Day 7 / The Daze Between ... Wednesday, April 30


Today we ate breakfast in the room because Laurie had to do her job-search thing to keep the Commonwealth of Virginia happy. We both had leftovers that we needed to start eating anyway. You might not think that jambalaya from Mother's would be such a good breakfast, but you would be mistaken! 

When we got out a bit later in the morning, we made a beeline to the Starbucks in the back of the Canal Place shopping mall and took our coffee to, where else but the riverfront. It was another beautiful morning, barely a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was around 70 on its way to a high in the mid-70's with a light breeze. The humidity was pretty low and the sun was pretty strong, so we went a little further down the river to find some shade in Woldenberg Park to sit and sip and people and river-traffic watch.

When we finally got going again, we headed further down the river to the French market section of the French Quarter, once again passing Café du Monde, the Joan of Arc statue, the Palm Court Jazz Café, the WWOZ studios, etc. etc. until we were in the farmer's market area. We keep looking in here for something of interest, but never find it, although we have read that there are some rather good artists and craft-type people in there. We just don't have the patience to filter out all of the junk and the busloads of tourists. The food section does look intersting, but again, dealing with the tourists, even though we are technically tourists ourselves ...

We decided to explore some of the back streets of the lower French Quarter, heading up Barracks Street and passing lots of colorful shotgun houses. We even saw somebody we recognized from Jazz Fest, an older gentleman who bears a resemblance to Laurie's grandfather on her mother's side, leaving one of them. Laurie's grandfather would definitely have fit in down here. 

We turned back upriver on Royal Street. The buildings down in this part of town aren't as large as the mansions in the Garden District, which we walked around last year, but they are every bit as interesting to look at and every bit as historic. The streets are a lot narrower, that's for sure, and everything is crowded together. Right at the corner of Barracks Street and Royal was this flowered beauty, built in 1907 and fashioned in an eclectic turn-of-the-century style that blends the colonial and Queen Anne styles. It sits right across the street from the Golden Lantern, a local dive bar that features excellent Bloody Marys. This rather unassuming place is also known for its drag queen entertainment. It's New Orleans, OK?

Further down the block we encountered Bennachin, the African restaurant that prepares the wonderful jama jama (sauteed spinach) and fried plantains served at Jazz Fest. We should have stopped here for an early afternoon lunch but didn't feel like we had the appetite to do a place like this justice, so we continued up Royal Street.

The area where Royal Street meets Governor Nicholls Street has a number of buildings of interest. Right at the intersection is the LaLaurie (!) House, considered the most famous private residence in the city. It was built in the early 1800's by Louis Barthelmy de Macarty, and in the hands of one of his children, Delphine LaLaurie, it was the scene of many highbrow social events. But behind the opulence were persistent rumors about the LaLaurie servants. In 1833, a neighbor told the police she had seen Delphine LaLaurie mercilessly lashing a young slave. In 1834, a fire broke out.  Neighbors crashed through a locked door into a smoke choked room and found seven slaves chained leg and neck in the most painful positions. A local newspaper suggested that Madame LaLaurie had set the fire. When people began to gather outside the house, a carriage burst out of the gate and raced away. The house was restored, but the LaLauries never returned. Some say it is the most haunted house in the French Quarter, a place where one can hear groans, screams, and the savage hissing of whips.

On the opposite corner from the LaLaurie mansion is the Verti Marte, and unassuming storefront housing a longstanding 24-7 market and deli known for its Creole-inspired sandwiches, entrees, and sides.

In the block above Royal Street on Governor Nicholls Street is the Thierry House, built in 1814 for Jean Baptiste Thierry.  Well hidden behind a brick wall, iron gate, and plenty of greenery, it is the earliest remaining example of Greek Revival architecture in the French Quarter.

In the block below Royal Street on Governor Nicholls are the Soniat House and (barely visible behind a wall) the Clay House. 

