New Orleans: Shopping

Firstly, we’ve had more views in the last two days than in the last two weeks so your attention obviously has to be bought with interesting postcards, I get it now. Hussies! I’ll go mail those postcards today… or tomorrow. Sometime soon, anyhow. Winners were: Katrisse, Nicolette (send me your new address on fb!), Izaac, Nikki U, Sarah and my dog (don’t ask). Which means I have to go buy at least one more postcard so that I don’t disappoint my dog. So if anyone else wants one just say.

So, shopping! I’ve tried to put aside some money this year for shopping in the US. I’d heard things were cheaper here than in Europe and better quality than in Asia. Not that I haven’t bought stuff elsewhere, but that was mostly accidental *cough*Turkey*cough*. I had a proper list of things to buy here and I’ve made some decent inroads.

First up was make up. I’m not a huge make up person but my favourite brand, due to their super bright colours, is MAC. Turns out it’s half the price here than it is in Australia. Win! I spent .. well, no need to know how much precisely, but quite a bit in a MAC store in New York, and more in Sephora. I’ve said on FB that I’ll take orders if people want me to bring things home and a few people have already asked. I’ll pick up more stuff in LA or San Francisco.

I also lost all my make up that I’d brought travelling. Oh no, that meant buying all new stuff! Woe is me!

Thankfully I found nice people in the stores to help me with things like foundation and powders and whatnot… there’s nothing like buying makeup to make me feel like I am about 12 years old. Beyond eyeliner and mascara I have no idea what I’m doing.

Shoes were another thing on the list. I’m also not a shoe person – in fact I’ve reached that age where finding a pair that is just right means I’ll probably buy 5 pairs just so I don’t ever run out or have to go shopping again, but there’s lots of things available here that either can’t be bought at home or are far cheaper here so I’ve bought a pair of ‘Joker’ converse high tops and I’m looking for a few other pairs of shoes that are fun rather than sensible.

Now fancy clothes are something I love and the range of sixties/rockabilly/steampunk stuff in New Orleans is very impressive. I’ve bought three fabulous dresses for swing dancing and a steampunk skirt, each piece was under $100 but would definitely be double that at home. And the fabric and patterns they have here I’ve never seen before. So much temptation!

Things white people love = vintage style clothing with modern prints.

We’ve ended up staying an extra day in New Orleans so I might just head down to the boutique shops one more time before we leave…

New Orleans: Architecture.

I’ve been completely charmed by the beautiful and quirky houses that are all around the French Quarter, which we’ve walked through every day that we’ve been here.

So elegant – like doll’s houses.

New Orleans is famous for its ‘elegant decay’. The humidity, wooden building materials and rising and falling fortunes of the residents mean that there’s always a lot of buildings that are being reclaimed by nature or falling into disrepair. This leads to photo opportunities on nearly every block as the bright colours favoured by residents start to peel and fade.

Aged beauty.

Some people here go to astonishing efforts to decorate their houses seasonally. We’ve noticed some houses with a Fall theme and bowers of leaves and fruit and ribbons above the windows and doors.

Some of the houses remind me of Burano in Italy.

Mmmmm, blue.

Of course, they can’t all be winners. Apricot, white and navy? I don’t think so.


New Orleans: Food.

Much like everywhere else in the world, people here think they have a monopoly on excellent food. Honestly, with the exception of East Africa and Iceland, everywhere we’ve been has had a long, long list of must-try foods. Here it’s creole, a cuisine I know pretty much nothing about. I know there’s Caribbean and French influences and that many of the dishes grew out of poverty and necessity and there’s a lot of seafood to be had. But I couldn’t tell a jambalaya from gumbo a few days ago.

I’ve got a few friends who’ve been before and have given us recommendations. So far we’ve had:

1. Po’boys. We looked up where was good and headed to Johnny’s Po’boys in the French Quarter. I’ve been interested in trying these since I saw them on ‘Man versus Food’ and the Anthony Bourdain New Orleans special. A Po’boy is simply a white bread roll stuffed with a variety of fillings but they’re usually very messy. I got the roast beef ‘dressed’ – ie salad and mayo. Luke got the chicken parma. Both were enormous and reminded me that it is almost always better to order one serve and share than two and end up feeling over full. Deep fried battered shrimp is probably the most traditional filling. I wish I’d taken a photo… my roll was dripping with gravy and the meat was super tender. Some places grade their po’boys by how many napkins you need to use while eating them. Some threaten to need a napkin per bite!

2. Jambalaya and red beans and rice. On our second evening we stopped at a few jazz clubs and one served cheap, small plates of these two traditional favourites. I had the jambalaya, which is like a risotto with a tomato base and spicy sausage. Just at the right level of spiciness for my mild palate. Luke liked the red beans and rice which was pretty similar in appearance and also a bit spicy. Very easy to eat and perfect food to go with drinking.

