This picture pretty much sums up New Orleans during French Quarter Fest:
He’s just a guy, walking his pig and his German Shepard, down on Decatur Street, with a zydeco band playing in the background.
The pig is called Sargent Tim. Which is a very fine name for a pig.
2019 was the 36th year of French Quarter Fest, and Year Five for Top Cat and I. This year there were 23 stages set up in the Quarter, from Iberville to Esplanade, and all along the Mississippi River on the levee called the Moon Walk. But there are also plenty of bands that pitch up on random blocks, and throw impromptu parties in the middle of the street:
I remembered seeing this guy (in the blue T-shirt and white beret) last year . . .
. . . because he was wearing the same Je Suis Quebecois outfit last year! I don’t have a French Quarter Fest outfit but I’m working on it. To start me off, I got a new hat:
The Fleur-de-Lis is bejeweled, with real fake diamonds. I bought it to be ironic and then I began to really love it. It’s very shiny. (Be sure to pronounce the final “s” on Fleur-de-lis in both your English and French accent. It’s polite. The Fleur-de-Lis is the symbol of royalty in France and it’s the unofficial but ubiquitous symbol of Louisiana and New Orleans and is featured on the city’s flag and pretty much on every cocktail coaster in the Quarter.)
The Crescent is the other symbol of New Orleans, which calls itself “The Crescent City’, because the city was founded right here on Jackson Square in the French Quarter, on the “high” ground (three feet above sea level) where the Mississippi River curls into a “C” shape. The Crescent is on every police badge and cop car and official communication from NOPD:
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get a good picture of this NOPD sign. . .
. . . because this little girl was dancing in the way. . .
The sequins bejeweling her French Quarter Fest outfit spell
LOVE WHO U ARE
and I need to get me one of those shirts.
New Orleans is an”open carry” city, meaning that you can walk around with a cup of booze as long as it is not in a glass or metal container. (It’s called a Go Cup, in paper or plastic.)
This helps immensely with laissez les bons temps rouler.
Even the pups know how to party in NOLA:
Miss Diva here literally rolls with the good times . . .
. . . , and she packs her own bottle[s] of champagne:
If you want to get a line dance started, all you have to do is, well, start one. This lady in the black dress with cowboy boots (she looked great — effortlessly FQF) eventually had about 20 people doing her line, including people who couldn’t follow the stops at all. Even if you can’t dance, you can dance in New Orleans.
The best part of French Quarter Fest is that any stranger can become a dance partner.
I know for a fact that the lady in the blue T-shirt (below) came here from Switzerland with her husband for FrenchQuarter Fest, and the guy in the green shirt (who is a fantastic dancer) is not her husband.
In fact, they had never met before this happened at the French Market:
Another sequin-ly bejeweled lady in her fabulous FQF outfit, and the guy in the green shirt also had a huge dragon tattoo all over his back that I could not get a good photo of:
But the dragon-backed guy in the green shirt wasn’t the only heart-throb there.
This guy (below) in the light pink T-shirt, is the husband of the lady in the blue T-shirt (above), and he was a very good dancer too, so a lady twice his age invited him for a twirl:
She’s who I want to be when I’m 70-something and if I start now maybe I can be her in ten years.
Having been coming to FQF for five years, Top Cat and I have our favorites performers and favorite stages. This stage is at the old Mint on Esplanade:
This is the biggest stage of the whole Fest, the Abita Beer stage on the levee:
But we LOVE this stage, the Chevron Stage on the Bienville Triangle, because this is where the zydeco bands play:
Top Cat and I, we do love the zydeco. So does everyone else at FQF. This is a photo of the stage from the performer’s point of view:
As regulars at FQF, Top Cat and I know how to get up front and personal:
Fun Fact: FQF happens during the last week of Lent. Explains this guy’s Easter bonnet.
New Orleans, like the rest of Louisiana, is very Catholic. But it’s a special kind of Catholic, the kind that mixes Easter bunnies with Mardi Gras beads:
And to let you know, even though attendance at the Fest broke records with 825,000 people from all over the world coming to New Orleans to pack themselves into the 422 acres of the French Quarter, you can take a walk up Dumaine Street and by the time you hit Burgundy, you will find peace and quiet, and a yellow cat . . .
But all good things come to an end, even French Quarter Fest. Top Cat and I usually like to go to the Voodoo Garden at the House of Blues for the last dance, but this year we did something different. We went to see jazz at the Royal Sonesta Hotel:
The Royal Sonesta is fancy. $25 got us two measly glasses of wine. . .
. . . and a fabulous bejeweled courtyard patio where we danced our final waltz:
Then we stepped out of the Royal Sonesta onto the fabled (and rowdy) Bourbon Street. . .
. . . and we started counting the months until French Quarter Fest 2020.
There’s plenty of other stuff we did in between dances at FQF, like shopping on Magazine Street and meeting old friends for lunch in Treme. We went to Mother’s Restaurant one day, famous for its spaghetti pie (which I had a few years ago and I’m still traumatized; pasta and sauce and green beans are not delicious together) and I had my favorite New Orleans speciality, red beans and rice.
While I was shoveling in the red beans, I watched a southern lady at the table next to us. She ordered a big plate of mashed potatoes, upon which she slabbed a spoonful of butter, and then she stirred in a pile of french fries. Into the buttery mashed potatoes, is what I’m saying. She appeared to have eaten this concoction many, many, many times in the past. (She was not petite, in other words.) And then she ate this Ode to Starch by taking about a thousand tiny, fastidious, dainty bites, as if to break down the calories into their smallest denominator. Bless her heart, as they say. I was fascinated.
This is why I love the South. The south, right here in New Orleans, is where I also saw, one morning, a man order breakfast: a large Coke and a double order of bacon. That was all. Hi-fat protein and liquified sugar. The southern speedball. Bless his heart, he needs divine protection from his diet.
The night after FQF, on our last night in New Orleans, we went to a roof-top bar to watch the sun set. We have never done this before in NOLA, and how onEarth did it take us so long to find this place??
There was a particularly handsome couple at a table nearby, and I took half a dozen shots of them:
He and she seemed to be very much in love and oblivious to everyone else, as you do when you only have eyes for your beloved, so when she went to the ladies room I introduced myself to the guy and said I’d like to send him the pictures (they all came out very well). So he gave me his email, and wrote me the sweetest thank you note a day later when, back in dreary, cold, drizzly, gray, and non-dancing Long Island, I sent them all to him. I think this is something people do these days, in this Instagram era. We take surreptitious pictures of each other and there’s no shame in it any more.
It’s not that New Orleans has the most beautiful sky line (although it does have the SuperDome). . .
. . .it’s more that the bar was surprisingly quiet, and not crowded, and not snotty. . .
. . . and the night was like velvet, bejeweled with a thousand memories of music, dance, romance, and red beans.
Thank you, New Orleans, for being you.
Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. And wherever you are, I hope you’ll do a twirl in the sunset with a Go Cup in your hand and love in your heart.