Wealthy aristocratic planter Joseph Soniat du Fossat built his town house around 1829. In the 1860's, the wrought iron with which Monsieur du Fossat had embellished his home was torn away and replaced with the admirable cast-iron lacework it now wears. 

John Clay, whose brother was the famous statesman Henry Clay, built his Italianate residence around the same time. It, too is well hidden behind a wall and an ornate garden. A two-story building at the rear of the property was added after 1871 and, in the 1890s, it was used by Frances Xavier Cabrini, now St. Frances Cabrini, as a schoolhouse.

Continuing up Royal Street, we next came upon the The Gallier House. James Gallier Jr., one of the most illustrious in long line of notable architects, built this house in 1857. It’s open to the public under the auspices of The Woman’s Exchange and presents an excellent opportunity to see how the wealthy people of New Orleans lived just past the middle of the last century.

The Woman’s Exchange was founded in 1881 to help “women in need.” It is one of the oldest continually run non-profits owned and operated by women. In 1924, they purchased the property at 820 St. Louis Street (later named the Hermann-Grima House), opened a consignment shop, and rented rooms to single women to live in a chaperoned environment.  In the late 1960s, it changed the focus of its mission to one of preservation and education by transforming the house into a museum dedicated to illustrating life in the “Golden Age” of New Orleans.  The museum opened its doors in 1971. To further its mission, in 1996 the organization acquired the Gallier House from Tulane University, thereby ensuring the continued operation of this important house museum. 

Besides the green iron balcony on the Gallier House, the block between Governor Nicholls Street and Ursulines Avenue has other interesting and attractive balconies:


Here we came upon something you need to know if renting in the French Quarter:

With the street becoming more and more commercial as we crossed St. Phillip Street, we passed the Andrew Jackson Hotel, and then the the cornstalk fence at 915 Royal Street. The Victorian structure behind the cast-iron fence representing stalks and ears of corn intertwined with morning glory vines and blossoms is now a boutique hotel, haunted of course. There are stories of hauntings at the Cornstalk Hotel, including apparitions of playing children. Some guests have also reported photographs  of themselves lying in bed asleep in their room at the hotel appearing on their cameras after their stay. 

the Cornstalk Hotel was built in the early 19th century as the home of of François Xavier Martin, who was the first Attorney General of State of Louisiana, as well as a longtime Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Xavier-Martin was also the author of the first history of Louisiana, and the hotel itself has an interesting history. Harriet Beecher Stowe supposedly stayed at the house and was inspired to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin after witnessing the nearby slave markets of the time.

The famous cornstalk fence was a later addition. In 1840 a new owner moved to the property, and in order to appease his wife, who was originally from Iowa, he commissioned a new fence that was reminiscence of the corn fields where she grew up. You may remember from Day 7 last year that the wife of Colonel Robert Henry Short also was homesick for Iowa, and he, too, had a fence shaped like a row of cornstalks made. This fence still stands in the Garden District. It is not known if the two fences were made at the same time or by the same foundry.

The Nine O Five Royal completes the row of three hotels in this block. 

On the other side of the street are the Miltenberger Houses, three connected row houses. The intricate work of the cast-iron galleries, the frieze of rococo iron leaves set below the floor of the galleries and the floor-to-ceiling windows are a few of the architectural details that make this building beautiful and interesting.

Dr. and Mrs. Miltenberger came to New Orleans in the wave of immigrants who fled Dominique, where they owned coffee plantations, during the slave insurrections of the 1790's. They were originally from Alsace, France. Miltenberger was a physician who had considerable experience treating the Yellow Fever epidemics on Dominique and, grateful for his expertise, the Mayor of New Orleans appointed him to supervise indigent health care. He was one of the first to theorize that Yellow Fever was not a contagious disease, and he became influential in the medical community as his reputation spread beyond New Orleans. He acquired two sugar plantations and became a wealthy man and one of the most well-known of Dominque's refugees. Perhaps, his biggest claim to fame lies in his service as surgeon at the Battle of New Orleans, attached to Major Plauche's contingent of Creoles.

