One aspect of New Orleans that I've always loved, and something that drew me into Charleston too, is the degree of mysteriousness lurking in so many of the city's nooks: narrow alleys that lead to unknown ends; all that could be hidden behind the elephantine tree leaves and ancient live oaks spotting New Orleans like snow; dark corners and quiet stores lazing modestly out of sight. Crumbly facades, slightly overgrown park benches, iron work and wood entangled in ways that seem impossible to part. And why would they?
Another element of charm is the joie de vivre inherent in decisions like leaving all Mardi Gras beads that snare in the trees lining the parade routes exactly where they land. Some of the trees on St. Charles are so laden with shiny plastic pearls that you wonder if ever leaves will grow again; are these jewels their new foliage? The trolleys rumble by underneath, the necklaces swaying casually in their wake.
For lunch yesterday, T and I ate at Bayona, a 20+ year old Susan Spicer restaurant we've not eaten at in years. It wasn't as amazing as I remembered but we loved it all the same. If you weren't looking for Bayona, you could easily walk past it repeatedly before frustration made you look carefully for its lovely iron sign hanging from an eave out front. As you walk through the gate, the courtyard out back beckons. It is gorgeous, all brick and lush greenery, an oak's sweeping arms welcoming you graciously. That's what I mean. To make a judgment about what's behind any of New Orleans' exteriors based on what those facades seem to suggest is a grave mistake. And a fun lesson to learn.
The boys really love it here. It's an easy place to be: kid-friendly, slow, utterly casual (most of the time), bedecked with personality. It's easy to feel happy here, though I know that's not the case all the time or, sadly, for many of the city's residents.
Tomorrow is our last day. We might spend a bit more time perusing haunts in the Quarter or the Marigny, might eat at an old hole-in-the-wall Mom and Dad remember fondly (they and my sister went to Tulane), will probably just take it easy as best we can with the young loons.
By the way, if you or your kids need a springy side dish, my fam is currently obsessed with these lemony green beans. Two big handfuls of snapped green beans, the juice of half a lemon, several tablespoons of oil, salt. Hot pan, hot oil, toss those beans until they glisten and start to show signs of cookin! A little brown here, a little brown there. Well north of mush though, peeps. Don't slaughter your veggies.