Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Orleans, Day Five

I dragged my ass out of bed late enough that all that was left for breakfast was exactly what I ate yesterday. I took a picture of it, but there's no way to tell that one apart from the last one.

I headed out to enjoy my last full day in town, and happened to cross this:

I thought the two of them sitting together like that was pretty neat. I'd been keeping my eye out for the water meters, and most of them have been replaced with ones that are pretty much blank. I thought it was worth documenting the two of them together.

From there, I wandered off for an early lunch (for was after 11) to the Green Goddess. I'd been looking forward to trying them, but they were closed for most of my visit. Thursday was pretty much my last chance, and I decided to take it.

They really are tucked away, hiding off the beaten path in an alley. I passed it the first time and ended up circling the block before I finally caught sight of their sign.

Since it was my last day in town, I got to blow all the money I hadn't already squandered, so I went ahead and ordered one of their original juice cocktails. I piked the Lychee Ginter Mint "Julep," which contains lychee puree, ginger syrup, ginger beer and muddled mint.

I loved it. My first thought, however, when I took a sip was that my mom would hate it. The flavor is too hairy. I definitely enjoyed it, though. She might like the Salty Mango-Banana Lassi.

For actual food, I ordered the French Toast Stuffed with Cherries & Chevre.

It was fantastic. The cherries were good, the goat cheese was much milder than I expected, the bread was good...Nothing to complain about here. There was a stone from one of the cherries, but that just means it's real cherries, right?

I had been planning on leaving it at that (actually, I hadn't planned on the cocktail), but I spotted one more thing on the menu I absolutely had to have: Sparkling Meyer Lemon Parfait.

Homemade lemon curd layered with whipped cream, crumbled Italian cookies and marionberry puree? Sign me up. The whipped cream was actually kind of awful, and I'm not sure how they pulled that off. The rest of it was so good that I forgave the whole incident with the cream.

One of the things that I really love about the French Quarter is just how much there is to see a notice, no matter where you look.

While I was out shopping, I had to stop by a place I had spotted while I was in the Gumbo Shop. I can't remember the name of the place, and for some reason I didn't pick up a card or menu, and I didn't take a picture of their sign. They're on St. Peter right across from the Gumbo Shop, and they have gelato.

I love gelato. And I love Italian cherry gelato? Oh, yes.

I needed more sugar to fuel the shopping spree, you see. Not that I didn't stop to appreciate some of the gorgeous balconies while I was going about my business.

I finally made it all of the way down Decatur to Central Grocery, home of the muffuletta. I'd been looking forward to trying one while I was in New Orleans, and I was psyched when I found out the place that had created it was still open and still selling them.

This I did not like. I saw lots and lots of people really enjoying theirs, and but when I got mine and sat down to enjoy it, I really couldn't get into it. I love every single one of the ingredients, but combined the way they were, they just made something too salty and oily for me to really enjoy. I ate one quarter of it, tried to finish the second, and ended up throwing it away.

I'm still glad I got to go there and try one, though.

After I finished dinner (early), it was time for my next ghost tour, which met in front of Rev Zombie's Voodoo shop.

The lady selling the tickets also wears a seven-pointed star. She doesn't have a tattoo of one, but she's planning one. She called us necklace buddies and said she wanted to chat about it during the break on the tour. Unfortunately, when the groups were split up and assigned to tour guides, I wasn't in her group.

That's ok, though, because the tour guide I did end up with was absolutely fantastic. His name is Midian, he's with Haunted History Tours, and it was really phenomenal.

I was actually trying to get a shot of the building behind him, but I went ahead and snapped this picture of him enthusiastically demonstrating how limbs were removed during the Civil War.

One of the great things about Haunted History Tours is that you do get a break. I forget the name of the bar where we took ours, but it had a lovely courtyard with a stage, where Midian told another story while we rested.

One of the great things about New Orleans is how permissive they are about animals in places of business. I met this big boy on the way through the bar to the courtyard.

When we left, he had managed to get the ball, and he was lounging contentedly against the bar.

I think that every ghost tour is obligated to stop by the LaLaurie house on Royal, but I don't mind at all. It's one of my favorite stories ever. It's got everything: torture, vivisection on unwilling slaves, cannibalism, a grand escape, and finally some serious haunting.

