When Elliott found out he was going to New Orleans for a work conference this year, it was a given that I would tag along. We knew we would be in for some good food, soulful music, and 80˚ weather, but we’ve been floored by culture shock since arriving. This town is a complete 180˚ from Seattle and one of the coolest American cities we’ve ever visited. Between the architecture, tropical heat, and odd critters cropping up on menus, it’s often easy to think you’re in a foreign country.
The French Quarter is the obvious stop for lovers of music, food, and culture. Though Bourbon Street is more of a frat party on steroids, the gas-lit side streets offer a colorful variety of sights and sounds. On our first night, we walked casually down Frenchmen Street catching a few songs at each bar along the way. When we thought we were finished, another band would lure us in and we were wowed all over again. It took us a long time to get home, to say the least!
As part of Elliott’s conference this week, we got the chance to visit Mardi Gras World, the Disneyland of New Orleans. On the way into the venue, we were greeted by a marching band, men on stilts, and a warehouse full of floats from the Mardi Gras parade. We felt like we’d just walked onto a very strange movie lot with larger than life figures such as Yoda, the Wicked Witch, and King Kong.
Then we were paraded to the Mansion, a large plantation style building set in a swampy bayou. As we enjoyed the fiddle show and Southern appetizers, I pointed out that the fading sunset and glowing stars were not even real. We had one of those surreal moments where what we thought was true, was in fact our version of “The Truman Show.”
After the event, we went to Cafe Du Monde, a 150 year old cafe next to the Mississippi, famous for their beignets and café au lait. I was not disappointed by the powdered sugar-covered treats and the café au lait was the perfect complement. The chicory root gives it a sweet, smoky flavor that also mellows out the bitterness of the super strong coffee.
After our late-night dessert, we strolled home through the streets of the French Quarter and happened upon this church. As we were walking by, the unmistakeable sound of live music lured us into Pirate’s Alley.
A group of musicians casually sat around a table with their drinks and instruments and gave the gathering crowd a lively show with what became one of our favorite acts of the entire trip. To end the show, the musicians stood up and played a ragtime rendition of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” What a way to end the night!