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New Orleans Part 3: Acoustics, Antiques, Art and Alligators

Music

Musical Legends Park

Rhythm is a lifestyle in NOLA, a city known for its vibrant, live-music scene. Musical legends including Louis Armstrong, arguably one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time, along with Fats Domino and Mahalia Jackson, are all from New Orleans.

Live music surrounds you in this city. You can find a band playing on main thoroughfares ...

... smaller sidewalks, and of course, on ...

... Bourbon Street, where "night" life is not relegated to after-dark, but occurs around the clock.

Bands on Bourbon Street celebrate everything from jazz to contemporary hits including Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," as seen in the video above.

For a quieter, French Quarter music scene, I discovered the Bombay Club.

During my stay, I visited this lounge three times for late night jazz, and each time, the featured band was excellent. I especially enjoyed the vocalist in the video above.

Ramos Gin Fizz

I also enjoyed the Bombay Club's great cocktails, each of which is special to NOLA. The gin fizz was concocted by Henry C. Ramos in New Orleans in 1888. It combines gin, lime and lemon juice, orange flower water, and my favorite part -- egg white that has been vigorously shaken until it is frothy.

Pimm's Cup

So technically, the Pimm's Cup did not originate in NOLA. It was created in London in the 1840s. That said, 100 years later, a New Orleans bartender added Seven Up, lemonade and a cucumber garnish to Pimm's No.1, and this new, refreshing, low-alcohol, New Orleans version became popular in NOLA and is associated with the city to this day.

Sazerac

The Sazerac, named after the Sazerac De Forge et Fils (the original spirit used to make the cocktail), was invented in 1838 on Royal Street in New Orleans. In 2008, this cocktail, made with rye whisky and Peychaud’s Bitters, was named the “Official Cocktail of New Orleans” by the Louisiana House of Representatives.

And now, back to the music. Upon the recommendation of a good friend and many NOLA locals, I headed from Bourbon to Frenchman Street, where I was told the "real" music scene was to be found. I was not disappointed.

Frenchmen Street, once a hidden gem among locals, is now universally known as the best place to find authentic, live music in NOLA. I was told that the street is named after five French patriots who were executed.

You can find every kind of music playing at the venues on Frenchmen Street. I was advised however, that if it was quintessential jazz for which I was on the hunt, there was no better place than The Spotted Cat Music Club.

Put another way, I read a review that stated, "If Frenchman Street is home to the city’s best jazz, the Spotted Cat is its epicenter." So, to the epicenter I went.

All I can say is, "wow!" If you are in NOLA, prioritize a trip to Frenchmen Street, located in the enchanting Fauborg Marigny and stop at The Spotted Cat for at least one set. You can have dinner one block away at Adolfos which I wrote about in my last post. You are in for a fabulous, relaxing evening, away from the commotion of Bourbon Street.


Antiques and Art

Did you know that NOLA is one of the best places in the U.S. to purchase high-value antiques? I didn't, until I visited the city. And if you are in the market, M.S. Rau is one of North America's premiere venues, lauded for antiques, as well as fine art and jewelry. The store was founded in 1912, and walking through it was comparable to walking through a museum.

You can find intricately designed, sculptural clocks, ...

... and more clocks (this one is from 1865) ...

... and even more clocks ...

... gorgeous chess sets ...

... sterling silver, Tiffany & Company flatware, ...

... and coffee and tea sets dating back to the 19th Century. M.S. Rau has it all.


The antiques are impressive but do not outshine the art, which is equally impressive. I saw pieces by the heralded greats including ...

... Picasso ...

... more Picasso ...

... Renoir ...

... Van Gogh (one of my favorites) ...

... Monet ...

... Matisse ...

... Chagall ...

... Dali ...

... Mignot ....

... and Rockwell. If you are able to stop at M.S. Rau while you are in NOLA, you are in for a tour through the opulent, and what may be the largest, retail, antique business in North America.


Alligators

On my penultimate day in NOLA, I saw alligators, which excited me so much that I sent texts to friends back home to share the news. My first exchange went like this:

Me: I just saw an alligator!!

Friend: In like, a zoo??

Me: In a swamp.

Friend: Why are you in a swamp?!?!?

After receiving similar responses from two other friends (who were equally confused and somewhat concerned) and shrieking with laughter while we debriefed, I realized my communication skills may be lacking. Having learned my lesson, let me start by saying that I did not encounter alligators at my hotel, in a jazz club, restaurant or anywhere in the French Quarter.

With my trip drawing to a close, I decided to venture out of town and head to Marrero, Louisiana to visit a swamp. Once I arrived, I boarded this airboat. Airboats are flat-bottomed vessels that are designed for navigating and skimming over shallow waters, like swamps. They are propelled by a massive, and very loud fan, located on the boat's stern.

My airboat, happened to be operated by this guy. Once we adorned our ear protection, he took us on quite a ride.

He navigated us through swamps with ease as he entertained us with captivating stories of his life and his many encounters with alligators.

And just as he was telling us another riveting tale, we saw one. Can you see it? You have to look closely because these are stealthy creatures.

Here's a better look.

And just up ahead, we saw another one.

With that, we headed back, as I took in the beautiful transition between land and liquid. The dark, tree trunks and brackish waters were both mysterious and calming. I got lost in thought in this surreal landscape until suddenly, we were back at the dock.


Soon thereafter, I was boarding a plane to head west. That wraps up this series on NOLA, an amazing city that I want to return to again soon.

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