New Orleans is like another country within the U.S. The food, music, architecture, laws, and customs are so unlike other areas of the country, you will continually find yourself being pleasantly surprised by the unexpected.
Dale and I spent a few days there last week for a conference. Our first big surprise was being on a float for a “Mardi Gras” parade. Yes, Mardi Gras was many weeks ago, but New Orleans is so into parades and celebrations that the conference organizers convinced the City to allow us to create our own parade. We had a succession of about sixteen floats with 1,000 people on them coasting down Poydras Street into the French Quarter with a police escort during rush hour. We chucked our beaded necklaces at pedestrians, eager drivers on the other side of the “neutral ground” (a.k.a. median), trees, and even stop lights. Although the drivers stuck in the traffic were rather glum about the predicament we created for them, most others were thrilled about the unexpected parade.
The second big surprise was a magnificent piece of quadruple chocolate cake. That may not sound like a huge deal, but pralines, bananas foster, and pecan pie are the traditional desserts on restaurant menus in New Orleans. I had to talk to the hotel concierge, search on Yelp,
and then finally wander the streets for one and-a-half hours before I found my chocolate wonder at Chartres House Cafe. The menu calls it a Triple Chocolate Cake, but there are actually four chocolate flavors to savor – brownie, cake, mousse, and frosting. It was every bit as good as it sounds. Have you booked your flight to New Orleans yet?
Our third big surprise found us. There are street performers on many streets in the French Quarter. You don’t have to wander far to find a juggler, a banjo player, a person dressed as a bronze horse, an eight-person band, and a man wearing only overalls balancing on a two-legged ladder while chatting with passer-byers. The variety of entertainment is cheap and inspiring. Would you think of balancing on a ladder or dressing like a bronze horse?
The fourth big surprise was decadent truffles at Teddy’s Cafe in the historic Roosevelt Hotel. Although they are made by a chef in Florida, he caters the truffles to the tastes of New Orleans. Being a Southern man at heart, Dale enjoyed the bananas foster truffle. Some are even shaped like the Fleur de Lis – geaux Saints! And here’s the best part: they are only $1.80 per truffle, and you can sip on a small café au lait for $3.15 while sitting on a comfy sofa and listening to the pianist who is playing immediately outside in the lobby. Priceless.
Our final big surprise was the flowering rose bushes in Jackson Square. They were packed with flowers and additional buds ready to burst forth. The color and fragrance were a special treat amid the hustle and bustle of tourists, horse drawn carriages, and street cars.
Have you ever been to New Orleans? What surprises have you stumbled upon? Do you plan on visiting if you haven’t been there before?