Dr. Miltenberger died in 1829 at the age of 65.  In 1838, his widow, Marie Aimee Miltenberger, had the striking building on Royal Street constructed at a cost of $29,176.  The new houses became the homes of the three Miltenberger sons, Gustave on the corner, Aristides in the middle, and Alphonse the one on the end.

Alphonse was an architect by trade as well as an entrepreneurial cast iron importer. He was influential in introducing the trend of large cast iron galleries on French Quarter houses in the 1830's.  By 1858, Alphonse had added the cast iron galleries to the three Miltonberger townhouses. He also retained the famous architect Henry Howard to design the hexagon tower which overlooks the Courtyard.

Members of the family continued to live in the houses for at least three generations. Mrs Miltenberger's favorite granddaughter, Alice Heiné, was born in the end unit. She went on to become a duchess upon marrying the Duke de Richelieu in 1875. After his death in 1882, she became the first American Princess of Monaco when she married Prince Albert I of Monaco. That marriage ended in divorce in 1902. Alice rarely returned to New Orleans but remained the nearest thing to royalty found in the French Quarter.

Today you will find Café Amelie in the courtyard and carriage house of the Miltenberger Houses. Founded in 2005, it was named for Amelie Miltonberger, the mother of Princess Alice and daughter of Alphonse.

A few steps down Doumaine Street from Royal Street is the House of Jean Pascal, also known as "Madame John's Legacy.". Many researchers insist this is the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley. Defenders of the present building's antiquity think it was erected in 1726. The current owner, the Louisiana State Museum, renovated the structure and furnished it with furniture of the period.  The name, Madame John's Legacy, by which it is identified, is the result of having been given that title in a fictional story, "Tite Poulette", by George Washington Cable.

One of the more interesting buildings in the next block, a bustling retail section, is the one that looks like a cottage, somewhat out of place compared with the rest of the block. It houses the Bakelite Lady’s vintage jewelry and other stuff and Bambi deVille’s Vintage Clothing store. When the store is open, the front courtyard is usually full of goods for sale. Also a bit out of place, a little shotgun house across the street contains an artists’ collective gallery.

These next couple of blocks of Royal Street are among the best in the French Quarter. They are free from traffic in the morning and afternoon and usually have at least one or two groups of musicians playing. The whole vibe is very quiet, laid back, and eclectic compared with the noise and bombast of Bourbon Street, just a block away.

When you pass the Rodrigue Gallery and get to the back of the garden behind St. Peter Cathedral you’ll see some more art vendors, like the ones in Jackson Square, only on a smaller scale. I talked about this area on our lazy-ass tour on Monday, so I won't repeat myself.

On corner of Royal and St. Peter Streets is New Orleans’ first "skyscraper." In 1811, Yves LeMonnier and François Grandchamps purchased the lot and unfinished building located here for the sum of $16,000. They immediately engaged the services of two well known engineers and architects: Arséne Lacarriere Latour, General Jackson's principal engineer during the Battle of New Orleans, and Hyacinthe Laclotte, the engineer whose spirited engraving of the famous battle has been frequently reproduced. The architects were paid $7,600 for the renovation. Dr LeMonnier moved into the upper stories and selected for his study the beautiful corner oval room on the third floor.  The ground floor was rented for shops. The iron-girded balcony bears his exquisitely wrought "YLM" monogram. The third-floor study is regarded as the most beautiful chamber, architecturally, in New Orleans.

If you go up St. Peter Street, you’ll find Preservation Hall (see Day 6 last year), which dates back to around 1820, and next to it is Pat O’Brien’s bar and restaurant. The building and its magnificent courtyard (on the right) are believed to have been commissioned by the well-known planter, Etienne Marie de Flechier, after the fire of 1794. 

Also on this block is the LeMonnier House, built in 1829.  This house acquired its most notable occupant, Antoine Alciatoire, in 1860. Antoine operated a boarding house preparing such succulent dishes that his fame spread and eventually led to his opening the restaurant which gave him an international reputation and which his direct descendants still own and operate.

