“I need a drink,” said Patricia. Her usual plea is “I need food,” but this is New Orleans,
It was late afternoon by the time we finished at the New Orleans Mint. We’d done all of the New Orleans-based Louisiana State Museum buildings except Madame John’s Legacy – “an excellent example of 18th century Louisiana-Creole 18th century residential design” — because it’s closed indefinitely for restoration. It was time to call it a day and go looking for that drink.
But first —
Across the street from the mint is one end of the French Market, an open air emporium with tables full of tourist shop goods. “Three centuries of history, six blocks of shopping” says its website. It started in 1791 as a Native American trading post and, through the years, morphed into a commercial and gathering place. The current structure was designed, in the late 19th century, by Joseph Abeilard, one of the first African-American architects in the US.
We took a slow stroll through the market and made my requisite stop at the table of Oscar of New Orleans. During one of my first visits to New Orleans, I bought a fish pin
at the French Market, from Oscar, and I’ve made it a point to visit Oscar on every subsequent visit. His original creations are New Orleans fun and reasonably priced, making for great souvenirs. And Oscar himself is a shot of positive energy.
The French Market area includes restaurants and bars with music and open-air seating, but we weren’t feeling them. We moved on. The one we felt was on the other side of the French Quarter, at the Hotel Monteleone. I’d told a friend — nee Monteleone — that I’d visit “her” family hotel. Plus, it had a carousel bar — a bar designed to look like an amusement park carousel — that I wanted to see. And it was a historic hangout of Southern literati. So: “Let’s go in here for a drink.”
The original hotel was combination of two hotels — expanded through the years — bought by Antonio Monteleone, a Sicilian immigrant, in the late 19th century. That building was razed in 1954 and the current hotel was built on the old foundations. The Monteleone family still owns and operates the hotel.
The carousel bar, which rotates fully every 15 minutes, was installed in 1949. It’s made an appearance in many literary works, including The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams, Night Before Battle by Ernest Hemmingway and Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose.
The bar was jammed and there were no seats at the carousel, but we did manage to get a table. We took some time perusing their cocktail menu and ordered exotic, unfamiliar-to-us concoctions. I had a Manhattan. We also ended up eating off the bar menu for dinner. I had just-okay jambalaya. Patricia’s was better but I don’t remember what it was. They look like Chinese dumplings, though, don’t they?
After dinner, we made our not-quite-steady walk back to the hotel. It had been a History Tourist marathon of five sites (including St. Louis Cathedral, which we’d done that morning but that I’m saving for a future post) and two historic eateries. Tomorrow would be much of the same.