3. Beignets. This afternoon on our walk home we stopped in at the famous Cafe Du Monde for these pastry treats. Deep fried squares of pastry covered with a mountain of icing sugar. I almost pretended to sneeze on Luke when he took his last bite… that would teach him for wearing lots of black.

Aaa…aaaa… CHOO!

The beignets were delicious but the cafe itself was nothing special. Lots of tiny tables crammed in together – but a good spot for people watching. Just don’t accidentally sit down on an icing-sugared chair.

4. Burritos! Mexican food has always appealed to me but I know that in Australia we don’t get the real deal. We ate a place called Juan’s Flying Burrito¬†on Magazine St for brunch today and it was fantastic. Not completely Mexican, it had creole influences and I had pulled pork with a pineapple salsa. It was amazing. Highly recommend it for anyone reading this and planning on visiting NO.

An excerpt from their menu. I had the Al Pastor.

That’s it for our eating adventures so far. Apologies for the lack/quality of photos. We’ve been leaving every meal so late that by the time we’re ready to eat we’re too hungry to wait. More soon!

New Orleans

Our last day in New York had seen temperatures below zero, so we weren’t all that sorry to be flying south. We’d booked cheap flights with American Airways and were detouring via Washington, which still only meant we spent three hours in the air, which wasn’t too bad.

A few notes on our flying experience. This time we did have to take off our shoes and go through those body scanning machines – our first time. It seems a trifle strange that we have to do this for internal flights and not coming into the country. It sort of suggests that they think the terrorists are already here. Our transfer between flights was the shortest I’ve ever had – we literally walked off one plane and our next flight was already boarding at the gate next door. There was time to go to the toilet and that was it. Cutting it a bit close! Apart from that it wasn’t a bad experience. I always read about people having terrible times in domestic US flights but we had no problems. I was just glad I didn’t wear my 14 hole boots. They take about 15 minutes to get off and put on.

Our taxi driver from the airport was the most talkative yet – an older guy from Vietnam. We could hardly understand anything he said but he was very keen to say it. Telling us the area we were staying in was good and all about his family who live in Springvale in Melbourne. Almost everyone we’ve met around the world knows someone from Melbourne, or so it seems.

Our deluxe accommodation. It looks just as grand on the inside, don’t worry.

We’re staying in an Airbnb house that is supposed to be shared but the guy who lives here is away and there’s no one else staying here so we have to it ourselves. Which is just as well because the room we’re in is adjacent to the kitchen and we’d have people walking through it. The house is pretty old, with peeling paint and looks like nothing has been fixed, ever. It’s got a claw-footed bath, which is nice, but the water doesn’t drain properly and by the end of a shower it’s a quarter full. In the fact the whole place sort of feels like it was recently abandoned by a hoard of first year students. And the front rooms smell very strongly of dogs. Oh well. It’s cheap and we can spread our stuff out and the kitchen’s clean.

After a girl who looked about 15 and was carrying a baby let us in and explained everything we walked a few blocks to a bar called ‘Port of Call’. The vibe was laid back, the music wasn’t too loud and the menu was simple – enormous cocktails with a tropical theme and burgers with baked potatoes. When you order burgers here you often get asked how you want them cooked – like streak. It’s a nice touch but I can’t bring myself to eat pink burger mince. Not yet, anyhow.

The guy behind the bar had an accent like Sam from ‘True Blood’ and was really friendly. He even ended up showing us photos of his dog and an amazing ‘epic meal time’ style construction he’d made of a football pitch and stadium that was made of dip and sausages and meat sticks… it’s a bit hard to explain but we were very impressed. At the end of the night they almost under charged us by about $60 but we pointed it out and the manager gave us a cocktail for free, which was nice. We staggered home and I felt rather sorry for myself the next morning. Lesson learned – you can’t turn your back on New Orleans.

The next day we walked down Frenchman Street and through the French Quarter. All I know about New Orleans I learned from Anne Rice books so I know there’s areas with big mansions, the cemeteries are above ground and voodoo and swamps and all that stuff. So not much, really. Our area looks like an outback Australian town – lots of weatherboard and broken down cars. But then it also kind of looks like Priscilla had swept through and so lots of houses are painted really brightly and there’s mardi gras beads hanging from doorknobs and railings. It’s quite charming.

Beads everywhere!

Although we’ve been warned about the streets being dangerous we’ve not seen anything untoward as yet and I’ve only heard one siren, which is a nice change from New York. People say ‘Hi’…or rather ‘How y’all doin?’ when we walk past and the lady at the supermarket somehow managed to use the word ‘darlin’ 50 times in the space of two minutes.

Speaking of shopping, we went into a pharmacy and were taken aback by the fact that the first thing we saw upon entering was an enormous row of alcohol and bottles much bigger than you get at home. There were two litre bottles of Smirnoff for $20! But… in a pharmacy. Not something I’ve seen anywhere else around the world. Only in America?

A super stylish old car in our street.