At the corner of St. Peter Street and Royal Street, opposite Maison LeMonnier, you'll find a Rouse's Market with a group of musicians that seems to be there a lot in various combinations.

We went the other way down St. Peter Street because we were ready (really ready) for some food. It was warm, and we knew we wanted something light, so we set our sights on LaDivina  Café and Gelateria, which sits at the corner of St. Peter Street and Cabildo Alley. The alley leads over to Pirate Alley and the cathedral. There’s outdoor seating there, which was a perfect place to enjoy the weather and also do some people watching.

We're familiar with La Divina because they provide the unique and very tasty gelatos, sorbettos, and homemade ice cream sandwiches sold at Jazz Fest. It's very hard to walk by their stand between the Gentilly and Fais Do Do stages without stopping to try one of the flavors available that day. Not only that but they sell a chocolate sorbet with espresso poured over top that is just so rich and bitter that it's hard not to get anything else.

The owners of La Divina, Katrina and Carmelo Turillo, while living in Florence, were inspired by the Italian passion for the simple, fresh, and homemade foods and the way it was incorporated into the Italiaans' everyday life. The epitome of this lifestyle was the leisurely evening stroll, the passeggiata, when the whole city poured into the streets to see friends and neighbors. Often, the evening was capped off with a scoop or two of Italian ice cream, gelato.

The Turillos traveled across Italy and studied the artisanal method of making gelato and sorbetto and other dishes from scratch. The first La Divina opened in February 2007, and there are now four locations. It's the only place in Louisiana to make gelato (or any ice cream for that matter) from scratch without pastes, powders, or bases. And you can taste the difference!

Everything is all natural, local, and organic at La Divina whenever possible. They use Ryal’s Rocking R Dairy milk from happy grass-fed, hormone-free cows, real sugar, fresh eggs, and the best local produce, nuts, chocolates, and herbs they can find. The other dishes are made in the classic Italian tradition with fresh, top-quality ingredients that let each pure flavor shine through.

My lunch was a caprese salad (slices of ripe tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella, served atop a bed of mixed greens, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar). Laurie had eggplant on foccacia (grilled eggplant, fresh mozzarella, and sundried tomato pesto). A perfect light meal for a lovely, sunny and warm afternoon.

We would finish our Royal Street walk later this evening on our way to dinner. But at this time, in the early afternoon, we decided to check out the exhibit on hurricanes Katrina and Rita at the part of the Louisiana State Museum in the Presbytére building on Jackson Square. 

On the way over to the museum, we encountered a brass band playing in front of the Cabildo, complete with a gentleman with an umbrella providing dance moves, while over in front of the Presbytére was a guy playng a homemade kora, the West African harp-like instrument made from strings and a gourd. 

Lots of fun music just permeates this city. On a day like this, there could be no finer place, anywhere. We actually felt a bit guilty because we knew that the weather back in Virginia was cold and rainy. However, as we entered the Presbytére building, we were somewhat snapped out of our state of bliss as we came face to face with the baby grand piano that belonged to Fats Domino. The piano was ruined when waters rushed into Domino's Ninth Ward home. It is displayed as it was found, toppled over on its side and missing large pieces. 

Hanging from the ceiling were more than 1,400 bottles, each with a "message" in the form of the name of one of the storms' victims in Louisiana. Blue glass hands, created by New Orleans glass artist Mitchell Gaudet, are interspersed, representing the volunteers who came to the city and who continue to come to help in the rebuilding.

The exhibit tells the stories of real people caught in the hurricane Katrina and the flood caused by the failure of the levee system afterward, and does not overlook hurricane Rita, which hit southwest Louisiana a few weeks later with more typical hurricane damage, if there is such a thing. The exhibit documents rescue, recovery, rebuilding, and renewal in a very moving way, combining eyewitness accounts, historical context, and in-depth scientific exploration. It also tells the story of how the rich, varied culture of New Orleans and coastal Louisiana has learned to live with the fragility of its environment and how the storms of 2005 gave rise to a new vision for the region. 

