The Big Easy: Food, Music, Cats and Perfumes

New Orleans seems to be one of those places to where everybody either always wanted to go or had been to and remembers it fondly. Somehow nobody I spoke about New Orleans had mentioned the local weather.

Neither my vSO nor I like hot weather. Hot and humid is even worse. So I’m not sure how it happened that we agreed to go with our friends to New Orleans mid-June. It just hadn’t crossed my mind to check in March when we planned the trip what to expect. Most likely, I wasn’t paying attention because the dates were set (our friends had an annual event to attend there, and we were just piggybacking on their special hotel rates). So for the six days we spent there it was above 30C/90F during the day, which put a strain on our ability to explore the city. But we did our best.

Ambiance

When arriving to a new city, nothing puts you at ease better than seeing a new security feature introduced by Uber…

 

Uber Safety Feature

 

I swear: it wasn’t there several hours earlier when I used the app to get a ride to the airport in San Francisco! So, while I thought it was a clever idea, and whenever I used Uber before, I was always making sure to inform somebody where I was, I started questioning immediately how unsafe it was there that they felt like running the onboarding for the feature specifically on my first use of the service in New Orleans. But during the stay everything seemed to be quite safe, even though (or thanks to?) I’ve never remembered seeing that much of police presence on the streets anywhere else.

Food

Food we had during our stay in New Orleans was good. I wouldn’t say it was spectacular but it was good. Expensive but good. We even found a place that served an afternoon tea. What pleasantly surprised me was that practically all cocktails we had in different places were well made, which I cannot say about many restaurants around where we live. Looking back, the day was broken into small chunks of doing something else in between finding ourselves at the next café or restaurant – to cool off while eating or drinking something.

 

 

Entertainment

Recommendations we got from friends and colleagues were food (everyone started with food!), swamps (it was too hot to attempt that), a couple of museums (did that) and music events. We were too busy before the trip to research where we’d like to go, and it was a mistake. The first night in New Orleans a group of us went to some jazz club for a drink and some music. Drinks were fine. Music… Some people just do not understand that “improvisation” doesn’t mean producing random sounds with a saxophone. For the next 6 days, as we were coming across different musicians on the street or at different venues – be those marching or seating bands or even lonely drummers, I kept saying: “Even that is better than what we heard the first night!”

 

 

I get easily bored at museums: there’s that fine line between keeping me interested for 2-3 hours and making me yawn in 15 minutes, and I rarely can predict the way it would go with one museum or the other. But since it was very hot outside, Louisiana State Museum seemed like a good alternative to just returning to the hotel room and trying to watch Netflix streaming of some next show episode.

It wasn’t the most interesting or entertaining exhibition but it had its moments, so I cannot really complain about it (it was much better than numerous museums I’ve visited in different parts of the world before). But one stand captured my attention, and I spent probably more than 5 minutes in front of it.

New Orleans Music

 

I did read the text (and you can too if you open the picture: I purposefully didn’t resize it); but what attracted me the most, were two telephone handsets (wired) that you could use to listen to the same song – The Battle of New Orleans – performed by Johnny Horton and Lonnie Donegan. I still can’t say which one I like more. Can you?

 

 

 

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium wasn’t something that anyone had recommended but one night while walking around our hotel we came across a bright lit window with live butterflies, got curious and came back the next day. I have no idea how it came to that, but this museum, the largest free-standing American museum dedicated to insects, is located at the U.S. Custom House Federal Building. The security measures to get into this museum were stricter than those we went through at the airport. But I really enjoyed the exposition. We all probably read about mimicry and saw some nature documentary about it on TV, but when you see up-close insects that resemble flowers (Orchid mantis) or leaves (Dead Leaf mantis or walking leaf Phylliidae) it is very impressive. (Can you spot all of them on the pictures below?) And butterflies that just float all around you and sit on any available surface (including you) were just beautiful.

 

 

Cats

Even while on the best vacation, we miss Rusty a lot. I wish he could travel with us. But I doubt either one of us would enjoy it. So he usually gets a cat sitter to keep him company. And while we were getting the “proof of life” as I called those daily pictures that a cat sitter was sending us, we kept coming across New Orleans cats everywhere – on the street (either sleeping in shadow or even walking on a leash), in the store (in an eyewear shop Art & Eyes where we went because our friend wanted to get a new frame, we met Hamilton, a store cat; another one we saw sleeping on a half-finished carpet still on a loom), or on pictures and prints sold at the art fair on Frenchman street (I couldn’t pass that orange cat print – so now it hangs over my Zen Garden in the office).

