After lunch at Tujague’s, I spent the rest of the day wandering around the French Quarter. I’d done most of the standard tourist stuff on previous visits, so I didn’t have an extensive list of must-visit sites and cemeteries. This time, the trip was mainly an escape from Winter, and an opportunity to taste some really excellent cooking.
There were two things, though, that I couldn’t resist. Not that I wanted to.
Beignets at Café du Monde
I mean, just look at them! It doesn’t get much better than spending a hour or so munching on these sugar bombs at the open-air, 150-year-old Café du Monde on a warm afternoon in February .
Lazing in Jackson Square
A reliable source told me that I wouldn’t be allowed to leave New Orleans unless I could produce a receipt from Café du Monde and a picture of Andrew Jackson’s equestrian statue from Jackson Square. I distracted the hundreds of other visitors who were trying to photograph the statue by starting a rumour that Zac Efron and Emma Stone were filming a scene on Bourbon Street. Once I had the Square to myself, getting this picture was a snap. (See what I did there?)
Trivia: That thing about how the number of raised hooves on equestrian statues tells you about the riders’ battle wounds and/or death? Urban myth.
I stayed in the Square for more than an hour, enjoying the weather and reading a book. (Child 44. V good vacation reading, though I suspect the movie will be a disaster, because of the silly fake Russian accents. You can’t take a serial killer seriously if you’re constantly dreading the possibility that his next line will be “Beeg trouble for Moose and Squirrel.”)
Street musicians kept playing for spare change. They were actually talented, in contrast to the DC “entertainers’ who pollute the air in parks and around Metro stations by beating arrhythmically on large plastic trash containers. (Don’t give them money, btw. It’s useless. No matter how much you give them, they won’t stop making a racket,)
Looks pretty, doesn’t it? I’m now going to tell you a nasty little secret about the French Quarter that you won’t find in any of the official tourist guides.
The first thing you notice about the Quarter is that it really, really stinks.
Not all of it. I’m talking mainly about the areas around the Bourbon Street, home of the strip joints and open-24-hours bars. (Strippers and beer. New Orleans “notorious” vices are, in actuality, almost quaint.)
There are no service alleys, which means that in the morning, discarded foodstuffs from the area’s dozens of restaurants rot in closed dumpsters on the sidewalk until the garbage is picked up.
And, for hundreds of years, the Quarter has been one of the most famous party zones in the world. The streets are hosed down every morning, but the street cleaners are fighting a hopeless battle against 200 years of urine, vomit, and spilled beer. It takes an occasional hurricane to freshen things up.