As we all know, when it hit southeastern Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the morning of August 29, 2005, Katrina caused a lot of destruction. But the disaster wasn't entirely the result of natural causes. The levees and floodwalls built by the Federal Government to protect New Orleans from the water surrounding it, failed. Their collapse in a dozen or more locations, plus tidal surges from the the low-lying eastern edge of New Orleans, flooded 80 percent of the city and beyond, causing the unnecessary loss of many hundreds of lives and billions of dollars worth of property destruction.

The exhibit stretches across four galleries, each telling one aspect of the story using artifacts and media. The first illustrates Louisiana's history with water, from the Mississippi River's benefits to the threats of coastal storm surges and floods. We heard TV weathermen tracking the approaching storm and residents' voices discussing their choices as Katrina approached. A large video wall shows Katrina's full fury. Next we see what it was like to be stranded in an attic and then the roof of a house surrounded by rising floodwaters after chopping through the roof with a hatchet to escape. The rescue portion of the exhibit shows a Coast Guard rescue basket (the Coast Guard alone resued more than 30,000 people) and seats from the heavily damaged Louisiana Superdome where thousands of people sought refuge. 

Perhaps the most powerful component of the entire exhibit is the drywall on which Thomas Elton Mabry, who stayed in the B.W. Cooper housing project in New Orleans, kept a diary from the day Katrina hit through October. These panels occupy a corner of the exhibit to simulate the room where Mabry was stranded. Homeless on and off for much of his adult life, Mabry was eventually the sole occupant of the sprawling complex, staying on in defiance of the city’s evacuation order, dodging the housing authority and the New Orleans police, and coping with the 2 feet of water that covered the ground floors. On the sly, National Guardsmen patrolling the area looked after him, dropping off MREs (meals ready to eat) by the case and once delivering a steak for his dog, Red.

A garage door, bearing the National Guard's notice that two cats and one dead dog were found in this Mid-City house, provides a glimpse of one family's loss. 

If you are curious, the drawing at left explains the markings that were put on virtually every  building in the city. Some are still visible as you travel around. A red X in the center indicated that the building was too dangerous to enter. 

A variety of kiosks offer firsthand survivor reports from hospitals, first responders, neighborhood heroes and communications teams. On one screen, doctors and nurses at Charity Hospital plead for help for dying patients and wave banners from windows; they have no electricity, food, or potable water. As hospital personnel plead, they watch the Air Force One helicopter bearing then-President George W. Bush and other dignitaries fly over the hospital.

The science of Katrina is explained next. A large, interactive map shows the paths of Katrina and Rita and the sequence of floods that overwhelmed the region. Digital animation explains why the levees failed. Additional displays illustrate the realities of eroding wetlands, disaster management, engineering, and the science of predicting and tracking hurricanes and tropical weather patterns and phenomena.

The final section of the exhibit showcases the ingenuity of Louisianans in rebuilding their lives and communities. As you sit in front of a series of window frames, some of which host video screens instead of glass, the windows come to life, with many different types of New Orleanians speaking to their experience of the hurricanes and the aftermath. This installation does an excellent job of rounding out an exhibit where the authentic voices of locals are used frequently and respectfully.

This exhibit can only help deepen one's understanding of the New Orleans and its people. It is at the same time sobering for the unnecessary loss of life, property, and population and uplifting due to the spirit of those who are left and returning.  

Upstairs in the Prebytere is a more traditional museum exhibit telling the story of Mardi Gras, including the throws, King Cakes, floats, customs, costumes, masquerade balls, and frivolity of one of the world’s greatest carnival celebrations. There are historic costumes and jewelry, a simulated ride on a float in a parade through the French Quarter, and a fascinating exhibit showing how Mardi Gras is celebrated in rural Louisiana, which is quite a bit different from the debauchery of the city.


