A little over a week ago, while the Covid19 pandemic was brewing, but not yet declared, I was on my way for a week in New Orleans, in a state that as yet had no cases of the dreaded virus. Nevertheless my morning started with a text from my son Ben – to not worry because the tornado which ripped through sections of Nashville during the night had (rather too narrowly for comfort) missed him. I guess that goes to show that when you’re focused on one disaster, you could be missing another coming your way! (I mean there’s always the stock market and the election to worry about.)
I’ve been wanting to get back to New Orleans (NOLA) for 45 years since I was last there. So I talked my sketch buddies into joining me. It wasn’t a hard sell.
We rented an AirBnB in the Lower Garden District and discovered we were in a neighborhood that became easy to call home. While waiting to get going the first morning, I sat on our porch to sketch the deli across the street. The Turkey and the Wolf won America’s best new restaurant of 2017 award from Bon Appetit!
And 3 blocks away was District coffee shop (donuts, sliders, etc) which became one of our home bases for eating. Ever tried Miso Praline Bacon?!
So I know it sounds like a strange way to get started seeing NOLA but a thunderstorm was brewing that day, so we headed to the WWII Museum on the 11 bus (40cents for seniors!) It’s more like a theme park, and the Beyond All boundaries theatre provided an immersive sensory experience including vibrating seats with machine gun fire and even falling snow. I kept ducking the fire and tearing up at the letters written home by soldiers.
Both my parents were enlisted in the war: my dad on a submarine in the Pacific, my mom as a WAVE. The dog tag card above was a way to follow the experience of a particular serviceman or woman in the exhibits.
Our rental house was the lower story of the house on the right. Highly recommend it if you have a chance to go!
Next day we were out walking around the Garden District enjoying the architecture and trees. I made the mistake of plunging right into a sketch in my larger sketchbook and rapidly felt impatient with all the detail.
So I took the lead from Cathy and scaled way down to a more manageable 3X3″ size. While sitting on the sidewalk a man stopped to tell us about his experience with the WWII museum. We found people in NOLA friendly and always ready to tell a story, whether it was how they lost everything in Katrina or the sights they recommend.
Lunch that afternoon turned into a extended affair when we decided to explore not only the excellent cuisine of Lula but the distillery and tasted the gin and tonics, where not only the gin but the tonic was made on site.
In the evening we were at Frenchman St where there is door to door live music and other attractions like the Poets for Hire sitting with their typewriters cranking out spontaneous poetry.
One has to do the French Quarter in NOLA and get the beignet and coffee at Cafe du Monde, but personally the crowds of tourists were exhausting.
When I finally found a quieter spot in Jackson Square and was ready to paint, a park guard said it was not allowed! Apparently the painters would otherwise take over the park and mess it up, if they allowed the lowly watercolorists to get their brushes out.
So I satisfied myself with a pen sketch of the statue of Andrew Jackson, for whom the square in named. On a side street, in front of the Conjure Shop (hoodoo, voodoo, spiritual magic, rootwork, and readings) we found a spot to not get trampled while we set up our stools for a bit.
Next: a meet up with the NOLA UsK group, the museum that woke up my interest in history, and the jazz I had hoped to find on the streets of New Orleans!