I learn that in New Orleans, if you see a window that's bricked over, something really nasty probably happened in the room that's been sealed off. Fantastic.

The tour ended in Pirate's Alley, which was only a short jog from the front of St Louis Cathedral.

Once the tour was over, I headed over to the front of the cathedral, where I met up with my necklace buddy. We chatted briefly while tickets were sold, and then I was off on my vampire tour.

The tour guide was Johnathan, and the tour he gave was a delicious mix of history, legend, and some movie trivia. It was wonderful, and I highly recommend it.

I'd originally planned to get something to munch on after the tours were over, especially in light of throwing away half of my dinner. At the end of four hours of walking, however, I wasn't hungry. I was exhausted.

I crawled back to my hotel room, finished packing, showered, and hit the bed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pictures and Stuff Later

I had a tour until late, and I'm leaving tomorrow, so I just finished packing up and now I'm exhausted.

Seriously, though, if you're planning on visiting New Orleans, I can't recommend Haunted History Tours enough. They were nice, I got three different tour guides, all three of whom were excellent, and the prices are fair.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Orleans, Day Four

And my birthday, whee!

First off, I wanted to post this new picture of my gorgeous room. When the maid came in and changed the linens, she made the bed differently, giving you a good view of the posts at the foot of the bed.

Those things are going to kill me. I have huge bruises, swollen knots, and a scattering of smaller bruises from them. You'd think I'd learn from the first hard bang or two, but no, apparently I didn't. What has this taught me? That while I really want a headboard for my bed at home, I should probably forgo the footboard for my own safety.

Anyway, this morning I finally availed myself of the complimentary breakfast. A few guys had gotten to it before me and mostly destroyed it, but I did get this:

It was delicious.

While I was out walking, I spotted this guy. I've got tons of pictures that are pretty much just buildings, and I'll spare you. But I liked him, and I'm sharing him.

Anyway, I made my way down Toulouse to board the Steamboat Natchez for a lunch cruise.

Lunch included bread, salad, red beans and rice, jambalaya, fried chicken, and bread pudding. I'll argue that my red beans and rice are better and both of my parents make better jambalaya, but the chicken was great and the bread pudding was awesome.

During the cruise, I managed to get this picture of the St. Louis Cathedral, which I love.

Coming off of the boat, I saw this fellow. I've seen him at least two other times around town, and this time I took a picture and left him a tip. I don't know if you can see, but his dog is smoking a cigar.

From there, I took a carriage tour with this gentleman and his mule.

It was fantastic. I kept hesitating, trying to decide if I really wanted to take one or not, but the weather has been nice, with the temperatures pretty ok for the mules, and I'm very glad I did.

I wandered a bit after that, and stumbled across the Voodoo museum, which was fun. I kind of love that there are tiny museums all over the place here.

When I got back to my hotel room, I found these.

I love them. I don't think there's a good way to get them home safely, so I'm wondering if I could press or otherwise preserve at least some of them. I'll figure it out before Friday.

Anyway, I finally made it to the Gumbo Shop, where I had the chicken andouille gumbo that I wanted to try last time. And just for the hell of it (and because it's my birthday), I ordered a glass of sparkling white wine, which was also lovely.

And again, 'cause it's my birthday, I had dessert. Praline sundae. Yum.

After that, I went on my first ghost tour. It was actually something of a let down...I wanted to walk around, see some sights, and have someone tell me ghost stories. The guy who led the tour was more preoccupied with educating us about history, and he wasn't much of a storyteller at his best. I've got another tomorrow, and I'm hoping for the best.

The tour ended at Jackson Square, and I had two different psychic readings. The first was both good and bad in that the guy giving it was a textbook example of a fake psychic. It was fascinating, and at the same time irritating. The second was by a lovely lady who didn't try the psychic bullshit. She read tarot cards and palms, and she knew her stuff. I consider both readings worth it for different reasons...I wouldn't have normally done it,, it's my birthday. And I've kind of wanted a reading for ages. It was fun.

After that, I finally did my duty and made my way to Cafe du Monde, where I had a frozen cafe au lait and beignets. And I did get covered in powdered sugar.

