Autodidact: self-taught


The Autodidact Goes to New Orleans

by V. L. Craven

As mentioned in a recent post , I’ve just spent a week in New Orleans.

Here's the photo I promised in my last post about N.O. (blech.)

Here’s the photo I promised in my last post about N.O. (blech.)

I was there with some friends (15 and my husband–17 total) whom I’ve known for ten years or so.

We rented three flats in the Western Union Building in the business district. This plan was all right. We had several kitchens, which included things to eat off of and to eat with.

And they were modern and a lil bit swanky. (Though not without problems.)

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I lost one day to a migraine, and with 17 people trying to get groups together to do things was like herding cats that all wanted to do different things waaaaay earlier than I was capable of so I wound up not getting to do some things I’d wanted, but I still had a great time and enjoyed seeing my friends.

And the food was excellent.

On to the food.

Food I Paid For

Most of what we ate was prepared in our kitchens because we were a bunch of broke people, but on occasion I spent money on something.

Beignets. Everyone was telling me to have beignets. It’s a New Orleans doughnut (or a French doughnut, depending who was doing the talking).

Holy crap you guys. Have a beignet. They come in servings of three.

The first round was from Cafe Beignet :

I may or may not have just licked my screen.

I may or may not have just licked my screen.

I had a cafe au lait (which needed a LOT of sugar and was still seriously strong coffee, yowza, but it was great). And the beignets… So good. It’s just fried dough, but man alive. So good. I’d weigh 900 pounds if I lived somewhere I could eat those regularly.

During that first sitting I ate four because one of our group couldn’t finish all of hers. Several people were impressed with this for some reason.

Others were impressed I was wearing black and wasn’t covered in powdered sugar. What can I say? I have a rare gift.

The ability to not wear my food was tested on my third trip for the wonder that is the beignet (the second was a repeat trip to Cafe Beignet).

We went to Cafe du Monde . A place that, apparently, doesn’t own a sifter. They just dump the box of sugar over the dough.

There were lumps of sugar. Really.

There were lumps of sugar. Really.

Cafe du Monde is open 24 hours and some of my friends went out around 1 or 2 in the morning and they thought the place had closed for some reason because the chairs were upside down on the tables.

Nope, they were just hosing down all the powdered sugar that had fallen on the ground during the day. Probably to discourage ants.

So I highly recommend those. And I did prefer Cafe du Monde over Cafe Beignet. Both were excellent, but the former was slightly crispier. The former also offers iced cafe au lait which is delicious.

Note that Cafe du Monde only takes cash, though.

ALLIGATOR. I ate some. It’s another thing I’d eat all the time if it were available where I live. I know it’s bad for my GERD so it’s good I can’t get it here.

The first version was a fried alligator po boy from Felix’s and the second was an alligator sausage po boy from Daisy Dukes .

I *definitely* licked my screen this time. GRAAAAAH GIMME

I *definitely* licked my screen this time. GRAAAAAH GIMME

There’s an enormous alligator that lives near a lake in this area and all I can think is, ‘I know what you’d taste like on a sandwich!’

And I would be remiss if I left off the first thing I ate in N.O., which was:

Voodoo tastes like salt and vinegar, who knew?

Voodoo tastes like salt and vinegar, who knew?

They were quite inexpensive and could be found all over so if you like salt and vinegar (which I do very much) go for it.

Places I Went to & Things I Looked At

Boutique du Vampyre : Located at 709 1/2 St Ann St. this was one of the highlights of my trip. It had lots of handmade gothic gifts and items and books and such. One of the ‘and suches’ are custom fangs. (I didn’t get any.)

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The Pharmacy Museum : (514 Chartres Street) Second highlight of my trip right here. It was like being in Professor Snape’s storeroom. They had a giant mortar and pestle for making large quantities of drugs, which of course they’d have to do on occasion. It’s something I’d never considered before, though.

