Not All Who Wander in New Orleans Are Lost

If you love the fleur-de-lis you’ll love New Orleans:
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I don’t know if they put fleur-de-lis ornaments on their Christmas trees in France but I’m sure they do in New Orleans…

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…because in New Orleans they put the fleur-de-lis on everything:

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Neither the fleur-de-lis nor the famed New Orleans frame of mind (Laissez les bon temps rouler) is just for tourists…

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…because it wasn’t only tourists who were dancing in the streets for French Quarter Festival last week:

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Of course, you don’t need a festival in the French Quarter to laissez les bon temps rouler  — the good times roll on every street corner:

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…and IN every street:

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Just some fun loving gals taking their Hurricanes for a ride.

Only in New Orleans is it OK to take your Hurricane to go in a fleur-de-lisgo cup“:

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Or, you can just “Go” with Michael Jackson booming from the woofers in your hi-rise Chevy as your rouler down Chartres Street:

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The driver got a round of applause from the Sikh bros on the left. Only in New Orleans, dear readers, only in New Orleans.

The only reason that the Segway is not more popular in NOLA…

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…is because there’s no damn cup holder for your Hurricane. No cup holder needed here:

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Where I live on Long Island, I can go years without seeing a guy in kilt walking down the street. I was in New Orleans for four days and I saw two guys in kilts:

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This fella from Houma, LA swore that this is the Louisiana tartan. I never doubt the word of a guy wearing a kilt with a go cup in his hand. But I digress…weren’t we talking about how much the fleur-de-lis is beloved by New Orleanians? Right:

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I saw this guy (above)  keeping it real in golden threads in Treme. And when I had my Tarot cards read at Bottom of the Tea Cup in the Quarter, my psychic was keeping it real in rhinestones:

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You never know where you’re going to find the fleur-de-lis:

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You never know:

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What New Orleans garden would be complete without a fleur-de-lis?

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You see, my visit to New Orleans was work. Oh, yes, I was working, thank you very much!

Wait a sec. I have to stop laughing. Work. In New Orleans. That’s a good one. But if anybody from the IRS is reading this yes, I was working while I was in New Orleans!!  I was there to hunt down that special New Orleans garden voodoo for my upcoming Damn Garden Book. (Bragging rights to whoever can spot the flour-de-lis in this picture:)

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This is me, hard at work, interviewing the inspirational gardener Karen Kersting on her lush rose garden in the heart of New Orleans:

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That’s Little Bee on my lap. Her name is really Bijoux but that’s too big a name for such a pocket-sized pup so she’s called Little Bee. I wish my cats would let me have a dog.

Yes, dear readers and any lurking IRS investigators, I was working to hunt down garden secrets in NOLA, peeping into every hidden courtyard…

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…sticking my nose through any iron grille between me and any archbishop’s private sanctuary…

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…photographing any hidden Eden when my head wouldn’t fit through the gate…

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…no refuge was too private for me to trespass. Note the ADORABLE cat door here:

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You know I had to take every opportunity to meet the cats of New Orleans, like this good ole boy we came across while visiting Top Cat’s alma mater Tulane University:

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I did not know New Orleans until Top Cat took me on the Top Cat New Orleans Experience for the first time in 2004 and made me crazy for NOLA — and every visit since then has only made me more besotted with the place. Top Cat was a philosophy major at Tulane and, as you can see from above, Tulane has a gracious campus full of gracious scholars and no, that’s not Spanish Moss hanging from that gracious old Sawtooth Oak in one of the many gracious quads on campus:

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This photo makes me wonder why on Earth anyone bothers to go to college anywhere else:

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In a future blog I will have to tell you all about the fabulous bookstores in New Orleans and their fabulous book store cats…

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…or dogs, as the case may be:

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But today I am telling you about how New Orleans loves the fleur-de-lis…especially the City of New Orleans:

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City government can’t get nothing done without a fleur-de-lis:

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The French government gifted the City of New Orleans with this statue of The Maid of Orleans (Joan of Arc) and that’s the city flag flying its fleurs-de-lis next to the French Tricoleur, all at half mast for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing:

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Evil will not prevail.

Homeowners fly the flag, too:

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Even in the ritzy Garden District, they fly the flag:

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Windows like this tempt me to turn into a Peeping Tom for the fleur-de-lis:

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I think I might have to explain that this is perfectly good English in New Orleans:

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The Saints are New Orleans’ Super Bowl-winning football team, by the way.

To correctly use the word Dat in a New Orleans sentence, all you need to do is say :

Who Dat

Who Dat

Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints?

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New Orleanians love the fleur-de-lis so much…

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…they even bury themselves with it in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1:

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But oh! The colors of New Orleans!

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Oh! The color of nature in New Orleans!

