Day 6 – Jackson Square, Cabildo, Presbytère and more French Quarter

Day 6 – Jackson Square, Cabildo, Presbytère and more French Quarter

Today started out by trekking it across downtown to the other side of the French Quarter. We were headed towards Jackson Square… and I knew there was the original Cafe Du Monde across the street at the French Market…so I thought if nothing really opens until 9, if we get there around 8:30 or so… we shouldn’t have too much of a wait.

HA. Nope. The line stretched all the way down the block. Then we found out there was another line on the other side of the building for take away… and it was just as long. ha Craziness. BUT… its Cafe Du Monde. You have to get coffee and beignets once if you’re in New Orleans, right? So we waited.

Coffee itself came to North America via New Orleans in the mid-1700s. It was grown in some French West Indies colonies in the 1720s, and French settlers brought coffee with them as they settled the Mississippi river area. During the Civil War, coffee was scarce, and people started grinding up chicory roots- the root of the lettuce Endive into the brew to give it more flavor and body and an almost chocolate quality to the coffee.

Cafe Du Monde has been open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day at this location at the French Market since 1862. The French Market location itself stretches back prior to European settlers in New Orleans, the Choctaw Indians used to use this high dirt natural levee at the bend of the Mississippi to trade goods with the river traffic. Then French settlers used this area to trade and sell produce and dairy and then in 1718, the city of New Orleans was officially founded here.

Ended up taking us about 45 minutes to order and get our food…The Beignets were very good. Basically a doughy funnel cake. I wore black. ha Not a good combo with all the powdered sugar… and the wind was blowing in so strong from some incoming rain that I was getting other people’s powder sugar on me. ha The coffee…. meh… I’m so picky about my coffee and it has to be oily and strong… no acidity. A dark French Roast is my thing. The Cafe Au Lait was weak… Kegan said the same about his black coffee. The do have a no chicory French Roast coffee that if I end up by another cafe again, I’ll try that instead. I’m sure objectively, its great to most people. Just wasn’t my thing. However, Norah’s hot chocolate was spectacular. ha I’d order that again.

This Cafe Du Monde sat directly across the street from the prettiest and most famous plaza in New Orleans- Jackson Square.

Historically, it is significant because it was the Place d’Armes- or the weapons place- the center of the city. It is also the site of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase. The Spanish built the St. Louis church in the background in the late 1700s and the building to its left, The Cabildo in 1795. After General Andrew Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, the square was renamed in his honor as the savior of New Orleans. The equestrian statue went in in the 1850s.

We were first headed to the Cabildo, the actual building where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. Today it is part of the Louisiana State Museum and houses various historical items on display.

There was a great display of historic Jazz items.

Tuba Fats’ Sousaphone
Vintage tableware from the Roosevelt Hotel from 1950. The Roosevelt, where we stayed earlier this week, used to host various big bands in the ballrooms and has always hosted fancy dinners
This was so interesting! Antoine’s, that we ate at last night- and had the Oyster’s Rockefeller- used to issue a postcard with each order of Oysters Rockefeller! How neat! If they were at 1.2 million orders by the 1946…image how many orders they are up to now!
There was an entire room dedicated to historic photographs of George Francois Mugnier
I loved this image of the French Market showing the old French butchers. We’ve walked along these same arched openings at the French Market…so I loved seeing this old photo of how it used to be.
Looks like Mardi Gras has always been the same zoo it is today 🙂

They had lots of items, paintings and artifacts from the Battle of New Orleans- more on that in a couple days when we visit the Chalmette Battlefield

Swords recovered from the battlefield
A painting of Andrew Jackson
A British plan of attack against the Americans. This was a drafted plan for their final attack that ultimately failed.
This giant oil painting of The Battle of New Orleans was about 16 feet across and 10 feet tall. Absolutely massive.
A coronation painting of Napoleon Bonaparte (Emperor Napoleon I) made by Gérard in 1805.
Napoleon’s death mask
Next we headed across the square to an identical building on the other side of the church- The Presbytère. They had an exhibit dedicated to the causes, effects and science of Hurricane Katrina. Basically tying in global warming, hurricane science, inadequate FEMA and local disaster preparedness, levee design and maintenance issues and the issue of people not following instruction of evacuation. It demonstrated that there was no one single cause for the disaster, but human components exacerbating a natural disaster.
These spray-painted crosses because a familiar sign in New Orleans after the floods. The top number was the Date/Time the rescue team left the structure, the left side the Rescue Team that checked the structure, the right side- the hazards in the structure, the bottom- the # of live and dead victims and pets found in the structure.
A fitting shirt asking the government to focus on domestic works projects like levees that the Army Corp of Engineers never finished in 20 years… before fighting wars on the other side of the world.

There was so much more about Katrina in the exhibit, but I feel like everyone focuses so much on Hurricane Katrina as all they know about New Orleans…anything I’d write or photograph here has already been said or filmed so much better in any of the 100 documentaries on Katrina. My favorite was When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in 4 Acts by Spike Lee. It is on HBO Max. It was filmed in 2006 just after while clean up and resettlement was still going on. Still FEMA trailers lining every street and the culture of New Orleans still missing. It was powerful to watch. He even did a follow up documentary called If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise- revisiting the areas 5 years later.

The next exhibit was far more festive: The history of Mardi Gras.