Also they have a wonderful array of torture implements. I mean, surgical devices from way back when. Brings a tear to your eye just to look at some of them.

Faulkner House Books : (624 Pirate Alley) This was a tiny, but fantastic little bookshop. Plus they stayed open a little late when I got distracted by their New York Review of Books section. I wish I had spent more money here. I certainly could have (they had Karl Ove Knausgaard’s trilogy and dozens of NYRB books).

Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo : Well, this was disappointing. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. It was very small. And the fact that more than one site listed this as a ‘must-see’ didn’t give me hope for other voodoo houses.

While there, a white woman asked one of the assistants, ‘Where is Marie Laveau buried?’
Guy: ‘Under our floorboards.’ :points down:
Woman: :knowing tone: ‘Yeah but, where does everyone in the world think she’s buried?’
Guy: ‘Saint Louis Cemetery Number One.’

That’s when I rolled my eyes right out of my head and sighed so hard I died.

Speaking of cemeteries, I genuinely tried to go to one, but they all close around 2 in the afternoon (I guess people don’t visit their dead after then?) Some have guided tours and require visitors to purchase tickets. A good reference for that information is Save Our Cemeteries .

I completely understand closing before dark. But 2 in the afternoon?! These people clearly don’t understand that some of us aren’t awake and mobile and able to get transportation *to* the cemetery before 2.

We drove past several. They looked cool from the other side of the fences.

Other Things I Didn’t Get To See/Experience

I had wanted (and intended) to get to the house that was used in American Horror Story: Coven, but that didn’t happen.

We didn’t make it to the Garden District at all, in fact.

I didn’t try chicory coffee. Though, from what I’ve read , I’m not sure I’d like it.

I was intrigued by the Museum of Death , but it was $15 to get in and we were broke. Perhaps next time we go we’ll be able to afford it.

Miscellanous Observations

My friends and I did some walking around and chatting and looking at masks–there are mask shops everywhere.

There are gas lamps lit all the time.

Note how it is the middle of the day.

Note how it is the middle of the day.

Which is both beautiful and one of the least green things I’ve seen in some time.

Bourbon Street is the living embodiment of an anxiety attack. I’ve been on taxi rides in Rome that were less stressful than walking down Bourbon during the daylight hours of a weekday. I can’t imagine what a weekend night must be like. Sakes alive.

There were ‘Katrina Tours’ … I don’t know what those are exactly, but they were offered alongside ghost tours and alligator tours and that is terrible and wrong.

And finally, something I learned about myself

Up in the photos of the flat I mentioned Chekhov’s blanket.

Well. I’m not allergic to anything. Or so I thought. From the time I was in the flat the first night I found myself sneezing rather frequently when in our bedroom.

I tend to sleep with something over my face–it’s a comfort thing. At home it’s a pillow. I was using that cursed blanket because we only had one pillow each.

Look at it. Just... lying there.

Look at it. Just… lying there.

I don’t know what that… thing is made of (not a natural fibre in there, I’m sure), but by the third night my nose was running like it was crying and I was sneezing my face off.

I still hadn’t put it together it was the blanket, though, because I’m not allergic to anything.

I thought I was coming down with a cold… that only struck…wait a minute… when I’m anywhere near…hey, you guys… that blanket…

So I’m allergic to soft and snuggly, faux zebra blankets.


In summation, I learned a great deal on my trip.

Voodoo houses are tiny and overrated.

It’s impossible for beignets to ever be overrated.

Cemeteries in New Orleans close before the living dead can have their second cup of tea.

Alligators are quite delicious and, since they’re basically dinosaurs, a T-Rex steak would probably be tasty indeed.

Avoid Bourbon Street unless you’re drunk or planning to be in short order.

One Response to “The Autodidact Goes to New Orleans”

  1. Writing from September 2015 - V. L. Craven Says:

    […] the second post, which encompasses what I saw and ate and wanted to see but couldn’t for ridiculous […]

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