Friday, September 19, 2014

New Orleans - Bywater

Displaying image.jpgThe Big Easy. The Crescent City. The City that Care Forgot. The Birthplace of Jazz, a feast for the senses, a big pot of delicious gumbo....New Orleans is all those things and more.

I will have more photos to come - once I get my husband to forward his photos from his new toy/iPhone. But above we have the classic beignets from Cafe du Monde. The gentleman below were performing out front...

Displaying image.jpgEverywhere you go there is music in the air and an amazing number of phenomenal street muscians...

Our first few days were spent in the area called Bywater - not far from the French Quarter to the east. Filled with colourful little houses, like little wedding cakes and also a number of interesting and delicious restaurants, cafe and clubs - patronized by the oh so hip residents - i.e. lots of guys with full beards..this area was a delight.

At the edge of Fabourg Marigny - the next area from the French Quarter heading east and neighbouring Bywater.

We stayed through Air B and B at the wonderful "Dragonfly Inn B and B" - our host Victoria was a wealth of information about the area - she also had restaurant menus and maps etc. In our backyard were some enchanting resident chickens and two rescue pigs! The accommodatiosns were lovely with a big high bed our own kitchen facilities including coffemaker, blender, microwave, stove (in case someone wanted to do some cooking /baking). There were also lots of snacks provided and an Emerg-C Electrolyte replacer - thoughtful!
Me and one of the bicycles in front of Dragonfly Garden B and B

Loved the streets signs embedded in the sidewalks....

Taking her suggestion to check out Frenchmen Street (a better alternative to Bourbon) we listened to the great Shotgun Jazz Band at Maison - the leader of the group is a Canadian and she provided powerful vocals and trumpet. The trombone player, also female, was a standout! They of course played traditional jazz. While wandering down the street we also heard a fine brass band a la Dirty Dozen and visited the artists market - which happens at night. For dinner we had some yummy Mediterranean food at Mona's, stuffed grape leaves, a big salad, hummous and pita etc.  We also checked out Bourbon Street - which was loud and busy - but no where near as crazy as during Mardi Gras Fraser assured me, where it takes half an hour to walk a block. Frenchmen Street is like what Bourbon Street used to be..when F last visited some 30 years ago all the venues had jazz - not the case any more...most are rock and roll.
Shotgun Jazz Band
Brass band on the corner of Frenchmen Street

I remained frustrated with my Zydeco search, though....caught the last tune of a band at a place in Bywater. Drat.


Another sultry Southern day with the temperature hovering around 31 -32 C. It seemed common for thunderstorms to happen mid-day or early afternoon and then clear out. We decided to get out of the city for a few hours and took a plantation tour through Cajun Adventures.  En route to the pick up spot on Decatur (The French Market Inn) we perused shops at the French Market, the restaurants/take out places and for me - jewellery - yes, I bought some from Oscar.  I had also researched all the veg options prior to our trip - I suggest checking out this blog:

This post was extremely helpful to us!!

Breakfast at Satsuma!

We got on our bikes - provided at the Dragonfly and set out over some verr-r-r-ry bumpy roads to Satsuma Cafe on 3218 Dauphine street for some vegan brunch, enjoying a black bean and tofu scramble, salad and a juice. They sure love their ginger in juices here - I guess they have a more spicy palate. Also avocado and asparagus show up in salads alot! We arrived over on Decatur before the heavens opened up and it was off to the country and the Laura and Oak Alley Plantations.

Our shuttle driver - Elly - gave us a steady stream of tourist info as he drove such as the Mercedes Benz Superdome holds 97.000 people. He had us introduce ourselves to our neighbours - across the aisle from Nottingham, in front from Australia and behind us two ladies from....Mississauga. We drove over a lot of elevated highways - a necessity where there is so much swamp!

