Dec 10, 2011

A relatively slow Sunday night in the Big Easy

As fate would have it, not even traveling with a mysterious and exotic Gypsy could keep the rain away for most of the two days on the road on our way down to New Orleans.  So, by the time we approached the Big Easy Sunday evening, we were ready to reward ourselves with a stop at Middendorf’s on the bayou and some of their outstanding barbecued oysters. 

I intended to take a picture of these masterpieces, but what can I say?  I ate my half dozen before I had the chance.  But I did take a couple of pictures of the place all decked out for Christmas. 
The "thick or thin" refers to Middendorf's famous catfish.  I always go thin.

After our pit stop at Middendorf’s, we made our way into New Orleans on I-10 with a Lake Pontchartrain sunset behind us.  Things were looking up. 
It also helped that I made a Gypsy very happy when she realized our hotel was in the French Quarter, the first time had ever stayed inside the Quarter.  For location as well as service, and on-premises parking, I highly recommend the Prince Conti Hotel.  It’s on Conti Street a half block off of Bourbon.  Our room had a view of the street (and the noises that go along with it, but it was more than a fair trade-off).  Here’s a daytime view of the entrance … I like how you drive right into the old carriageway and into the valet parking. 

After a brief rest, we decided to roam the Quarter in search of some live music and just a few drinks before calling it a night.  We anticipated much heartier partying later in the trip (and we were right!) and did not want to overdo it on our first night in New Orleans.  A task easier said than done, I know. 
As a commoner experienced with New Orleans, I try to make some stops where the tourists aren’t.  Don’t get me wrong … I love a Bourbon Street crawl as much as any out-of-towner, but I also love mingling with the people who live and love New Orleans.  So, we passed up Bourbon early and headed toward Decatur Street, where got a tip about a folk band called the Red Level Dusters playing at the Kerry Irish Pub.    

Well, the “folk” band covered everything from Buddy Holly to Elvis to the Doors.  Not exactly what we expected, but enjoyable nonetheless.  We were really there for the atmosphere, anyway.  The bartender poured a perfect half and half for me, and Gypsy struck up a conversation an artist/bum who was obviously a regular.  What are the odds of that happening in New Orleans? (Yeah, pretty high.)  Actually, everyone there was friendly and made us feel welcome. 
For the second half of our musical double-feature, we went back to Bourbon Street and the Tropical Isle Bayou Club for a set of zydeco music from Brandon Morneau and Cajungrass.  There’s something about zydeco that even makes this commoner want to dance, and that’s even knowing I dance like the gopher from Caddyshack.  Ok, maybe it was the two hand grenades I drank while listening to the music.  Or maybe it was the irresistible Gypsy I was traveling with.  Regardless, we had a blast!

I took this picture before the hand grenades kicked in and the dancing began. 
After the hand grenades had taken full effect, I got a craving for one of my favorite late-night bites in the Quarter … a barbecued shrimp po-boy at the Alibi, a local watering hole just off Bourbon on Iberville Street.  With more than 150 brands of beer (they have a map of the world on the wall showcasing what they sell and where it’s from), and a great bar menu of burgers and appetizers, the Alibi has earned its reputation as one of the best bars in New Orleans.  And forgive me again for not taking any pictures to do it justice.  I barely remembered to take a picture of the po-boy before I devoured it all.  Damned hand grenades get me every time!

But wash one of these down with a cold Abita beer, and you have the perfect finish to the night.  At least I had. 
That wraps up night number one in New Orleans.  Next time, our trip to Magazine Street, Gypsy’s search for a bead store, and the dichotomy of going to a classic dive bar and an upscale wine bar in the same evening.

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