One of my favorite travel columns is in the Sunday New York Times; it is called “36 Hours in…whatever.” It can include places that I never thought of going to (until I read the column), but it always fun to see what the writer includes in a visit that last barely 24 waking hours. For cities I know, I generally quibble, but I’m prone to that anyway. And then a few weeks ago, they featured New Orleans, and my antennae were out…big time.
Although I’m generally in New Orleans for a week or more or at time, I was impressed y what they included. And for the most part, they included things that I consider a must. And while I eschew the highfalutin bar and restaurant scene (first, I am of Scottish descent and second, the heart of New Orleans is its working class citizenry and I much rather eat and drink with them). They did include a visit to the cemeteries (check), a visit to the Lower Ninth (check), and various musical venues (check, check and double check). The one thing they included that I had not done was the jazz mass at St. Augustine’s in Treme, and I took care of that first chance [see: Cruising from New Orleans] However, when we returned to New Orleans, I had that karmic opportunity to experience my beloved city by the hour.
I was not awake, but because we were approaching the mouth of the Mississippi at midnight when I retired, I suspect we docked about 5:00 or 6:00 o’clock a.m. Our return flight was scheduled for 6:00 a.m., so we had exactly one day in New Orleans. If left entirely up to me, it would have been a mad, maniacal rush to cram as much in as possible. Luckily, my wife has common sense.
We were all packed, bathed, dressed, had a full breakfast on board (seated, not the buffet), and were through customs before 8:00 a.m.
8:00 a.m.: we took a cab with our luggage to the Queen and Crescent Hotel on Camp Street. They were full, so I clearly expected to check our luggage and be put out on the street. However, they had a no show the night before and they checked us in! Luggage stowed. Bathroom. E-mail for the first time in a week. Glorious.
9:00 a.m.: we started across the French Quarter for our second trip to St. Augustine’s in as many weeks. It’s something to be in New Orleans and with a wild, hankering for a jazz mass. But it is worth it.
10:00 a.m.: the most moving, welcoming, mind blowing mass imaginable. From ushers, to alter server, to musicians, to the priest, it is perfection. Even though over half of the “participants” are guests, the mass is personal, welcoming, and an immensely spiritual experience. The sign of peace lasts for ten minutes. And hour and forty minutes, you are walking the streets of Treme so thankful for the experience you have had.
Noon: Louis Armstrong Park for Congo Square Fest. Food, music, crafts, and food. Food twice, because the fest is also the start of the Revolution Second Line, so you have all of the food and drink vendors that accompany such events. Fried chicken, beans and rice, and greens for lunch, $2.00 beers, Latin jazz, a shaded lawn, and a second line. What more could one want?
1:00 p.m.: Revolution Social Aid and Pleasure Club Second Line, with the To Be Continued Brass Band. OK, here is where having my wife along is a good thing. I could have been lost following this thing for miles, but we saw it off, had another beer and walked back through the French Quarter. A bright, Sunday afternoon. Royal Street resplendent with light and entertainment.
2:00 p.m.: Pat is resting comfortably. I do so for…15 minutes. We make plans to meet at the Spotted Cat at 5:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m.: OK, I left the “36 Hours in New Orleans (NY Times version)” compound. I grabbed a cigar and local brew and did some intense people watching, most of which focused on the…
4:00 p.m.: Tennessee Williams Literary Festival “Stanley and Stella Yelling Contest.” I look at the videos from this every year and I wasn’t going to miss it the one time I was in town. It was hysterical from the time participants started lining up to register. Photographs don’t do it justice and as soon as I can figure out how to extract the video from my camera, I will share. Suffice it to say, how often do you see hundreds of people crowded around to hear theatrical yelling?
5:00 p.m. I got to the Cat a little early, but Pat was already there, besieged by a drunken opinionated carpenter with bad teeth. I’ve run into this guy before, so I felt bad, but once I got there, he decided to make an awkward, smelly, and argumentative exit. The wonderful Cindy, who was behind the bar, was most comforting and the music, by Yvette Voelker and the Rites of Swing was predictably enjoyable. By the time we left, I think Pat understood why I spend so much of my evening hours there.
6:00 p.m.” Lovely evening to walk across the French Quarter. First on Chartres, then on Royal. Ended up at the Acme Oyster House, where there was a healthy wait. But we were there, it was nice, and there was a place nearby to get drinks, so why not.
7:00 p.m. After a wait, classic, modest, non New York Times dining. Shrimp po’ boy (her); fried oyster plate (me). Great food and exquisite company.
8:30 p.m.: OK, let me whisper this, very quietly, with a 3:00 a.m. wake up call, even I was willing to call it a day. We went back to our room, finished packing, and after an action packed day, made it an early night.
3:40 a.m.: Airport shuttle. And all that boring, yet frenzied stuff afterwards at the airport.
6:00 a.m.: flight home. Daylight shortly after.
24 hours in New Orleans.