New Orleans, 2020

“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?”

  – Louis Armstrong

new orleans mardi gras mask

I didn’t know what it meant to miss New Orleans until this January.  I’d been to the zoo there as a child, but had little to no memory of it — and Scott had never visited.  Despite this, I had a fondness for NOLA already due to growing up in Mobile, AL, the only other city that respects Mardi Gras as much as New Orleans. I figured it would be love at first sight, and it was.

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We stumbled across these (real) mid-century lamps in a shop on Conti Street.

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And I adored pouring over the bottles in an 1800s pharmacy.

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A medallion from the first Mardi Gras celebrated in Mobile, AL in 1703. Hello, my childhood home town! You’ll always be the original Mardi Gras.

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This is the house that some claim inspired the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland, except that it didn’t really. That house is actually in Baltimore. But the resemblance is notable! For an excellent walking architecture tour of New Orleans, we HIGHLY recommend New Orleans Architecture Tours. We took the Garden District tour with Katrina and can’t praise her enough – very knowledgeable guide, educational info and no silly ghost business. If we’d had another day in the city, we would have taken another tour with her!

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If you don’t get beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde, I don’t think the trip hardly counts… we had beignets at least 5 times!

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We also very much enjoyed seeing the floats at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World.  Not only is this where many of the floats are created, but it’s the birthplace of the Chik Fil A billboard cows. These flowers are from the Krewe of Orpheus floats.

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Papier-mâché flowers need papier-mâché bees!

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Not sure what this gorgeous Star of David piece is for, but I’d love to know.

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We also really liked seeing the costumes at this museum. (Again, I’m drawn to the bee theme!)

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Happy faces on Frenchman St., which is where you want to go for good jazz, fyi. We caught a show at Snug Harbor and loved it!

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If this isn’t the most perfect crossover, I don’t know what is… and yes, I definitely got a copy for my creole-cookin’ Mama (whoever knew she’d end up with kosher kids?).

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I wasn’t kidding about how many times we ate beignets. So many beignets…

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This drink is a Vieux Carré, invented in 1938 by the head bartender at the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone.  According to the Hotel Monteleone website, the drink “consists of Cognac, Benedictine, Rye Whiskey, Sweet Vermouth, Angostura, and Peychaud’s Bitters. The recipe was inspired by the diverse cultures of the French Quarter. The Cognac and Bendictine pay homage to the French, the Sweet Vermouth to the Italian, the Rye Whiskey to the Americans, and the Bitters to the Islanders of the Caribbean.” [https://hotelmonteleone.com/blog/a-drinkable-history-of-the-carousel-bar/]

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The Carousel Bar itself is not to be missed. First of all, the bar — which looks like a carousel, hence the name — actually spins. The seats rotate around the central bar at a rate of 1 rotation every 15 minutes. Secondly, Ernest Hemingway drank here. Need I say more?

st louis cathedral new orleans

Another touristy stop is the St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square. This is the oldest cathedral in the U.S. and worthy of a stop for that distinction alone. There’s been a church on this site since before the revolutionary war, although the building standing now was completed in the 1850s (the original structure burned down).

It is dedicated to King Louis IX of France who launched the disastrous 7th crusade in 1248, and was later canonized by the Catholic church for his crusadering acts and supposedly perfect Christian leadership. He was the quintessential medieval king; chivalrous, religious, ascetic, and hostile to Jews. The lovely stained glass walls inside the cathedral depict a very glorious looking Crusader, but leave out the part where he got his royal ass handed to him on the battle field against the Egyptians.  The windows also venerate his habit of collecting of holy relics, but don’t mention that many of these were of a dubious historical nature.

King Louis IX was well-known to be incredibly antisemitic. He sanctioned laws against the French Jews, forbade them from engaging in business, forced them to wear a badge (where have we heard that move before?), burned cartloads full of Talmuds and other literature, and forced French Jews to listen to missionary speeches meant to “convert” them. All this culminated when he ordered the seizure of Jewish property and the expulsion of Jews from France (although it seems this expulsion was never carried out).

As a Zionist / pro-Israel / pro-Jewish believer, to see gorgeous stained-glass windows and beautiful (and historical) murals promoting and heroizing a man who treated G-d’s chosen people with such contempt and outright persecution is a hard pill to swallow. But an ostrich with it’s head in the sand is no witness to history. I’d rather know what I know and see what I see, than accept in blindness the beauty of the story of the stained-glass.

I also acknowledge and honor those that have been brought near to G-d through the catholic church, be she ever so flawed. For this reason, I was glad we attended the 12:05pm Mass at this cathedral, and would recommend if you plan to stop to schedule your visit accordingly. Mass is held every day at 12:05pm. Note: If you are not Catholic, you should not take part in communion. Options include staying in your pew at during communion, or you may approach the priest along with others with your arms crossed across your chest (indicating you are not partaking of the Eucharist), most priests will then dispense a blessing (although some churches discourage this, so check ahead of time if this is acceptable, if possible).

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In conclusion, “Let me explain… No! There is too much. Let me sum up.” New Orleans is too great and complex a city to be explained in a short blog post with a few photos, but to sum up:  We loved it.  We’ll be back.  We miss you already, New Orleans.

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