Thursday, October 25, 2007

Travel Diary: New Orleans

A while back I had the choice between going with Bernie to Orlando, Atlanta or New Orleans. He had conferences in each of those cities. For me the decision was easy: The Big Easy, aka New Orleans, of course!
I always like going to New Orleans!
I packed my hat box right away. Packed my laptop into my backpack, planning to checked my luggage, and carrying the hat box and backpack onto the plane.
At the ticket counter the ladies asked if there were hats in my hat box.
And asked if they could see them.
Several other ladies raced up to stand in a circle around me as I opened the box.
Was it curious Homeland Security?
Nope, the ladies just wanted to see hats!
Then I got on the plane. As I walked the aisle people looked up, jaws dropped, and people called out "What's in your hat box? Hats?"
MEN were asking me about my hat box, and saying what a what a really gorgeous hat box, wish women wore hats yadda yadda yadda
I think that is funny...on my back is a computer more sophisticated than what NASA used to put men on the moon, and the whole plane is jabbering about a hat box.
My oh my, how times have changed.
When Bernie and I went to New Orleans in 1998, I visited a millinery shop for the very first time, fell in love with a hat, couldn't afford it, and went back for the hat two years later. The shop, the hat, and the pink and black lace hat box converted me to a fanatical hat person.

I even used the hat box as my inspiration for the colors in my hat room at home!

Black lace over pink. I just LOVE that combination.
It was a short and bumpy flight into New Orleans. My seat mates were two guys from British Columbia, heading to New Orleans for a farm equipment conference.
We chatted about BC, the SD fires, and what New Orleans has to offer.
We had a nice chat, yah?

When in the south, do as the Southern folks do...have some grits!
Even the old New England Quaker dude seems to have caught on to this treat! Well, it made for dinner in the room at 10 at night Wednesday at least. I didn't want to head out after my flight and hadn't eaten since hotel rooms with microwaves!
Next morning I wanted to find 1012 North Peters Street. Piece of cake: the hotel Hilton Garden District is on 900 South Peters. I'll just walk one street over, and one block up I figured.
I had tried to open the GSP function in my brand new phone, the feature that will talk me to any place on earth, while showing a map and telling me how far it will be, but I couldn't remember where the link was on my phone. (Favorites, duh.)
I guess I was even worse in math than I thought I was, because it was TWENTY blocks away! They really number things differently around here. I found myself in Jackson Square in the French Quarters. I could have hopped the Charles Street trolley, but no, I kept thinking it has to be here soon...(Peters street kept splitting into other streets, then reappearing. Gotta wonder about which ever Peters this street was named after.)

Jackson Square is dead center of the French Quarters, and at one end is the St. Louis Cathedral. It is gorgeous, and they have the BEST concerts in December, every evening, for free. I've been there for them, they are awesome!
The center of Jackson Square has a statue of (duh) Andrew Jackson.

Bernie's great great great grandfather served under General Jackson in the War of 1812.

I always give the statue a little nod because of that fact.

Against the wrought iron fences there are banana trees, heavy with unripe bananas.

I still am always surprised to see banana trees in the south. Don't know why I can't just take it in stride, like I do peach trees or avocado trees back home in San Diego.

While I was walking around, this was going on in the background. Be sure to have your sound turned on.

No matter where you are in New Orleans, or what time of day it is, someone is always nearby singing a song or making some music. It is part of what makes New Orleans just so wonderful.

I popped into the Cathedral. The Pope has actually visited it too.

New Orleans French heritage shows via a statue of Joan of Arc inside the cathedral. Love her fitted armor!

Nice waistline there Joan!

Yup, the church has been on this location for awhile.
Now what I was really looking for was this shop: The Trashy Diva. Mostly because my formal gown for tomorrow nights events requires a backless strapless bra, and I managed to arrive with only one of the two tapes needed to hold the bra I brought along to my body. I need tape, or I'm going to a gala event cupping one of my breasts with my hand all night long. tape, but get a load of this classy corset.
You know, I've always wondered what real corsets feel like. Like when I read romance or historical novels, and the heroine is fussing with her corset?

