My Niece Visits NOLA – Fun Ensues

We were still in our formal wear at midnight when we got to the airport to pick up my niece and her 2 friends from college. We’d been dancing and dining at the annual Raintree Gala benefitting foster children and the families who care for them. We dropped the kids in the French Quarter and hoped they didn’t get in too much trouble on their Spring Break’s first night. We all enjoyed a tasty brunch at Wink’s Bakery the next morning, finishing our meal with super-tasty donuts and their famous Buttermilk Drops.

As Pelicans season ticket holders, we were invited to their annual appreciation day so we left the kids to the Quarter and headed to the Arena for a day of tours, games, lots of freebies and Pelicans players everywhere. Though my heart belongs to the Saints, my love for the Pelicans continues to deepen. The games and events are very family-friendly and upbeat (even when they hurt). Afterward, we all met for supper at the Gumbo Pot. The last time I ate there was over 6 years ago when I was still new to living in New Orleans. I went with a local cousin and the memory inspired a scene in my upcoming book, The Secret of the Other Mother: A Charlotte Reade Mystery. We ended the night with beignets from Cafe du Monde.

The next day, we wandered the statues of Armstrong Park as I told stories of Congo Square and the birth of Jazz and the legendary Mardi Gras Indian, Big Chief Tootie Montana. Then we headed to Dreamy Weenies for some heavenly dogs covered in red beans and rice or sitting atop potato salad then covered in chili and cheese. I love that Dreamy Weenies always plays local brass bands on the speakers as well as the beautiful view of the Armstrong Park arch from their giant windows. We ended the day with a nail-biter win Pelicans game.

The next day, we headed Uptown for a walk through the elegant manor homes of the Garden District. We passed the homes of Sondra Bullock, John Goodman and the Mannings family. Guess we’ll being seeing Eli around soon. We walked through the hauntingly beautiful above-ground resting places of Lafayette Cemetery #1 and read graves with entire families dying within days due to Yellow Fever. We looked through the shelves of the Garden District Book Shop where my books are sold. My niece was particularly impressed with the store’s Russian selections. Given the shop is small and focused on local interests and authors, she was shocked to find their Russian section was, “bigger than Borders’.” It’s easy to lose hours in that place.

We ate a tasty lunch at G.G.’s Dine-O-Rama then, though it was beginning to rain, we headed to Hansen’s Sno-Bliz for sno-balls. I was thrilled to have my first of the season and chose satsuma (a tart orange-like citrus) and chocolate. Yum.

The next day, we headed to the Louisiana State Museum at the Cabildo on Jackson Square. We chose the history side (as opposed to Katrina and Mardi Gras) and were treated to everything from a Bambara antelope headdress and a balsa wood production model from The Buccaneer to a spinning lottery wheel from 1860 and Homer Plessy’s grave marker.

I had to leave for an audition (and I got the job!) then our plans to see Tab Benoit at Wednesday at the Square were cancelled by bad weather so we didn’t reunite until the next evening for dinner at Commander’s Palace. When my niece came here at 14 years old, we went all over the city and had many magical experiences. The only one we repeated this time was dinner at Commander’s Palace. Everyone’s meals were delicious but the highlight was the Strawberry Shortcake dessert with fresh Ponchatoula strawberries, a local treasure.

New Orleans takes St. Patrick’s very seriously so we’d been wearing green since we picked the kids up at the airport but their last night in the city was the kick-off to a week of parades and parties. The Jim Monaghan Molly’s at the Market Irish Parade is a procession of green revelers and mule-drawn carriages as well as the Celtic Highlanders’ rolling bar. We enjoyed the Irish Zulu walking club, the Muff-A-Lottas and the tipsy silliness of it all.

The cherry on top of the kids’ week in New Orleans was an evening of Glen David Andrews and tapas at Three Muses on Frenchmen Street. The Pork Belly with Apple Chutney on Scallion Pancakes ($9/$14) were a hit and the Bacon Wrapped Bleu Cheese Stuffed Dates with Vanilla Balsamic ($5/$9) were a sweet treat but the rice bowl with steak and a sunny-side-up egg won for most creative.

I was so glad we ended her visit with Glen David Andrews and his band. Andrews continues to evolve as a performer, a musician and a man. Playing mostly jazz standards, he held the rooms’ rapt attention with an extended whistling solo, demonstrated both the blaring power and the subtle, softer side of the trombone and sang with miles-deep soul. Andrews is the brother of Derrick Tabb, Grammy-minning snare drummer with Rebirth Brass Band and founder of The Roots of Music. Coincidentally, I first met Derrick when my niece was here at 14 and he gave us an amazing tour of The Roots of Music program in the Cabildo. Everything is circles.

Growing up, it was usually my cousins who would take me into town for the adventures that began my love affair with this city. I’m so glad to be part of my niece’s deepening love of New Orleans.

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Filed under Concerts, Culture, decorations and costumes, free events and lagniappe, history, Local Cuisine, parade, Pelicans

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