My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Laisse les bons temps rouler...

Tuesday Leslie showed me around New Orleans, the "Big Easy". We started our day at the Cafe du Monde with cafe au lait and beignets while somebody sang "Amazing Grace" - what a wonderful way to start a wonderful day!
Then we strolled through the French Market. People sell food there, Mardi Gras pearls and any other souvenir a tourist might want to buy. From there we walked into the French Quarter, the most famous part of New Orleans and home to the Creoles. Creoles originally meant somebody native to that area, it was a cultural not a racial term. Later it was used to distinguish them from the Americans. Creoles speak French, are Roman Catholic and have quite a different cultere. The Americans coming to New Orleans called them "dekadent". Later the meaning changed again, now meaning somebody of mixed origin. Most Creoles have French, Spanish, African and Native Indian ancestors. The houses have beautiful wrought iron galeries. New Orleans is the perfect place to take black and white pictures! Everybody has flowers on their galeries and the streets are lined with places to eat and quaint and crazy little shops.
For lunch we took a deserved break at the Acme Oyster Bar. The waiter convinced me to have half a dozen oysters and they were the best I ever had! You eat them with a kind of hot sauce, very good. I also had seafood gumbo which still was on the list of things I had to eat :). Aren't my blogs about food really often...? The waiters had a lot of fun with us. Maybe we were a welcome change to the locals who eat there and the VERY typical tourists (we saw quite some of those in the city).
We continued by walking down Bourbon Street. It's famous but not that great. It is lined with restaurants, bars (top- and bottomless) and rip offs... Then we had quite an interesting and strange time at the Historic Vodoo Museum. 15 % of the population still practice Vodoo. Vodoo in its original form was not used for evil (my original understanding), but for a successful life: marriage, children, money ... Of course it includes the dolls, snakes and bones. Bones stand for ancestors though, not for death. I just wonder how people could/can fit it together with their Christian beliefs. Most practitioners are devout Catholics. New Orleans' Vodoo Queen, Marie Lavou (different spelling maybe) definately was, she went to Mass everyday. It made Leslie and me want to read more about it to gain a better understanding.
We relaxed in Jackson Square and had a hurricane (cocktail with LOTS of rum) at Pat O'Brians, then enjoyed another drink at 360 on the 33th floor of the World Trade Center and watching the city light in the dark.
We came back Wednesday morning to participate in a city tour leading us through the patios of the French Quarter and to Cemetary No. 1. We really had a good time. The tour's red line was the story of a Creole family and a big part was lots of gossip about them to understand Creole ways better. Relly interesting. The cemetary was quite fascinating. The dead are buried above ground, cause the waterlevel is so high. Otherwise corpses would float around in times of flooding...
We finished my New Orleans experience with a Muffuletta sandwich at Napoleon's where they play opera music. It was founded in 1920 by an Italian. Uncle Joe, the founder, got 101 years old, still climbing on brick walls to get figs when he was 92! I really want to be that fit when I'm old.
To sum it up: if you ever have the chance, visit New Orleans and laisse les bons temps rouler!