarter. After a delicious breakfast of crab cake Benedict (seriously!) we once again took the long trek across the causeway to the south shore.

Our first stop on our walk about was the Southern Candymakers to get the world's best pralines. There was a huge line, and this place was tiny. We actually came in one side of the building, saw the mass of people, and went back around to the other side of the building to get into line. It moved really quickly, and in short order I was enjoying a fresh pecan praline.

I would have to say the best thing (other than restaurants) about the French Quarter is St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square. The cathedral is one of those old enormous churches that has really cool architecture and artwork inside. I also love that it's right in the middle of everything, there are shops and residences literally right around it. I didn't get any pictures (photography wasn't allowed), but it was truly a beautiful building.

Right outside of the cathedral was Jackson Square, which has a beautiful little gardened park which was apparently designed by the same guy who did Central Park in New York City. The park is an oasis of trees, flowers, and grass in the middle of a city. There was a banana tree producing fruit right there in the middle of New Orleans!

On the brick walks around Jackson Square there was all sorts of art being sold by local artists. I think my favorite pieces were of pre-Katrina images done on remains salvaged after the hurricane (anything from building doors to shutters from windows). There were also people painting and making art right there, and some of the techniques were really fascinating. There were apparently shops all along the periphery of the walkway, but I was so taken with the artwork that I completely missed them.

One of the other great things about Jackson Square, is that there are all kinds of people playing music. These are really talented musicians. There was a jazz/Dixieland type band playing that we stopped to listen to for a while. I was able to get some shots from Bea's iPhone from the steps of the cathedral.

We wandered around some more, I bought a funky dress from a vendor, and Bea found some interesting old dishes to add to her growing collection at a neat antique shop. Hunger was starting to set in, but I was also feeling kind of sluggish from all the rich food we had been having all weekend. We decided to go to the Gumbo Shop, and we each got gumbo and a salad. The gumbo was good, very different from what I had 2 days previous. The salad though, wow, the dressing was amazing. It was a pecan vinaigrette, and the fresh greens were nice too. I really just needed some kind of vegetable in my stomach.

Since this was the French Quarter, we had to go down Bourbon Street to get a large crazy drink. Cities as a whole are kind of stinky, it's one of the reasons I don't want to live in one. Bourbon Street smelled like every gross bar I had ever been in, but that's to be expected, because there is some kind of bar or porn shop every 5 feet. It was a cultural experience. There are no public drinking laws, so the objective was to find a Hand Grenade ("New Orleans' most powerful drink", according to my glass) and do some more wandering around. We went to the Tropical Isle to obtain this neon concoction, which had the decor to match the Hand Grenade; the whole place was done up in green and electric yellow. The bar. The floor. The bathroom. The "Hand Grenade Flavored Condoms" dispenser. Everything.

With my icy cold pineapple flavored drink in hand, we continued our wandering. Eventually I finished my drink, and we made it back to the street we were parked on. We made a stop at Lush to get some bath products. We also make one more trip to the candy store where I bought a box of pralines for Matt (and me).

Over all, I really liked the French Quarter. I'm a fan of people watching and wandering, and there is a lot of both to be done. The city itself is kind of surreal, like something out of the past. Most of the buildings have the really beautiful Spanish ironwork on balconies. You also discover all kinds of "secret" courtyards withing restaurants and shops, which are pleasant little shady areas that come in handy in such a hot and humid climate. I'd definitely go back, even just for the pralines.

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