a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘crawfish’

getting off bourbon street…

Well, I’m already in Puno… but it seems quiet so might allow me to catch up a little bit.  There will be a little more New Orleans when I get home.  There are a couple more half-written posts but I need good internet to look up links for them and I am finding the internet a little elusive in Peru… but I have already made a friend and there are a few stories to tell so stay tuned…

First, though, I am finally going to finish this post for New Orleans that I keep adding to at random moments.

So, we are not sitting beside the highest navigatable lake in world and keeping our fingers crossed we won’t succumb to altitude sickness… we are in New Orleans searching for some decent jazz…

After my two nights on Bourbon Street, I decided it was time to get off the tourist route and check out Frenchmen Street, which was supposed to feature the jazz clubs that used to exist on Bourbon Street before Larry Flynt and college students on spring break took over.

I am known for being a bit intrepid – and know the best way to get to know a city is to walk it!  And that way – if you can’t find a taxi – at least you know your way home in the dark 🙂  Of course you should start navigating your way through an unfamiliar city in the light.

Due to my Friday night revels – and 5am bedtime – I needed a nap pre-dinner.  I can sleep through practically anything but naps don’t present the opportunity for really deep sleep so shortly into my nap I heard a riotous soundtrack on the street.  I wondered what was going on – but I was too exhausted to jump up immediately and find out.

And it ended up I had plenty of time.  For the second time in two days I hit the streets of New Orleans and discovered an unexpected parade!

It’s still not entirely clear the occasion but it has something to do with the Italian immigrants to New Orleans.  Mostly it just seemed like an excuse for a parade – and corollary partying 🙂  No worries I would be walking the street alone! 😉

Luckily the processional was on the street outside my hotel marching in the direction of Frenchmen Street.  So the best plan of action seemed to be to follow the parade route.  And I got some extra entertainment to accompany my walk 😉

I am quite famous for the speed at which I move, even through crowds, so it didn’t take me too many blocks to get in front of the parade so I could cross over to Decatur Street, my original plan.  Decatur runs parallel to the Mississippi and is full of tourist delights.  Including “authentic” cuisine.

I decided to try one of them out as I had to have some classic Louisiana cuisine as part of my cultural experience.  I also thought I should have a “Hurricane”.  Just because…  My server was wonderful so when she informed me they made great Hurricanes and crawfish étouffé my order was settled.  The Hurricane was too sweet for me but I had my first crawfish!  And a signature local dish.  Apparently in Louisiana, cayenne is as ubiquitous as pepper 🙂

The charming server gave me a rundown of the history of Frenchmen Street and gave me directions from the restaurant.  So, within minutes, I had ducked into my first jazz club (Maison). The band was very good but the jazz was traditional so I stayed for a set and then moved on.

I had read my guidebook by then and went in search of The Spotted Cat.  The band at The Spotted Cat was very talented.  And I’d learned to order Ariba beer.  There was decent local beer in New Orleans – you just needed to make the right inquiries.  So I was ready to settle in for the night…

But New Orleans wins hands down for the most ladies rooms out of service in one weekend!  Not sure what girls get up to in New Orleans…  We got to directed to the men’s but it was gross – and meant there was only one tiny, sticky bathroom for the entire bar.

So I listened to a set and escaped across the street to Snug Harbor – and a clean, functioning bathroom 🙂  At first I was standing in a long line but it was late on Saturday night and I hadn’t had to stand in a line to get into a bar in New Orleans yet so I could afford to be patient.  Once inside, though, it got confusing.   When you are alone you naturally eavesdrop so I gathered everyone was lined up to go into a show and the cover was $25 so it was a commitment.  I had already ordered a drink before this was all clear so watched the show on the TV monitor and overheard some interesting bar conversations…

But my goal was to see live jazz… so off we headed to see if the fourth time was a charm… and it was!  This time I just paid the cover.  It was a whole $10 🙂  But I figured maybe my $10 would score me a better show.

And my instincts were spot on 🙂  The club was called dba.  Not jazz this time but roots music with a touch of soul and a definite southern vibe.  The bar itself was impressive but I was there to hear music so headed for the stage.  The band on stage was excellent but they kept talking about Andrew – in a way that suggested he was a bit of a demi-god to the New Orleans music scene.

So I knew I was waiting for Andrew just like everyone else… except they knew what to expect.   I was already pretty close to the stage but just before Andrew came on some girl directly in front just went into free fall.  Apparently she had a posse and they scooped her before she hit the floor and no one had to call the paramedics.  But they had to carry her off to a bench – or a bed – and it opened up a large gap on the dance floor right in front of the band.  A dark-haired girl and I looked at each other and mutually agreed that it would be acceptable for us to step into the empty space.

I still had no idea who Andrew was but I had a front row seat to his show – and he seemed to have a lot of fans!  It ended up being an unforgettable night, ending on the kind of high that only comes from being willing to live a little and take some calculated risks.