 

 

Perfumes

I plan to do the next post focusing on perfumes I discovered while in New Orleans: it won’t make them justice to cram them in the end of a long post. But since it’s a perfume blog, I cannot not to touch on the subject completely (and it wouldn’t be true to the story since perfumes do play an important role in my life).

Since I knew it would be hot and humid, I brought with me perfumes that I thought would work well in that weather. And all of them were great and added to positive side of the trip. But the one that stood out was Byredo Bal D’Afrique.

Before falling in love with it, I tried it several times. The issue was that two samples that I got from friends earlier stayed neglected in the pile “to test” until they went off leaving rather unpleasant impression and regret about wasted skin “real estate” once I finally got to test them. And then I got a fresh sample – and it was a completely different story.

Even then I, being me, did not go for a bottle but instead bought a decant from one of the split groups on FB. Partially it’s explained by the fact that I think that Byredo’s minimalistic bottle and packaging design doesn’t suit this perfume. Those clean lines, good for the tender La Tulipe, seem wrong for this bright and sexy perfume.

I do not see myself wearing it too often since most of my life goes at work, and Bal D’Afrique is not even remotely office-friendly, but it is an extremely interesting oriental woody perfume that should work equally well both in the dead of winter and on a tropical vacation. It seems like a truly unisex perfume but not one of those anemic citrus-y numbers that can be considered as such just because none of genders would claim the ownership, but rather a bold statement that perfectly fits anyone who wants to wear it.

If you find interesting such perfumes as Byredo Pulp, L’Artisan Traversee du Bosphore or DelRae Bois de Paradise, definitely give Bal D’Afrique a try.

 

Rusty in Grass

 

Since my decant of Bal D’Afrique isn’t too picturesque, and I do not have any Africa-inspired or related items to make a nice shot, I decided to illustrate it with the photo of Rusty on my backyard (à la African Savanna stroll).

 

Is New Orleans on your bucket list?

 

Images: my own

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31 thoughts on “The Big Easy: Food, Music, Cats and Perfumes

  1. OOO that tea and desserts :)

    I have heard that cats are ubiquitous in New Orleans…for this reason alone I would love to visit! I don’t mind hot and humid….I prefer it to cold and snow.

    • and I forgot to say that while I tried MANY Byredos I have never tried Bal D”Afrique but I have heard wonderful things about it…glad that you got a fresh sample and a real experience with it…I wonder sometimes if I don’t like certain fragrances because they are off. Same thing with vintage…things that I wore years ago when they were fresh and in pristine condition don’t smell the same to me now in vintage format because usually the top notes are off.

  2. I have visited New Orleans several years ago and enjoyed it; will probably be there again this winter for the same work-related conference that took me there before. Things I did that were fun: guided tours of a famous cemetery and the Garden District; took a cooking class that included lunch and learning to make New Orleans classics like gumbo and jambalaya; visited the cathedral; rode a vintage streetcar. I bought some truly delicious local rice and spices and will do so again on my next trip!

  3. When I was much younger, the thought of going to the famous Cafe du Monde for chicory coffee and beignets made me fantasize about New Orleans. And in 1987, there was a very sophisticated TV comedy called Frank’s Place, starring Tim Reid as a polished, Brown University professor who inherits his estranged father’s restaurant in New Orleans – a place he initially doesn’t want, but who falls under the spell of the restaurant’s unique culture and the importance of its place in the community. That show really made me want to visit, but as I got older I realized that the weather and the party atmosphere of the place is really not me. Still, it’s a city that is fascinating to read about, and I very much enjoyed hearing about your experience. The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium sounds fantastic!

    p.s. You really made me laugh with your comment about the first music venue you went to (“Some people just do not understand that ‘improvisation’ doesn’t mean producing random sounds with a saxophone.” — so true!)

    • We went to Cafe du Monde (the picture above is from there, but instead of coffee it was hot chocolate). I suspect at some point it was good. These days it’s a huge enterprise that produces and serves those beignets non-stop 24 hours a day. I’m not a huge fan of that pastry but we found a smaller cafe that made them much better.

      I don’t think we’ll want to go back there again: the atmosphere of it is “not me” either. But it was an interesting experience (and the butterflies were great!).