The exhibit upstairs was enhanced by the sound of a young brass band that had taken the place of the kora player in front of the Presbytére.

That was a really nice afternoon, but it was time to head back to the Staybridge a prepare for what would turn out to be a really nice evening as well. 

We headed out into the evening a around 7. By starting on Royal Street at Canal Street we could finish the architectural tour from this afternoon. The first block is nondescript, mostly the sides of the big buildings on Canal Street, a Walgreens, etc. The first highlight is on the second block, between Iberville and Bienville, that being the Hotel Monteleone. Its namesake, Antonio Monteleone, was an industrious nobleman who operated a very successful shoe factory in Sicily. He arrived in New Orleans around 1880 and opened a cobbler shop on Royal Street. In 1886, he bought a 64-room hotel on the corner of Royal and Iberville streets. When the nearby Commercial Hotel became available for purchase, it began the history of one of the last great family-owned-and-operated hotels in New Orleans. Five generations of Monteleones have dedicated themselves their family’s hotel, which is home to the famous Criollo Restaurant and Carousel Bar.

We interrupted the Royal Street tour for ... dinner!  We walked up Bienville Street (on the way you pass a very small but very interesting looking gallery of Dr. Seuss artwork and the plush Hotel Manzarin), crossed Bourbon Street between the Old Abisinthe House, the Royal Sonesta Hotel, Arnaud’s Restaurant, and the Bourbon Cowboy saloon (such is the dichotomy of Bourbon Street), and in the middle of the next block reached our destination, GW Fins.

Fins is a locally owned seafood restaurant that brings its fresh seafood and culinary inspiration from around the world. The menu and the food are to die for. As Chef Tenney Flynn says, "We offer our guests the opportunity to sample some of the best seafood in the world.  Our preparation methods bring out the true flavors of that seafood, rather than masking them with heavy sauces and overwhelming spices." The menu is created daily, but they have an example here on their website.

We were seated in a comfortable booth with a great view of the large main dining room. Our waiter was personable and knowledgeable. We enjoyed a Pinot Noir from the Wilamette Valley in Oregon. Appetizers: blue crab potstickers for me, strawberry and watercress salad for Laurie. Dinner: Chilean sea bass in a hot and sour soup with baby bok choy and enoki mushrooms for me, Scalibut (Nantucket scallops adhered to the outside of Alaskan Halibut) served with Maine lobster risotto, sugar snap peas and pea-shoot butter. No room for dessert. What? It's true. But see later. We will definitely be going back to this one. 


After dinner we had more than an hour before our final activity of the day, so ... back to Royal Street we went. Turning onto the street from Bienville, we found ourselves in a block just full of interesting stores and galleries too numerous to mention in the excruciating detail this writeup is turning into. The best one from our standpoint was Vintage 329, which had instruments and memorabilia from musicians among a whole lot of other stuff.

The historic buildings on this block comprise a couple of former banks. For years the intersection of Royal Street and Conti Street was the city's financial hub, with a bank on three of the four corners. The Old Bank of Louisiana (below on the left), was erected in 1826 by Philip Hamblet and Tobias Bickle after the designs of Benjamin Fox. Its Greek Revival edifice was erected in the early 1860s after it suffered its second of three fires. It has also served as the Louisiana State Capitol, an auction exchange, a criminal court, a juvenile court, and a social hall for the American Legion. It now serves as the French Quarter station of the New Orleans Police Department. 

Across the street is the Old Bank of the United States (that's the one on the right below), built between 1795 and 1800 for Vincent Rillieux, the great-grandfather of the French Impressionist artist Edgar Degas. Its wrought-iron balcony railings are exceptionally good examples of excellent Spanish colonial workmanship  It’s now the Waldhorn and Adler antique store.

Taking up one side of the entire block between Conti and St. Louis Streets is the Louisiana Supreme Court Building. Constructed in 1908-09, this marble Beaux Arts edifice was once occupied by the Louisiana Wild Life Museum and the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Judicial District. Despite its atypical architecture and massive size, it has to be considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the French Quarter.