It ended up that it was the dark-haired girl’s birthday, a couple of days before mine, so we had an impromptu mutual celebration.  And her friends had ordered mini cupcakes!  They offered me one.  I loved the music and Andrew was promoting a new CD so I went to buy one on the break and got a second mini cupcake!  And because I was so close to the stage, it was easy at the end to meet Andrew and congratulate him on a fantastic show.  Supporting young talent is one of my things…

It’s a great CD.  Here is the link to him…

http://andrewduhon.com/

I am especially into the song “Beautiful Girl”… it’s on my regular music rotation and every time I hear it that whole night comes back to me.  The wonderful power of music…

In the end, I couldn’t get a taxi… so had to walk all the way home from Frenchmen Street.  But I knew my way…   the only hard part was actually going directly to the hotel and not stopping in the bars I heard along the way to listen to more music…

Make sure you get off Bourbon Street… you won’t be disappointed… and maybe you too will have a magical night full of serendipity …

DO talk to strangers ;)

Maybe not when you’re five 🙂  but my life would be a lot poorer if I hadn’t learned how to talk to strangers.  And I wouldn’t have an obsession with crawfish 😉

As my regular readers have learned to accept, we are time travelling again – and using geography as a tool to tie together disparate experiences.

So I am writing about New Orleans sitting in the airport in Panama City drinking premium rum (12 year old Abuelo – definitely a discovery!).  And crawfish is on my mind because I finally had some at the airport in Houston.

That is the beauty of travel.  I wasn’t planning to be in Houston last month when I was in New Orleans.  But, while I was trying to find a decent glass of beer and hear some jazz, I was eavesdropping on a lively conversation between some exuberant locals and guy with a questionable haircut and a hard to place accent.

But I mostly hang out in bars for the entertainment value – and chance to engage in lively discourse and meet locals.

I am very quick to smile and that gets people’s attention.  The mystery guy turned out to be Finnish and he was eating oysters from the Gulf.

I keep trying to love oysters but so far I remain on the fence.  But I have a lot of great memories that involve oyster eating so I think they ARE special 🙂

The Louisiana guys were making the poor Finnish guy feel bad that he had overpaid for his gulf oysters while they consume them by the sack for practically nothing.

What was more interesting to me was the discussion about crawfish.  Apparently it was crawfish season in the gulf and I determined that I should have some even if I didn’t exactly know what they were 🙂

I did manage a crawfish étouffé while I was in New Orleans but my time was too limited to seek them out again and really confirm exactly what a crawfish tasted like.  (But I did manage to engage in a lively conversation with the Finnish stranger about multiculturalism and the virtue of speaking lots of languages…)

Life is full of serendipity!  So there was a proper seafood restaurant in the Houston airport right next to my gate.

I think I got a few tourist points when I asked the server if it was still crawfish season.  It was!

They were deep-fried (welcome to the south :)) but I still got a much stronger impression of their flavour and texture.  And – if you share my fondness for shellfish – they are a great addition to your repertoire.

And I’m still not 100% sure how to describe them.  They are bigger than a shrimp, smaller than a prawn and not at all like a langoustine as I had imagined from the bar conversation.  The thing they most closely resemble is a spot prawn – a short-term delicacy of my home region.  Both are really worth trying, more fragile and succulent than ordinary shellfish.

I talked to lots of strangers in New Orleans.  It has become my new modus operandi when I travel.  My ten year old self is still in shock!!!

I think it’s a great example of how any human is actually capable of change.  I certainly support the proposition that you can’t change someone and should never enter a relationship with that as one of the goals in your five year plan.

It is a setup for disappointment – and conflict.  I have left all my relationships because I knew I couldn’t change the other person – and he wasn’t open to any modifications.

I have learned that is the norm.  But it’s kind of tragic.  When you get born into the world, no one says, “wow, I hope I will get parents and teachers and bosses who hold me to an almost impossible standard and constantly critique me ;)”

But, people, it has its rewards 🙂  It keeps you off balance.  It makes you strive.  It quells any opportunity to get arrogant before you have really achieved anything.

I continue to evolve.  I have conquered a lot of anxiety and I have become almost fearless.  But in a great way that relies on geek-worthy risk assessment and self-confidence borne out of life experience.

So… not only do I talk to strangers… strangers talk to me… I engage with the locals everywhere that I go.  AND I meet other travellers.  And hear their stories.  And am inspired to further explore the world…

Talking to strangers requires some finesse.  It needs to come from the right place.  You want to make sure it is a genuine interest in other people, not some lonely, needy gesture that makes the other person worry you might be a stalker 🙂

One of the highlights of my trip to New Orleans was making a new friend while were both perusing the menu at the Red Fish Grill.  Neither of is pushed it too fast so by the time we had both decided independently it might be far more enjoyable to dine together than alone, the choice was easy to make.

http://www.redfishgrill.com/

And what a great decision!  I met a fascinating man with a personal history to rival mine.  We talked about the arts, travel, the various cities and countries that had left a mark on us.

It was my first experience of Bourbon Street.  As previously noted, Bourbon Street definitely not a total class act –  but, luckily for me, I explored it with my new friend who embodied the concept of a Southern gentleman so he gave even the low rent aspects of Bourbon Street a borrowed sense of decorum.

It certainly gave tacky Bourbon Street a halo it hadn’t earned and etched yet another classic cinematic evening into my memory.  Those are the moments when I am so happy that I learned to talk to strangers 😉

I raise my glass of delicious 12 year old rum to everyone out there who talked to a stranger and came away with a special memory…

Hopefully I will finish the New Orleans stories before I get on the plane to Lima… 🙂

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