31 May 2009

NOLA iv | Beignets & Ghosts

A sign of clothing comfort: I woke up still wearing my dress. It was wrinkled. We hit Bourbon Street after the reception and I think I suggested pizza. Too bad the smell made me want to be sick. I truly lament this, because the pizza was delicious. I wanted to eat it. But as soon as I ate it, I wanted to un-eat it. My dear friends Abby & Elizabeth began escorting me home. Jesse was there too, wearing two pairs of silly glasses and some sort of mask. Abby was my main guide, which is ridiculous because she's at least 4 inches shorter than I am. She rolled us into a car, and rolled her ankle in the process. Once we got to the hotel room, Abby, Elizabeth & I went to bed. Jesse went back out on the town. You'll have to ask him what he saw.

Abby was the first to leave Saturday, and Tab & Mike came to our room to say goodbye. Whatever the reason, it's great to have the bride & groom come to you the day after the wedding. I just wish I were in better form.

The itinerary for that day included beignets at Cafe du Monde. I did not know what a beignet was before I went, but it's a "must have" for anyone visiting New Orleans. This implied something amazing and I admit I was disappointed. First, an admission: I was hungover, and I wanted greasy breakfast food. I thought the cafe had options and that I'd be able to get a breakfast in addition to my phenomenal beignet. Not so much.

Cafe du Monde is one of two rackets I found in New Orleans. It's a goldmine. First of all, the only things on the menus are beignets (which must be creole for "funnel cake"), and beverages (the iced coffee was a real treat). The beignets were delicious - not too greasy, not too crispy, very absorbent. But I had a hard time figuring out how fried dough covered in sugar could be not good. I didn't see anything unique in them - nothing to make the beignets a "must have." But it was "mission accomplished" for the tourism department - the place was packed. The beignets are $1.82. The coffee is $1.82. The orange juice was $1.82. The seating is in a covered patio, with chairs, tables, and a floor that are all easily cleaned with a pressure hose. The staff was clearly working for tips, so I assume no one makes much more than minimum wage. The overhead on a place that serves tens of thousands of fried dough pieces on a covered patio cannot be that high. Goldmine. It was an experience though and I'm glad I had it.

We did eventually get a real breakfast at Cafe Fleur de Lis, across the street from our hotel. We had ambitous plans after that. We were going to ride a trolley and pass through other neighborhoods. Jesse was going to have a muffaletta at Serio's Deli, where Iron Chef Bobby Flay lost a throwdown. We were going to take a tour of haunted houses in the French Quarter. But we fell asleep, Serio's is closed on weekends, and the ghosts were too tired to come out for our cameras.



Jesse did get his muffaletta. The woman at the front desk recommended Franks. Jesse was not disappointed. Afterward, we met more than 30 wedding guests for a haunted house tour. I was the only one who brought a coupon. It landed everyone in the party $2 off admission. I was pleased with myself. I was also pleased with the tour, even though there were some serious drawbacks, which brings me to the second racket: Reverend Zombie's Haunted History Tours.

Here's what I learned: Louisiana was the place for anyone forced into slavery. There were laws that said slaves could only work 12 hours a day, and that they had to have one day off every week. Slaves in Louisiana had to be educated, reading and writing in English, French, and Spanish. The daughters of slaves and masters were totally privileged, because their skin made them sexy. They could be sold into contracts (for the price of a house and other items) and get more privileges than the white wives who were incapable of doing anything about their husbands wanting some (not too) dark meat.

That all came from the first stop on the tour. It contradicted most of the following stories, which involved places haunted by disfigured, emaciated, or mutilated slaves. I wanted to call the guide on these contradictions, but we were a large group and I did not want to prolong the tour. But I didn't have a bad time. I like good stories and she did give us some. Although Wikipedia did prove the juiciest story (the one about Delphine) wasn't heard of before 1998, when it appeared in a book published by a ghost tour company. Sigh. Reverend Zombie charged $20 an adult for these tours. We saw several throughout the night. The overhead of walking large groups through nice neighborhoods may even be less than that of frying dough and adding sugar.

I had a fabulous time in New Orleans, although I admit I did not get a good feel of Bourbon Street. I didn't go into any bars, where I'm told there was a lot of fun was to be had. And I don't remember Bourbon Street the night after the reception. What I saw during the day made me think of a poor man's Vegas. I left thinking I didn't like it, but also that I didn't have time to give it a real chance. I've decided to return.