After leaving The Presbytère, we took a walk down Pirate’s Alley, an alleyway with legend that famous pirate Jean Lafitte or his brother Pierre used to arranged meetings here. No actual evidence of this being true- but its hard to believe a pirate would be making back alley deals, literally in the alley outside the The Cabildo which held the prison at the time… but maybe its one of those hide in plain sight things.

William Faulkner rented a space in the alley in 1925 and wrote his first novel here.
St Anthony’s Gardens attached to St Louis cathedral.
A view down pirate’s alley
Jackson Square has a long history of tarot readings, palm readings and other rituals in the square- so only fitting Norah would get a tarot card reading from someone there. The vendor asked I not put her in the photos but that I could photograph the table.
The reader said Norah showed very “strong” cards for such a young girl. That she was going through a period of change… that she needed to trust herself, trust her abilities, don’t self-doubt so much… (pretty much what any preteen needs to hear, right?) I’m not sure what anything in Tarot “means”… but I did take a photo of the cards in case anyone has a Tarot background and cares to interpret Norah’s future 🙂

We continued walking along the waterfront on a walkway called the Moonwalk- named after Mayor Moon Landrieu that commissioned it to be built.

Instrument Men Fountain along the way
The Joan of Arc statue in the street median.
Well, this was our lunch destination. The Central Grocery – the birthplace and home of the Muffuletta sandwich. So that was disappointing. Their website said they were looking for a temporary location while their building had repairs done from Hurricane Ida in September…. but it looks like they never found that venue. Oh well, next trip.
Our next destination was Esoteric Occult Goods, an oddities shop…but it, too, was closed. I could only look through the door.
We did stop into Voodoo Authentica to see some voodoo related items.
We stopped by the Jean Lafitte National Park and were able to get a National Park stamp for Norah’s book while we visited. It had a lot of history of the Mississippi Delta region and the swamplands around New Orleans.
I didn’t know John James Audubon basically got his start as a wildlife artist drawing and painting birds from the Louisiana swamplands for his Birds of America series.

By now, we were really hungry… and a couple places we stopped all had 2 hour waits… so we walked back towards our hotel hoping to find something with decent reviews without a wait. We found Mr Ed’s Seafood House…and only a 10-15 minute wait. I really wanted raw oysters. When in NOLA, right? Can’t get them this fresh and good at home… We also decided we’d try Charbroiled oysters for the first time. I think it was a mistake to order them here…they were totally burnt and overdone.. but the fried seafood hit the spot and Norah’s kid’s shrimp basket was stellar too. We kept stealing shrimp from her plate and calling it shrimp tax lol.

Our next stop was The Escape Game to play their Heist room. Our game guide Eric the previous night booked us this private room for very cheap the following day… I was happy about it not costing and arm and a leg. lol

Of course we ESCAPED! We recovered a stolen Monet from the egotistical museum curator before he returned from a staff meeting and saved the day. These escape rooms really are the highlight of Norah’s life right now. Its amazing to watch her go through and solve some of the riddles that I’m sure adults struggle with. ha And I’d be lying if I said Kegan and I didn’t enjoy them, too… its a brain workout… but its a great sense of accomplishment to “beat” the game. We really do work well together… and usually its a good mix of all 3 of us figuring out various parts to win.

As we walked back, it started sprinkling on us… and just as we reached the last hotel intersection- it was pouring rain like this…. couldn’t have timed it better!

We hung out in the room for a couple hours and watched the 2nd Matrix movie- Matrix Reloaded. Norah was just as into #2 as #1.

We last minute booked another escape room at Escape My Room- our favorite place so far (the one with our game guide Laszlo). He was supposed to be off tonight, but when we walked into the Private investigators office, awaiting who would greet us this time- we heard a familiar voice- our man Laszlo had traded shifts and was there again! It was a great surprise. I’m sure all of the guides there are great… but we’re basically old friends at this point…ha

The room we booked for tonight was very different.. and we weren’t sure how we would like it… it was called Smuggler’s Den and it was only a 45 minute room instead of an hour…and….like 30 minutes of it happens in the PITCH BLACK DARK.

In the end, we escaped with 13 minutes to spare! Pretty good on a 45 minute room… we had some great teamwork…and Kegan really knocked this one out of the park. I don’t think I would have made it out on my own. Blindly feeling your way around a room for clues and items was totally different that the normal cerebral puzzles and visual clues, but Kegan was very methodical, sweeping the room around the perimeter and putting some texture items together way before I did. Norah was on “11” for the whole thing. I think the dark really freaked her out for a while. Every bump or nudge and she was like WHAT WAS THAT?? WHO’S THERE?? hahaha It was a little funny. She finally settled in about halfway through. She was so amped she was talking at extreme volume afterward. haha

Later after a walk back to the hotel, we ordered delivery Shake Shack from the shop down the street. It was so close, a guy literally walked it down to the hotel for us. haha No fancy dinner for us tonight- just good ole cheeseburgers and fries.

Tomorrow we’ll explore more of the French Quarter for the last day… and hit another Escape room….and dinner is a followup to Shaya- a booking at Saba, the newest restaurant in New Orleans by Chef Shaya. Since Shaya was one of our favorite meals EVER, we’re excited about that one and we don’t even know what is on the menu. ha

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