Monday, April 16, 2007

Wake up to the charms of the Crescent City

Mornings, I have the pleasure of driving right through the French Quarter on my way to work, past St. Louis Cathedral and Cafe du Monde, with a view of the bridge spanning the Mississippi at my back--a trip most commuters can only dream about.

While I'm cruising up Rampart, mules are trotting the opposite direction, pulling their empty carriages to their parking spaces along Jackson Square. They're perky this time of day after a good night's rest and a bale of hay, I suppose.

Some actually cantor down the street, their head feathers blowing and flowered bonnets bobbing. A morning mule can be a beautiful thing to behold. I know little about mules, but they do seem to enjoy their work and take it in stride, despite cars and taxis streaming around them. How fun could it be to trot around, showing off this fair city, and taking frequent breaks at Jackson Square? I suppose mules get the job because they can tolerate heat better than horses would during the summer months.

Continuing along my route, I pass their stable in Marigny, the neighborhood beyond the French Quarter, which apparently has no rule prohibiting so-called livestock. The Fauberg Marigny was a plantation before being subdivided in 1805 by Bernard de Marigny. Immigrants and "free persons of color" settled there then. It is still a very diverse neighborhood, bustling with clubs, restaurants and nightlife.

While I'm angling to park, a man on a bicycle passes with a basketful of baguettes, leaving Alois French Bakery on North Rampart. He probably makes deliveries to restaurants and stores selling po-boys, New Orlean's famous "hero" sandwiches.

I stop by Loretta's Praline Shop for a cup of chicory coffee and a sweet potato pie to start the day off right in this most surprising place. The tinkling sound of a calliope can be heard in the direction of the Quarter.

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