The French Market strives to attract your attention for all your New Orleans souvenir needs, but French Quarter shopping and culture don’t end there. Across the street, around the block, art and commerce dot the sidewalks and lure in tourists starved for a change of pace from their milder, blander hometowns.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This year’s trip began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans. Indianapolis to New Orleans is a fourteen-hour drive. Between our workplace demands and other assorted personal needs, we negotiated a narrow seven-day time frame to travel there and back again. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We came up with a long, deep list of potential stops, but tried to leave room for improvisation…
We saw Joan of Arc earlier that morning at the St. Louis Cathedral, but just up the street stood a second version of the French legend, shinier and astride a mighty steed.
For some reason an upscale soiree was in progress behind and around Joan, folks enjoying drinks and mingling and crowding out us outsiders. We infiltrated their ranks to take a couple of shots and escaped their attention, probably because we didn’t try to sneak any free drinks.
Curiously, someone in their ranks — or perhaps a previous, unrelated visitor — abandoned a tiny drum on the ground next to the flora surrounding dear Joan, possibly because someone declared bass drums too gauche.
Down by the Old U.S. Mint is a much happier sculpture, Madeleine Faust’s 2009 “Second Line Sashay”.
Over by the banks of the Mississippi River, stone jazzmen greet anyone courageous enough to drive into the French Quarter and use their parking lot.
Past a certain point, French Quarter stores and homes begin to blend together, and it’s hard to tell when to stop browsing and turn around. The buildings are equally vintage, no doubt still bearing witness to the ravages of time and the scars of Katrina.
One of the more intriguing shops in our path was the Jazz Funeral Store. Apparently it’s a big thing in New Orleans for some dearly departeds to have a street parade with a celebratory march and peppy brass accompaniment. (Just so we’re clear: not actually joking here.)
The store contains numerous merchandise collections for visitors to peruse and pick out something to take home for a price. Some of them, we wondered if the cost would be more than just money.
Y’like hot sauce? I think they sell ALL OF THEM. Plenty of flavorful culinary painmakers at your disposal.
If you chose poorly and damaged your tongue, along another wall are your emergency salves, by which I mean bottled drinks. These also help combat the torrid temperatures outside, but in here the hot sauces are the more immediate danger.
Up at the counter, don’t forget to choose a Mardi Gras mask and a music sampler to prove to your loved ones back home that you were indeed in New Orleans.
Other stores on the block have their own memorable displays vying for your attention and tourist bucks. If you prefer sweetness to hotness, this charming gator thinks you need a box of pralines — i.e., nutty caramel candies softer than cookies and richer than mere peanut butter. If beignets aren’t doing it for you, pralines are New Orleans’ best Plan B.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]