(Don’t forget to hover over the pictures to see captions.)
We had breakfast again at Mena’s Palace, an odd name for a mere corner diner. Their breakfasts are consistently good and Jacob can have grits with cheese every morning if he likes. I had a spinach and tomato and feta cheese omelet, which was the first thing I’ve eaten in New Orleans that wasn’t perfect—the tomatoes were a little too hard, but otherwise the flavor was good. We took pictures of the interior and explained about this blog to the waitress. At that, she told us about the sign on the wall, which to us looked like some kind of mirrored plastic with the name of the diner on it. No, in fact, the entire background is made up of BUTTERFLIES—big reflective ones from years ago when you could still do things like that and not be shut down by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Bugs and Icky Gross Creatures.
This was Jacob’s last day at the conference, and he was leaving early (for some reason they gave the attendees only one wristband for the closing bash, and sold guest passes for $125
dollars; I can think of better ways to blow that kind of money in New Orleans) so we arranged to meet back at the hotel around 4 p.m. for an early dinner at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co.
My main goal for the day was to get as far as the Farmer’s Market and the Flea Market, way past the Cafe du Monde on Decatur. On the way there, I stopped at the Jean Lafitte Historical Preserve, which is this totally unassuming (from the street) driveway that leads back into a beautiful, cool courtyard and a visitors’ center. They have guided tours, but I just wandered around by myself looking at the displays. It’s all about the history of Louisiana and the settlement of New Orleans, but goes all the way up to the present and Hurricane Katrina. The exhibit at the Cabildo is more thorough, but this filled in a lot of gaps for me. I recommend seeing this one second and possibly getting a guided tour, which I understand goes to a number of other historical sites.
I decided that I was not going to let myself get overwhelmed by the heat today. I had a plan this time that began with buying a bottle of very cold water from a vendor on the street. This was where I learned that crossing Decatur right at the end of Bienville’s monument is virtually impossible. The traffic, which crawls everywhere else around the French Quarter, moves very quickly there. I didn’t want to go all the way down to the light and then back again; this would be counter to part two of my plan, Move As Little As Possible. An army chaplain who was standing there collecting for a charity asked where I was going, then said “You just have to start walking into the street. They’ll stop for you. Don’t worry, this is how we do it here.” It felt like taking my life into my hands, but eventually I did get across without being killed.
The “far” side of Decatur (opposite the one we usually use) is close to the river, and you can see the steamboats pulled up to the bank and sometimes hear the music they play to entice passengers. There’s actually a lot of greenspace there too, and the shops look newer and more uniform. And with covered walkways, too, which made me happy.
I came upon Montrel’s, a corner bistro with outside seating, and the maitre d’ asked if I wanted to sit and have refreshments. I was still full of breakfast, but this man…oh, my, he was gorgeous. I told him I’d be back for lunch.
There were signs along the way announcing some upcoming festivals, primarily the Creole Tomato Festival. When I reached the entrance to the market, there were some men trying to erect the giant tomato sign you see in the picture. They were having some trouble with it trying to bend and tear away at the top, but it was in place when I came back, so I suppose it all worked out all right.
The Farmer’s Market and the Flea Market blend into each other. It’s all housed in a long covered patio, lined with ceiling fans, where people set up stalls and (sometimes) dividers and lay out their wares. It surprised me that so many people were setting up still when I arrived, given that it runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There were not a lot of people at the farmer’s market end—some produce, but not much. The flea market was not what I expected either. Rather than being a sort of glorified yard sale, the vendors were mostly selling the same kind of goods that are available in any French Quarter store, but cheaper (which makes them prettier and nicer and more worth having, as anyone in my family knows). A few people had unique items: a man selling African masks and statuary, some of which I really wanted; a booth with hand-glazed tiles in coaster and trivet sizes; a few artists drawing caricatures or personalized designs. I bought something for a friend here, but I’m not saying who or what.
There were a lot of jewelry stalls. Honestly, New Orleans is like Jewelry Heaven. It’s not just the ordinary stuff, but local designers and unusual materials, and it’s everywhere. I’m surprised I’ve only bought a couple of pieces for myself; either I have more self-control than I imagined, or I burned out my gleeful extravagance on book shopping. I had a hard time resisting the hematite necklaces and even more trouble not buying a long strand of freshwater pearls in a shade I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen a lot of patterns I want to try for myself, though I’ve resisted the urge to take pictures; it seems somehow unethical even if I’m not competing with the artists for sales.
I decided to pass by Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop on the grounds that if I bought a box of pralines to give to friends on Thursday, I would personally eat them all by Sunday night, and went back to Montrel’s for lunch. Mmmm, Mister Handsome was still there and showed me inside. My waiter was very nice and almost totally unintelligible to me, which is a first. Though once I was able to understand him, he cracked me up. He told me the secret to how delicious my shrimp gumbo was is that they “put their foot in to stir it about—makes it tasty.” So I told him my grandma always said she put her finger in our oatmeal to make it sweeter, and he laughed at that. On the way out Mister Handsome told me, all concerned, that I needed to drink more cold water because I had looked very flushed when I came in. I thanked him, but mostly I was thinking “Please marry me.” He had the best voice, just a hint of southern Creole, and he made my day brighter.
After this, I didn’t really have a plan, so I explored some of the shops on the far side of St. Ann (the northeast edge of Jackson Square). I stopped at the market for more water and a Coke for my private stash of drinks that are not Pepsi or $2.75 apiece. In retrospect, I should have taken a bio break somewhere around there, but I wasn’t thinking about such things. So when it started to be urgent, there were no places with public restrooms anywhere around. I cut my trip short and hurried back to the glorious room. Of course, once I got there, I realized how sweaty and uncomfortable I was, so I didn’t feel like going back out. Bah. I took a shower and stretched out to read for a bit.
Jacob got back even earlier than anticipated—they’d cancelled shuttle service until 5 p.m., so he’d taken a taxi. I ordered pizza for the kids (it’s a long story, but the short version is that Domino’s has a great online ordering system) and read my book. Around this time Julie called to tell me the Great Sugar-Eating Secret (also a long story; get her to tell it to you) and what with one thing and another, 5 o’clock rolled around and we went to dinner.
The reason for the early dinner is that Bubba Gump’s is a very popular restaurant, and on a previous evening walk, we’d seen people lined up outside the door to get in. So we figured we’d beat the rush, especially since it’s about 6 minutes’ walk from our hotel. It’s themed around the movie Forrest Gump—decor, cute sayings, etc.—and has framed stills from the movie and other related objects on the walls. I’d mainly heard it has good food. I ordered the bourbon mahi-mahi recommended by the waitress; Jacob got the ribs, one of a handful of menu items not fish-centric.
The food is very good. Jacob’s ribs, in fact, were outstanding. I’m glad he thought to give me a bite while he was sucking the meat off the bones, because they are tender and juicy. The waitress told us that the ribs go fast during the week and they’re usually out by the weekend. I believe it. The key lime pie was good, but “more lime than key” as Jacob put it—not in the same class as the one he got at House of Blues.
We meandered home, replete and happy, for an early night that, knowing us, we will spend with our respective computers or books. Tomorrow it’s back to the flea market with Jacob in tow, and I am determined to see the pharmacy museum no matter what it takes.