|Getting ready for Mardi Gras|
Most visitors to New Orleans come ready to party. The city is made for good times, famous for its cuisine, jazz, bars, and esprit de corps. It is common, though, for tourists to only experience those wonders within the French Quarter, centered on Bourbon Street. I have enjoyed the French Quarter, for sure. There are great restaurants to be found and some fun shopping, but there is much more to New Orleans beyond its boundaries, with local charms that conventioneers, frat boys, and their companions cannot provide.
The neighborhood that I like to frequent most is the Faubourg Marigny. Its quiet, angled streets are filled with houses like the one above, proud and pretty. Head to Frenchman Street, where you will find the best jazz clubs in town. Beginning mid-day, there is continuous music coming out of clubs up and down the block. We started at cocktail hour at The Spotted Cat where music was free and the band was filled with musicians we had heard elsewhere. A cheap glass of wine, a diverse crowd of young and old, and we had a rousing start to a terrific night.
We have heard John Boutte at d.b.a., Kermit Ruffins at The Blue Nile, and Nova Nola, comprised of the talented members of the Masakowski family at Snug Harbor. Each club has a low cover charge ($5-$15), with plenty of good tunes and congenial folks to share your time. Another fun spot a few blocks away is Mimi's, where on Monday nights there is swing dancing which may be even more entertaining to watch than to dance! When you enter Mimi's it looks like just a bar, but head on upstairs for some good music and great times.
We have stayed in "the Marigny" (pronounced mare-in-yee) twice, both times at lovely bed and breakfast inns. This type of lodging abounds in the neighborhood, and offers the added feature of a chance to meet the local owners who offer up good stories about life in The Big Easy, as well as helpful tips of where to eat and what to do. I recommend The Elysian Fields Inn for its location, comfort, spaciousness, and decor, let alone the friendly innkeepers, Leigh and Jim.
The Joint for outstanding barbecue -- the pulled pork and the brisket melted in my mouth. But do come hungry because the portions are huge. From there, head to Bacchanal Wine just a few blocks away, an interesting combination of wine shop/restaurant/bar/jazz club, where you can taste a variety of small batch wines while listening to more New Orleans talent in the garden. They also serve dinner there which I am told was spectacular.
Perhaps my favorite outing, though, in the Bywater was to take part in a second line parade. The origins of second line parades are varied, but the draw is enthusiastic folks taking part in strutting their stuff throughout the neighborhood. This one started out a little crazy, but it was all part of the fun. Everyone is welcome!