Exploring New Orleans, Day 1

For those who don’t know, Liz was attending a work-related conference in New Orleans. And me? I was just along for the ride. So while she had to be up early most mornings, with sessions and panels to attend… I got to do whatever the heck I wanted, and mostly wandered around a lot.

I had visited New Orleans over 10 years ago, around 2000 I think. I was attending AWP at the time, and doing a panel on multimedia and stories. This was back when Flash was still an emerging thing, and I was lucky enough to talk about my little projects alongside folks from Born Magazine and Poems That GO. I was definitely out of my league, but got to meet some cool folks interested in doing the same kinds of things: telling stories through multimedia.

All this happened before the blog existed, but I remember writing up an account of my New Orleans experience in a post or two on were-here.com (a now-defunct forum, but it used to be the place to be… back in the day). I’ve tried a few times to look for the entry via archive.org, but I’m guessing it’s a lost cause.

When I was here before, I mostly wandered around the French Quarter. So this time out, I wanted to extend out a bit and see some other parts of the city. I had a fairly late start to my morning, as I worked on a coffee while planning my day.

I decided on wandering out to the Garden District, which involved getting on a bus or trolley. I found out that it’s about $1.75 per ride, but $3 gets you an all-day pass (which you can use, on both buses and trolleys). I hopped on the St. Charles bus, but before I could get around the corner… Liz sent me a text.

As it turned out, she had a good chunk of time for lunch. So I hopped off the bus, met up with her for a meal at Napoleon House, and picked up my journey after she returned to her sessions.

I can’t remember if there’s a trolley that goes down St. Charles, but I hopped on a bus and got off at Jackson. From there, I kind of meandered up and down side streets, slowly making my way towards the southwest corner.

The area is full of gorgeous old houses/mansions, and very quiet/sleepy.

I saw maybe one walking tour, and only one other person/couple every block or so. Mostly, the other people I encountered were walking around, taking pictures of houses.

One house in particular had all these strange attachments, protruding from the side. No idea what these guys are for, or if it’s strictly ornamental.

My hunch is that they serve some kind of a purpose, but I’m stumped. Maybe Bob knows what these guys are.

Though there were a ton of really lovely homes, after a while, I got a bit bored… and headed farther south to Magazine Street.

Some of Liz’s coworkers recommended this area, but we weren’t sure if they were referring to a general area or just to the street proper. I figured since I was out here, I’d have a look around.

This is really weird and funny, since my parents’ first restaurant was called the “Golden Dragon.” So to see both the Jung name and a “II” used is kind of crazy.

I felt like I should have gone inside, and demanded a free lunch.

Spotted this impressive feat of construction. The entire house was raised on a series of supports (but it wasn’t resting on the port-o-potty, despite what it looks like).

The nerd in me stopped to photograph a Blockbuster Video store. Who knew these things were still around?

I walked for a really, really long time down Magazine Street, and overall… it was quaint, but it wasn’t really for me. There were a handful of nice restaurants and places to eat (tapas, sushi, pub grub), and a majority of the shops were vintage clothing, furniture restoration, interior design/lighting, art galleries… that sort of thing.

If I was with Liz, I could have seen us exploring these places a bit more. But since I was on my own, nothing really got me all that interested (I didn’t go inside any of the shops). I walked a fair distance, up and down Magazine… and just took my time, strolling along.

If you want a kind of leisurely afternoon, then perhaps the Garden District is for you. One thing to note: many of the shops I saw on Magazine closed early during the week (5:30 or 6PM). So this may be a better place to explore during the day.

I was keeping tabs on the buses I saw, and though this area is a fair distance from French Quarter… it wasn’t an overly long wait to grab a ride back. I hopped on a bus headed back towards Canal, and ended up jumping off near the hotel.

I was meeting up with Liz for dinner, and had some time to kill… so I decided to hop a ride on the (free) Algiers Ferry. It was… pretty uneventful. The upper deck was closed off, so rather than watch from the inside, I ended up going down to the lower level (where the cars parked).

Looking upriver…

A barge, passing by. I was surprised to see how many other vessels criss-crossed paths. It was a pretty busy area, given the tightness of the curve.

The Greater New Orleans bridge.

Folks gathering on the lower level.

Looking back at the edge of the French Quarter.

