How we love New Orleans!
New Orleans was one of our (my husband and I) favorite vacation spots. Before Katrina we used to go there at least once a year. Oh, how we loved Café’ Du Monde, we’d drink lots of coffee (café au lait) and munch on those white powdery beignets. We enjoyed our meals at local spots like Desire’s or Deenie’s eating boiled crawfish, crawfish etouffee, gumbo, Creole or Cajun seafood, jambalaya, red beans & rice, Po Boys and fried oysters. We also liked the delicious mouth watering Pralines that were made of brown and white sugar, butter, cream, and pecans.
We loved strolling down the French Quarter, Bourbon and Canal Streets as we’d window shop and admire the scenery. It was fun letting the street vendors read my palm (my husband always never let them read his) and stop in the shops which always had something that was so extraordinary, different and unlike anything you would find anywhere else. We always had to buy an extra suit case to bring back home all the loads of lovely gifts purchased for myself, hubby, family, friends and coworkers.
I loved buying dolls in the doll shops on Royal Street. Each year I always added at least one doll to my doll collection. My husband would always purchase various types of tee shirts for himself and his friends and he’d gotten a couple of the saints tee shirts saying “who dat” on them and we brought lots and lots of colorful beaded necklaces.
It was always so nice to go to the jazz clubs at night, my husband and I used to dance till the sun came up. The music of a live band is always a special treat and about the best thing you would ever want to experience.
On the swamp tours the tour guides always threw on board a live alligator, bringing excitement and fear to everyone on board, it was fun and yet scary at the same time. Riding through the swamps gave you a creepy feeling and was an experience I’d never forget. As we would be moving along in the swamps you could not help but wonder if a ghost or something wild was about to appear or fall off those trees or whether the eyes of a huge alligator was going to surface in the water and the gator sneak up on us.
The ferry rides from Algiers to Canal Street was very cooling on those really hot days along with the rides on the street car line down St. Charles Ave and for some odd reason riding on the street car line always brought me back to my childhood memories of the many times my sisters, friends and I used to sing while playing double dutch and hop scotch on the streets in the hot summertime in the city, we would jump rope and sing:
3, 6, 9 the goose drank wine,
the monkey chewed tobacco on the street car line,
the line broke
the monkey got choked
and they all went to heaven in a little row boat,
my mother told me
if I was goody
that she would buy me
a rubber dolly
my auntie told her
I kissed a solider
now she won’t buy me
a rubber dolly.
So we would ride the street car line from one end to the next getting off and on along the way. We would get off for ice-cream, a cool drink and to shop in odd little shops. Oh how I remember the laughter and all the fun I had on those days with my husband.
We cruised along the Mississippi River in the cool breeze on the patio, while being entertained by a live band playing a riverboat melody. We met new friends and had a three course dinner, we’d leave there and go to Harrah’s Casino, we didn’t have much luck but the gaming was fun and the free pina coladas (without the alcohol of course) they served was well worth it all.
After Katrina we sadly got to see a New Orleans we never saw before, we rode around and witnessed all the damaged homes and the destruction. We saw the water lines on the top of the houses showing how far up the water had reached and the writing on the doors by the military marking off whether they found people dead or alive in the homes. We saw grave yards and boats that were destroyed and the fema trailers that housed the survivors. There was only sadness and gloominess. The people who were trying to rebuild was telling us their own personal stories and experiences about how difficult it was to survive because of the unemployment. But the year the Saints won the super bowl it kind of perked the city up and we were glad.
One summer when we had to get out of New Orleans in a hurry because there was a big storm expected and I remember the night before the storm was due I could hardly sleep for worrying because it rained all night and on the news they were telling everyone to evacuate New Orleans again. I guess they were afraid it was going to be another Katrina, but this time they were making sure everyone left.
My brother called us being concerned, making sure we were on our way out of New Orleans, we let him know we were getting our flight changed and making plans to get out of there as soon as possible.
The next morning the highways was being redirected only going in one direction out of New Orleans to Baton Rouge, we made it to the airport just in time and were blessed to be on the last plane back to New York City. I remember that day very well, every thing was hectic and the armed forces were on guard at every corner with these huge scary guns, it was so frightening and unlike any of our past visits to New Orleans.
We saw New Orleans at its best and at its worst, but I am so glad we spent a lot of time in New Orleans before Katrina. I love looking at all of photos I took with my husband on those vacations and thinking about all those good memories we shared and will always treasure and cherish.
Shirley Ellis: Clap Clap song