  4. Visited New Orleans only once, shortly after 9/11 when the airports had just reopened and travel was very nerve wracking. A conference for the hubby – I did a lot of wandering. We had decent food, concert by Pete Fountain. Visited the National WWII Museum. Weather was decent in October. The insect museum sounds like a place I’d like to visit. Sorry about the music – I’m not sure who actually likes that kind of “modern” jazz….

    • I couldn’t believe it, but there were several groups of people who were there in the club when we arrived and stayed after we left: they were sitting almost in front of the band and seemed to enjoy everything… I don’t know… :)
      I suspect that October might be much more pleasant there but I’m not sure I’ll ever decide to do it again… At least, not without a good reason (like a company-paid conference) or when I run out of other places I still want to visit.

  5. Hot and humid doesn’t work for me either. Few minutes outside and I can feel how my body gets sticky and clothes start cling to it. Not pleasant. It looks like you had a nice trip anyway. That sweets plate with macaroon (I think?) Looks especially appealing. Is it difficult to find a place that serves afternoon tea there?
    I’ve been to a place called “motylarnia” many years ago at the seaside during summer vacation. It was humid inside with lots of tropical plants. Exotic butterflies were flying around The place, There was also an “incubator” with pupa. If you were Lucky you could see a butterfly unfolding its wings for The First Time.

    I Love jazz but zatopione cacophony doesn’t sound appealing.

    Glad you found Good places, Good food, cats and perfume. Personally I don’t like Byredo.

    • Let’s start with perfumes. I don’t like Byredo’s aesthetics (too minimalistic for me), and more of their perfumes do not work for me then do. But La Tulipe found its place in my heart (and perfume wardrobe – though just in a decant form), I enormously enjoy Pulp in tropical weather (and nowhere else), and now Bal d’Afrique caught my fancy. I’m thinking about getting either 1 more sample or a small decant of Mohave Ghost. But so far – not a single full bottle in my collection.

      Now to food (I can’t believe it came second! ;) ): yes, there are four macaroons on that plate. They were very good. As to tea, it’s getting better here, but – from my experience – traditionally tea wasn’t something widely popular in the U.S. We suffered a lot when we just moved to here because it was hard to buy anything worth drinking. It got much better over the last 20 years. But still, afternoon/high tea places is not something too common. That’s why I was delighted to find that place in New Orleans. It wasn’t proper English high tea but it was good enough.

      • I see. I have not tried La Tulipe or Pulp. What I tried from Byredo just didn’t impress me but ai don’t mind the minimalistic design.

        Happy to hear you were able to localize a nice tea place. Luckily I myself can find a lot of places that sell Great tea but when it comes to cafes or restaurants they usually don’t offer any extraordinary tea

  6. The tea looks lovely! I went to New Orleans in May or June and it was awful. Every time I stepped outside I got an instant headache from the bright sun and heat. If I ever go back, I will go in February.

  7. Oh, New Orleans is at the top top top of my list!!! Haven’t made it yet. Hopefully this year or the next, fingers crossed! I’ll have to try Bal d’Afrique again, since Pulp intrigued me and I adore Bois de Paradis.

    It’s hard to be a tourist, it always seems like it’s activities being broken up by the need to find food or a bathroom or water. Bleah.

    • I hope you’ll get there in better weather than I did. The downtown and a couple more areas are so colorful and unusual that I constantly was taking pictures.
      I agree with you: while it’s interesting to visit new places, not knowing the surroundings makes it harder to enjoy your time there to the fullest since you constantly have to plan ahead and be mindful of small life necessities. For me Paris was the hardest for me: I still don’t understand the restroom situation in that huge tourist Mecca.

  8. Not on my bucket list as I have also been there – in 1998, before the big hurricane damage, though I believe the centre wasn’t affected anyway? Very hot and humid as you and others found it. We spent a week there in an old apartment through a timeshare scheme. I had a terrible migraine which put me out of action for at least a day. It is a great city though and I was glad to see it.

    Love your orange cat picture! – the perfect souvenir. Am going to go with Lonnie Donegan, though neither tune is my cup of tea, hehe. Look forward to hearing more about your perfume experiences there. I haven’t smelt Bal d’Afrique in ten years, so was interested to learn it was such a good fit for your trip.

    • Luckily, flooding didn’t touch the area where we stayed and spent most of our time, which was something we were grateful for since, as we discussed, it would have never been restored the way it is, so it would have been completely lost and changed.

