day 11: new orleans
our one and only car-free day! and irene’s birthday! we had the luxury of sleeping in a bit, enjoying the comforts of our charming room at the hotel provincial, then headed out for breakfast at the café du monde – along with every other tourist in town. the queue was way too long, so we had inferior beignets and coffee elsewhere. we walked up to the tourist centre on basin street and joined a guided walking tour of st louis cemetary #1. it has an interesting history, which you can read about here and here. we saw the grave of the voodoo priestess marie laveau (whose eponymous shop we visited the previous evening), and the tomb where peter fonda sat dropping lsd in easy rider. our tour guide noted that marie laveau’s grave is the second most visited gravesite in america, right after… elvis presley’s. so we’ve seen the top two on this trip! and after easy rider was released, the archdiocese, which had not viewed the movie in advance, put a ban on all filming in the cemetery (except for educational productions). even tourists cannot take videos, only photos.
it was an extremely hot and humid day, unusual for this time of year even in new orleans. we continued walking, popping into shops and lobbies periodically for a blast of air conditioning and a sip of water. the warehouse district is full of interesting shops and new boutique hotels, and the wine institute of new orleans (w.i.n.o.) which unfortunately didn’t open until later in the day. back into the french quarter, we stopped for lunch at pere antoine (not the same as antoine’s restaurant, birthplace of oysters rockefeller, and setting for the novel dinner at antoine’s by frances parkinson keyes, whose house was across the street from our hotel). people here are hugely friendly, and we happily chatted with shopkeepers, locals and tourists throughout the day.
this town, as you might expect, is really big on halloween, and some residents get right into the spirit…
we headed back to the hotel for a break from the heat and to enjoy another cocktail in the excellent ice house bar; this time, obituary cocktail for me (essentially a gin martini spiked with absinthe), and a sublime bloody mary for irene. for her birthday dinner, we had a table in the magical courtyard of the court of two sisters. overhead, twisting vines hundreds of years old twinkle with fairy lights, and huge suspended fans provide a bit of relief from the evening heat. we tried blackened alligator and had a caesar salad made table-side. irene had the crawfish napoleon; i had louisiana catfish. we finished off with bananas foster, a local dessert creation. we needed some music to digest the meal, and found a great new orleans jazz group playing at the maison bourbon, “dedicated to the preservation of jazz”. we stayed for a set, then danced our way back to the hotel. our room looked out onto an inner courtyard with a swimming pool.
high temp: 33c, traveled: 0km in the car, but lots by foot!