In the early 20th century the French Quarter was in decline and many buildings were dilapidated. So when a whole block of historic houses were demolished to make way for a new court building, there was little protest. When it opened in 1910 it housed the Louisiana Supreme Court and the Orleans Civil District Court.

In 1958 the Supreme Court moved to the new Duncan Plaza Civic Complex in the Central Business District. For some time the court building was used for government offices, but it was soon vacated and fell into disrepair. In the 1980s plans were made to move the Supreme court back to its former premise in the French Quarter. Restoration began in the 1990s and it would take until May 2004 before the Supreme Court moved back to the historic courthouse.

Despite the French roots of the Beaux Arts style, there are very few such buildings in Louisiana, and the Supreme Court Building is by far the best example in New Orleans. The magnificent façade is partially hidden behind palm trees. The entrance at Royal Street is marked by round arched windows topped with colossal Ionic pilasters. In front of the entrance stands a monument of Edward Douglas White, a U.S. Senator and, from 1910 until 1921, head of the United States Federal court. The building has a completely different look from Chartres Street, with rounded wings on each side.

In the block across the street is the Old Louisiana State Bank, which opened for business in 1821. Benjamin Latrobe, who had already designed the Bank of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and contributed to the design of the U.S. Capitol, designed this building. He died of yellow fever shortly after completing the designs for this 1821 building. You can see the bank's monogram "LSB" on the Creole-style iron balcony railing.

Also between Conti and St. Peter is Casa Faurie. When General Andrew Jackson revisited New Orleans in 1828, he attended lavish banquets here. The parents of Edgar Degas also lived here. 

Since 1955, Casa Faurie has been the home of Brennan’s Restaurant. The Brennans are a noted family of restauranteurs in New Orleans, with some 15 establishments belonging to various members. However, this one, the original Brennan's, is owned and operated by the children of the patriarch, Owen Brennan; all others are run by his siblings and their descendants.

The block between Toulouse Street and St. Peter Street is loaded with more antique shops, boutiques, and galleries. At the corner of Toulouse and Royal is the building known as the Court of Two Lions. It's named for the gate leading to the courtyard behind the building. The gate has marble lions on top of each of its posts (for a total of ... two). You can see the gate at the far right in the picture of the building, which was built in 1798 by Don Juan Mericult, who sold it to Vincent Nolte in 1820. Nolte ran a commission business there before the building was taken over by a bank.

Also on this block: Casa de Comercio (on the left) is an excellent example of forthright Spanish architecture in New Orleans. This building was built shortly after the December 1794 fire. Also the Maison Seignouret (on the right), a splendid house built by French wine Merchant Francois Seignouret, a French wine merchant from Bordeaux, in 1816. Seignouret was also a talented cabinet maker. The same "S" he engraved in his furniture can be seen in the ironwork on the on the fan-shaped guard screen, or garde de frise, on the third floor balcony.

The Merieult House is one of only two principal structures to escape the fire that swept through the center of the city in 1794, so it is without a doubt the oldest house on Royal Street. This dignified building was built in 1792 by Jean Francois Merieult. Wierd trivia: Napoleon repeatedly offered Madame Merieult a lot of money in exchange for her hair, which he wanted to use to make a wig to present to a Turkish sultan. The building now houses the Historic New Orleans Collection's maps, prints, drawings, documents, and artifacts. 

The Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to the study and preservation of the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South region. It was established in 1966 by General and Mrs. L. Kemper Williams to keep their collection of Louisiana materials intact and available for research and exhibition to the public. Housed in a number of French Quarter buildings, its holdings consist of some 35,000 library items and approximately 350,000 photographs, prints, drawings, paintings, and other artifacts.

And that covers Royal Street, a one-of-a-kind experience of history and fascinating sights and sounds in this or any other city.

