It’s kind of odd, writing about New Orleans pre-Katrina. I haven’t been back since the hurricane, so I don’t know what parts of what I’m writing about are still there, and what parts have been destroyed. I do know that the French Quarter was mostly spared, and that’s where I spent most of this day.
The St. Charles streetcar is cool. Sort of like the San Francisco trolley only without the hills. It dropped me at the edge of the French Quarter, where I started off on foot for the visitor center at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, where one of my guidebooks said I could sign up for free walking tours. Unfortunately, this turned out to be another thing like DC where I had to be there at the crack of dawn or they’d all be filled up. But they told me about the Louisiana State Museum walking tours, and I did manage to sign up with the one for the French Quarter that afternoon and the one for the Garden District and cemeteries the next day.
Then I went to the Apothecary Museum, which was fascinating. “Did you know that prescriptions, as such, didn’t exist until the 1930s?” The museum also had a lovely jungle, er, courtyard:
I needed to eat lunch before the walking tour started, and once again, Lonely Planet came to the rescue with a restaurant called The Gumbo Shop. I swear, almost every bite of the best regional food I ate on this trip came from a Lonely Planet recommendation, and The Gumbo Shop was no exception.
My mother (and I) make something we call gumbo, with chicken and tomatoes and sausage and okra (among other things), but what The Gumbo Shop served me was more like a thick brown soup than what I thought of as gumbo. With shrimp and and an utterly incredible flavor (my mouth is watering just thinking about it). The bread was French and crusty and delicious, too.
I was seated in a corner next to a local older couple who were very friendly, too.
Then it was time for the walking tour. “The lady who took us around told us she was 78, and had moved here in 1948 from Illinois. She still had her northern accent and it sounded odd to hear it after a week or so of Southern ones. She was very knowledgeable, and told us all kinds of historical and architectural stuff.” And she walked my feet off.
Here’s some standard touristy photos of the beautiful French quarter metalwork on the balconies and some of the biggest, lushest Boston ferns I’ve ever seen:
After the walking tour, I did something I’d always wanted to do. I went back to Jackson Square:
Where I had my cards read by a tarot reader who was one of the many buskers set up around the edge of the square. I’ve mucked about with the tarot for years off and on, but I’d never had my cards professionally read. It was great fun, and fascinating.
Then I went to the French Market (sort of New Orleans’s answer to the Pike Place Market in Seattle) and bought a satsuma (a delicious relative of the tangerine) and a praline.
Then I took my tired, sore feet back to the St. Charles streetcar, where I collapsed in a heap on a bench while it took me back to the hostel. What a wonderful, wonderful day.