French Quarter, Part one
Our pattern has been to arrive somewhere, get settled, figure out what we need from the store and go on a GPS-led exploration to find it. Usually this introduction to a new place is pretty frustrating. Our first excursion into New Orleans was just like that: frustrating. Bumpy roads, winding through neighborhoods filled with stoplights, and bridges over marshes, creeks and rivers, just to get to a decent grocery store landed us in the middle of downtown. After replinishing our supplies we decided to drive around a bit. Of course, there was nowhere to park, so I took pictures out the window while Sam drove and pointed things out. The roads were bumpy and people were taking care of business, so we couldn’t really get the “money shots” we wanted. We decided we needed a better plan.
Luckily, the KOA we stayed at offered free transportation into the French Quarter, so we took it. Our “guide” seemed to know everything there was to know about the place and spewed it out as fast as he could breathe while navigating through traffic. We found out later that many of his “facts” were incorrect. One of the members of our group had gone on an official tour and had the real stuff in writing. Apparantly, he had mixed up Sandra Bullock’s house with Brad Pitt’s and had gotten Nicholas Cage’s backrupt property wrong as well. He talked so fast I stopped listening, so it wasn’t an issure for me. In any case, it was nice to have a free ride through the major high spots.
Before I go on, let me say that Highway 10 through Lousiana contains more bumps, cracks and potholes than any road I’ve ever been on. New Orleans is not somewhere you want to take a leisurly drive on a Sunday afternoon, especially with an open coffee sitting between your knees. According to our KOA travel guide, the roads around the Big Easy flood every ten years and no matter how many times they get fixed, they always end up like this, bumpy and full of holes. It’s part of the charm, he says. Well, I wouldn’t say charm, but it did make us slow down and appreciate the smooth roads to come later in our journey.
We were dropped off at 9:30-ish in the morning and told to be at this specific parking lot at 5:30 p.m. on the dot or it would cost us. So, we planned our day accordingly. The first order of business was to find something to eat. What a gem of a place we found. The Camellia Cafe.
This place looked like it had been there for hundreds of years: rows of counters with stools for customers, no tables, just counter seats, pink speckled fifties style floors and pictures of camellias everywhere. The staff seemed to be actor wannabes, making a big show out of everything from setting up your silverware to ordering your food, to pouring your coffee. One guy came in after a long night of partying and all the waiters and the “chef” started badgering him about his habits. They gave him some orange juice and coffee and told him to watch himself in the future.
In the short time we had allotted to us, we immersed ourselves in the French Quarter Sunday culture. It was quiet in the morning, with certain people nursing obvious hangovers, but by noon the energy was ramping up. No one is shy about admitting that they’re just here for the party.
People who weren’t there to drink seemed to be frantically decorating for Mardi Gras. I thought the big day was sometime in March, but it changes every year. This year it comes near the middle of February. Locals take the Mardi Gras as seriously as most people take Christmas or the Super Bowl. Everything is decorated in purple, green and gold.
At some point the houses and porches started to look the same, so we took every side street we could find, loaded up the camera with pictures of all the beautiful “iron lace” and courtyards and funky signs. I will highlight these in my next post.
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