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Friday, March 22, 2013

A View of the Café du Monde Corner

  Since 1862, Café du Monde has been serving café au lait and beignets to the people of New Orleans and millions of tourists in the same location across from the corner of Decatur Street and St. Ann street.  If you have ever visited New Orleans, or if you ever plan to, you will end up here.  Everyone does.

A coveted spot for street performers, this prime stage is guaranteed to feature a music act.  Such acts might include a few horn players, guitarists, or the occasional harmonica player.  You can't get more authentic blues jazz than the music you'll hear as you sip your coffee.  Just don't forget to drop a dollar or two into the bucket/hat/box/basket as you head off into the French Quarter.

To get to the French Quarter from Café du Monde, you'll have to cross Decatur.  Enjoy the last sounds of the musicians beside you as you wait for the signal to cross.  Once across, you won't need to watch for traffic on St. Ann, since it is closed to vehicles.

On your right, you'll see the Pontalba buildings, which were built by the Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba in the 1840s.  Originally they were row houses, but became apartments in the 1930s.  Many boutiques on the first floor provide ample shopping choices for tourists.  Restaurants are also in abundance, including Rivers Edge, Stanley, and the Pontalba Café.  The buildings face both the northeast and southwest sides of Jackson square.

If you're interested in a carriage ride around the Quarter, this is the place to find one.  You'll find plenty of carriages, pulled by either a jack or a jenny (a male or a female mule).  Expect to pay a fairly hefty sum to climb aboard (the current rate is $18 per person), however, you can be sure to hear only top-notch and highly entertaining lies from the drivers who are not hesitant to embellish their stories of New Orleans and its sordid past.

  If, instead of a carriage ride, you're hungry for some authentic New Orleans' food, you might want to walk a few blocks up Decatur street away from Jackson Square, until you reach Central Grocery.  Forget about all those little restaurants selling gumbo and boiled shrimp.  You can get that some other time.  Here at Central Grocery, which has been around since 1906, you can get one of the most famous sandwiches in New Orleans.  The Mufuletta.
  Made with an olive salad base, this iconic sandwich draws customers from the ranks of tourists, celebrities, and the local population.  Expect to stand in line for a short wait.  I've seen a line outside the doors on a Sunday morning before the store has even opened.  A little full disclosure here: I don't like olives, so I don't partake of this delicacy.  However, my wife loves them, and generally wants to grab a sandwich to take home as we're leaving the city.
  Central Grocery is also known for its variety of ethnic foods displayed on their shelves.  They carry Italian, Greek, Spanish, French, and Creole products.  Here you'll find canned octopus, hearts of palm, and (so I've heard) bumble bees in soy sauce.  I've not actually seen that last item there, but I didn't look very hard for it.
Don't think the kids would enjoy a coffee stand?  Think again! Our kids
learned to drink coffee here (it's really only half coffee, the other half is
cut with milk).  And there's no kid in the world who wouldn't want to eat
beignets.  Better than any doughnut, you'll love these treats, which are
always liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Four in each order, you'll
want to get at least two plates.
  So be sure to stop by and get some coffee and beignets.  It may sound like Café du Monde is so famous you'll never get a table, but there always seems to be tables available.  You can even find it empty if you get up early enough in the morning or stay late enough.  It is open twenty-four hours a day, and every day except Christmas.  After Hurricane Katrina, it was closed for two months.  But it received little damage, and they took the down time as an opportunity to upgrade the facilities.  Also, remember that they only take cash, so hit the ATM before you go.

Use these links for 2014 calendars featuring my photography from New Orleans:

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Saint Christopher Lights

For those of you who were unaware of it, this story is available online at Rocket Fire Journal.  The Saint Christopher Lights tells the story of a society in the future who has found a way to rid their world of the dead.  Eli, a young man with a curiosity about the dead that friends and family collectively condemn, discovers that regardless of society's attempts to banish the dead from their world, the dead are harder to cast out than expected.

The Saint Christopher Lights,
a short story by Jason Phillip Reeser