Many Happy Returns
I ask myself, Why do I keep going back? I have seen all of the sights, heard the musicians, walked every street, tasted the local fare, and drank the signature beverages. When I travel I enjoy the new experiences, then move on to the next. But, there is something so captivating about New Orleans that a future return is always planned.
My first visit here was about 30 some years ago when I was 20. I was with my Mom for a few days stop on our way to Galveston TX. I just remember walking down Bourbon St to the blarring jazz sounds, eating at Court of Two Sisters, and the sidewalk artists. It was simply a fond memory, tucked away.
My daughter, Erin, happened to visit here during a high school class project. She applied to Loyola for college. We took a trip to visit the school and it was love at second sight. She started attending Aug 2003, bringing a Michigan perspective to campus. That was the beginning of my repeated journeys. I would go there every few months. I stayed in different hotels in order to satisfy my adventure. Each time I would find something new. We happened upon La Madeleine's for the cream of Potato soup, Petunia's for a huge breakfast, Napolean's for a Muffuletta. Some did not pan out well for our tastes, such as Embers and Clover Grill. We never ran out of something to discover. And, I still had to get my Beignets every time.
Since Erin lived uptown, because of school, she introduced me to thrills of Magazine Street and the Garden District. I loved antique shopping and I don't even collect antiques. I bought a scrolled iron piece that I hang over the fireplace. I did start collecting anything Fleur de lis. There is a store on Magazine called Mignon Faget that sells beautiful items. The unique houses on St Charles in the Garden District still amaze me. The Columns Hotel is popular with the upper classmen crowd during the happy hour specials. It is wonderful sitting outside, enjoying the beauty, with a 3 piece combo to tap your feet to. Cooling off with a beverage makes it complete.
The "shotgun" style houses are very prevalent here. It is an inexpensive design to fit narrow New Orleans lots. There are about 5 rooms in a row, with no hallway. To reach the kitchen from the living area, you have to walk through two bedrooms. Or, you could go around outside to get into the kitchen through the back door. The term is believed to originate from the idea of firing a shotgun from the front door to exit through the back door. However, the room openings do not always line up. It is a very distinctive design that provides such character here.
"Back to the French Quarter"
The French Quarter always called me back. Nothing beats an afternoon outside at Pat O'Brien's courtyard. One Hurricane drink and one fun crowd equals a double great time. At night the fun goes inside for the piano bar. There is a carrousel bar, that rotates slowly around, inside the opulent Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street. It is a very entertaining way to spend an evening, and great people watching.
"Don't miss the boat"
The Port of Call is a must if you like huge burgers, baked potato and don't mind waiting to get in. There is always a wait here, but that is part of the social atmosphere with fellow waitees. This is not fine quisine, just a fun experience. The bacon topping on the potato are the bacon flavored bits. You can take the souvenir plastic cup with you. It is just a great time
Erin evacuated for Katrina and returned at the end of December to resume college. We visited at the beginning of December to find her a place to live. It was chilly and that was the only time I have eaten Beignets inside at Cafe Du Monde. Our beloved city was in ruins as seen through the media. It was a horrible sight to see first hand. She ended up having to live in a dorm until she found a place in April. I visited very frequently after the storm. Many of the hotel services were not available but, that did not matter. The sidewalks were only sparsely filled with transient workers. And, the streets were covered in pick up trucks. By spring there were tons of groups coming in to volunteer. I would see them at Cafe Du Monde and it was touching.
"I am hooked"
Erin graduated in May 2007. She left that summer for her job in Charlotte NC. I told her, you can take the girl out of New Orleans, but you can't take New Orleans out of the girl. She has a few friends that stayed to work. Now, I am an annual visitor there. The St Patrick's Day parade, held the Saturday before St Patrick's Day, has been my big event every year. It is such a good time. I figured that I have made about twenty trips here since 2002 when Erin checked out the University. Nothing really changes here. Everything stays the same to celebrate differences. It is such a unique environment that evokes a sense of freedom to enjoy life. Sitting in a beautiful courtyard provides energy to my soul. A Beignet at Cafe Du Monde is just a fried doughnut. But, the taste is a party in my mouth by the sights and sounds that only New Orleans can provide. I am counting down to my next visit in March, wondering if I can possibly sqeeze in a trip before that.