I’m afraid this blog has suffered over the last few weeks while I have been trudging up what I call Holiday Hill. See for example, Holiday Mountain Part 2 I’m just hoping the downhill comes soon. But in the meantime, here’s a retrospective from November.
This year we traded in our usual Monterey Bay Thanksgiving for an adventure in the swamp – New Orleans, that is. We’ve had an affinity for NOLA ever since we went there on our honeymoon – for no reason other than that I had free tickets on New York Air and they flew to exactly four places, two of which we already lived in. The other two were Detroit and New Orleans. It wasn’t much of a competition.
This time we were rendezvousing with daughter A, boyfriend N, and N’s family including his brother and brother’s girlfriend. A millennial extravaganza. And, of course, daughter S was the impetus for Thanksgiving in NOLA. She didn’t offer to cook dinner for us! But that was OK – since dining out is the sine qua non of New Orleans.
We arrived bright and early to our AirBnb in the Irish Channel. Up Tchoupotoulos (call it Chop) and along a pothole ridden street. Not an auspicious beginning but all NOLA streets have potholes and the AirBnb was very nice. Four bedrooms, sufficient common areas and a great location two blocks off of Magazine.
Rather than a chronology, here are some highlights.
Thanksgiving at the Racetrack. I’ll start with the penultimate day itself – Thanksgiving. When S suggested the racetrack, located in Mid-City, would be an appropriate place to while away the hours before our late Thanksgiving dinner, we all looked at her askance. But it turns out that the racetrack is the place to be. Thanksgiving is the start of the thoroughbred racing season and for years going to the races has been a traditional New Orleans activity. But now it’s spread to what S refers to as the Bywater people, and it’s filled with millenials adorned in all types of race attire. Hats are key. My favorites involved bowls of fruit, a racing scene, and a reindeer head (not just antlers). Top hats were not out of place. Plus I consulted with my friend knowledgeable in all things racing, got some good tips, and doubled my $5 bet. I also loved watching the thoroughbreds prance onto the field, each accompanied by their emotional support pony.
Dat Dog and Pelicans Game. Talk about a cheap night out. Have dinner at Dat Dog where you can get a chefs special hot dog, topped with ingredients as unique as crawfish and whatever else the chef feels like. Pair that with a $15 nosebleed seat ticket to see the Pelicans in the Smoothie King arena.
The Ogden Museum of Art. In all our trips to NOLA I haven’t made it there before. Affiliated with the University of New Orleans, it boasts a very fine modern art collection, this time featuring modern African American artists. There’s also a fascinating film/performance piece about a New Orleans jazz musician who ended up institutionalized…however, I seemed to be allergic to the carpet and didn’t get to see the whole thing.
Bacchanal and Crescent Park Trail. This is a great twofer. Bacchanal, located in the Bywater area, is a wine store, a tapas oriented restaurant, and an eclectic music venue (ranging from gypsy to traditional jazz). You sit in a lush back yard surrounded by oak trees (and there were heaters on the cold day we were there). You can work off those calories with a walk along the Crescent Park Trail, which runs along the banks of the Mississippi, landscaped with native plants, and dotted with sculptures.
Frenchmen’s. That’s what S calls it. She doesn’t even add “Street.” Not even sure which venues we ended up at but there was great music and dancing.
Tipitina’s. Went there on Friday night to hear the Neville Family, who all seem to still be alive and kicking. This is a classic place to hear music in NOLA – I once flew to New Orleans for one night just to hear Rikki Lee Jones there. It’s sort of a free for all, but if you go to the balcony you can usually worm your way to the railing and have a good place to lean. I love the fact there are nets below to catch anything you might drop!
Running along St. Charles and Magazine and thereabouts. One of my great pleasures in New Orleans – when it’s not hot and humid – is running through the Garden District. Yes, the sidewalks are not smooth and it’s a little treacherous, but that’s more than compensated for by the fabulous homes on all sides. I’ve selected at least five or six that would be adequate for my needs, thank you.
Oysters at Superior Seafood. Believe it or not, we had never before partaken of this traditional New Orleans experience. Superior Seafood is an old, dark wood restaurant with a great bar, behind which world class oyster shuckers ply their trade. The oysters at happy hour are cheap and massive- meaning a full two inches. You’re supposed to swallow them all in one but these were so big I was worried about choking!
Mid-City walks. This is a very old area of New Orleans, located near Bayou St. John, and we hadn’t spent much time there before. Many of the houses have steep staircases going up to deep porches and are elevated well above ground, massive stucco structures. There is a lot of West Indies style architecture. You walk right along the bayou and City Park is in the middle of it all. It’s a lovely area and not to be missed.
New Orleans is a comfortable place for us – it’s not home, but we’ve been there so much it feels like it. And especially when surrounded by family and good friends. No better way than to sum it up with a picture of a parade – and a sign for some great New Orleans food.