Beignets and Brown Feathers – An Afternoon in New Orleans

Pelicans swoop in and scoop up brackish water with their sagging beaks. A lone seagull snatches up a sardine from the sand. A quiet spot except for the cawing of ocean birds and the occasional blaring horn of a passing barge.

I love this time of day. I watch as runners sprint along the sea wall that separates the downtown skyscrapers from the churning water of the Mississippi River. They are heading home after spending their days toiling in cubicles and offices in these same buildings. The business day is ending as the French Quarter comes to life.

In the watery light of sunset, shopkeepers fold up sidewalk signs and draw window shades. Antique shoppers and families of tourists are replaced by couples out for a romantic evening, and later still, by groups of friends out for an evening of revelry.

Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral

I head over to Decatur Street and Cafe du Monde where I can see mule-drawn carriages quietly line the iron fence of Jackson Square, awaiting their evening fares. Sitting at a small patio table, enjoying a cafe au lait with my hot and crispy beignet, I pull a handful of postcards from my bag and begin the old fashioned practice of writing to friends and family while I wait for my husband and grandson to join me.

We decided to split up fro the afternoon so I could do some shopping and visit St. Louis Cathedral while they rode the vintage streetcars and took the Canal Street Ferry over to Algiers Point. It’s a fun way to see the sights, especially for a 9-year-old who loves anything to do with transportation. The ferry ride is only $2 and a one-day “Jazzy Pass” for the streetcars is $3 and is valid for a 24-hour period. Nice and easy on the budget.

Canal Street Ferry

I don’t have long to wait before I hear EJ calling to me. He is super excited to tell me about all he has seen. There were barges and tugboats on the river. Not something we see at home on the prairie for sure. He tells me about the brown pelicans “catching fish in their beaks” and the riverboat that is “almost just like the one at Disneyland!” He slows down enough to have a drink of his hot chocolate that has just arrived at our table, and take a bite of his beignet, powdered sugar sprinkling down the front of his shirt and dusting his cheeks (it is tough to eat them without wearing at least a little.)

Crispy hot and sugary beignet (French donuts)

Taking advantage of the break in conversation I open a paper shopping bag to share my shopping success with my husband who is enjoying his chicory coffee, black and piping hot, as he munches through his plate of “French donuts” as he likes to call them. There are mardi gras masks for our girls, full of feathers and sequins, in a variety of colors, a fleur de lis tea towel for his mother, and some mardi gras beads for my brother. Shopping in the French Quarter and the market is a must-do for any visit to the Crescent City.

As we finish our afternoon repast and head to the streetcar station, our table is quickly filled by others who have been waiting in line for a spot. Cafe du Monde can get quite busy, especially during the summer months, but the wait is worth it.

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