June 1, 2020
WELL, WE’RE HOME AGAIN on Whidbey Island. Suitcases unpacked. Laundry done. As well as the grocery shopping. Mail opened. Emails responded to.
Yesterday I devoted my writing time to formatting this website. I’ve had “set up a website” on my to do list for a couple of years now, but the trip finally spurred me to action—nothing like a deadline to get around to something.
I also took the time to go through the blogs posted during our trip. Trying to write and post from a train is RIDICULOUS! Not only are you trying to type while the train sways to and fro, but when you’re ready to add photos and post–no cellular service at all. So, I went back through them and corrected the grammar, typos, missing words and added in photos. I hope you’ll go back through those posts to see the photos and the additions I made to the post.
That said, I loved the train trip and seeing so much of America through our big loop. I was humming “This Land is Your Land” the entire trip. Even the train derailment was an adventure–probably because we weren’t on the detailed train. However, don’t look for me to sign up for any bus tours–I’m too much of a first-class traveling girl. My husband says my idea of roughing it is to stay in a hotel without 24-hour room service, or the ph in the pool is off. He’s right. That’s why we traveled six days in bedrooms and roomettes rather than coach on the train. Who could sleep upright for six days?
Memories of New Orleans
WE HAD A QUICK VISIT IN NEW ORLEANS. We’ve both been there several times in the past–sometimes together and other times for work.
One of my favorite memories dates back nearly thirty years when I was in New Orleans for a communications directors conference from the largest United Ways. Tony, a friend from another United Way, had two little girls then, and he enjoyed finding them souvenirs to take home to them. He asked me what I would have liked at their age, and without batting an eye, I said, “mardis gras masks for the bulletin board in my childhood bedroom.” And, that’s what we found–I got one too.
Recently, Tony told me those Mardi Gras masks are still on the girl’s bulletin boards. However, they are both grown and working in challenging careers. I still have mine as well. The masks have hung in four houses over the years, including our new house on Whidbey Island. (Remind me to tell you about the time Tony bought the girls a piñata and how he got it home on an airplane.)
Day one in New Orleans
Hotel in the French Quarter
OUR AMTRAK VACATION package included staying in the Wyndham Hotel on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Situated at the bustling crossroads of Royal and Canal Streets, the hotel is located in the New Orleans’ renowned French Quarter. The hotel boasts the Quarter’s only indoor heated hotel pool.
Beignets and Chicory Coffee
WE WERE SCHEDULED TO TAKE a bus tour to a southern plantation, but our schedule would not have allowed time to stroll through Jackson Square. Instead, we set off searching for beignets and chicory coffee at the famous Cafe Du Monde in the Square.
The cafe is the original coffee stand in New Orleans established in 1862. The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand dates back to 1862 in the New Orleans French Market. The cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It closes only on Christmas Day, and on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans.
The Original Cafe Du Monde is a traditional coffee shop in the French Quarter. Famous for serving dark roasted Coffee and Chicory and Beignets. The coffee is served Black or Au Lait. Au Lait means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. Beignets are square French-style doughnuts lavishly covered with powdered sugar.
Coffee first came to North America by way of New Orleans back in the mid-1700s. It was successfully cultivated in Martinique about 1720. The French brought coffee with them as they began to settle new colonies along the Mississippi.
The French developed a taste for coffee and chicory during their civil war. Coffee was scarce during those times, and they found that chicory added body and flavor to the brew. The Acadians from Nova Scotia brought this taste and many other french customs (heritage) to Louisiana. Chicory is the root of the endive plant. Endive is a type of lettuce. The root of the plant is roasted and ground. It is added to the coffee to soften the bitter edge of the dark roasted coffee. It adds an almost chocolate flavor to the Cafe Au Lait served at Cafe Du Monde.
ALAS WE WERE UNABLE to get our Cafe Du Monde fix. The fame of this old coffee stand is so widespread that people line up for blocks to get in for their beignets and chicory coffee. By the way, chicory coffee may be historical, but it is no Starbucks.
The French Quarter
THE French Market AND NEW ORLEANS date back to the Choctaw Indians before the Europeans settled the New World. The Choctaw Indians used this natural Mississippi river levee location to trade their wares to the river traffic.
The early European settlers came by boat to this location to sell produce and dairy products. The City of New Orleans was established on the Mississippi River in 1718 by Jean Baptiste LeMoyne. This old New Orleans is called the “Vieux Carre” or French Quarter.
The French Quarter has a collection of old buildings that exhibit the architectural styles of the countries that once held power in Louisiana. At one time or another, Louisiana has been under the influence of the French, Spanish and British governments. The Spanish put up the first French Market building in 1771. A hurricane destroyed this building in 1812. The following year it was replaced by the building which now houses the Cafe du Monde. Back then, it was known as The Butcher’s Hall. In the 1930’s the Works Progress Administration renovated and added to the French Market buildings. The French Market comprises seven buildings anchored at the Jackson Square by the Cafe du Monde and the Farmers and Flea Market sheds on the other end.
The Historic French Quarter (photos courtesy of unsplash.com)
Historic Jackson Square
EARLY FRENCH COLONIAL NEW ORLEANS centered on what was then called the Place d’Armes (lit. ‘weapons square’). Under Spanish colonial administration in the second half of the 18th century, Plaza de Armas also means a place d’armes. Following the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788, the Spanish officials rebuilt the St. Louis Church (elevated to cathedral in 1793) in 1789 and the town hall (known as the Cabildo) in 1795.
Following the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, during the first half of the 19th century, the former military plaza was renamed Jackson Square for the battle’s victorious General Andrew Jackson. In the center of the park stands an equestrian statue of Jackson erected in 1856. The statue was dedicated in a grand ceremony in 1856.
The Square originally overlooked the Mississippi River across Decatur Street. Still, the view was blocked in the 19th century by the construction of higher levees. The riverfront was long devoted to shipping docks.
On the north side of the Square are three 18th-century historic buildings, which were the city’s heart in the colonial era. The center of the three is St. Louis Cathedral. The cathedral was designated as a Minor Basilica by Pope Paul VI. To its left is the Cabildo, the old city hall, now a museum, where the final version of the Louisiana Purchase was signed. To the cathedral’s right is the Presbytère, built to match the Cabildo. The Presbytère was initially planned to house the city’s Roman Catholic priests and other church officials. At the start of the 19th century, it was adapted as a courthouse. Now it’s a museum.
The Place d’Armes was the site for public execution of criminals and rebellious slaves during the 18th and early 19th centuries. After the 1811 German Coast Uprising, three slaves were hanged here. The heads of some of the executed rebels were put on the city’s gates.
In the Reconstruction Era, Jackson Square served as an arsenal.
NOW JACKSON SQUARE hosts artists and street performers around the Square. One year, we were in New Orleans on Easter Sunday. We found a traditional Easter Parade in the Square after mass in the cathedral. Of course, hats were involved.
Day Two Tomorrow
THAT’S ENOUGH HISTORY for today. I hope you get the idea that I love the history of New Orleans and how old it is–long before it was admitted to the union.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you more about our adventure in NOLA,
Debora Ragland Buerk
The Write Stuff
Looking at life from a different POV.