Thursday, May 7, 2015

Immersed in music

I love to travel. Peter loves to be at home. I knew it would be a challenge to plan a trip he might actually enjoy, but I really craved some time in a warmer climate, so I gave it a try. And I succeeded.

We decided I'd find a place where we could settle in and become part of a neighborhood for a week. We agreed on New Orleans, a well-loved destination we had visited several times, but not since Hurricane Katrina. We'd see how the city had recovered, but mostly we'd concentrate on music and food.

On our balcony, overlooking Frenchmen Street
With music as a focus, it made sense to stay in the Faubourg Marigny, a district just beyond the French Quarter, where a three-block section of Frenchmen Street has become the place to enjoy jazz and blues. On TripAdvisor.com, my go-to travel research site, I found housing choices ranging from elegant to slightly shabby, and then I hit gold: a rental apartment with big, airy rooms, 14-foot ceilings, and the most wonderful balcony overlooking the street. The second floor of an 1870s commercial building, it's been renovated to include a modern kitchen and bathroom, air conditioning (which we never needed), and lots of electrical outlets. It even has wifi, courtesy of the bicycle shop downstairs. The only downside: a flight of 28 stairs. Happily, Peter's knees cooperated and the stairs, while difficult, were not impossible.

Some people might see another downside. Frenchmen Street is much quieter than, say, Bourbon Street, but it is not quiet. There are at least seven music clubs just on the block where we stayed. We had Snug Harbor and dba on either side of us, and The Spotted Cat directly across the street. Spotted Cat brings on a new group every two hours between 4 p.m. and 2 a.m. weekdays and from 2 p.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends (which in New Orleans can stretch from Thursday through Monday). The way the club is set up, music sashays right out the front door and into the street...and directly into our home-away-from-home.

Some people who stay there use earplugs when they want to sleep. We just let the music wash over us. Hot jazz, cool jazz, funky jazz, Dixieland, blues--it became the soundtrack for our lives. We went to other venues, too, most notably Snug Harbor where we heard two especially fine concerts. Who could have known that Dick Hyman, whom Peter and I both remember from the 50s, can play jazz with such virtuosity at age 88? He appeared with a quartet headed by Evan Christopher, my new favorite clarinetist, and the entire show was an experience in perfection. Another night we heard a jazz band led by one of the Marsalis brothers. The room is tiny--the very definition of an intimate venue--and Snug Harbor audiences are attentive and respectful, as you want them to be when you've paid a handsome cover charge to hear some of the best in the business.

After the shows at Snug Harbor, we'd walk next door, climb the stairs, and once again sit on the balcony enjoying the scenery and the perfect weather. People up and down the street were having a good time. Those in The Spotted Cat were whooping, dancing, clapping, singing along--not only enjoying music but participating in it--and the energy was contagious.

We've been back several weeks now, and still when I hear any music at all, my ear homes in, eagerly paying attention to the interaction among instrumentalists. Also, I crave hearing live music--blues, jazz, rock, whatever--in small venues, something we haven't done much lately. I've begun to watch the listings in Saint Paul and Minneapolis so we can do more, without having to pack our suitcases. Meanwhile I'm listening to Evan Christopher on YouTube and am about to order a CD, or two or three. He's a wonderful performer and a great scholar of New Orleans jazz, which shows in his work. Hope you enjoy this sample.

I'll be back soon.

18 comments:

DJan said...

It's lovely to hear from you! I missed you, but I realize that you will post when you want to and not on any schedule. Whenever, I will enjoy it. What a wonderful trip you had. :-)

Stephen Hayes said...

Great music. I'm glad you found such great accommodations and had such a terrific time.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Sounds like a wonderful time and what a great place to stay ... It's such a fun city, and you had front row seats for the lights and people watching. :)

J said...

Lovely review of a fascinating part of the USA! I've never been to Louisiana, but I'd enjoy the rich colorfulness of New Orleans. I'm glad you embraced total immersion of the music! I've had friends who travel to places steeped in culture and then complain about every aspect of it!

Jeanie said...

This sounds just fabulous. I've only been to NOLA for business and while there was fun time as part of it, you miss the total flavor of being absorbed in a neighborhood for a week. I think I'd enjoy this location, too! If I'm not coughing I can usually sleep through anything and almost always go to bed with the radio on! I think I'd love the sleepytime concert!

Kc W said...

It does sound fabulous in every way! I've never been there and it is one of those places I would really love to see but since it likely won't happen I sure appreciate you sharing it. Great post.

Grandmother (Mary) said...

What a great vacation! I loved time in New Orleans, especially their traditional music and dance. Good jazz is such a treat as is live music!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Sounds like a perfect trip for both of you! Always good to see a blog post from you! I hope you are having a good spring:)

Linda Myers said...

What a great place you found to stay - right in the middle of everything.

Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines said...

Sounds like a wonderful vacation!

troutbirder said...

Ok. It goes on my bucket list. :)

Wow, that was awkward said...

Awesome! Music is good for the soul. I was just in NOLA for the second weekend of JazzFest. We spent a few hours at DBA one night and hopping from bar to bar on Frenchman Street the next. The food in NOLA is also outstanding. Did you check out the cool markets on Frenchman Street at night? I loved how they had random table lamps and chairs mixed amongst the artsy vendors. That city is so unique and special. Glad you had a great time!

Jeanne Estridge said...

I've never visited New Orleans--and now I so want to.

Nancy said...

That sounds fabulous. Stepping out of your comfort zone to do something is always an adventure. I loved New Orleans the one time we visited, unfortunately, it was a business trip so we didn't get out much at night.The dinners were already planned. I'd like to go back now and just do what you did.

AiringMyLaundry said...

How fun! I would love to go there someday.

Retired English Teacher said...

What fun. I think my husband would really enjoy that. He is like your husband. He's a real homebody. Once I get him someplace, he is really into the adventure. It's getting him there. I'm glad you had this great time together.

Deb Shucka said...

You've made me want to travel to New Orleans. I'm glad you had such a wonderful time, and that you shared it with us.

Deb Shucka said...

You've made me want to travel to New Orleans. I'm glad you had such a wonderful time, and that you shared it with us.

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