Tuesday, March 24, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments


Day 3.  New Orleans

With no desire to repeat yesterday's bumbling around, we started the day with some planning, outlining what we wanted to do today and sketching out the next few days—Extremis Louisianas to Lafayette by the weekend.  That done, we packed up and drove to the National World War II Museum on Magazine Street.

World War II Museum looks like a fleet of battleships.
First opened as a D-Day Museum in the year 2000, the museum has expanded its focus and grown into a complex of buildings housing numerous permanent galleries.  In 2003, Congress designated it "America's National World War II Museum."  Although the museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian, it does not offer that institution's free admission policy.  Adults pay $23 and seniors over 65 are charged $20.  We checked out the D-Day exhibit, the Freedom Pavilion in the Boeing Center with World War II era aircraft and vehicles, and the Road to Berlin interpretation.  At the latter, there was some nod to interactivity by having visitors register a faux dog tag, which enables one to follow the story of an individual's participation in the European sector of the war.

Bombed out scene
From sandy beaches to snowy mountains, displays in the Road to Berlin depicted fragments of settings in Europe where various events occurred.  As is often the case in modern museums, the audio sources from adjacent exhibits competed with each other, making both difficult to understand.  But for the most part, we thought the museum did a commendable job fulfilling its mission statement of telling the story of American involvement in World War II.

After all that combat, we were ready for something with a lighter tone, so we moved on to the quirky atmosphere of Jackson Square, pausing to check out the small French Quarter visitor center of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park near the square.  With sites scattered across south Louisiana, the park relates the history and culture of early New Orleans and the lower Mississippi River delta.

St. Louis Cathedral
The noon mass had just begun at the venerable St. Louis Cathedral, so our visit there would have to wait.  Meanwhile, we wandered around the square looking for a place for lunch.  That's when we met Galen, a ten-year-old Australian cattle dog who has mastered the trick of playing dead.  He gladly performs this believable illusion for tips or belly rubs, lying perfectly still until someone proffers the latter.  Then he opens his eyes and wriggles his gratitude.

Galen, a great New Orleans street performer
When we asked Galen's keeper whose idea it was for the dog to become a street performer, he replied that it was a trick the pup already knew when they hooked up a couple of years ago at a rescue center.  Clearly this is a dog who enjoys his work and based on his collection of tips, he seems to be pretty well rewarded for his efforts.

We finally settled on Stanley Restaurant on the square for lunch.  Specializing in New Orleans comfort food, the menu was a less than ideal match for a pair of salad lovers.  But the food was very fresh, and the service impeccable.  At Stanley, we caught our first glimpse of the New Orleans style of hospitality, and we were impressed.  Both the hostess and server were brimming with friendliness enhanced by a convincing sincerity.

St. Louis Cathedral interior
By the time we finished eating, mass had ended and we were able to step into St. Louis Cathedral.  The oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States was named for the king of France, with the original place of worship established on the site in 1718.  Within ten years, a permanent church was completed, though it was destroyed by fire some sixty years later.  The current building was completed in 1851 and displays flags of the governments which have ruled over the city as well as religious banners.

Jackson Square artistic offerings
Back outside, we watched the street performers—musicians, magicians, fortune tellers, living statues— and their audiences as we ventured across the square to the legendary Cafe du Monde, hoping to score one of their powdery pillowy pastries known as beignets.  As usual, the cafe was overflowing with people out to satisfy their own sweet tooths, so we opted to pass on the beignet and picked up a praline, another traditional New Orleans confectionery, in the French Market.

Since we were in the area, we decided on a whim to stroll up Dumaine Street on the slim chance we might run into Jacques, a costume-loving French mastiff we had met hanging out in front of his home on Dumaine in December, 2012.  When our memory failed us on the exact location, we pulled up a photo of the natty canine on our blog and realized we were standing exactly at his address.

Jacques (L) and Jules (R)
Just at that moment, the dog's owner walked out the door.  "Aren't you the guy with the well-dressed dog?" we asked.  In the ensuing conversation, we learned that Jacques had died a couple of years ago, and despite the owner's avowal to remain puppyless, he now has Jules, an eight-month-old female of the same breed.  He brought the fetching lass outside to introduce us.

So far, Jules has not learned to love costumes as Jacques did, but the gentleman is optimistic that she will.  She has been attending obedience school, the only place where she is perfectly behaved, leading trainers to ask her befuddled owner why she is there.  Jules is rather skittish, he explained, still adjusting to the noise and commotion of living in the French Quarter, but hope springs eternal.  We'll definitely seek them out again to check on Jules' sartorial progress when we return to New Orleans.

A popular New Orleans attraction
Back at Jackson Square on the way to our car, we paused to talk with "Horace," a carriage driver who's been in the business for 27 years.  When we remarked about the extra cushion of padding on his mule's harness, he replied, "She takes care of me, so I have to take care of her."

Ten years ago, Katrina left five feet of water in his house, "but I'm back," he said.  "My house is OK now."  Like the employees in Stanley, he seemed genuinely friendly, glad to chat with us even if we weren't buying his service.

After picking up our car, we headed toward our hotel.  Along the way, we stumbled upon Jenavieve Cook and the Royal Street Windin' Boys performing at the corner of Royal and Conti.  With Jenavieve on vocals and trumpet, they were offering up some entertaining old-style New Orleans jazz as well as a bit of blues.

Eventually we reached Lamothe House, an 1839 city mansion converted to a French Quarter guest house.  Its location at the cusp of the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood had lured us there.  It was in easy walking distance of Frenchman Street.  Often referred to as "the locals' Bourbon Street", Frenchman was the place New Orleanians had consistently pointed us to when we asked where to find blues music in the city.

Frenchman was also the place where we were treated to yet another generous serving of New Orleans hospitality.  Greeters were standing outside several of the clubs and restaurants on the street to welcome you into their establishments.  When we told one we were looking for blues music, she replied that her particular venue did not have any blues performances that night but proceeded to find us a place down the street where Dana and the Boneshakers were playing.  Highly recommending the band, she sent us off to Bamboula's, once again amazed at the ability of New Orleans locals to make us feel genuinely welcome in their city.

Tomorrow we'll leave New Orleans to explore more of Louisiana, but not before we had a chance to hear a little New Orleans blues from Dana and her crew.

Daily Stats
  • Artists in Jackson Square:  23
  • Carriages around Jackson Square:  16
  • Street performers around Jackson Square:  42
  • Shops around Jackson Square:  26
  • Tourists around Jackson Square:  1,529
  • Statues of Andrew Jackson in Jackson Square:  1

My Gal Sal, a B17E lost in a World War II mission over Greenland and recovered 53 years later
Jackson Square in its spring glory
A team reconnaissance of Dumaine Street