Preserving Traditions

Day two in New Orleans, we had (mis)identified another GF breakfast joint, one closer to our hotel, which turned out not to offer all its website promised.  So, we punted and quickly found another place off Jackson Square and started getting our steps in.

One of the most lovely parts of New Orleans buildings, in my eyes, were the painted signs of yesteryear whose faded glory shone through like ghosts of a past long forgotten.  Imagine a world in which one would go to a busy city center to find “raw furs.”

The green on these doors is everything.

Building patina like no other and a city reflected in shades.

Four for the road to Chartres.

This small pharmacy museum was like something out of Harry Potter: a window of magical potions at the ready.

What struck me about this sign was that the Loyola College of Pharmacy gives enough of these plaques to have a template for them.

 
Lovely reflection of the Quarter in the window of a loom shop–yep, a loom shop–complete with a cat appearing to wear gorgeous eyeliner.

El Papi was here…

… and, he brought us the miracle of breakfast!  We had picked the Stanley because it offered a decadent-sounding Bananas Foster French Toast, complete with ice cream, natch.  It also turned out to offer a great view, yummy red beans and rice, cheesy bacon grits, delicious breakfast potatoes, and pecan smoked bacon.  Plus, excellent coffee.  Yes!

Legendary French Toast!

Time to walk it off!  What is it, Ned?

A skeletal Mardi Gras left behind.

Ironwork!

Sadly, Harper was denied her sugar-soaked breakfast at the Stanley, but the French Market held an answer …

… the Crepe Cart had GF options!

A chocolate GF crepe?  Dream come true!

Two stuffed teens.

The kids needed a midmorning nap, so they took off for the hotel while Ned and I went shopping.  Among our finds: a purse in the shape of a purple owl, a Frida Kahlo purse, a VooDoo pin cushion magnet, New Orleans’s best pralines (plus hot sauce and various brittles), a painting by a Jackson Square artist.  Some photos from our wanderings.

Carriage horse water trough.

An electric light store (seriously).

Balcony.

Bridal gown photo shoot.

Palm trees!

The past collides with the past–all densely packed. Check out those signs–neon, bulbs. Yes!

Blue skies above the asbestos factory.

We ducked into Mother’s to grab lunch for take-out and found no line (NO LINE!), so we texted the kids and had them run across the street to meet us.

And, then we napped 🙂  Oh, New Orleans, you make us so full and sleepy.  Really, I think part of it is how laid back everyone is.  As Harper observed, “When you cross the street, no one inches their car toward you, yelling ‘Hurry the F up!’ They just wait for you to go.” (Can you tell we go to NYC a lot?) Taking a nap just seems like the right thing to do.

And, after napping, it’s time to bug out!  Given the choice between two Audubons, the Aquarium and the Insectarium, we chose the latter in a hot minute.  The Audubon Insectarium is the largest “zoo” dedicated to insects and is, kind of oddly, co-located in the US Customs House–which now has a new mosaic entry.

Its status as a federal building means you have to enter through a metal detector–but now in a lobby with the most extraordinarily beautiful bug-themed sconces and chandeliers (plural).  Truly, they are gorgeous!

We’d never seen a place like this.  No expense appears to have been spared to turn the old federal building into a one-of-a-kind bug-a-torium.  The massive wall-mounted bugs–including a blue crawfish, which I think is not really a bug–lining this hallway say it all.

Giant Millipede attack!

Bug infested massive water drop freaks out former Med-Fly fighter, Ned Davis.

We also got to go “underground” with enormous worms, roaches, and ants.  And a spider, the unexpected appearance of which actually made me scream (so embarrassed).

Love bug!

Loved bugs!

In the grossest exhibit, a doll house has been taken over by actual cockroaches, which cling to every surface and appear huge in comparison to their miniature setting.  Ugh.

 
Right next to this tableau is a bug-cafe with a diverse array of free samples of variously prepared and seasoned insects.  We ate the snickerdoodle meal worms, a chocolate “chirp” cookie (complete with cricket), some cricket fortified hopping hummus, and more.  A bit gritty.

 
Cricket-y!

They freeze the bugs to kill them, then sterilize them, then boil them to use in recipes.  We watched this and still ate them!

Penn’s not sure.

The tables in the cafe have inserts filled with bugs in kicky dioramas.  They were impossible to capture in a photo because of the lighting.  We checked them all out and found a staghorn beetle stuck on its back in one–his little legs kicking away.  We alerted the staff so they could save him, but they said he’d be just fine.  But, then again, they had just cooked up a bunch of bugs with no remorse.  Hope he’s okay.

The next exhibit was super creepy: termites!  Termites are everywhere in New Orleans.  And, here we could listen to them on a phone, which offered a horrifying soundtrack of termites chewing away on a house; or watch them on this 1960s TV, which was filled with squirming, opalescent, disgusting termites wriggling away.  Yuck!

The termite room led to a scenic swamp complete with gator breaking free. Go Gators!

Trying on their exoskeletons.

Squash that bug!

The Insectarium ends in a Butterfly Garden.  Harper’s single focus was on getting a butterfly to land on her.  Her patience paid off with a new shoulder friend.

Penn reached out his arm and found a fluttery accessory.

Of all people, it was Mr. Ned Davis who proved irresistible to the b-flies.  First, one landed on his face, moving over to his hat brim.  That expression is priceless.

Then, an iridescent blue butterfly about the size of an apple landed on his back–and would not move.

Attack of the butterflies!

We loved the Insectarium!  Who knew one could spend an entire afternoon falling in love with bugs.

Dinner that night was at Meril–Emeril Lagasse’s new small plate, casual eatery.  The food was delicious, the service mediocre, and the dessert was on fire.  Literally!  Meril’s birthday dessert is a huge serving of cherry cotton candy with a side of super-powered sparkler.  Several were served while we ate our dinner, and Harper’s eyes lit up each time one went by.  She was disappointed to see it wasn’t on the regular menu, but while she was away from the table, we convinced our server to bring her one.  Yes!  Joy! (And, for some reason, it was completely free.)

Nothing complements a chocolate chocolate crepe like one’s sister’s cotton candy 🙂

After dinner in the Warehouse district, we hot-stepped it back to the Quarter to Preservation Hall.  We had tickets for the 8pm show, and we got there just in time to go back in time.  All the times I’ve been in New Orleans, I’ve never gone to the Hall.  It was magical.  The entire world seemed to drift away, pushed out of time by this small room with its sepia walls, hard benches, floor cushions, and golden lights.  No photos are allowed, but I still snuck a few.

Feeling jazzy!

The kids were enthralled throughout the show–as were we.  The band, the Joint Chiefs of Jazz, were led by a soft-spoken but magnetic gentleman drummer whose father had played for Bessie Smith.  Among the songs they played was “What a Wonderful World”–too perfect.  We chatted with the musicians on the way out, and they thanked us for bringing the kids to introduce them to jazz and keep it alive.  As we exited, Penn went straight for the vinyl, picking up a Preservation Hall compilation.  He asked if we could come back the next night.  Harper said she loved it.  I said the Hall was magical.

My little creatures of the night.

We walked back down Decatur to our hotel and found one of NOLA’s things: lit-up bicycle groups.  Look for the colorful circles in mid frame below.

This one was having some internal conflict: a bicycle-novela.  So, we let them be and enjoyed another  gorgeous NOLA-night.

From crepes to bugs, cotton candy to jazz–we were preserving new memories in an old place.  And it was wonderful.

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