For the first time in its 26 year existence, I attended the French Quarter Festival. I don’t know why I’ve not gone in the past. It’s fun and there’s loads of food to eat and best of all, it’s FREE. It’s got the same type of music that’s played at our beloved Jazz Fest only it doesn’t cost an astronomical amount to get in. FQF is also spread out over a bigger area so you can walk around and not be limited by the one area with everything crammed in.
I went in the afternoon with India and JJ for lunch. It was very windy and mostly cloudy. Still, a pleasant day to be there. I was suprised at the number of people skipping work. LOL JJ and I started out with a bbq pork sandwich from a local bbq restaurant. India had crawfish gumbo with potato salad instead of rice. We sat down to eat all that, then got up to explore more of the food selections. I saw a vendor selling spinach and artichoke dip so I bought that; India had some Jamaican chicken with steamed veggies and I don’t know where he found it, but JJ appeared with a meatball sandwich. We sat down again to eat all that and my chips blew away while I was trying to eat. <cries>
We wandered all along the river front where a lot of the fest was, then wandered over to Jackson Square. Too damn crowded to get in (imagine about 60 people trying to get both in and out of your front door at the same time) so we wandered over to the gem and lapidary shop that I love going to. I bought a few items for a friend, then we decided to call it a day.
After getting my hair cut again, I met up with India at the street car stop and we headed into town to find more food. We wandered down Royal Street and encountered three different smaller stages along the way, not to mention a myriad of street performers. We eventually made it to the Old US Mint building where there were two more stages and more food. We had a beef debris sandwich (with a bit of Cajun mustard which I will never eat again) which was phenomenal. It was even more crowded everywhere else, so we decided to walk through the French Market then over to the riverfront where we could move about freely and feel the cool wind off the river.
As we were crossing over the train/street car tracks, there was this guy driving a souped up golf cart toward us between the tracks. Three women who were behind us immediately started chattering about who the guy was. Turns out he’s the owner of the waste removal (a.k.a. garbage/trash removal) company that’s grown so big since Hurricane Katrina. To his credit, the man has truly cleaned up the French Quarter. Gone are the days when you have to be cautious about what the liquid is that you’ve just trod through as you’re walking down the street or, as a resident, how many times you’ll have to hose down your front door for the drunk assholes who’ve pissed in your doorway. But these women behind us on Saturday were acting as though he’s some freaking rock star. “Yes, it’s him! It’s really him!” Of course they had to wave hello, whatever. Was just insane the way they acted and I’m quite sure they were all older than me (and I’m 37).
We continued our wanderings along the riverfront, pausing at one point to rest on one of the lovely benches. The women who’d been behind us continued their antics with some poor guy who was just lying in the grass resting. Finally we got up and continued back to the venues further upriver. At one point, though, as we got closer and the crowd a little thicker (but not oppressively so) I stopped to look at a street vendor’s wares. This woman behind me shouted, “Um… hello!” so I moved on. As I did so, I moved to the side and she moved passed me in a huff, pushing a stroller. How the hell I was supposed to know she was pushing a stroller is beyond me. It’s not like I have eyes in the back of my head and I don’t routinely turn around and walk backwards so I can take a tally of the people behind me.
Back at the venues nearest the aquarium, we decided that we’d had enough to eat – the beef debris sandwich was filling for us both – but couldn’t pass up having something sweet. So, while I enjoyed a grape snowball, India bought cookie dough ice cream. We sat on a little wall behind one of the stages to enjoy our treats. Beside us was a small group of black people; either friends or family or both. One of the older gents (probably 65 or older) got up and was just dancing away to the music being played behind us. I sat there enjoying his freedom to express his own enjoyment of the music which was so clearly flowing through him. After a short while, India spotted one of the most unique celebrities we have. A hidden gem, truly, as you can see them only twice a year: a Mardi Gras Indian. These men dressed out in their elaborate costumes are truly a sight to behold, if only to see the very intricate beadwork done using seed beads. They work on their costumes year round, which is why they’re seen only twice a year: at Mardi Gras and on Super Sunday. It was amazing to see this man walking around, with so many people flocking to him, following him, wanting a photograph with him.
Not long after seeing the Mardi Gras Indian, we left for the night.
Third day running and I was back for more. This time I was with EB. She’d gone last year and wanted to go again this year, despite my dad and brother working. So once again I parked at the bank near my office and we took the street car into town. Again, we entered near the aquarium and wandered through the children’s area which had been empty the previous evening when I was with India. There was a big set up promoting milk and they were giving away small cartons for free so we each took a chocolate milk. We wandered down to the middle stage of the three in the immediate area to listen to the end of the group from the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz. While I’m not a fan of vocal jazz, I will admit the young woman who was singing had a lovely voice. After the performance was over, EB bought some crawfish bread from one of the vendors. I tried it and while it’s not quite what I expected, it was delicious.
From there, we moved down to Jackson Square which was much easier to get in and out of as the weather was supposed to be terrible yesterday. We wandered around the perimeter of the square, inspecting all of the food offerings and EB settled on a smoked turkey leg. We stood in the shade of a crepe myrtle tree while she ate. There wasn’t anything there that appealed to me so we went back to the river front where I purchased a slice of pizza. We sat down long enough for me to eat it, then we were on the move again. I bought a collector’s bottle of Crystal Hot Sauce which cost only $1 and was signed by the owner of the company who was there. For those of you familiar with the two major brands of hot sauce made and sold in Louisiana – Tabasco Sauce and Crystal Hot Sauce – and are wondering what the difference is, Tabasco is made from the Tabasco pepper grown only on Avery Island in South Central Louisiana while Crystal is made from cayenne peppers.
We listened to another band play for a while, then we left.
I’m now crisply sunburnt after the sun came out yesterday but the wind didn’t die down, giving the illusion of a comfortable day. I’m also limping around because my knee is rebelling for all the standing up and walking I did over the weekend. Still, there are worse prices to pay. ;o)