A road trip to the deep south | Part 1: New Orleans.
Around every street corner a trombone catches a note of invitation along with the band bringing a pace of left, right and a thumb snap, maybe even a whistle, skip and tip toe if you like.
Music and expressive colors from one painted wall or door to another and you might catch a decorated balcony of bright beads and festive colors with a random little voodoo dolls hanging on one end. But let that not scare you. A little bit of walking and you absorb what is the atmosphere of lively music, arts, improvised chord progressions and beautiful painted masquerades worn or displayed. I love these style of music in the streets and generous high loud notes with a lot of soul echoing the lively buildings of different vibrant hues of purple and green. I advice enjoying this stroll during the day with the little ones when the street body language are a little tuned down and people are dressed appropriately. Even Bourbon street is mellowed down and you can actually see families with small children exploring the streets walking around enjoying a New Orleans style sno balls and snapping photos of a holiday friendly pose.
street musicians in New Orleans playing improvisational jazz
We flew into Louis Armstrong airport in an overcast day late in march, absorbing a little of humidity and a nice spring breeze as it welcomed a hint of summer. The scent of broiled seafood, spices, freshly brewed coffee and freshly baked bread penetrated my senses, the sun slowly setting in the distant backdrop and the neon street lights took over the smallest hint of evening stars- culminating an acidic push; a biological clock of fine cuisine in my stomach. The sound of live jazz band picked up the pace and decibels as evening drew closer. We made our way out of Bourbon street quickly through a sea of people some with lively mask on and into an alleyway of flickering lamp post and out the other end. We headed down to a small restaurant where a good line was building up quickly for a nice hot authentic creole meal. We were greeted by one of the server as we ended our 45 min wait outside and took us in through a gigantic wooden door into an atmosphere of laughter, low tungsten ambient light, cheers of clinking wine glass and enhanced aroma of a cajun dish. The evening ended with a delicious meal of gumbo, Étouffée, rice and gravy for the kids. Topped with wine and a bread pudding for dessert and it made for an easy, light and relaxing walk back to the hotel in the cool spring evening of soft background serenade.
We booked a stay at the Hyatt Centric a few hundred feet away from Bourbon street, about a half a mile to Jackson Square- at the heart of the french quarter and a walking distance to many of these wonderful authentic restaurants. The comfort, accomodation and luxury all in one place with an open balcony and a gentle breeze of April as I sealed the night and retired myself to a deep sleep.
The next morning I woke up early and fancied myself to a nice cup of coffee in the cold gentle morning out in the balcony before the family woke up- and listened to Louis Armstrong as I gazed into the horizon; and the fleeting clouds passing over the skyline opened up a soft shade of blue. Jazzed up for the day if you know what I mean!
That same day we strolled down Jackson square and into the market. A nice slow afternoon of improvisational jazz, praline coffee and beignet. Thousands of small white powdery sweets all over myself as I took a bit. But that’s ok! There is no better way to eat a beignet. We hit some shops to buy souvenirs and a bag of Aunt Sally’s original creole pralines and little crafts for the kids to bring to our next destinations. A little drizzle of rain enhanced the taste of coffee while I enjoyed the time with the family almost to a point of a siesta. I downloaded one of the parking app to reserve for my parking and also extend parking time when I needed to without going back to the physical parking spot. I used the app parkmobile. It can be downloaded on both IOS and android. Enter the zone where you park, set an alarm, add time and you are all set. Never leaving the ambience of the place and letting your smartphone handle the rest. A modern convenience for the light traveler!
This trip was one of the very first trip we had when part of the country started to re-open shops and restaurants just a year into the pandemic. Many people were careful enough but during the peak hours of the night is where the streets get crowded. There are other alternatives to getting around the crowds. Choose and plot your route. Manage your time and reserve for a restaurant ahead of time to make your stay more relaxing and fun. On these family trips we are more focused on midday trips engaging the kids in small strolls, quick snacks and play at the nearest park.
We hit a few places to see like the St Louis cathedral, Woldenberg park, Jackson square and easy walk along canal street. The kids enjoyed the many colors on the street. The structures of cast iron balconies, above the ground cemeteries, beautiful 18th- century buildings, jazz clubs, street performers, and wonderful cajun dishes are just a few of what makes New Orleans one of my very favorite destinations. Although the french language have not been spoken here for more than a hundred years, a melting pot of Spanish and Caribbean descent make up for the diverse ethnicity and a flavorful savory dishes that reminds you of comfort food, hospitable and generous feast.
Our journey did not end here in the pulsating and vibrant downtown New Orleans but continued on to the more laid back- slow paced old towns along the Mississipi river. We ventured out to see Oak Alley plantation and learned about the significant historical background of this place. The towering 800 feet live oak canopies the alley way that takes you visually into the historical plantation and the antebellum mansion structure. It also make for a wonderful photo op.
Here the landscape of wide pasture speak the evolution of the plantation- endless in its greenery to where the eyes can see. The towering oak speaks of its rightful place in time. Its branches intertwines with the beautiful irony of this place where once a pecan grove thrived and stories of the people who laboured these fields continue to live and mingle with the history of how Louisiana came to be.
Flying into New Orleans the first time felt like we had a deep connection with the place and the food was absolutely home. It was a generous first stop experience of our journey to the deep south. Festive and laid back. We drove around one last time before our next long journey to our next destination and houses there tell of stories. To this day it continues to welcome families with a generous front yard no hurricane can ever displace.
This was a nice end to our trip to New Orleans. It is a place generous for its culinary experience, history, the people and it’s feel for deep music- music that continues to preserve the depth of one’s soul, tradition, how it reminds us of stories of old, mystery, and magic fused into one.
The series ‘A road trip to the deep south’ | Louisiana | Alabama- Georgia | Savannah | Florida |
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