Today’s post is not just just an excuse to share photos of my recent visit to the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Ha! Kidding. Obviously, it is.

Until this week, I’d only been to New Orleans once, for a family wedding. Our hotel was on Bourbon Street, which was kind of like a never-ending frat party, only with way more neon. Also more transvestites. My daughter was six. We went to the aquarium. On the way to the rehearsal dinner, an extremely tall transvestite-mime presented my little girl with Mardi Gras beads. The next day we went to the wedding, and then we went home. I sensed I had not properly experienced the city.

Last week I had the opportunity to spend forty-two hours in the French Quarter, and oh, man, did I go cuh-ray-ZEE!

Kidding again. But I DID spend hours taking pictures of the spectacular architecture, which I then dutifully edited and posted on Instagram (not to brag, but I’m up to 18 followers). And I got a pina colada out of one of those frozen drink machines and walked around with it — on the street! (It’s legal, assuming you are over 21. You can assume I am over 21.) Okay, I split the drink (size small) with my husband. But the night was young. (And we are not.)

 

The French Quarter is a place of joyous sensory overload. Music is everywhere. There’s jazz in plenty of clubs, of course, but I most enjoyed the street musicians. Two young ukelele-strumming women sang “Hit Me Baby One More Time” on an otherwise quiet street, while on another corner, a young man played an electric African bass harp. (I know because he had a sign that said, “What is it? It’s an African bass harp.” I’m clever that way.)

There’s so much to see. Like: leftover Mardi Gras decorations (we showed up on the second day of Lent), Eighteenth century buildings painted in bright hues, art galleries, tarot card readers, creepy Easter bunnies, coats of armor, vampire stores . . .

 

I’d been to the waterfront before (see aquarium reference, above), but not in the evening, when the tourist riverboats pipe haunting music into the air. If the French Quarter attracts creatives — artists, musicians, and oddballs of every stripe (though maybe not writers since sensory overload tends to mess with our productivity) — the waterfront attracts teens and young adults even closer to the edge. Which is another way of saying that it looks like a casting call for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” But not in a bad way.

Food. Wow. We wandered into a restaurant called Sylvain because it looked suitably interesting and sophisticated but not stuffy. My husband’s fried pork shoulder was one of the best things either of us has ever tasted. If Sylvain were in L.A. they would call the fried pork shoulder something like, like — oh, I don’t know even. Something so pretentious that you’d have to ask the waiter, “Um, what is this exactly?” And the waiter — who was this close to getting a part on a new series on the WB — would go out of his way to describe the dish without ever using the words “fried” or “shoulder.” Or “pork,” for that matter.

We also ate beignets, a.k.a. “French donuts.” I am not a big donut eater, but if you go to New Orleans, you need to eat these things. They’re that good. And besides, if you’re in New Orleans, you can’t think too much about calories.

Last time I came to the French Quarter was pre-Katrina. Coming back, it was impossible not to think of all that was lost. But there is such a spirit to the place and the people. It’s not like they don’t know think bad things can happen — they do. So you might as well grab a pina colada, listen to music, and enjoy the beauty of the moment.