Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 5, Bananas and gambling...sort of

After leaving our hotel, we stopped for breakfast at the Café Beignet on Royal Street, in the antiques district. As I've said before, the beignets here are better, to our taste, than those at the Café du Monde.

We stopped into Brennan's to see if we could just get their world-famous Bananas Foster and coffee, and were told that it'd be best if we came by toward the end of the lunchtime, about 1:30, which we planned to do.

Then we wandered down Royal and turned south at the Louisiana Supreme Court building -- like Maine, the Supreme Court sits in the state's largest city, not in its capital (though Baton Rouge is now larger than NO, due to the huge influx of refugees from Katrina who have not yet returned to NO).

We found ourselves back on Decatur Street on a day that was MUCH better than yesterday, with all its rain. The sun was bright and it was hot and humid. We walked along the levees of the river, where the steamboat Natchez was docked. On the top deck, a man was playing the calliope, a steam-powered organ which "announced" the arrival of the riverboat to local townspeople in days past. One could hear the boat long before one could see it. What a pleasure to see an old river tradition in practice.

Here in New Orleans, the Mississippi is wide and appears slow-moving -- it really isn't that slow, but its width makes it look so. The color is still sort of brownish, and in fact the very word "Mississippi" means "muddy river". So really, "Mississippi River" means "muddy river river"... I learned after we got home, that the fresh water flow is so great, it doesn't mix with salt water very much even in the Gulf, but not until the flow rounds the Florida Keys and merges with the Gulf Stream, does the fresh really mix with the salt!

We then turned southwest toward the aquarium and the convention center. We were kind of startled near the aquarium however, when we saw a statue of a dinosaur. Little did we know that it was animated! It moved!

This area of New Orleans is so different from the French Quarter. It has broad, palm-lined streets, modern skyscrapers, and all the "modern" looks. Of course, the old streetcar lines run through this area, a throwback to the days when they were the major means of transportation -- "A Streetcar Named Desire".

Canal Street is the widest "main street" in the US. It was originally going to be a canal between the Mississippi and Lake Ponchartrain, but the canal was never built. Lined with expensive hotels, shops, liquor stores, and "dives", it's quite an experience.

At the corner of Canal and Decatur is Harrah's New Orleans casino. Of course we went in, and being the "high rollers" we are, we put $5.00 into a $.01 slot machine. Walked away with ... $6.25! A successful day (or 15 minutes) of gambling for us! I don't know how some peoples' hearts can hold out when they gamble hundreds or even thousands of dollars. I get thrills and heart palpitations over $5 in the penny slot.

Anyway, we wandered back up Canal St to Tchoupitoulas St and headed back to the Quarter. "Tchoupitouas" apparently is a difficult word to pronounce, because Dennis Quaid had to correct Ellen Barkin's pronunciation. "Chop-a-too-las."

We arrived at Brennan's just as it began to rain. We figured that would be the end of touring for the day, but we were headed inside anyway. We had a wait of maybe 20 minutes, but a table for two opened up and we were escorted in. We ordered, of course, the Bananas Foster and coffee.

The server actually prepared the dessert around the corner from where I was sitting, but Barry got a pic of it. We were seated right next to the courtyard, with all sorts of tropical plants growing. If it hadn't been raining, we probably would have eaten out there.

Now Bananas Foster is basically a simple dish -- we plan to make it at home. Bananas, brown sugar, fried up quickly, add about 1/2 cup of banana liqueur, wait for the flames to die down, and serve hot, over French vanilla ice cream.

As with much of the tourist 'hype", although it was good, and the restaurant was quite elegant (the prices reflected that), frankly it's one of those things you "gotta" do 'cause you're a tourist. But we can do the same dish at home for less than the cost of a cup of coffee at Brennan's. Go for the experience, and to say you did, but don't rate it a "good value for the price."

As we were waiting outside Brennan's for the rain to end (which it did very shortly), we noticed we were across from the Louisiana Supreme Court building, and a statue of former US Supreme Court Chief Justice, Edward Douglass White. "Edward Douglass White, a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years between 1894-1921. In 1910, at the age of 65, White was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court by President William Howard Taft." ... Louisiana Supreme Court website...

For the rest of the day, we just wandered in and out, all around the rest of the French Quarter. We had accomplished doing everything we had planned on this trip, an that was a pleasure.

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