Friday, January 27, 2012

To Tour Or Not To Tour

Touring the French Quarter can be done in two general ways--one way is as part of a formal, informational tour. Whether it be by a horse-drawn or mule-drawn carriage, a van or bus, or by one of several organized walking tours, it is easy to acquire a pretty good history of a specific part of the Quarter.

But to experience the life of this vital part of New Orleans, one needs only to walk its streets.

This informal walking tour will encounter streets blocked
off--some for a portion of every day, others on special days--for performers, from a small ensemble to dancers, a mime, and a solo cellist.

Moving on to Jackson Square, the performers increase in number of range of skills. A very animated band performs, a number of psychics and tarot card readers are available for consultation, artists display their works on the fence surrounding the Square, others express their individual styles through their dress or their transportation, and individual performers carve out their space to display their talents--together they make up the colors displayed on the canvas of the Quarter.

Walking past the buildings in the Quarter brings us into contact with the exterior of the businesses and homes, but from the sidewalks, we can only get a glimpse of the courtyards of the homes. (We were unable to take part in a tour of these courtyards because the RV Park's shuttle's schedule did not coincide with the tour's start time.)

On occasion, we encountered scenes from the working world of the Quarter.

At other times, our walk would coincide with the formal tours. One example was the stop at the Cornstalk Hotel.

It was here that "Harriet Beecher Stowe stopped and was inspired to write Uncle Tom's Cabin from the sights at the nearby slave markets.

"Surrounded by a unique and intricate 165 year-old 'corn-stalk' cast iron fence, it is now a lovely hotel in the Victorian tradition of elegance.

"There is a lovely old story of an early owner who brought his young bride to live here far from her native Iowa. To soften some of her loneliness for the waving fields of corn back home, he caused this replica to be made in graceful iron so that from her front gallery she could forever see something of her native land.

"Ripe ears of corn a-shucked on their stalks are seemingly ready for the harvest, each kernel a work of art.

"Pumpkins form the base of the massive iron columns around which are entwined the pumpkin vines and the leaves and morning glories" (

If we could establish an ending spot for a walking tour of the Quarter, it would be the Royal Pharmacy. Well, the Royal Pharmacy of 1935.

A stop at the soda fountain in this pharmacy with the floor covered in small hexagonal white tiles with a few black tiles placed throughout the floor and the tin plate ceiling would have been a fine spot for a soda, a sundae, or, maybe, a banana split.

"Could I get one of those 35¢ Butterscotch Nut Sundaes?" I asked.

The elderly gentleman, probably tired of being asked this same question by thousands of "clever" customers, answered, "Sure can, just come back 40 years ago."

Touchè, sir.

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