Gold, green, and purple have replaced Christmas trees and decorations. The house across the street on Dauphine is bedecked like a rainbow float with fantastical giant flowers. The Krewe of Chewbacca parade is in a couple of days, so I looked it up. My excitement level shot through the roof. The Krewe of Chewbacca states their mission is “to save the galaxy by bringing the magical revelry of Mardi Gras to the poor, disenfranchised, socially awkward and generally weird masses.” I plan to be part of the masses three deep on the street, maneuvering to see the costumes, the fanfare, and snagging some beads, though I’ve never seen a Star Wars movie.
I’m a tourist in more than one way lately, though I’m learning the lay of the Quarter. Everything I need is within walking distance of our shotgun flat in the Marigny, so we rarely move the car. We don’t like to drive it because street parking is a valuable commodity, and it isn’t free or easy. We had to go to City Hall and pay $55 for a thirty-day temporary parking permit. My advice for street parking is to claim a space before five at night. Then don’t move your car, or you’ll lose the space. Having observed the lay of the land for a couple of months now, I can make a few other recommendations.
If you need to mail something, the French Quarter Postal Emporium is a few blocks from the Marigny on Bourbon and offers other postal services, including notary and FedEx. If you’re a donut lover, check out the Esplanade Mini-Mart, which is three blocks down Dauphine. A surprising variety of fresh donuts, sometimes raspberry filled, are delivered at 6 a.m. and sold for a dollar apiece, big fluffy sweet pastries. They remind me of the donuts made daily at my first job waitressing at Shipley’s Donuts, and the jelly-filled donuts Ignatius sucks dry in Confederacy of Dunces.
If you like ramen, I recommend Royal Sushi, where you choose your broth, your noodle, and your add-ons. I like the Yasmin Konbu broth, a seaweed and soy broth with cabbage, two kinds of onions and mushrooms, and corn and bamboo shoots. You can choose between udon, ramen, rice, or gluten-free noodles. A large, steaming bowl without meat is $12.00 or adding chicken makes it $13.00. There are other add-ons, depending on your taste and budget. The ramen is a real deal if you drink water, though I’m often tempted by the cold, milky saki, Nigori, a saki creamy with unfiltered rice bits.
(One last culinary tip if, like me, you’re a tourist with a kitchen, don’t mind cooking, and feel indulgent. I’m in love with Tony Chachere’s Creole Alfredo Mix, which requires adding milk and butter. Pour the alfredo over wide egg noodles and serve with sauteed garlic shrimp. Not an everyday meal, but delicious.)
The lay of the land has so many watering holes, you could go to a different barroom every day. If you’re looking for a social bar to have a conversation—one that doesn’t serve food or host regular live music—there are a couple I’d recommend. We really like the Rambler on Frenchmen, and it lives up to its name, with tourists and locals rambling in and out all day from when it opens at noon until it closes in the wee hours. When I asked a woman sitting next to me what she liked about New Orleans, she said, “You can meet people, have a good time, and never see them again.” The Rambler is also the only bar on Frenchmen that offers competitive team trivia, which takes place on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. Their signature drink is frozen Irish coffee, and they have more craft beers than you can shake a baton at. There are four rotating bartenders, all great: Blake, Brent, Destiny, and Michael.
The other social bar I like is Big Daddy’s, which is down Royal toward the Bywater. I’ll admit I like it because it has video gambling machines that remind me of hot spots back in West Virginia. But it also has relatively cheap beer and lots of patrons to talk to, like the regular we’ve met a few times, Anne (not her real name). Before she retired, she was an award-winning high school science teacher from the Midwest who was a finalist for the honor to be the first teacher in space. We shared a somber moment remembering the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that killed all seven crew members, including Christa McAuliffe, the social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire who was chosen by NASA. Anne, a real people lover, went on to be a successful researcher and teacher who traveled the world studying water, soil, and plants.
I’m mostly a people lover, even when the person is not particularly pleasant. This one guy I met at Big Daddy’s was a local who didn’t like tourists. He said, “There are two New Orleans, the tourist New Orleans and the real New Orleans. There’s a whole party life you’ll never know.” Which is probably true, though I’d argue there are more than two New Orleans. Varieties of New Orleans exist on a Whitmanesque scale, and reality matters where you stand. Even a tourist like me can give street parking advice. I still don’t understand the streetcar schedules, but if you walk to the station and wait long enough, a streetcar will come along.
Categories: Living, Suzanne's Voice
So well written, Suzanne. I feel like I am walking the streets with you, ducking into into a bar, and meeting the locals. Continue to enjoy your stay. I am sure your Fairmont friends will be happy when you return. Give our regards to Pete and Jan.
Thanks, Sally, nice to hear from you!
“Varieties of New Orleans exist on a Whitmanesque scale”–I love this! And I completely believe it. What a perfect way to say it.
Thanks! Whitman would have loved NOLA.
Thanks. For the lessons