Monday in New Orleans brought more conference sessions and more food. Lunch was at The Company Burger, just a short walk from the hotel. I had heard they serve a helluva burger, and I heard right. I got the single (with cheese), no onion, sweet potato waffle fries, and a vanilla shake. The burger was juicy, perfectly cooked, and well-seasoned. The sweet potato waffle fries were the best sweet potato fries I've ever had and the vanilla shake was damn close to perfect. Dare I say, it was the best fast-food burger I've had next to In-N-Out. Seriously.
After a two-hour afternoon session on Microsoft Excel, my JHA friend, Alex, and I were ready to hit the town again. This time we headed to Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar on the French Quarter. I had the red beans and rice – it was a huge serving, just spicy enough and very tasty. After dinner another walk was much needed. I got my beer in a to-go cup (a novelty that will never be lost on me) and we set out to cruise the Quarter. As we walked, Alex mentioned the Burlesque Bingo bar so I looked it up on my phone and found we were only a couple blocks away. As we turned the corner onto St. Louis Street, a bright blue neon sign let us know we had found Bar Mon Cher. Burlesque dancer Lefty Lucy could be seen from the street in the front window. We entered the 250 year old building and immediately felt at home – perhaps because it was a house for many years and maintains the hardwood floors, fireplace, and divided rooms. We were welcomed by a bar regular named Gwen and she proceeded to introduce us to the staff and the rest of the regulars. They were in between rounds of bingo, so we both ordered drinks (the cost of a bingo card) and chatted with the locals. When bingo started up, it was an absolute joy. Lefty Lucy peppered us with knee-slapping jokes and bits of trivia when certain numbers were drawn. I came so close to winning our first round, but alas I didn't. And in case you are curious about how Burlesque Bingo works – at the end of each round of bingo, Lucy removes an article of clothing. After our first round, her dress came off revealing some very tasteful matching bra and undies, as well as thigh high stockings and garters. After our second round (which I won!!), the thigh highs and garters came off. We had to leave before the big finale (my friend had to be up at 5 am to teach an exercise class!), but as we were leaving we got hugs from everyone and told that we must return because we were now considered family. It was one of those places that made me feel like if I lived in that city, I'd be a regular there. I cannot recommend Bar Mon Cher highly enough – if you are in New Orleans, just go. You won't regret it.
(Tuesday was the last day of the conference so it was full of more sessions, followed by a much need evening of rest at the hotel. Poolside pizza was ordered for lunch and there was plenty to provide dinner, too.)
Wednesday I got up at a decent hour and took a Lyft to Cafe Du Monde. It was surprisingly quiet at 7:30 am when I found a seat and ordered my beignets and cafe au lait. The cafe au lait was nothing spectacular, but it was hot and caffeinated. The beignets were sweet, chewy, and oh-so-powdered-sugary. I could have ordered more, but I resisted. I had a ticket for a 10 am cemetery tour, so I had some time to kill and spent it walking around Jackson Square and the French Quarter. Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square was lined with horses and carriages, and I was a bit surprised at how clean the streets and sidewalks were.
Around 9:30 I had wandered close to the meeting place for the cemetery tour, so I found a shady spot to relax until 10 – it was already oppressively hot. The tour guide from Save Our Cemeteries arrived and took our small group on a short walk over to St. Louis Cemetery #1. This particular cemetery is no longer open to the public, you must be on a guided tour to enter. These measures were taken in order to preserve the spectacularly beautiful old tombs, particularly Marie Laveau's. Michael, our tour guide, was full of information about the cemetery and its residents, as well as New Orleans history in general. The dead in New Orleans are typically buried above ground due to the high water table making it likely that anyone buried in-ground would at some point float away. The family plots mean that at any time, two people in caskets are in the above-ground tombs, and must remain there for at minimum of a year and a day. Once they have met the minimum time, if needed, they are removed and the remains are put in the "caveu" in the very bottom so a new resident can be slid into the open space. Some family tombs have fifty or sixty individuals' remains in them. Marie Laveau (the infamous NOLA Voodoo Queen) shares her eternal resting spot with 88 other family members; hers is also the second most visited grave in the USA – after Elvis, of course. If several people from the same family died at the same time, from Yellow Fever or some other disease, you can rent space in the "oven tombs" located in the walls that surround the cemetery. Once enough time had passed, they were moved from the walls to join family members in their tombs. Nicholas Cage also has a tomb in this cemetery awaiting his arrival someday. It is a large, white pyramid and certainly stands out among the old traditional style. I thought it was pretty tacky, but the Arch Diocese didn't mind, so I guess that's all that matters.
After the cemetery tour, I cooled off briefly at the Basin Street Station Visitor Center, but I was starving so I made my way toward the oasis of Central Grocery. I LOVE olive salad. I LOVE muffulettas. I was so excited to be there. I ordered my "half" and sat at the counter to slowly devour half of the half. Salty, cheesy, chewy – so. damn. good. After having a near religious experience with a sandwich, I did a little shopping in the French Market area and then called a Lyft to take me back to the hotel for a cool down.
After I'd been at the hotel for a couple hours, I decided I didn't need a full dinner, but maybe something a little sweet would suffice for a meal. Luckily for me, there was an affogato place not far from the hotel. Drip Affogato with its simple modern decor and succulent plants on every table was the very definition of "Instagram-worthy". They served various options for affogato (which is simply hot espresso poured slowly over ice cream/gelato). I ordered "the Classique" which was vanilla ice cream with crumbled pistachios and espresso. The bitterness of the espresso was a perfect match to the sweet vanilla ice cream. It was a little pricey, but worth every penny.
My last day in New Orleans consisted of more food, more death, and trolley rides! 😀 Stay tuned!