Laura Plantation with Camille our guide

Our tour guide at Laura was Camille, a live wire Creole, herself a descendant of plantation owners on the river. At one time there was possibly 300 slaves on the plantation and 67 cabins..slaves worked up to 14 hour days and didn't have the most sustaining or nutritious diet. I could sense this overwhelming feeling of sadness. The plantation was run by the women (most efficiently by Laura's fearsome grandmother) as the Creoles chose not necessarily the eldest son but the smartest child to run things. Seems a lot of the menfolk didn't live that long or well - lots of drinking,carousing and gambling...sometimes they were sent to France to straighten themselves out. Laura wrote a book about plantation life in the 1930's at the urging of her daughters and due to that other massive bestseller of the time period.

Interestingly, the most "troublesome" slaves were placed furthest away from the house and the prettiest...ahem, closest.

Fraser on the upper porch looking over Oak Alley

The next stop was "Oak Alley" - which I'm sure you've seen in any number of films. It was featured in "Interview with the Vampire". It's what you would expect a plantation house to look like - Greek Revival columns etc. It's gorgeous and impressive whereas Laura is much more a working plantation - everyone grew sugarcane. Several of our fellow tourists (myself included) enjoyed a mint julep on the tour..powerful stuff. Our driver recounted that recently he had a lady on board who had THREE during the tour and subsequently left a pungent reminder on the bus..oh dear.

Yours truly on the porch of one of the remaining slave cabins. Very tiny. By the way, front porches are de rigeur everywhere here.

Our day concluded back in New Orleans in the French Quarter and dinner at Bennachin - a wonderful African restaurant...see meals below. We had Kone Mi Makondo - Black eyed peas in Onion and Tomato Stew with coconut rice and fried plantain and Baham - Broccoli Cauliflower and Carrots in a Light Ginger Sauce with Couscous. We had leftovers the next day..yumm! The dishes were definitely flavourful with a nice kick - I was not bold enough to try Bikai ni Curry - a spicier dish!

There ain't body here but us chickens......


En route to the St. Charles streetcar we perused shops at the French Market, the restaurants/take out places and for me - jewellery - yes, I bought some from Oscar - iridescent blue feather shapes and red rectangles and a butterfly pin. We plan on going back to check out the "Meals from the Heart" cafe.

One of our backyard residents....

Another lovely house in the neighbourhood....
We decided to go over to Santa Fe Tapas on St. Charles and enjoy their noted Vegan Brunch - we were not disappointed. Fraser counts it as one of the highlights of his trip! He especially enjoyed the vegan gumbo! It think below those are some sort of croquette - I have posted the menu below so you can check.


Mushroom Tostada

Our waiter/entertainment

The might need to enlarge it...

Our waiter/entertainer even did a Gordon Lightfoot tune when he learned we were Canadians...Since we were in the neighbourhood we walked down Terpsichore where Fraser's brother Murray lived when he worked at Pat O'Briens many moons ago...

Then it was back to check out the cemetary next to Louis Armstrong park and Louis' park itself. We squeaked in just before closing at the cemetary and were shooed out along with a few other tourists...

Taking the bus back along St. Claude to our Bywater hood we walked down to Poland Avenue to Bacchanal a fun little bar/restaurant close to the river where they have a wine shop and an amazing selection of wine. There was a free wine tasting and we were already getting a little tipsy before we had our glasses of rose and went downstairs to the patio to enjoy the jazz trio...

The music was great and the mosquitoes were having quite the feast. Our landlady told us and we observed that it's very popular to order a bread and cheese plate to go with the wine.

Before heading to dinner at "Feelings" we checked out the new riverside walkways/park that they have been working on..

This is the view from a bridge over the railroad tracks that's fairly can apparently walk downtown to the French Quarter from there.

The lovely courtyard at "Feelings" and our meal - they have a separate vegan menu. There is also a strictly vegan restaurant upstairs called "Bhava" and I believe a yoga studio.

Next installment...we move from Bywater to downtown - the Intercontinental for Fraser's Inforum conference.


Santa Fe Tapas is on 1327 St. Charles Avenue - so you can take the St. Charles car there. By the way transit in NOLA is super cheap - you can get a day pass for $3!!!/ Each fare is $1.25.

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