Trashy Diva has real corset. The custom made, $400 per type, with steel boning and silk covers.

What the heck...let's give this a whirl.

Three, count 'em, THREE inches off my waist in less than ten minutes. No diet or exercise required!

(The back woogies: not so good. The sales lady explained that is just human form, even underweight girls have back woogies. Right.)

She suggested that underbust corsets would address that issue, and could be worn as a wide belt.

Wow...look at that waistline!

I liked this one alot. The point on the bottom points right to my rounded tummy however.

(by the by, these corsets can be made in any fabric you wish. I just thought this particular fabric combo was just perfect for french New Orleans.)

Now this style I can really imagine wearing as a "wide belt", especially in plain black. Two hundred dollar belt?
I'm thinking....hmmm...thinking...
The sales lady mentions that skinny girls can get only an inch or so off their waists, as the corsets then go into bone which can not be further compacted. Poor skinny girls.
I, on the other hand, am not skinny, so I can be *successfully* cinched down three or more inches!

Isn't that just FABULOUS news!
(Seriously, I do like how the top over bust corset felt on. It made my back feel really good. All of them did. Hmmm...wonder if I could get a Doctor's order for one of these things?)
Special Thanks to Kate Pernia for turning me onto this place during our White Linen Night odyssey!

Isn't this a cute idea, framing lingerie? I absolutely adore lingerie shops with crystal chandeliers.
Next stop: Fleur de Paris, where they do not allow ANY pictures at all. I spent two hours trying on hats. I only got to about a third of them.

They have moved from their old location, and now have all their hat making supplies out on display, and a milliner (Kimberly) creating on site.
Kimberly replace a milliner whose trim works I greatly admired. There are still a few Nicole LeBlanc hats in the shop, but most of the hats are now done by Kimberly. She is a bit wilder than Nicole.

The bad news is that the price of the hats have soared. Load of hats in the $400 to $900 range.

The excellent news is that they now carry men's hats as well!
All that hat trying on is hard work. Plus I am lost. I ask directions here, and discover they have crab cakes for appetizers. That would make a perfect lunch.

Hey Kate! Guess who got seated in the window?
(Kate always says that restaurant owners seat ladies in hats in the window because it is good for business. Here's proof. Oh, and I am wearing a hat I trimmed myself, the grey one in the first picture. The guy at Fleur noticed it on the counter when he walked in and commented that it was a good looking hat even before he saw me. Me: Beaming!)

Crab cakes. I could only eat one, they were the biggest appetizer crab cakes I had ever seen in my life; they were the size of hamburger patties.

Glad I saved room for a little praline sampling down the street. Some of the New Orleans hotels leave pralines on your pillow at night, instead of the usual piece of chocolate. Nothing tastes as good or feels so decadent as a bite of praline and a cup of coffee in bed the next morning!
Urban Outfitters was down the street too. These were the window sized pictures in the front window. Check out those cool hats! NO, they didn't actually carry those cool hats! What is with these bait and switch companies nowadays????
New Orleans is known for their balconies, most of which have beautiful wrought iron work. This balcony is not so scenic, but it overlooks Canal Street, and would indeed be a great place to hold an event. A place to see and be scene, and never mind the fencing.

It is really fun to people watch. A surprising number of women walk along with feather boas. Tourist, for sure. The locals were all wearing Patagonia pile jackets and knitter scarves and gloves; the temperatures had dropped to the high 60's. When your body is used to 90+ degrees most of the year, that is seriously cold for them.

It did look like overkill though when I even saw fir trimmed parka hood worn up!

Head to Toe had loads of lovely items. I bought a pair of black and a pair of white crochet gloves. I got beige my last trip, love them, and have been looking for black and white ever since.

I'll post a picture of them later....

There is only one "Must Do" when visiting New Orleans: Cafe du Monde. I believe they serve coffee and beignets 24 hours a day every day except Christmas and have been doing so at this location since the early 1800's.
One of the most romantic things in life is to walk to the Cafe in the fog on a December night and sip coffee outside in the mist next to the Mississippi River.