As we roamed around waiting for our 10 p.m. performance at Preservation Hall, we were at the corner of St. Peter and Royal Streets near the Rouse’s Market, trying to decide what to do next, when a guy comes across the street walking an old fat-tire bicycle with a big basket on the front. He starts to talk to us and says that he’s a singer and that he’s been out of commission for awhile, been under the weather and he wants to get his voice back in shape. 

The first thing we tell him is that we don’t have any cash because, well, we didn’t. We just don’t make a habit of carrying cash around at night. Much to our surprise, he says that’s alright, I just want to sing. He said he would sing any song we want by any one of a list of about 10 great R&B singers he rattled off, including Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Clyde McPhatter. Johnny Otis, Lee Dorsey, and a few more. That alone was incredible. So I picked Sam Cooke. I like Sam Cooke, a lot. So true to form he then rattle off a bunch of Sam Cooke songs, including You Send Me, Chain Gang, Bring It on Home, Wonderful World, A Change Is Gonna Come, I’ll Come Running Back to You, and a few more, I’m sure. Honest to God, the man was like a computer ... there was no hesitation whatsoever as he rattled the artists and tunes off. 

We picked Bring It on Home and he sang the song, the whole song, a capella, perfectly. He hit every note and knew every word. When he was done he said that he'd been singing 49 years and gave us no reason to doubt him. He said he’s down on the riverfront most days, so if you are ever in New Orleans you should look for this guy with the bicycle. We will next time we’re there, because we owe him for a simply wonderful New Orleans moment.

But this evening just gets better. After a pit stop and refreshment at some dive pizza joint on St. Peter Street, our 10:15 p.m. show was at Preservation Hall, a performance by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band itself in that historic and intimate setting. As we were waiting out fron for the audience from the 9:15 show to clear and for us to go in, sousaphone player Ronnell Johnson came out and gave an impromtu concert on the street. When the show started, all of these wonderful musicians were right there in front of us, eye contact close. Very cool. 

We got the tickets for this performance as soon as we got the e-mail notifying us, because the Jazz Band doesn’t play the evening shows in the Hall all that often, especially during Jazz Fest. Instead, they do their Midnight Preserves series with guest artists who have been at Jazz Fest. They charge very big bucks for these shows, which are a benefit for the Preservation Hall Foundation. Also, they don’t start until, well, midnight. (Just to give an example, at the Preserves this year were Keb' Mo', Bombino, the Infamous Stringdusters, Alabama Shakes, Al Jarreau, and Roy Brittan from the E Street Band. 

So this was a really special event, and we were front and center. That 45 minutes was about as good as music gets. They started out playing it pretty straight, but by the time they were done everybody was up and dancing. The set list included the trombone-iffic Tailgate Ramble featuring Freddie Lonzo on the slide and Charlie Gabriel's vocal; the rollicking That's It, with a great solo by Mark Braud on trumpet; Come With Me, a cool vocal and clarinet solo by Charlie Gabriel; the jazzy Sugar Plum, with Clint Maedgen on sax; Maedgen on vocals for Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing; and Ronnell Johnson's vocal on the gospel-infused Dear Lord. And it's hard to forget Lonzo's funny-spooky Rattlin’ Bones, with Johnson’s tuba shrieking for banshee effect. Here is a rare video of the band doing Tailgate Ramble in the Hall. We were sitting right in the middle, just behind the row of people sitting on the floor.

In addition to Lonzo, Gabriel, Braud, Maedgin, and Johnson, Ben Jaffe (son of the founders of Preservation Hall as a music venue) played sousaphone and bass, Rickie Monie was on the old upright piano, and Joe Lastie Jr. played the drumkit with the famous logo. And nobody asked for When the Saints Go Marching In! Here's 90 minutes of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, professionally shot at Jazz San Javier 2014. Enjoy it. These guys are second to none.

After this great show, we were finally ready for dessert, so we hit Daisy Duke's on the way back to the hotel. This somehow turned into pancakes for Laurie. I had pecan pie. 

The Daze Between is over. It's back to "work" tomorrow, Jazz Fest Day 4.



© Jeff Mangold 2012