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Every house is a garden color!

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And the windows!

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On Royal Street the windows speak the truth:

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America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland. Don’t  blame me (I love the Cleveland and the Cleveland Museum of Art but you have to admit, the name Cleveland is perfect for a punch line — anybody from Cleveland want to weigh in?) — Tennessee Williams said that.

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This hot new dining spot…

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…reminds me that I haven’t told you about the food. Oh, the food of New Orleans!

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Beignets at Cafe du Monde is just the appetizer! (Southern people love their sweets, is all I can say about the photo below.)

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You know what they say: If you weren’t already five pounds overweight when you got to New Orleans…

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…you will be when you leave.

This is ONE sandwich, a five-pound fried clam/shrimp/oyster sandwich with chopped lettuce etc. called a muffuletta:

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Top Cat’s lunch. I just watched, in awe.

You can also get it with a side bowl of gumbo at Johnny’s Po Boy:

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Thanks to Chef Kevin Belton (“Big Kevin” cus he’s 6’9″ 300 lbs) at The New Orleans School of Cooking we now know how to whip up some chicken étouffée, and how to correctly pronounce New Orleans.

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Note the fleur-de-lis on Big Kev’s apron. Just saying.

Big Kevin says that “New Orleeeens” was bastardized just so it could rhyme with “Do you know what it means / to miss…” The proper way to say it is “New Or-lee-ins” or, if you are tenth generation Cajun or true Creole, “Nawlins”.

Meanwhile, over at the famous Mother’s Restaurant…

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…I had a bowl of their specialty Baked Spaghetti Pie (with green beans and corn):

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Yeah, that’s Velveeta on top.

I can’t say it was the best thing I ever ate. But Top Cat keeps saying over and over that the charbroiled oysters at Drago’s oyster bar are THE BEST THINGS HE’S EVER EATEN IN HIS WHOLE LIFE:

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Of course I had to go to THE Sazerac Bar in the swanky Roosevelt Hotel to have my Official  New Orleans Sazerac Cocktail:

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Behind my debonair bartender that’s a silver yachting cup won by one of the Astors in 1910. There is no Roosevelt memorabilia in the Roosevelt Hotel because that would make too much sense and this is New Orleans, baby.

We also had dinner there in the Roosevelt at Domenica’s (astonishing Italian cuisine) — because on the flight out of LaGuardia I had the good fortune to sit next to a NOLA native who recommended the place as a worthy adjutant to NOLA seafood while she also advised me that a dose of  Xanax might reduce my screaming at take-off. I’m petrified of flying — just what you’d expect from a Travel Memoirist, right? — but then Valbourg invited me to meet her circle of friends over coffee who included the great  Travel Writer Millie Ball (read her latest round-the-world article in the L.A. Times here and yes, she said it: Queen Latifa is her muse) and Millie confessed that she doesn’t know how to pack. So I’m in good company when it comes to Travel Writer Irony. This still makes me laugh…

Also while I was WORKING in New Orleans (wait a sec…still laughing) I was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club in The University District and  I mentioned that I would move to NOLA but then I’d have no place to spend vacation. So OF COURSE one of the Rotarians said “Move here and you’ll always be on vacation” because THAT’s THE WAY THEY DO IT IN NEW ORLEANS. And then Rotarian Michael B. swept me and  Top Cat off to Bywater for an outstanding Turkish dinner because THAT’s THE WAY THEY DO IT IN NEW ORLEANS.

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Dear readers, I regret that I only took 463 photos during my 94 hours in New Orleans. I wish I had recorded every 5,640 minutes of my visit — every second, every breath of New Orleans air is precious to me. Thank you Karen, Valborg (violist with the New Orleans Philharmonic), Michael B., Selena, Dougie, Mme. Trudeau, Glori-A, and the many citizens of NOLA who serve food, drive trolly cars, keep hotels, sell books, play music, walk around in kilts, make gardens, cook crawfish/oyster/shrimp/etc., write stories, give tours, and preserve and renew The Crescent City on a daily basis: you make me know what it means to miss New Orleans.

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And now, I announce this week’s winner of my Triscuit of NOLA is…

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Here’s how this works: On blog post day I see how many Comments have been posted on the last blog and I say to Top Cat, “Pick a number between One and [However Many Comments Are Posted On The Last Blog] and he picks a number and I find whose Comment is that ordinal. I always think that whoever wins the give-away watercolor of the day is exactly who I would choose…but this just goes to show you that my Top Cat has access to the spheres. Chris W., congratulations.

I’ll be back next week with a watercolor tutorial — in the meantime feel free to browse this previous Watercolor Turtorial because it’s cold and grey and dull here on Long Island and this is the only thing that’s good about being here instead of New Orleans.