Chronicles of the Louisiana Trip Part II

Day one of our Louisiana stay dawned with me surfing the internet for sites of interest in New Orleans, then trotting down the two flights of steps to the hotel lobby to print off maps and directions (and surreptitiously listen to the businessman with the lovely English accent). Mom and I decided that, since the weather promised to be fine, we would spend our day walking around the French Quarter.

But first, of course, came the all-important business of locating 'The Stove Man's' shop and dropping off our stove.We drove past it about three times before we actually saw the signs that are hidden behind a veritable wasteland of old appliances. Hugh was nowhere to be seen, but a crony of his was out back. The crony took a very excited Mom on a grand tour of the wilderness of antique stoves in the side yard. I like old things, in moderate, well-kept quantities, but a jumble like this holds little interest for me. I opted to stay in the car and keep a lookout for Hugh while guarding the stove and Mom's purse. 'Anyone who tries to steal this baby is going to have fun!' I reflected, looking at the stove and thinking how it had taken the combined efforts of Dad, Richmond, and Josiah to get it in the car. It took the same amount of manpower to unload the stove, when at length Hugh and a few employees materialized. I poked about the repair shop while Mom discussed stoves with Hugh and got heaps of advice on what to see, where to go, and what to eat from the crony. It was then time to leave. We were off to New Orleans!

The French Quarter of New Orleans is the oldest part of town, right along the Mississippi River. Getting out of the car felt like stepping into another world. Rows of brightly painted houses, bedecked with brilliant flowers and intricate wrought-iron railings, lined the narrow little streets. Color was everywhere. The houses were painted in shades of blue, lime green, pink and orange. Flowers lifted their many-hued petals up toward the sun. A new and even more exciting scene was revealed as we turned each corner. I was snapping pictures at an astonishing rate of speed.

Mom and I visited several antique shops. We clued in that New Orleans antique shops are rather different than those found in the Midwest when we noticed that the proprietor who rose to greet us was wearing a suit and tie. If we had not been worried about being polite, we would most probably have keeled over when we got a look at the price tags. Never, not in my wildest dreams, have I ever thought of paying $2000 dollars for a little painted end table, I don't care if it was imported from France. Give me my $5 dollar teacups, please! I was a little worried that I would sneeze and break something. Mom might have felt the same way. Anyroad, we didn't spend long amongst the antiques.

The next stop was at the Ursuline Convent. We were given a brief tour of this relic of American history by a little lady who had lost her voice. She whispered bits of information in her soft Southern drawl. "The nuns brought this clock over with them from France..." "Andrew Jackson visited this convent and asked the nuns to pray for him before his battle with the British..." "This self-supporting stairway was salvaged from the original convent, which rapidly deteriorated in the damp atmosphere..." I felt rather sorry for her, and was glad when she had finished the tour and was able to stop talking. Mom and I made our way out to the high-walled back-garden (every self-respecting house in the French Quarter seems to have a back garden of some sort), to see the shrine to the Virgin Mary. Mom took a seat on a nice, shaded bench, while I wandered happily about amongst the rose beds, taking many, many pictures.

Well, we had been in the French Quarter, within scent of the river, for several hours, and still had not seen the river itself. So, we began to make our way down to the waterfront, passing through a large, open air market. It was there that I saw the hat shop. I am immensely fond of hats. I simply had to stop and take a look. There were hats of just about every shape, size and color imaginable on display there, and a very helpful saleswoman who knew a fellow hat fanatic when she saw one, her perception very probably helped by the fact that I was wearing my brown newsboy cap. With her solicitous encouragement, I tried on 'bucket' hats from the 20's, straws that looked as if they belonged in a Jane Austen movie, and broad-brimmed hats like the ones that Mexican vaqueros wear. I was, quite literally, in hat heaven, and I would doubtless have made a purchase, or maybe two or three, if any of the prices had been below $20. I had a long and hard debate between buying hats and saving for my trip to Africa. Africa won out. We tore ourselves away, and continued our walk toward the river.

The broad, brown Mississippi was very peaceful in contrast to the bright colors and eager salespeople at the market. Enormous boats chugged ponderously up and down, ripples from their wakes splashing softly against the sandy shore. Mom sat on the high embankment while I scrambled down the rock to get pictures. A beautiful purple flower was growing in the sand, and I was busy trying to snap a picture from 'just the right angle', when Mom called that it was time to go. I looked around in surprise. It was getting late.

We had seen the sights, we had tramped the length and breadth of that old town, living a little bit of its history. Now it was time to go. We walked back down the hill from the river, skirting the market  with its eager hat-lady. Past the courtyard where fortune tellers and street musicians gathered. The strains of a  remarkably well-played saxophone, singing a tune we did not know, bid us a farewell to that old, old city.