Saturday 14th May 2022
Bourbon Street was considerably emptier and much quieter when we set off on our sightseeing walk the following morning. This makes it far less hazardous when you stop suddenly to gaze upwards and admire the beautiful buildings and balconies although we did have to avoid stepping on a few revellers who were still sleeping it off on the sidewalk.
The delicate ironwork on galleries and balconies in the French Quarter is apparently a later addition from the mid 1800s and is derived from Spanish architecture, designed to mimic the delicacy of Spanish lace although the French fleur-de-lis is also a common motif.
By contrast, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar is housed in a typical early Creole cottage, believed to be the oldest structure continually used as a bar in the south of America. It was built in the 1720s and supposedly served as a front for slave trading, contraband and other illegal activities. There are no electric lights so this bar is especially atmospheric lit solely by candlelight. Robert planned a return visit after dark, just to be sure the descriptions were accurate.
The French Market spans six blocks from Café du Monde downriver from Jackson Square to the US Mint.
Brightly coloured clothing and delicious food smells compete for your attention in the arcades of the French Market. In our case the food won as we had not had breakfast.
Down by the river we were able to enjoy the sight of a paddle steamer setting off on a day cruise.
Approaching Jackson Square from the Mississippi Riverfront you pass through Washington Artillery Park.
Jackson Square is named after Andrew Jackson, hero of the battle of New Orleans who went on to become the US President.
On one side of the square sits St Louis Cathedral, its three spires reminiscent of a fairytale castle. The gleaming white exterior contrasts with the interior where the stained glass tells the story of the saintly life of King Louis IX of France.
To the right stands the Presbytere, built in the 1790s in the Spanish Colonial Style to match the Cabildo on the other side of the Cathedral.
Some of the streets are lined with hitching posts appropriately shaped as horses heads.
As well as the grand houses with balconies, the French Quarter has some lovely smaller properties. Matilda could just see herself sitting in a rocking chair watching the world go by, daiquiri in hand.
Many of the balconies are highly decorated, either by the businesses which operate from them or their owners and bubble machines are a popular feature.
There are several streetcar routes, and we planned to travel to the Garden District on the St Charles Streetcar on Monday, after the weekend tourists had gone home.
Whether it was the soaring temperatures or simply the effect which New Orleans has on people, Matilda was finding it difficult to keep Robert focussed on culture in this amazing city. His inclination towards sampling as many cold beers in as many hostelries as possible was overwhelming. However, the temperature was rising and we were lucky enough to find some seating on the balcony at Bourbon Pub Parade [see Selfie of the day] where we watched a wedding parade being escorted down the street by police riders.
We returned to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar while the sun was sinking. Here we met a woman who admired the colour of Robert’s eyes and recommended a place for breakfast the following morning.
We were impressed by the cocktail dispensers which have been fashioned to look like washing machines.
It seems parading in the street is also permitted for birthdays and we realised how tame our own celebrations have been to date. Matilda has something to aim for for Robert’s 60th when it comes.