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July 18, 2012 / Jim Fenton

Mississippi River Day 15: New Orleans

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation traveling down the Mississippi River. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

Beignets

Beignets and café au lait

The most consistent advice I got from friends about New Orleans was to get beignets from Café du Monde. So that’s what we did for breakfast. Despite a long line for take-out, we were seated quickly and enjoyed what has to be one of the least healthy foods in existence: deep-fried dough piled high with confectioner’s sugar. And they were indeed yummy.

Along the way, we noticed large numbers of youth in various matching tee shirts all around the city. It turns out that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is having its triennial youth summit, bringing about 33,000 clean-cut and polite kids and their leaders to New Orleans. Nevertheless, we had to watch out for these groups because their sheer numbers meant that they tended to clog sidewalks and restaurants.

My work was falling behind, so I took much of the day off from sightseeing and let Kenna and Celeste do some touring without me. I rejoined them at Central Grocery for lunch, where we shared a muffuletta, an enormous and delicious sandwich (one served all of us more than adequately).

They walked around the French Quarter, did some shopping, and visited one of the National Park Visitors Centers where they heard about some concerts taking place in the Old Mint. The building has been refurbished by the National Park Service and the State of Louisiana and now houses a small theater and museum. They sat in on a concert and lecture about the history of New Orleans jazz, hosted by an excellent jazz piano player.

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Late in the afternoon, the family returned and we went for a swim, I took a conference call by the pool (and thereby made myself the envy of those on the call). We went to Arnaud’s Jazz Bistro in the French Quarter for dinner (accompanied by enjoyable music), followed by another recommended local treat for dessert: Bananas Foster. Bananas Foster consists of bananas, sugar, banana liqueur (because bananas alone aren’t banana-ey enough, apparently), and various spirits that are flambéed and served over ice cream. The result was delicious, but even after most of the alcohol cooked and burned off, still a bit strong for Celeste.

As we ate our dinner, it started to rain, and then more, and when it was time to leave we were getting torrential rain, a full-blown thunderstorm. While hailing a cab from under the awning, we had a lightning strike very nearby, which was memorable. We quickly found an available cab, and returned to the hotel without further incident. From our room on the 15th floor, we had front row seats for the rest of the thunderstorm. We could also see many of the Lutherans returning on foot from a gathering they had at the Superdome, undoubtedly and unfortunately drenched.

Mississippi River crossings today: 0
July 18, 2012

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