The husbeast has always said that the heat in New Orleans was a different beast from the heat in Texas. In Dallas we are constantly subjected to temperatures well over 100 degrees. To spend months on end with the high between 105 and 115 is not unusual for us. I have lived in this sort of heat my entire life and like to think of myself as fairly resilient to this sort of intense heat.
He is right though, the heat in New Orleans is a completely different beast. It really isn't the heat, it is the humidity. North Texas is host to an intense dry heat where as New Orleans has a thick wet heat that hangs in the air at all times.
It was about a 15 minute walk from our B&B down to the jazz clubs on Frenchmans. We had not made it five blocks before I was covered in sweat and was regretting my choice to wear jeans. We had left Texas with 106 temperatures where I was completely comfortable in my jeans. It was not even 90 in New Orleans, I had thought I would be fine. I was wrong.
By the time the sounds of the jazz clubs was filling the air my shirt was clinging to me and my face and arms were glistening. Of course everyone else looked exactly the same as I did. No one really seemed to notice either. Everywhere we went everyone was hot and sweaty and no one cared. So I stopped thinking about it.
I let myself get lost in the jazz that rolled out of the clubs we strolled by, mixing in with the conversations of the people who milled about on the sidewalks up and down the street. It was I had found myself on Frenchmans. The last time we had visited we never made it this far down.
I realized quickly that while there were similarities to Bourbon street, this was a bit of a different beast. Bourbon street seemed to be designed for drunken tourists. It always struck me as being like a wild frat party; drunk people stagger through the street spilling drinks on people, doormen from strip clubs shouting at you, bad cover bands blasting out of overcrowded clubs, women in impractical shoes and very little clothing laughing too loud at guys who look like they have been to a tanning bed. It was not really someplace I felt even remotely comfortable, and probably wouldn't have felt comfortable in even when I was a college student.
Frenchmans still had people with drinks in hand crowding along the sidewalks and still had a party feel to it. The difference was that it felt less like a frat party full of debauchery and more like the sort of party I would have actually attended in college. There were still plenty of tourists in the crowd but I couldn't help but to think that this was the Bourbon street for the locals.
The look was notably different; tight dresses were replaced by loose long flowing skirts, perfect hair was replaced by dreadlocks, fake tans were replaced by tattoos and piercings. There were an increasing number of people with dogs on leashes enjoying a beer with friends. Strip clubs were replaced by tattoo parlors and bad cover bands were replaced by jazz and blues that tugged at your soul.
We couldn't walk five feet without running into an artist of some sort. Artists sat in camp chairs with their canvases spread out on the sidewalk and propped against buildings. We passed several young men in suspenders and fedoras sitting behind old fashioned typewriters baring signs that read "A poem for any subject.".
As we made our way through the crowds and past one jazz club after another my eye was caught by an oddly bright patch in an alley across the way. I could see that strings of lights were criss crossing the alley lighting it up. An old McDonalds drive through sign had been bolted to the sidewalk at the entrance. As we approached I was able to see past the crowds; we had found our way to the Frenchmans art market.
Tables lined either side of the alley with artists displaying their goods. There was everything from jewelry, to paintings, to clothes, to all manner of weird handmade stuff. Little seating areas of mismatched patio furniture was arranged toward the back of the market so that people could just sit and talk. There were baskets of sidewalks chalk strewn about and the patrons of the market were making their own art on the ground.
I was totally enchanted. It was possibly the coolest place I had been in a very long time. I could have easily stayed there for hours and probably spent way more money than I should have. It was all just so cool.
As it was though my stomach was reminding me that it was past 10pm and we had not eaten since we got to the airport in Texas at 5. It was time to find something to eat for dinner. Good thing we were in the French Quarter where there have to be several hundred restaurants, most of which are open very late.
We decided that we wanted something small and something we knew we liked so we made our way down Decatur to the French Market restaurant. We had stumbled on this gem at the corner of Decatur and St Philip the last time we were there. The husbeast was intrigued by the open window at the front that looked into the crab boil, I had been attracted by the marquis which touted a roast beef po-boy. It was the memory of that delicious po-boy that took us back there.
I was pleased to find that my memory was not deceiving me. The po-boy was just as delicious as I remember it being if not tastier. It is always nice when things you have enjoyed live up to the memories we keep of them.
Our waiter tried to entice us with desert, but we had to say no. The husbeast had a plan and desert would have derailed us completely. Desert would stand between us and the husbeasts very fond desire to have beneigts at midnight at Cafe du Monde.
We found a seat outside against the rail furthest from the street. There was a cool breeze coming over the wall from the Mississippi. It was the first bit of relief from the thick hot summer air we had found since setting out from the B&B. Even the fans and air conditioning in the restaurant at dinner had not really helped any. This breeze though was designed to push the humidity away and leave you feeling cool for a moment.
As we waited for our powder sugar coated treats he told me that this had been his grandmothers favorite table. He said that she always said it was the only place you could actually catch the breeze. If you sat closer in you would bee too warm from all the people packed around you. If you sat closer to the building or further away from the building the walls were too high or too low and the breeze was ineffective.
Before we ate he made a phone call to a friend in Dallas who was from New Orleans. He called and tauntingly told him where we were sitting. I could hear grumbling on the other end of the phone. It is only fair as this friend called the husbeast at 3am from Cafe du Monde the last time he was there. Just some friendly Cajun teasing.
With our bellies full and smiles on our lips we started our trek back to the B&B. The hour was late and a satisfying sense of exhaustion was beginning to settle in on us. As we walked hand in hand through the quarter I felt more relaxed than I had felt in a very long time. I knew that I would sleep so well that night, and I would wake up to adventure.