best of my trip to new orleans

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dear anderson,

as i mentioned in my letter about the “joys” of travel, i was recently in new orleans. i went for a work conference, and decided that because it’s so far away and such a cool place, i should stay for a few extra days.  i brought my mom with me and we stayed for a week in the french quarter.  i know you’ve been there, and had planned on being there for mardi gras this year, so i’m sure nothing i tell you will be a revelation, but nevertheless i wanted to tell you about the highlights of my trip.

best food – oysters

i started eating oysters a few years ago but dipping a toe in and eating deep fried ones.  you can’t go wrong with deep fried food, so it was a nice way to introduce me to a food that previously grossed me out.  i still don’t quite get how a slimy food you don’t really even chew is such a delicacy, but it is, and i’m ok with that.  before i even knew i was going to new orleans i saw a show on the food network that talked about charbroiled oysters in new orleans – they cover them in butter, garlic and parmesan cheese and cook them on a grill.  i totally drooled just thinking about them.  so the first thing i looked up when i started planning my trip was these oysters at drago’s.  and wow, they did not disappoint. i think in total i ate about 60 oysters on this trip; some charbroiled, some raw and even deep fried with hot sauce in a po’ boy.  i would go back for the oysters alone.

best picture – st. louis cemetery #1

my mom loves a good cemetery.  i don’t think it’s because she is overly morbid or enjoys literally dancing on people’s graves, i just think she likes the symbols of remembrance.  i hope that’s the case anyay…we went to one that was just outside the french quarter, and it was a really cool place.  the tombs were mostly about 200 years old, though obviously with more recent additions to them.  the cemetery definitely was hit by hurricane katrina, so many bricks and pieces of marble had fallen off.  we ran into a tour there (pretty sure it was legit!) that was run by a group hoping to restore and preserve the tombs that no longer have living caretakers.  i love this picture; it’s just what a picture taken in a cemetery should be.

best tour – laura, a creole plantation

mom and i took a couple tours.  one was a hurricane katrina tour to help get to know more of the city than just the french quarter and to wrap our heads around what actually happened.  i have to admit that i was shocked to still see how much clean up is needed.  we saw houses and neighbourhoods that looked like the waters just receded yesterday.  the tour guide didn’t hold back at all and really gave everyone the chance to take a good hard look at insurance, government, race and capitalism. but the tour that was most refreshing was the laura plantation tour.  we actually visited two plantations that day, oak alley and laura, which was a really good idea because the two were vastly different.  oak alley was all about the lives and lifestyle of the plantation owners – the furniture, the view, the construction and the family members.  the plantation itself was beautiful; no wonder so many movies have been filmed there.  the grounds, the house and the alley of 28 oak trees were exactly how i pictured them to be – just like scarlett o’hara! but it wasn’t until we got to laura for their tour, did we notice a glaring omission.  yes, there were references to where the slave quarters would have been and where the bell was to call everyone in from the fields, but that was it. the tour at laura is build around the autobiography of one of its last slave owners who read ‘gone with the wind’ and thought it was glossing over a lot of what life on a plantation was really like.  so this tour put it all out there, at one point when we were all out on the back porch the tour guide told a passionate story about a slave who was going to be sold and separated from his family.  i have been on a lot of tours in my lifetime, and this one was really great.  full of detail and anecdotes and truth.

best southern hospitality – anne at ida manheim antiques

this one was a bit of a tossup between a fellow convention attendee who called my mom “mam” with no hint of irony and nothing but respect and anne. anne won because she was the definition of a genteel southern woman.  i’m pretty sure she was wearing a chanel suit and pearls, actually she reminded me of your mom anderson! anyway, my mom and i went into this antique shop just to see what a quality shop was like.  we inadvertently stepped into another world.  the antiques we have here are like 1920s frying pans, or if you’re lucky some depression era glass.  this place had louis xv writing desks, chinese armoires, chippendale tables and more.  it was pretty clear we were not quite in our element, but anne never once made that judgment.  she showed us all three floors and described countless items, always acting as if we were about to drop 40k on a lamp.  she did almost convince me to get a writing set with her 20% offer, then it would have only been 5,000$.  when we left mom and i said how refreshing it was to not have someone turn their nose up and not give the time of day to us in a higher end store. thanks for being such a cool lady anne.

best waiter – commander’s palace

i wanted to eat at commander’s palace because once again i saw something on the food network.  a chef who grew up in new orleans talked about her fond childhood memories of eating bread pudding there, and i just had to have some.  also, it seemed like such a refined place to go in for lunch in the garden district.  when we got there, they tried to seat us upstairs with the riff raff, but mom wasn’t having any of that and used her weak knees to their fullest to get us a table in the main room.  the meal was great, the 25 cent martinis were the perfect touch and the bread pudding was phenomenal.  but what made us patently aware that we were somewhere fancy was after we finished our appetizers and the waiter came by to give us new water glasses.  not refill them, no, he had a silver tray on which he placed our semi-used glasses and replaced them with fresh glasses.  a totally unnecessary waste, but i loved it!!

best art gallery – the shop

mom and i spent some time on royal street shopping and browsing galleries.  we saw some really great art.  there was even a gallery that had some pieces by miro and picasso.  very cool.  the one place that i felt a connection to was the shop.  it was this cool gallery with some of the neatest contemporary art i’ve ever seen.  i still can’t stop thinking about the work of fleetwood covington – drawings on scrap metal.  very powerful and different stuff.  The Shop’s website.

well anderson, i hope to get back to that city again and learn even more about it.

have a great day,

~k

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