Taking It Easy in New Orleans
The band member’s trombone slide nearly brushed my arm as he played while strutting through the crowd. He didn’t use a microphone and carried the room with ease. The ladies by the stage started to dance as the beat picked up and the saxophone and piano players joined in. He would sing a line, we would sing a line. We had come to d.b.a. because of their beer selection and were already glad we stayed to see the music.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. I’m Wynton Marsalis!” Dave and I turned and looked at each other. Marsalis?? Dave quickly searched on his phone and discovered he’s from a well-known New Orleans jazz family. The bar’s music calendar definitely had another band listed for that night. We felt like we hit the music lottery.
The band kept the crowd going as we danced to the beat and waved our white napkins in the air. It was a great start to our time in New Orleans.
Serendipity seemed to follow us throughout the Big Easy and was a welcome companion as we made our way through dark French Quarter streets, miles of sidewalks throughout the city and through a few voodoo shops.
Our first bit of luck struck before we even arrived. We wanted to stay somewhere with easy access to either the quarter or the Garden District. We searched online for days without finding what we wanted at the price point we could afford. The day we were leaving Austin, Dave found us the Diamond Room at the Sunburst Inn in the Marginy neighborhood, an area lined with traditional New Orleans homes, funky coffee shops and walking distance to the French Quarter. It was a major find at $80 a night and we felt more local than if we had stayed at a hotel in the quarter. I had known about the neighborhood because of a previous visit and bike tour through Confederacy of Cruisers (a must-do in NOLA).
We walked miles throughout the city – from the French Quarter to the Upper Garden District and back again. Our stomachs were full of beignets from Cafe du Monde, pork belly BLTs at Lilette, hot coppa pizza at Pizza Delicious and fried chicken sandwiches and carmel ice cream Abita rootbeer floats at Sylvain.
When rain entered the forecast we headed to the North Shore to visit the town of Abita Springs. We went to tour the Abita Brewing Company, but also discovered a funky Americana Museum (Abita Mystery House) and the miniature holiday town of Brewville. While the tour at Abita was lackluster, the complimentary “help yourself” pouring at the bar was so much fun. I discovered my new beer of choice, the Purple Pooch. Half Purple Haze, half Turbo Dog.
On our last night, we walked into the St. Louis Cathedral off Jackson Square to listen to a free holiday concert. Sitting in the church pew with tears in my eyes, it hit me. It wasn’t just luck on our side this whole time. My Aunt had been with us in New Orleans.
In a town notorious for ghosts, I’m sure that the spirit of Jean was tagging along on our adventure. One of my favorite things to do with my Aunt was to visit her church on Christmas Eve. The choir would sing the songs of Christmas and my Uncle Jimmy would accompany them on the piano. Hearing the familiar songs performed by this amazing New Orleans choir immediately brought me to tears. From the bathroom in our guest house that reminded me of the one in her house to the Shades of Praise choir belting out her favorite Holiday songs, I knew she was the one bringing us such lucky joy in the Big Easy.