In a post back in January, I wrote about our upcoming road trip/vacation to New Orleans, followed by our continuing on to Florida for a few weeks, beginning on February 19. (Read it here). We returned home to Illinois on Monday, March 13, after logging over 4,000 miles. The next several posts are highlights and summaries of our adventures and experiences in the Crescent City and in the Sunshine State.
Tuesday, February 21
This morning I found out what a beignet is! Seems as though ever since we signed up to go on this tour to New Orleans, that was what everyone familiar with the city and the culture there had talked about most often: “Can’t wait to have some beignets!” I had been told that there was quite a bit of powdered sugar involved, and I was curious to find out.
Anyway, after breakfast, once we all loaded up on the bus (yes, our car would remain parked at the hotel for the remainder of the New Orleans tour), we made our way into New Orleans, through morning traffic on unfamiliar highways and byways, past the Superdome and other city landmarks, en route to our daily drop-off spot on the corner of Front and Bienville streets, just outside the French Quarter and right alongside the Mississippi River.
The pleasant morning weather welcomed us as we strolled down Decatur Street toward the green and white striped awning where the famous Cafe DuMonde French Market Coffee Stand awaited, directly across from the famous Jackson Square. Even from a distance, we could tell that the place was packed and a line had formed outside the wrought iron fence surrounding the place.
Getting a table was first come, first serve, so we were immediately on alert. While we waited, we chatted with a friendly couple from San Diego and ended up sharing a table with them. As soon as we “claimed” an open table, a young girl cleared the mess of powdered sugar and splashed coffee from the previous customers and then took our order. A few minutes later the beignets and coffee arrived, and the four of us quickly tied-in to the fried dough squares under mounds of confectioner’s sugar! They were the perfect complement to the hot café au lait chicory flavored coffee served there.
After twenty minutes or so of indulging in powdered sugar delights and tasty coffee, as well as good conversation with our San Diego companions, it was time to brush ourselves off of the powdered sugar and make way for other hungry folks waiting. We bid farewell to our table mates as they were on their way in another direction, and we set off to explore the French Quarter on our own.
We spent the next several hours walking about various streets of the French Quarter–in and out of the many shops– and ending up on the famed Bourbon Street. By this time, it was time to find somewhere to eat lunch, so we wandered back up to Decatur Street where we’d earlier passed a restaurant named Cafe Maspero, and we had thought it looked like a good place to eat.
Neither of us was disappointed in our choice, as we had a tasty seafood lunch. Afterwards, we walked over to the Natchez Steamboat Wharf to wait to board for our afternoon river cruise. This was an excellent time to “people watch” and sit in the shade and listen to the loud calliope located high atop the Natchez. The atmosphere was wonderful, helping us become immersed in New Orleans culture and lifestyle, especially as we set off down river for a two-hour cruise a short time later.
Once back at the wharf, we walked the short distance back to Decatur Street to the Crescent City Brewhouse for our evening’s meal. Each meal with the tour group provided us with opportunities to get to know each other, and it was one of the great rewards of being on this trip
Once again, the service and the food were excellent! Carolyn and I both had a catfish selection, followed by a Cajun specialty: bread pudding. Yum!
After the meal, everyone was free to spend more time in and about the French Quarter. Some of us decided to head toward St. Peter Street where Preservation Hall is located. Just as its name says, Preservation Hall was established in 1961 “to preserve, perpetuate, and protect traditional New Orleans Jazz.” (http://preservationhall.com/hall/) To get tickets for the 8 p.m. show, we had to wait in line beginning at 7. In the meantime, we had a couple of cold beverages in Pat O’Brien’s next door to Preservation Hall, and we enjoyed the “dueling” pianos while we awaited the 7 o’clock hour.
As the evening turned out, the seemingly long wait, and the $15 apiece for tickets, were well worth it. Even though we were crammed into a very small and well-worn “hall,” the music that the Preservation Jazz Band All-Stars provided was beyond wonderful. And, as in all good performances, time flew right on by and the show came to a close.
We found our way out and enjoyed a brisk walk several blocks back to where the bus awaited to haul our tired selves back to the hotel. Our first full day in NOLA had been packed with lots of good things, and we looked forward to what the next day would offer. I drifted off to sleep that night with songs such as Tailgate Ramble pleasantly rambling around in my head!