Hola, NOLA

This spring break trip began last October, when I was in New Orleans for a conference (again), sending back daily photos of the Mississippi, gumbo, and beignets.  I was reminded by my children that they’d never been to New Orleans (hint, hint).  As academic conference scheduling luck would have it, I had yet another conference back in the Crescent City in April, helpfully beginning right at the end of the kids’ spring break.  So … we decided to take the week before that conference for ourselves; then, they could scoot home, and I could confer away.  Our goal was to make this New Orleans vacation a mellow one: no over the top plans, no jam-packed days, just a slow roll through the Big Easy.

We stayed at the lovely Loews Hotel–close to the French Quarter but far enough to be relatively drunk free at night.  It has a great lobby, which proved an atmospheric spot with top notch wifi and endless tasty coffee for early mornings spent vacation-working: the hallmark of 21st C work-life balance.

Since all we had done the night before was arrive at the airport, jump in a cab, and zip past the Superdome to our hotel, the kids had seen nothing of the city.  When we woke up, Harper had expressed a bit of disappointment because she had expected New Orleans to be more like Savannah.  I told her to wait …

… and we set off for the Quarter.  Our first stop would be one of NOLA’s top rated gluten-free eateries.  Sidenote: since planning a week of beignet-eating, Harper was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease and found to lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose–making dining out in a city steeped in roux and butter an interesting experience.

We pre-walked off our breakfast all the way down to the end of the French Market and found GFV nirvana: Meals from the Heart.  We filled our table with GFV pancakes, V fruit power shakes, egg white omelettes, chicken tacos, and–courtesy of a stand nearby–praline beignets for three of us.  The food was delicious, the service extraordinary, and the quiet of the market in early morning was wonderful.  Many stalls hadn’t even opened by the time we arrived, so we got to experience the French Market come to life.

Our entire plan for the morning was to wander the Quarter.  That’s it.  And we succeeded.

Cobblestone-y!

Ned and Penn observed that this image of Miles Davis bore more than a passing resemblance to the Babadook

Air conditioner graffiti!

New Orleans’s wildlife: FERAL

We’ll never be royals.

Best pun of the day:

Iced Uzis.  Artistic social commentary that made me think of Belle and Bougee, featuring Lil’ Uzi Chip. Baguettes!

Great cornstalk wrought iron across the street!

Keeping it Calle Real!  Note the hat roll call: New Zealand, Nashville, Hawaii.

A truly gorgeous blue sky day serves as the ideal backdrop for St. Louis Cathedral.

Hanging in Jackson Square.

Hanging off Jackson Square–two trees have become an ever changing art installation with randomly strewn Mardi Gras beads.  It reminded me of the story about Louis Armstrong, NOLA favorite son, who was 40 years old before he ever had a Christmas tree.  Perhaps it’s Louis’s spirit that keeps those beads there, making every Jackson Square day not Mardi Gras but Christmas.

Don’t let them out!

From Jackson Square, we strolled back toward our hotel, right along the Mighty Mississippi, our waterway friend from Memphis.

Love wins …

as do spray paint cans.

Harper interjecting her own thoughts in the conversation.

Long before I started this blog, when Harper was about 4 and Penn about 3, we took a trip to Chicago, and I have photos of the two of them running across the vast Millennium Park lawn.  Two tiny tots, both with flowing locks and buckled up baby sandals.  Fast forward a little more than a decade and the width of our country.  Love!

We stopped back at the hotel for a moment to cool off … and then it was about three hours later.  Ah, a vacation nap!  That’s something new to this blog.  The Big Easy, indeed!  When we woke up, we realized we needed to grab late lunch fast–both to stave off our hunger and to leave enough space between lunch and dinner at Commander’s Palace.  (Seriously, one cannot skip ANY meals in New Orleans.)
When I was in town a few months back, I had discovered the Ernst Cafe, which dates back to about 1902.  A saloon with tasty gumbo, red beans and rice, and a genial, casual air.  (Well, except for the tiled floor, which clearly has drawn enough comment to merit a discussion on its website.)  And, Penn was able to add Buffalo chicken to his red beans and rice.  NOLAWNY

We had time to kill before dinner, so the kids and I left Ned to work and hit the upscale Riverwalk Outlet mall just a few steps past this mummy.  Our stop at Jackson Square had yielded three new Harper outfits and a new pair of sunnies, one display below.

Dinner was at the always outstanding Commander’s Palace.  So, so good!  Our table entertainment for the evening was a game of “Who Am I?”  It’s a go-to Kress-Davis family dinner diversion in which each one of us picks a person (real or fictional) and the rest ask questions to guess the identity.  Often, the selection is intentionally obscure.  Leading to exchanges like this:  “Are you real or fictional?”  “Both, but not at the same time.” or “Neither.”  One of my selections was Joan of Arc, and only in CP will one’s server be named “Nash,” be a history grad student, and be able to interject politely when one’s daughter incorrectly identifies Joan as leading one of the Crusades, “I’m so sorry but I need to correct that …” and then go on to describe pretty much every one of the crusades, all while setting down fresh glasses of ice water because our untouched glasses were now “old.”  Oh, New Orleans.  Our secondary entertainment was a very inebriated gentleman in a tropical shirt who referred to his wife, rather loudly, as “Mama.”  As in, “Mama likes the bread!”  Oh, New Orleans.  And, our lead waiter, a Gene Kelly-look-a-like named Todd, made sure we exited through the kitchen so we could see behind the magic.  Oh, New Orleans.

Yum!

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