Hello Friends and Family,

1974 Trip to New Orleans, Part 1

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

1974 found me traveling again — this time to New Orleans, "The Big Easy", "Baghdad-on-the-Bayou", "Big Crescent", "Birthplace of Jazz", and many other nicknames. I was interested in the atmosphere and the food— New Orleans has more of both than just about any other American City.

Not only is New Orleans considered "The Birthplace of Jazz" but it also is the soul of the jazz scene. Look carefully and you'll see the signs on this building naming and showing Al Hirt. Wikipedia says, "He is best remembered for his million-selling recordings of "Java" and the accompanying album Honey in the Horn (1963), and for the theme music to The Green Hornet." I was not a big fan of jazz at the time (but today I am a fan of "smooth jazz" — with artists such as Norah Jones). This was his club and you could enjoy his music in person nightly. I wish I had had time to visit.

The French Quarter (AKA Vieux Carré) is often called the Crown Jewel of New Orleans and is one of NOLA's most historic neighborhoods. For anyone who enjoys beautiful architecture, the iron latticework, especially on the balconies, is a treasure to be savored.

On the corner of Bienville and Bourbon Streets, stands a New Orleans landmark, Jean Lafitte's Absinthe House. Originally, it was a warehouse for an importing firm. For the next forty years, the store was home to the bartering of food, tobacco, and Spanish liquor and functioned as a prototypical "corner grocery."

In 1815, the ground floor was converted into a saloon known as "Aleix's Coffee House" then later rechristened as "The Absinthe Room" when mixologist Cayetano Ferrer created the famous Absinthe House Frappe here in 1874.

Prohibition put a damper on the business which continued below-the-table liquor sales for a few years until the bar and all of its fixtures were removed under cover of darkness to 400 Bourbon Street in order to preserve it. This speakeasy operation was known as "The Absinthe House Bar” and served bootleg booze to those who were in-the-know of where to party or at least knew who to ask.

Many decades after Repeal Day, the original bar from the Old Absinthe House was returned to its 240 Bourbon Street home and currently resides in the adjacent, speakeasy-style cocktail bar, Belle Époque. The Old Absinthe House is an exercise in endurance and the convergence of past and present. The decorative marble fountains that were used to drip cool water into glasses of Absinthe in the 1800s have also found a new life in Belle Époque. History endures against the backdrop of a bustling, neon Bourbon Street.

Here we see the Hermann Grimma House from 1831. It is currently occupied by a Woman’s Exchange which is “a depot or salesroom where any woman from the richest lady in the land to the poorest can place the work of her fingers and offer it for sale.”

From their website, "Located in one of the few remaining 19th-century French Quarter stable buildings, The Exchange Shop follows the long tradition of Women’s Exchanges across the country and represents a number of Louisiana women artists, including painters, ceramicists, and jewelry designers. In addition to consigned artworks, The Exchange Shop offers locally designed and produced artisanal goods including books, toys, tableware, textiles, accessories, and logo merchandise."

Here is another building with beautiful iron latticework ornamentation. I tried searching to see if the Southern Book Mart is still in operation but all I found were historic photos on Pinterest.

I was captured by even little hole-in-the-wall buildings that were enhanced by iron latticework. Looking at the photo now, I am also intrigued by the vintage vehicles — although they were quite modern in 1974.

Here we see still more iron latticework, this time decorated with complementary greenery. The cafe below reminds me of what great food you will find served in New Orleans both in fine-dining restaurants as well as in hole-in-the-wall places. My favorite dining memory was at a restaurant in a townhouse (sorry, I don't recall the name and I did not capture a photo). When you arrive, you ring the doorbell and a butler or maid welcomes you into the home and shows you to the parlor where drinks are served.

After drinks and conversation, you are shown to your table in the dining room which only has a small number of tables. The size of the room is similar to what one might find in a nice residence (not nearly as large as a typical restaurant). The menu shows only one dish (and accompaniments) as selected by the chef, based on what is available fresh at that time of the year. If you don't like that offering, you would have selected a different night to dine there when you made the reservation.

The meal, including dessert, was excellent — exactly what one would expect from a fine New Orleans restaurant. And what a novel idea for a restaurant — I have only found one other, in Carmel, CA (I don't know if that one is still open). If you know of any others, please let me know — I'd love to put them on my bucket list.

The age of many buildings in New Orleans plus the damage caused by occasional flooding (such as occurred during Hurricane Katrina) makes some look rather dilapidated, as seen here. However, because property is so valuable, someone will come along with their deep pockets and fix it up, usually trying to preserve or restore as much as possible to its former glory.

I love this shot of a young girl looking out the window of a rather dilapidated building. It makes me think of photos from Europe, perhaps after World War II.

Here we see a closer shot of iron latticework complete with greenery. Very nice.

More iron latticework on balconies — it seems just to be waiting for the Mardi Gras parade to come by.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com