Soaking up the sun in NOLA

When I was a child, one of my favorite books was a large-format slim hardcover called Frederick, by Leo Lionni. It was about a field mouse who didn’t help the other mice in his group with gathering nuts and grain for the winter, but sat on a rock gathering, essentially, memories…of sunshine and warmth, colors and words. The other mice aren’t pleased with what they perceive as Frederick’s lack of industry, until the food supplies run out, and Frederick is able to warm them through the rest of the winter with his stories, painting mental pictures so that they are cheered with thoughts of the spring to come.

I definitely channeled Frederick on our most recent visit to New Orleans back in January, even though we had no idea quite what a February we would be in for here in Boston. People-watching in Jackson Square, or on the ferry to Algiers, or in a wine store’s backyard in the Bywater, or on the sidewalk outside the Lafitte Blacksmith shop with a final beverage before flying home, I soaked up the sun, because because I knew it would be a while before we were that warm again.

As regular readers of this blog and our good friends know well, we’ve been to New Orleans quite a few times. I think this was visit number eight. It’s one of our favorite places, and this trip confirmed that. While we have a few old standby places we love to go, on each visit we try to fit in a few new adventures, expanding our understanding of this most lovely American city. Here are some highlights from our five days.

First stop on Thursday – the Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street for Miss Sophie Lee. I never tire of her voice. And we finally got to see Davis Rogan (on whom the Davis Macallary character in Treme is based on, and who also appears in the show).

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Finally made it to Donald Link’s Cochon Butcher. The boudin (pictured below) was delicious, but the real star there is the muffaletta. Well worth the 45-minute wait.

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Soaking in the sun at Dat Dog. With pretty much the only balcony on Frenchman, this chain hot dog place would be worth going even if the hotdogs were just OK. Luckily, they are actually REALLY good also.

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A fantastic new discovery: Bacchanal in the Bywater. A brilliant concept: select your wine in the shop, order some food at the same time, pay inside and then take your beverages out back to the picnic tables where you can enjoy them in the sun. The food here was some of the best we had on this trip. Music happens most nights, and it’s an easy walk from the Quarter up Chartres street. This will become a regular stop henceforth.

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We finally made it to the Pharmacy Museum, on Royal Street. The $5 admission is well worth it, if you enjoy the history and unique marketing of the “remedies” that were once commonplace, including various tonics, leeches, mercury and alcohol.

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Another new place: Kermit’s Mother-in-law Lounge, in the Treme, where we saw not just Kermit Ruffins, but also James “Sleeping Giant” Winfield, a rare treat. This is very much a locals place and feels like you’re in someone’s rec room. Very cool.

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Local scenery as we walked through the Bywater and back to the Marigny.

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Various views from along both sides of the river, and from the Algiers ferry.

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Though it was a bit chilly upon our arrival (50s), it was always sunny, and by the last day it warmed up to the 70s. We took advantage of the weather to stay outside as much as possible, which is why, on this visit, we replaced our typical “last lunch” at Coop’s with Napoleon House, where we sat in their open air courtyard. Besides having my favorite muffaletta in the city (Cochon is a very close second, but my heart is still with this warm version), sitting here allows you to soak up a final bit of historic New Orleans–elegant, a bit worn, and all the lovelier for it.

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We’ll be doing a restaurant update soon of the places we at at this trip, which includes some newfound gems, updated reviews of old standbys, and some cautionary tales. But for now, this final image, which we can’t help but think was directed at us.

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