It is impossible to eat the beignets without getting the powdered sugar all over your face. The local custom is for prom couples to go there the morning after prom, before heading home. The girls blow the powdered sugar on their date's tuxedos.

You just have to have beignets in New Orleans.
You just do.
You have to eat them hot, with the coffee that is half milk, and fall in love with the romance of life all over again.

The waiters rush about in white shirts and paper hats, bringing the coffee and beignets to the never ending stream of people.
Here's a funny story, part 1. So I was there eating my treat when two guys sat down at the table next to me. "I LOVE your hat!" they commented. They asked if I had ever had beignets before, in thick Texas accents. I explained that I had, and that it is a MUST to do in New Orleans. It was their first visit, and they said they liked Crispy Creme donuts. We chatted briefly, and I left them to there to finish there treats.
I needed to get back to the hotel by six. Bernie had flown in at 4, had meetings, and we were to attend a dinner at 6:30. It was now five thirty. Do you think I could find a cab for love or money? NO.
So I speed walked twenty blocks back to the hotel arriving at 6:05. I even went through a small parade (yes, I filmed on the hoof...) Toweled off the sweat, I threw on my charcoal black pant suit and my Fleur de Paris Scottie hat that I bought on ebay awhile back (the other hat in the first picture), and was down in the lobby right on time.

Bernie's company was meeting for dinner at Red Fish Grill, (best sea food restaurant for the last four years according to the sign; the cabbie said don't drink their tap water. Eeek. Plus oysters all over the menu, I'm allergic) I ordered soft shell crab and a mojito for a before dinner drink. I get seated next to Bernie's boss. Nice guy. Nice evening.
Between dinner and dessert, I excused myself to use the ladies room.

As I pushed my way back through the bar area, I hear a guy say loudly "God, I love that hat!"

I looked over my shoulder, and the guy goes "It's YOU again!"

Yup, the Texas guys from the beignet place. Different hat, same me. I blew them a kiss and headed back to my own man, grinning from ear to ear.

Nice to be noticed. Nicer yet to have a great guy of my own who thinks it is fun that other guys notice his wife's hat.
It's New Orleans, where everyone flirts and calls each other Darlin and Honey and Sweetie.
Even the cab drivers when you can find one.
I'm off for more fun adventures today.
Have a great day of fun yourself; all you need to do is put on a hat and go somewhere!
Trust me; life is always more fun when you are wearing a hat!


Ladygrande said...

Wow! Flying trip, but you got a lot in, didn't you!

Lovella said...

Jill, you look like you are having a fabulous time. I was thinking while I read it that knowing that you'll be sharing the days events with friends and family later really does take away the feeling of being alone on a fun day excursion. I did notice that you didn't take pictures at dinner. Guess . .that would be a litte faux pas with the boss.
I do look forward to todays activities.

Sara said...

Woo Hoo! More hat adventures to read about - thanks for sharing your fun with the rest of us! And I love that you included Cafe Du Monde in your post!

Glorious Hats said...

Oh YES! Your everyday at home life tale are so fun to follow and so often bring a smile to my face. And when you go on road trip adventures. OH MY! What a delight to vicariously join you. I may be here on the farm in body, but wow - get such a thrill and joy from venturing to New Orleans today.

Vicki said...

What fun! I would love to have gone shopping with you! I'm curious - was it difficult to breathe while wearing those corsets?

Just think, if you had chosen to go to Orlando with Bernie, I could have met you!

running wildly said...

What a trip!
My favorite part about this post was the corsets. are a real life Barbie. And the back woogies...geeze, the laughing I had at that could never have happened if I had been strapped into one of those breath-sucking corsets. Love it that the guys in the shop digged your hats in a big way. It does make you smile and puff up your chest just a tad, doesn't it?
I soooo look forward to your posts because your sense of humor is refreshing. I think in "real life" you and I would giggle and get along splendidly. You and your curves and corset enhanced bosom. Purrrrrrrr.