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We decided to start our last full day in New Orleans off right - by going to the Ruby Slipper! I'm not really a breakfast person but this place has really caught my attention. Since coming to New Orleans I'd been looking for Cochon de lait which is how I found the Ruby Slipper. Today I decided to try a decidedly French concoction - Bananas Foster Pain Perdu which was French-bread based topped with rum-flambéed bananas & raisins, with applewood-smoked bacon. Sounds delicious doesn't it? Well, it was good but far too sweet for me to be having for breakfast. There really wasn't anything wrong with it but it was a bit much and sent my blood sugar soaring so I don't even have photos of it. Still The Ruby Slipper is the best place for breakfast and I'm glad we found it after a bit of work.
We planned to visit the City Park today so we walked from the Ruby Slipper in Faubourg Marigny to Canal street to catch the streetcar to the park. I had originally planned on eating breakfast early, going to the park and getting back in time to have lunch at Mike's Po'boys near Canal street because we'd heard they serve a Cochon de Lait Po'boy and we were still trying to find a Po'boy we liked. However, we got out the door a bit late and it was clear that we were eating lunch somewhere near the park and Mike's would have to wait.
The Canal Street Streetcar took us north through the city then east terminating at the City Park. The park was really the last item on our bucket list of things to see. It's massive and includes a singing tree, sculpture park, mini railroad, art museum, carousels, botanical gardens, a lake or two and much more. What we were really hoping it had was shade as the temp had been steadily climbing along with the humidity. We nearly went to the New Orleans Museum of Art because it was cool inside. However, the idea of spending yet more time looking at photos of soldiers in the civil war persuaded us to brave the heat and head to the sculpture park. That and the art museum personnel telling us that the admissions man at the sculpture park had water bottles for cheap.
The sculpture park was interesting and they had a Rodin there although I nearly missed it. The mini railroad and mini New Orleans was in bad shape due to Hurricane Sandy which put most of the city park under water. We found shade in the botanical gardens and many types of plants too. Overall the botanical gardens were very nice but the highlight of the entire day was the singing tree. People hung massive chimes in the tree of various lengths. I think the shortest were about 18 inches or so. The longest were about 3 ft and as the wind blew the tree sang. The large chimes held their deep bass ring for quite some time and the other chimes added to the cacophony. We sat under the tree for about half an hour just listening to the sounds. I attempted to take a video but unfortunately I wasn't that successful.
Since we were too far away to go to Mike's Po'Boys for lunch we checked the guidebook for suggestions. We'd been kicking the dead horse of New Orleans traditional food for far too long so we went to Cafe Degas - a French restaurant down Esplanade Ave. Cafe Degas is an unassuming place but with an unexpected charm. It's amazing sometimes what people can do with next to nothing. I swear the kitchen was a converted closet and half the restaurant was actually clear plastic draped over some PVC. The food however, was very good. We had a duck leg, escargot and foie gras. Mostly traditional French food and all was good.
From there we walked past a cemetery. Scratch that, we attempted to walk past it and it sucked Kris in. I had to follow to make sure she made it out alive. Ahem. I think we've seen more dead people in New Orleans than living people and even then the jury is out on some of the living I've seen. Although the streetcar is my preferred way of getting around New Orleans it didn't really make sense to walk back up to the City Park and catch it to within a mile of our hotel room when there was a bus running straight down Esplanade Ave to our hotel so we hopped the next available bus. I had heard great things about the grand old houses on Esplanade Ave which served a the Millionaires row for the Creole folks much like St Charles Ave did for the Americans. Thank you to all the slaves and indentured servants that built these beautiful houses for the rich bastards who owned you. I also wanted to know what the area between the Treme and City Park was like because the day before we were going to walk up Esplanade Ave and a man in the local convenience store told us not to because we'd be robbed. Not one to ignore advice from the locals we backtracked the way we'd come. However, after riding the bus through that area I now know the guy was full of BS. That area was no different than any other area we'd been in thus far. I'm sure things happen but we're not exactly talking about Los Angeles here. Next time I'll rent bicycles and just ride all the way up Esplanade Ave like our guidebook recommended.
For our last dinner in New Orleans we decided to eat at Mona's again. The guy who owns it was happy we'd returned so I ordered his simmered goat which was decent but not sure it was all he hyped it up to be. He seemed very proud of it though.
Upon exiting Mona's we make a quick pass through all the music joints on Frenchman Street. While en route we heard music, very loud music. This music was in the street and was loud enough that people were exiting the clubs to hear it. As we got nearer we saw a group of young black kids playing instruments and drums on the street and doing a very good job of it. It was largely one rolling marching band song with horns and drums. If we closed our eyes it didn't take any stretch of imagination to picture African slaves pounding drums and dancing in Congo square during the Sunday market. New Orleans is a product of it's past in many ways.
Tomorrow is our last day here. Even now I'm not sure what to think of the place. I'll try to put my thoughts together later.