There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better. — Bob Dylan
I don’t quite know how we got here, but my daughter – who was just born yesterday – got married.
I suppose it happens to the best of us.
How do you cope with watching your baby girl walk down the aisle and feeling yourself turn into an old person at the same time? You go to New Orleans, of course!
The only thing I remember about the flight out from San Francisco is the flight attendants fussing over where to put my Mother of the Bride (!) dress. So, I guess it must have been fine.
One thing that was not fine was the damn, oppressive, sticky heat that caused my hair to cling to my scalp the second I walked off the plane. When I go “back home,” I always spend my time on the trip out thinking that maybe I should move back.
And then I get off the plane and remember why that won’t happen.
Still, as a teacher, B had no choice but a summer wedding, so I soldiered on. Things got much better when I walked into my room at the Royal Sonesta.
On my way to my room, I ran into one of the bellmen or doormen (not sure, exactly), who pointed to my cane and asked if I was in a skiing accident. I laughed and said no, then for some reason I confessed I needed it since cancer treatment.
I should have known, that in the South, that’s a good way to get fussed over. He loudly said that was something to celebrate and asked for my room number. He insisted on getting my bags personally, and when he brought them up, he had a bottle of champagne.
He told me he was proud of me, and then told me about his girlfriend, who was sadly lost to the disease. We both cried a little and hugged and he told me he’d pray for me.
It was good to be home.
I spent a few minutes photographing the room and seeing the sights from the balcony.
But it was still early afternoon, so I decided to start my trip with some New Orleans beignets.
With my pain levels and the humidity, I knew I didn’t want to limp several blocks to Jackson Square for Cafe du Monde (plus, I hate the joint). Fortunately, when I asked a man downstairs, he turned and pointed at the answer: Cafe Beignet, right out the doors.
Bourbon Street is not my favorite street in the world, I ain’t gonna lie to you. I guess my first time I might have been impressed (I was in my early 20s and hadn’t seen much of the world yet), but now all I see are beggars, grifters, kids way too young banging on drums way too loudly in hopes of a buck, and an overwhelming smell of pee.
Fortunately, years of working in downtown San Francisco have made me immune, and I pushed my way through the sea of humanity, refusing to make eye contact with anyone who asked me where I got my shoes.*
Okay, Cafe Beignet isn’t right across the street, but close enough. Entering it is like entering another world from Bourbon Street. You pass under this arch, past the statues of jazz legends, and you’re somewhere else altogether. Somewhere a lot quieter and not so crazy.
It’s all stone floors and green cast iron furniture. There’s a little covered area decorated with lights and vines, and there were live jazz players there every time I walked by.
I walked straight back and down a couple of steps to the ordering area. It was super laid back and not at all crowded. I placed my order at one end of the counter, and by the time I was at the other end, my three beignets and iced chicory coffee were waiting for me.
Now, I understand how this works, with all the powdered sugar. And yet I still wore black and of course I coughed just as I raised the first beignet to my lips, disappearing briefly in a powdered sugar fog.
As B’s stepmother said later: “Aww. You had a tourist moment!”
I made my way back to the room to change out of my spotted clothes, and spent a bit of time on the patio, watching the crowds go by on Conti. I took a shower with the most delicious smelling mango and coconut bath products I’ve ever used, then dressed in my finest duds and headed to my dinner at Arnaud’s, stopping at the adjacent French 75 bar for the eponymous cocktail.
There, I fell in love with this chair. I will find this chair one day, and I will marry it.
You can read about my dinner here, but suffice it to say that my first visit to this restaurant will not be my last. Absolutely amazing meal.
Look, I’m not saying that I went back to the hotel, did some people watching and headed to bed at 8pm. But I’m not saying I didn’t.
I will say I had one of the best nights of sleep I’d had in ages, even with the eternal party that is Bourbon Street right around the corner.
Read about Day Two.
*This is a very common con job in New Orleans (though it’s becoming less so as people spread the word). Someone jolly will come up in the street and jokingly say, “I bet I know where you got your shoes!” If you say ‘Where?’ he says: “On your feet.” Then he becomes much less jolly and demands payment, since you ‘lost the bet.’ Don’t get sucked in; you can say that you’re local or tell him your shoes are on your feet, but I think it’s best to ignore them.