Exploring the Big Easy

Originally published 22 November 2015.

Greetings, my fine readers! If you see much of me on Facebook, you must have seen that I was in New Orleans, Louisiana, over the weekend. My friends Amanda and Tracey from Williamsburg were planning to be there with Amanda’s boyfriend, Thomas Jefferson (yes, it’s the truth!), and they asked me to go down and meet them there for the weekend. And you know me, I rarely turn down an opportunity to travel, especially to a place I’ve never been before!

Friday morning dawned early for me, but not quite as early as for Amanda and Tracey. Steve was in the process of driving me to the airport when I got a text from Amanda… They had missed their flight! They would now be arriving a couple of hours later. My flight was fortunately uneventful, and once I checked into my B&B, I had a few hours to explore on my own before my friends arrived. Off to the French Quarter!

Lunchtime! I found a sushi place that I thought would be good to try, since it’s my favorite, but as I was walking toward it, I passed a very coastal-looking place with porches and a patio and a big sign that said, “Seafood Gumbo Special!” Much as I love a good sushi meal, I had to try the gumbo. I was in New Orleans, after all! I ended up with a small bowl of seafood gumbo and a side of alligator hash—yum! It was a winning meal and a great introduction to the city!

Gator and Gumbo!

Now on to the French Quarter!

You folks know I’m a sightseer, not a shopper, but with time to spare and the scent of pralines all around me, I couldn’t help but step into a can shop. I found some great things for Christmas gifts, and yes, I sampled the pralines! Regular, soft, chocolate—you know, all the samplings! A couple of antique stores caught my attention, so I also had a good conversation with a fellow writer working in one of the shops. She even showed me a very cool 19th-century writing desk with a spring-loaded secret compartment! There were just so many pretty things!

But sadly enough, I could not bring myself to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for anything, especially anything I would need to have shipped to me! So I just turned and walked out to search for some iconic New Orleans sights. First on the list: Jackson Square!

Jackson Square is named in honor of Major General Andrew Jackson, who would later become President Andrew Jackson from the great state of Tennessee! He was a really fascinating man. But anyway, it’s here in the Big Easy because of the legendary Battle of New Orleans.

Andrew Jackson!

You know the song:

Well, in 1814 we took a little trip

Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip’.

We took a little bacon and we took a little beans

And we fought the bloody British in the town of New Orleans!

We fired our guns and the British kep’ a-comin’

There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago. 

We fired once more and they began a-runnin

On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico!

Well anyway, we had to learn it in the Tennessee Public School System way back when! It was quite the treat to see Jackson Square and Jackson’s statue grandly placed in the middle as he waved his hat to all who walked by.

And guess what’s just across the street from Jackson Square. Café du Monde! I believe it means Café of the World in English. It’s all anyone ever talks about when they come back from a trip to New Orleans: Oh, the beignets! Oh, the Au Laits! But I’ll tell you I took one look at it, and I nearly ran in the other direction! The line was unbelievable, and it was certainly not something I wanted to do before my friends got there—strength in numbers, you know!

But I didn’t have to wait long. My friends landed and I got to meet them at their hotel, The Bourbon New Orleans on Orleans Street. It’s beautiful! My B&B was adorable and charming, but this was really something else! Anyway, they were a bit irritated and flustered with their day’s events, but that’s nothing beignets and au laits can’t fix, right? Right!

Back to Café du Monde!

So there we were, standing in line, trying to figure out how this all works. I didn’t know what to expect or think, except I thought it would take us forever to get a seat! But no, the line only looked long. It moved quickly, and it didn’t take long to figure out that you have to have eagle eyes to find an open table as soon as people stand up to leave. Do not wait for it to be cleared, just sit down!

We were delighted to learn that you get three beignets to an order, so one order would get one for each of us. I ordered an iced café au lait, Amanda ordered a large hot one, and Tracey got a traditional sized one. She’s not a fan of the chicory they put in their coffee, but with the milk she said it was good. As for me, it was nice to be in a place warm enough to get an iced coffee! I usually avoid caffeine after 10:00 am, but this is a girls’ weekend getaway after all, so I cut loose! Amanda enjoyed hers at a leisurely pace, and a good time was had by all… including Mr. Peabody Pembroke!

Then something very interesting happened… I posted a picture to Facebook, and a family friend, Robin, commented, “You’re in New Orleans, where my husband is right now!”

What?! How crazy is that? Her husband is my dad’s good friend from college, Stan. So I asked her what his number was so I could send a picture of the two of us to my dad! I called and left a voicemail in hopes of meeting up with each other.

Ready to see the sites? We were! We browsed the shops for a while and did some window shopping to see what we needed to come back for and what prices were like. After seeing some street performers and wandering around the antique shops for a bit, we headed back to Amanda and Tracey’s hotel so they could change for supper.

Bill’s (Thomas Jefferson’s) schedule was a bit tricky since he was there for a conference and at the mercy of the people in charge, and in fact, they would be filming him and Napoleon Bonaparte that evening at supper! Although we were quite certain we would not be able to dine with them, we decided to take our chances and go to the same restaurant anyway. And what restaurant would that be, you ask? Why, the Napoleon House, of course!

We planned on coming in quietly so as not to disturb the filming, but Bill saw us and hopped right up, along with Napoleon, to greet us. They had not started filming just yet, so we had a minute or two to chat. We three ladies sat in the next room and enjoyed a lovely New Orleans supper. I got the one-quarter muffaletta sandwich with a side of jambalaya.


We sat chatting and planning out the next day’s activities for a while, but by 9:00, I was beat! Amanda and Tracey had experienced an even earlier and longer day than I had, so we said our goodbyes to Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon, and each other, and I took off toward my B&B. I don’t usually spend money on taxis, but my B&B was about a mile and a half away (and through a less than stellar part of town), and I hadn’t yet figured out the street car system, so I sprang for the cab. It really wasn’t terribly expensive, and it was door-to-door service!

Just as I was readying myself for some much-needed slumber, I got a text from my friend Stan! He was in town with his two brothers and their dad, and we decided to meet up at Café du Monde in the morning at 7:00. I made no promises because I was VERY tired, but I certainly would try!

Stay tuned for more! Our exciting trip is just getting started!

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