      I’m surprised you didn’t like these two covers. Surprised because I’m not a big music fan, I can go weeks without listening to anything, but things that I like are usually in a “generally pleasing” category – so I was sure that anyone sho’d listen these two would like them. But I’m thankful that at least you gave it a try (I have a feeling that usually people skip not only links to older posts or additional information but videos as well :) ).

      I want to mention that one of the samples that went off was from you. So, who knows, maybe what you tried was on its way out, and if you were to try it today you’d love it (not that you need any more perfume, I understand).

      • I had a decant of Bal d’Afrique I got from in a swap many years ago, and it also went off – only after a number of years, I should add. I guess the moral of this is that it needs to be used in quite short order!

  9. OMG, Rusty the hunter! I’m sure he would not appreciate being called cute when he’s in hunting mode.

    New Orleans in June! If October was 2 showers a day season, June must have been a steam bath cranked up to scalding levels. You survived though!

    While the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium sounds interesting, I would be skeered – any insect touching me turns me into a shrieking fool.

    Looking forward to the perfume review!

    • I have to say that Rusty, when he hunts (mostly us :) ), is unbelievably cute! He looks a little dangerous (because we know that he can hurt us without meaning to – just in the heat of the game) but besides that consideration he actually looks very attractive at those moments.

      I decided to spare my readers my hotel woes, but with them having some strange troubles with bath towels (why would you take away the old ones if you have nothing to replace them with?!), those necessary showers were a challenge ;)

      I don’t like other insects outside of terrariums, but butterflies? You’re the second person I know who’s afraid of butterflies. Bizarre! :)

      • That was not logical that old towels taken away without replacement!

        Regarding butterflies, not to creep anyone out, but I’ve always had this thought that butterfly wings are poisonous. Also, when I was 6, someone told me that dead people come back as butterflies; I remembered this very clearly as it was around the time my paternal grandmother passed away and not only was I traumatized by the flowers at the wake (there were so many human-sized flower arrangements that the heady smell overwhelmed me and the hulking presence of these arrangements spilled out to pretty much take over the hallway outside the room so there was no escape), I also saw a butterfly flitting about the garden for days following the funeral.

        • Nah… As a child I’d touched so many butterflies that had they been poisonous I wouldn’t have led this dialogue with you today :) I’m personally responsible for wiping off with my fingers whatever the color pigment that covers butterflies’ wings is called – just to see what happens (they become transparent). And I’ve never had any problems.
          As to the dead returning as butterflies – why do you find it scary? If anything, I think it’s a beautiful image…
          Anyway, it’ll be a while before I torture you with the next portion of butterflies from my future adventures :)

  10. Would love to visit New Orleans one of these days, Undina. Hmmm… I think I prefer the first version of The Battle of New Orleans. The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium sounds very special. There’s something very hypnotic about butterfly wings. I have yet to try Bal d’Afrique, although I have enjoyed several other Byredo fragrances.

    • I hope you’ll get to try BdA before it gets reformulated (not that I know that it will but everything is eventually).
      I like butterflies and never miss a chance to look at them – be that in nature or in one of these pavilions. I have many pictures I did over the years though monarchs are the most colorful of all that I ever came across “in the wild.”

  11. New Orleans, hot and humid???? LOL…oh yes, nothing like taking a shower and putting on a fresh shirt and then walking out the door only to be soaking wet again. New Orleans is fun. We used to go with friends every year for many years and had a blast. I can’t say that I have ever been in one of their museums though. Our trips consisted of eating and drinking….repeat, repeat, repeat. I’m sure Rusty missed you horribly.

    • I think Rusty notices our absence at some point but with food coming in at the regular time and humans keeping him company, I hope he doesn’t suffer much.
      With hot and humid weather at some point you just give up and accept that you’re wet most of the time – which doesn’t make it more pleasant but allows you to care less… I don’t know how one can go to the office in that weather though :)

  12. A pic of Rusty in the wild! Sort of :) Lol at the “proof of lie” photos.

    New Orleans holds a certain fascination in my mind, Undina, so I loved reading about your visit. I have to say I would worry about the safety aspect so good to know you didn’t encounter any trouble.

    Somehow Bal D’Afrique seems like the perfect perfume for this city.

    High humidity is the worst! You managed well, considering.

    • I know that our tastes in perfumes do not totally coincide but I think that Bal D’Afrique should work for you as well.

      Our “backyard” is the wildest it gets for Rusty (and only when one of us is not watering it – or Rusty would stay inside the room just looking out of the open door.

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