Victoria arrived safely after a long travel day and we met at Harry’s Corner, across the street and up the block from her hotel, the Chateau on Chartres. She got a great off season rate, and was happy with the old style lodging. The location is great, and worth a recommendation. We immediately plunged into the French Quarter, walking through Jackson Square and down Royal Street as the daytime vendors were packing up and the nighttime folks were starting to come out.

We started at the Carousel Bar, hitting the Happy Hour early rush so we missed a seat on the carousel, but sat in the window able to watch people walk by and watch the chairs of the bar rotate past. Victoria got a Vieux Carre and I went with an old fashioned. We then went to the Napoleon House and got the little alcove table in the main room. We had a good meal of muffuletta and red beans for Vic, and I had the seafood gumbo, very dark and hit the spot on a cool evening. After a little food, we continued on to the Old Absinthe House, waiting for the Belle Époque to open. We found a seat at the bar, unusual in my experience, and enjoyed the 200 year old bar. The Belle Époque was a whole other thing. It is accessible through a speakeasy door at the back of the Absinthe House and a carriage way off Bourbon. The swank factor went off the chart, with antique fountains at the bar and an extremely accomplished bartender. The absinthe list itself was about 50 bottles long, a little incomprehensible. Vic got a house specialty with egg white and a couple of liqueurs, and I got an excellently prepared Death in the Afternoon. The absinthe, a local one, was floated on top of the champagne, frothed with the bubbles. It, and everything in the bar, was beautiful. It should be a good addition to the swanky bar crawl.

We walked down Bourbon for a few blocks, then across Jackson Square to Tujague’s and the standup bar for an old-fashioned and a Grasshopper for Victoria at the ancestral source of all grasshoppers. We took a detour to Buffa’s to hear Tom McDermott and Aurora Nealand in the back room. I was happy to find a seat for that show, and to have Victoria see and hear Aurora, who reminds me of Stephanie M. in her vocal range. A successful bar crawl with good food and music.

The next morning we got up and did it again. Victoria’s posse did not arrive until late afternoon, so we did a walking tour of the Quarter, starting with an excellent breakfast at Horn’s and a brief tour of the Chez Marigny. We walked to Royal Street with some architectural discussion, and toured a few of the galleries, successfully staying within the art budget, which for me is zero, but I enjoy looking. We took a break at Finnegan’s to look at the preserved but not restored courtyard, and then, after a tour of Rouse’s, on to the HNOC museum to look at the old well in the courtyard and the beautiful museum shop. They were filming some Mardi Gras themed thing, with three floats on St. Peter and a crew of dozens milling about. We didn’t see a hint of what they were shooting, but interesting and entertaining nonetheless.

We walked along the river for a bit, ending back at Jackson Square so Victoria could negotiate with the carriage tour people, and went across to Cafe du Monde for beignets and coffee. It was stranger being there in the afternoon, but the beignets were perfect as always. If you are going to eat one donut a year, this ought to be the one. We wandered from there to Manolito, my first visit of the season, and had excellent cocktails, a Floridita for Vic and a lime leaf daiquiri for me. The lime leaf was a thrown drink, and it was a blast watching the tall bartender in the low ceiling bar getting a couple of feet of throw as she iced the drink. I had to have two to go with my cheesy arepa. We found the Vampyre Boutique for a final stop on the tour for the day as Vic collected her luggage and headed out towards the lake.

There is a cheese festival at the US Mint, and the Treme/Gumbo festival at Armstrong Park. I think I can skip the cheese in favor of two stages of music and arts displays at the Park. Ill have to fit in a football game for a few hours…

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