How come no one warned me? Bourbon Street at night is like everything I hate about Hoboken, magnified 10 times over, plus strip clubs! And it stinks like a mix of old alcohol and stale mop water. For all its unappealing skankiness, though, we did have fun people-watching the first two nights; and while I don’t believe they’re really 180 Proof, the Hand Grenade is a mighty tasty drink. 😉
The French Quarter itself, and our trip overall, was a whole lot of fun. The humidity, as expected, was brutal at times, but for being on vacation instead of going to work, it was fine. On Saturday, we hooked up with both Phil West (in town for his brother’s wedding) and my aunt Portia (who’s living in Baton Rouge), and throughout the weekend did a lot of walking which probably limited me to only gaining about five pounds from all the eating!
It seemed like we were always eating, especially me and the oysters, what with them being so ridiculously cheap. Like $6.50/dozen at Felix’s and $8/dozen at the Bourbon House, what ended up being our favorite restaurant of the trip. (The most amazing brunch I’ve ever had, and their beignets rivaled Café Du Monde’s.) We had a great Sunday night dinner at the oddly named Alpine Restaurant, a happy little discovery while wandering in search of somewhere interesting for our last night’s meal.
I hate tourists, and I especially hate the ones I see every day around my office on their double-decker buses like they’re on safari. Nevertheless, we took a couple of walking tours, one Friday night – ostensibly a “haunted places” tour that was really more of a sightseeing at night tour – and a really cool one on Sunday afternoon, a combination of Creole history and “secret courtyards” that completely changed my opinion of the Quarter itself.
Much of Vieux Carre looks like it’s abandoned because so many of the buildings are shuttered, especially on the residential streets, but because old New Orleans was such a skanky swamp with trash thrown right out onto the muddy streets, houses were designed in reverse, with elaborate courtyards hidden away from view in the “back” yards. We saw a few of them on the tour, from the simple to the elaborate, and perhaps the most amazing thing was how removed from everything you felt in them. In one, with noisy Bourbon Street only a half block away, it was like we’d taken a ride out to the countryside, it was so peaceful. Our tour guide – the wonderful Jenny; ask for her by name! – pointed out a lot interesting things, my favorite being the difference between the French and the Americans back in the day, as seen in the hidden courtyards of the Quarter vs. the flambouyant luxury of the Garden District.
We spent a lot of time walking up and down Royal Street, the Quarter’s 5th Avenue to Bourbon’s [pre-Giuliani] 42nd Street, since it runs parallel to Bourbon and doesn’t stink, and I found the perfect location for a comic book store in the 700 block where an Importico was going out of business! There are a lot of galleries on that end of Royal and I could imagine a high-end, indie-centric shop with a gallery and an emphasis on trade paperbacks called Graphiqué. If only…
We also played our usual game of “could we live here?”, spurred on by how relatively cheap rents – and, presumably, real estate – seemed to be there, what with these great apartments overlooking Jackson Square renting for $1700/month! The equivalent here in NYC would probably be something along Washington Square Park which typically rents for upwards of $3000/month, though with half the square footage! Of course, other than tourism, we were hard-pressed to figure out what sort of industry New Orleans had, though I’m pretty sure publishing isn’t one of them. Probably a great place for single artists to live, though.
The return trip home was terrible, with our connecting flight from Miami delayed a couplafew hours and we ended up getting home close to 3am, in no condition to jump back into the daily grind so we both took yesterday off, too. Seeing India’s scratched-up face from an ill-advised trip to the McDonald’s playground with Isaac and her grandmother, where she had some kind of a run-in with another little girl, pretty much ensured that if we ever take another overnight vacation without them, it will have to include a drive down to Virginia to drop them off at my mother’s place.
Of course, now there’s the inevitable letdown that comes with returning to the reality of 9-to-5 drudgery, my patience a bit shorter, my resentment a bit deeper, and each email I read through fanning the flames a bit higher.
A change, as the song goes, would do me good…