Not a bad way to end my birthday.

I'm going to crash.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Orleans, Day Three

I didn't take a picture of breakfast today. I slept late (which was lovely), but it was still too early for lunch, so I grabbed something generic from a corner store that is no longer the A&P (tragically) that would hold me over until lunch.

After that, I went shopping. My intention wasn't to buy so much as take notes for Thursday, which I mostly did. I stopped in a few shops, and I took a look through the Absinthe Museum (probably not for everyone, but I enjoyed it a lot. No pictures allowed, sadly).

After that, I found my way to a local artist's collective, where I could have cheerfully spent thousands and thousands of dollars without blinking. I managed to refrain, with the exception of one item that was both in my price range and too awesome to leave behind:

While I was there, I found out why so much of the art I'd been seeing features these:

I didn't get all of the details, but apparently they're a hot item. They've been stolen for souvenirs, to sell to people who want souvenirs, and for art. If I understood correctly, there have been some threats to make using them in art illegal, so all kinds of artists are using them now (not necessarily the real thing, but casts). When I spotted one in its natural environment, I snapped a picture. I'm not really ambitious enough to steal one. They look heavy.

I might buy one of the art pieces using a cast, though.

From there, I went to get lunch before my tour instead of after it. I hit Johnny's for a turkey po boy, which I had enough time to take back to my room to enjoy.

I could only eat half of it, but I managed to rig up my ice bucket in such a way that I was able to keep the other half cool without soaking it. After I'd finished eating, I went out for my second cemetery tour.

This one was with the Haunted History Tours, and it was awesome. I really, really enjoyed the tour, and I took a lot more pictures, but I'll just share the one this time.

Last time I was in New Orleans, I did get to take a cemetery tour. The guide pointed out one grave that had a Spanish cross on it. It had been bent when someone attempted to steal it. Since then, I guess someone succeeded.

I know a lot of people hate New Orleans and hate the French Quarter for a wide variety of reasons, but I really do love this place. I don't know why, but it kind of feels like home. I miss my family, my friends, and my pets, but I think that if something happened that would allow me to move here, keep my animals, and visit home frequently, I'd really love the hell out of it.

After the cemetery tour, I made my way back to St. Peter House, where I hung out in the courtyard with the cat for a little while.

I finished off the other half of my lunch and proceeded to do absolutely nothing other than shower and straighten up the hotel room a little. After dark, I did take a few shots from the balcony.

Eventually, I ordered dinner from Sugar Shack. I got a steak sandwich with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms served on French bread that had been drenched in garlic butter and toasted. The fries were a little spiced.

For dessert I had a lemon berry mascarpone cake.

The food was good, but honestly the most mediocre I've had since I got here. It almost isn't a fair comparison. If we had a place like Sugar Shack at home, I'd try to eat there all the time. And they delivered really fast. I think if I'd had them first instead of in the middle of the trip, they'd have gotten raves.

Anyway, there's a lot on the docket for tomorrow, so I'm going to crash.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Orleans, Day Two

I am, of course, staying at the lovely St. Peter House, and I enjoyed the very comfortable bed last night. It reminds me a little of my old's a little rickety, but that kind of makes me more at home.

I got a quick shot of my room from the balcony. I've got to remember to watch my step when I head in the door. Also, there are three tiny windows up over the door, so the room isn't completely lightless. Not that I would have minded at night.

This morning, I got up and headed to the Old Coffee Pot for breakfast, where I had lost bread.

Lost bread is more or less French toast, although in this case, it's old po boy bread dipped in batter and deep fried, then covered in powdered sugar before it's served with maple syrup. I got a sugar high to start off my day, and should have ordered a side of eggs or bacon or anything with a little salt or protein to help counterbalance the sugar. It was delicious, though. There are far worse ways to start a morning.

From there, I had a few hours to kill before my first tour. I wandered up and down Royal Street and checked out some shops. There was an antique weapons and coins shop I could have gone into serious debt over. Lucky for me I didn't spot any blunderbusses.

Anyway, I did end up in one store filled with pieces from local artists, where I picked up a magnet and this:

When I walked in, there was a lot of glass, which I already have a terrible weakness for. I looked around, and when I noticed none of it was cobalt blue, I figured I was safe. Obviously, I was wrong.

