Sunday, April 11, 2010

Local Tourism and the Kickoff of Festival Season

Have you seen the Disney movie The Princess and the Frog yet? If you haven't, please go out and rent it. We've been watching a lot of it since it came out on video recently and I think I love it every bit as much as Bean does. Cute story, great message and best of all, it's set in my beloved New Orleans! Each time we watch it, I bust with pride about being a New Orleanian. And yes, I mean bust, not burst....I'm a Southern (prounounced: suh-thuhn) girl after all.

What I found interesting, though, after watching this movie so many times, is that Bean had no idea that she lived near this amazing city. So, on Monday I decided that we would become tourists in our own home town. Now, I take her into the city quite often, either to the zoo or the aquarium and quite often I will take her for a little walk on the waterfront edge of the French Quarter, but I don't think I had really told her Where we were.

We started out the day by parking in the Uptown area, so called because it is upriver from downtown, not because it is particularly ritzy, although there are some AMAZING mansions along St. Charles Avenue. Due to the crazy nature of this city, you can have an incredibly wealthy neighborhood right next to one of the poorer ones. It just adds to the gumbo that is New Orleans. And no, it's not N'Awlins as so many would like to call it. Yes, we do slur the two words together a bit, but we definitely start the word with a New sound.

Anyhow, back to our day. We parked our car on St. Charles Avenue not far from Tulane University (my alma mater) and jumped on the streetcar headed downtown. I pointed out to Bean that we were riding on the streetcar just like Tiana (the princess) and her mommy did in the movie. This clicked with her and she really enjoyed the ride. It was a perfect day, cool with low humidity and we rode with the window up (open) for about half of the ride. I pointed out some of the houses that I had grown to love while I was in school and she pointed out others to me that she liked. So much fun!

When we got downtown, we hopped off the car and headed into the French Quarter. I walked a little ways with her on Bourbon Street (it was early in the day, so no drunks walking about) then cut over to Royal Street (where a lot of the art galleries are) and made our way to Jackson Square where the St. Louis Cathedral is. The square was so beautiful with all the azaleas in bloom and we had a lot of fun playing peek-a-boo from behind the crepe myrtles!

Once it got to lunchtime, we headed to one of the restaurants on the square to get some gumbo. Bean had promised to try it, but true to her picky nature, refused once it got to the table. She ate chicken fingers instead while I enjoyed gumbo and some fried crab claws with remoulade sauce. Yummy! I swear half the reason I never left this city after I graduated is because of the food! Okay, well maybe the Hubby has more to do with it...but I really do enjoy the food, too!

After lunch, I allowed Bean a really great treat as we headed over to the World Famous Cafe du Monde for some beignets. She loved them and amazingly enough did not make a complete mess of herself with the powdered sugar they liberally dump on them! We sat next to the outside edge of the restaurant, which is fenced in by a low, wrought-iron fence. Right outside the fence was a trumpeter playing lots of local jazz and he loved it when Bean began singing "Oh When the Saints Go Marching In" with him. She can be so outgoing when she wants to be, and quite charming. I was really proud of her the whole day on Monday.

We walked around a little bit after our beignets taking in the sights and sounds of the quarter, including a brass band and another kinda folksy, blues band. Bean loves music and danced around quite a bit and got a real kick out of putting money into the bands' tip jars. We also made a quick stop by the Quarter Stitch, one of my favorite yarn shops! No matter how much yarn I seem to accumulate, I never can seem to pass that store up. They are so sweet in there and have a shop dog that is more than happy to keep my little darling busy while I browse. Somehow, six skeins of koigu and one of Jitterbug sock yarn found their way into my stroller. Not sure how that happened exactly.... ;-)

But, we had to call it a morning as the Bean was starting to get a bit tired (heck, so was I) and jumped in a cab back up to our car. It was such a fantastic day and even stepping in a little dog poop once we got back to our car didn't take me out of my fabulous mood! I enjoyed introducing my little girl to the city I love so much and can't believe how long it had been since I actually stopped long enough to enjoy it properly!


This weekend kicked off one of my favorite times of year in Louisiana - Festival Season! Not to be confused with Carnival Season (which culminates with Mardi Gras) Louisiana has some of the greatest outdoor festivals around celebrating every type of food you can imagine and lots of great music. I truly am not meaning to dog on any other part of the world, but this area of the South has such a unique personality, and this time of year it really showcases all of the things that make it special.

This weekend we started things off right by heading down to the French Quarter Festival on Saturday morning. Bean was very excited to be going back to New Orleans so soon and I think had her heart set on getting some more beignets. (Sorry, kiddo, there was no way I was waiting in the crazy line for them this time!) But we did have a great time sitting out on a big lawn next to the river, listening to a brass band and eating all kinds of yumminess. You wouldn't believe the variety that exists among the food booths at these things, everything from bbq to fried alligator on a stick. I had shrimp tacos and some of the most delicous, creamy macaroni and cheese I have ever had in my life. Then followed that up with some fresh strawberry crepes. Mmm, mmm, my belly was happy. Then we walked around, again finding ourselves near Jackson Square and then walked up Royal Street toward where we had parked. On the way, we found a wonderful little gypsy-jazz group playing on the street (it's a pedestrian mall during the day) and stopped to watch them for quite some time. Bean danced and joyfully put some money in their jar again and was so excited when we let her buy one of their cd's. She wasn't so excited about the cd itself, but got quite a kick out of giving someone money and getting something back for it. What a little grown-up, huh?

Anyhow, we headed back to our car and home so Bean and I could catch an afternoon nap. She was supposed to go over to her grandparents' house that night and Hubby and I decided to take advantage of the fact and head out for some dinner at one of our favorite little restaurants, Cafe Degas. The sole basis of the decision to go there was the fact that I was totally craving paneed veal! This kid is definitely giving me much stronger cravings that Bean did when I was pregnant with her! Dinner was amazing (escargot, veal, and frozen lemon ice box pie for dessert)! All in all, I think Saturday was a perfect day!

But the weekend continued to be so much fun! This morning we got up and once again, the weather was lovely. We headed up to the small town of Ponchatoula, which is up on the north shore of Lake Pontchatrain, for their annual Strawberry Festival. So much good food to be had, along with rides and midway games. We met up with one of my dearest friends from college and her family, which is always a treat and had a great time. For those of you who know me, you know my world tends to rotate around food and today certainly did not dissapoint: a rib-eye sandwich (so Tender), a seafood baked potato (which was basically a potato slathered with a creamy cheese sauce and topped with shrimp and crawfish), gumbo, strawberry shortcake, and a (non-alcoholic) strawberry daquiri! I was so fat and happy when we headed out of that festival! Bean and Hubby had a great time, too. They spent a lot of time on the rides (which I can't go on right now) and it was wonderful bonding time for the two of them.

Sometimes Hubby has to spend a little too much time at work and when he does, he definitely needs a little time to reconnect with her. She adores him, though, and it was wonderful watching them play and chase each other around at the festivals this weekend. Made me fall even more madly in love with them both!

Okay, I know this post is woefully lacking in pictures, but I'm feeling a bit lazy tonight and I don't feel like going out to my car to get the camera out. So check back tomorrow and I will have a post with just pictures and captions in it to share with you how much fun we had.

I hope all of you had great weekends, too. Hugs from the Deep South!


Anonymous said...

I love the way this post sings with joy! What a wonderful weekend!

Solanaceae said...

I have watched the movie twice since it came out on DVD. It. Is. Awesome. New Orleans is on my list of places I must visit before I die. The people, the food, the music, the history... there are so many things that make the city great! Sounds like you had a blast!