Overall, this was just a boat ride. It was fairly quick, and I now get to say I’ve sailed along the Mississippi (however briefly). I had contemplated getting off at Algiers and wandering around a bit… but most of what I read about Algiers suggested there wasn’t much to do (beyond visiting Mardi Gras World or grabbing a beer at a nearby pub). Given the lateness of the hour, I opted to just stay on the ferry and rode back.

The one thing I’ll say is that it was amazing to watch the ferry captain navigate his way to the dock. I was peering over the side as the boat came in, and it was amazing how close the ship got to the dock, and how little it “bumped” when it stopped. Impressively precise driving.

I ended up wandering down Tchoupitoulas Street, and looked around a bit in the Warehouse District. Our hotel concierge told us there wasn’t much in the area, beyond museums… and I can see what he was talking about. There were some nice restaurants, but they were pretty far apart from one another – I’d say one restaurant every block or so.

On the way back to the hotel, I did find a really interesting place: the New Orleans Glassworks and Printmaking Studio.

Closeup of the awesome sign.

Sadly, though they let me wander around inside the gallery and the workshop area (where they had their huge furnace and equipment), they wouldn’t allow any photos. Here’s a video I found that shows the oven and some folks in action:

This sign is what caught my eye, and what drew me inside to ask to look around. I found it fascinating that they had their own emergency crew, to ensure their furnaces remained lit.

On meeting with Liz, we wandered around the French Quarter some. We were trying to get away from the touristy crowds, and found our way towards Esplanade Avenue. The area we were at was primarily residential – and with it getting pretty dark at the time, we decided not to explore further, and started walking back towards Canal.

We lucked out, and ended up finding Irene’s Cuisine, on Saint Philip Street. I recognized the name from a few posts on Chowhound, and we decided to give it a whirl.

On walking in, we feel like we continued our good luck with getting seated at restaurants. We were told to follow a waiter into the other room (where folks were waiting to be seated), but a lovely older lady touched my shoulder… and motioned me to a small table, tucked away in the corner, next to where the wine was stored. I called Liz back, and we got a cozy little table all to ourselves.

Looking back, we feel that the woman who seated us was Irene. We don’t know this for sure, but given her presence here (she was older, moved slowly compared to the other servers), that was our best guess. In our interactions with her, she never spoke a word – she merely smiled and touched me on the shoulder.

Thanks to her, we bypassed having to wait for a table… and were seated immediately.

Our view of the room, from where we were at.

I have to say – though I’m more of a meat and potatoes kind of guy, I ordered a pan seared fish that was outstanding. The entree had slivered almonds, which was something that I wasn’t that into… and the side was mashed sweet potato (I was hoping for just regular mashed potatoes), but you know what? It was phenomenal. The lightness of the sweet potato paired incredibly well with the saltier fish, and the whole thing was just an amazing sort of deliciousness.

I made it a point to tell our server how much I enjoyed the meal, and on waking up the next morning… it was still something I was thinking about.

This was the back room area, where folks were either sitting down for drinks or waiting for a table. Though we were able to skip the waiting, it’s a nice area complete with a piano player (in the back), entertaining folks all the while.

On our way out, we both made it a point to say “thanks” to the woman who seated us. Again, without speaking, she smiled a huge smile and held on to my shoulder as we walked out. As the door closed behind us, we could still see her smiling at us through the windows of the door.

We had a great experience here, and it’s definitely a place we’d recommend. It’s a small walk from the more populated areas of the French Quarter, but well worth it. Seems like more of a local’s place, and makes you feel like you’ve left the rowdy tourists behind you.

A very mysterious sign we found on a bicycle, on our way home:

Castin Call. Ride a blind camel. Ladies 18+ only. Call 229-9982 to play 4 Dominican nuns. Boston Bank OOB. (CIA Classified). Libya gold assasins. Call Butch Cassidy Detective Agency.

Kiva Ford: Artistic And Scientific Glassblower

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Felix, those curly metal jobbies on the sides of houses are functional. The shutters are missing from the houses (you can see where they had been attached), but the curly jobbies are meant to hold the shutters open (flat against the side of the house) by turning 90 degrees and overlapping the shutter’s edge. When it’s storm time, turn them another 90 degrees and close the shutter over the window. Enough useless knowledge for one day? :)

    And great pics! We love that town!

    Woody Blackwell Reply

    • Totally makes sense. I expected I’d be waiting a while, before figuring out what those guys were. Thanks for the info, Woody!

      avoision Reply

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