Also, last time I was in New Orleans, I came across a mask shop owned by a lovely gentleman who talked to me about all kinds of things. I hoped that he'd still be there, and indeed he was, so I purchased my very first (and possibly only) Venetian mask from him. And I lurve it:

From there, I'd taken too long shopping and didn't really have time to my intended lunch destination. No big deal, the tour left from the Royal Blend Coffee and Tea House, and they have food, right? Too bad my timing sucks and I wanted to get lunch there the day their fridge broke and they didn't have any food. I got a cup of hibiscus tea and sat in the courtyard to wait for the tour to gather, and discovered my newly purchased mask had a stowaway:

I ended up taking my tour on an empty stomach. It really wasn't so bad. The tour guide was concerned about the heat, but it's been cooler in New Orleans than it's been at home, so I didn't have any trouble. It rained really hard for the last part of the tour, which almost killed me. I'm fine with rain, but I was worried about my new mask, which is made of paper mache. I don't know if water would damage it or not, and I'm not ready to find out. I did manage to get it wrapped up well enough that it didn't get wet this time.

By the end of the tour, I was tired and starving. I didn't want to walk too far, and it turns out pretty much everywhere I wanted to eat in the French Quarter is located on the opposite side of it from my hotel. Luckily, I also really wanted to try out something from a Lucky Dog stand, and there was one right on St. Peter and Bourbon St.

I got one with everything, because why not? It had chili, sweet onions, sweet relish, mustard, and ketchup, and maybe it's because I was starving, but that was the best damned hot dog I think I've ever had.

From that point I did nothing useful, and mostly just sat around watching the world go by. No pictures to show. I eventually asked the very nice lady working the desk here if anywhere nearby delivers. Turns out just because the internet doesn't mention many places doesn't mean there aren't dozens of them. I asked for her favorite, and she pointed me in the direction of Mona Lisa.

If I see her again, I'm going to have to thank her. That's the spinach pizza, with spinach, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, feta, and mozzarella. Yum.

Touring the Cemetery

I love cemeteries. I once (very briefly) dated someone who thought it was OK to like cemeteries...provided you were clinically depressed. If you weren't depressed, there was no reason to want to go to one.

I beg to differ, most especially when it comes to gorgeous old places like St. Louis No. 1. I'm going on several tours that'll take me through the old above-ground cemetery, and I hope that they don't all cover the same stuff, especially since there's so much in there crammed into so little space.

I even love the gates to the cemetery, though the gates and walls are often the best part. Here we are, inside looking out:

Of course, one of the very first tombs is Marie Laveau's. There were a lot fewer offerings this time than the last time I was here. The tour guide was very grateful that the only bird present was fake.

The whole place is sinking a little at a time, and you can really see it with some of the graves. Here's the oldest dated on, though undoubtedly not the oldest in the whole place:

And once you're past those, down the lane you go:

I love cemeteries mostly for the art. I'm fascinated by what people feel the need to leave behind, or what they want to make for those they've lost. And I love, love, love the fences around some of the individual tombs, though they always make me think of a little wisdom from Harry Dresden: the fences around cemeteries aren't for keeping people out. They're for keeping things in. Kinda makes you wonder who's buried in some of them.

I think some of the statuary left for those we've loved and lost is absolutely beautiful, too.

St. Louis No. 1 is a live cemetery. There are still people being buried there, and the still active tombs are the ones in the best condition, though I believe Save Our Cemeteries has also been involved in the restoration of some of the old and forgotten tombs. The restored or active areas are markedly different from much of the rest of the place:

I'm glad that someone out there is working to repair the damages. I hope there's a family or someone who will want to replace this now that it's crumbled:

I know that there's quite a debate about whether or not to let things fall apart on their own or restore them. I wonder if there's a happy middle ground with maintaining what can be done, to preserve the beauty and the age without just letting it all fall into nothing. I'd hate to lose these:

I don't know how often you get to see one of these around the place: an open grave.

That's all well and good, but I wonder who managed to escape from this one:

I took many, many more pictures than this during the tour, but I think I'll spare everyone.