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lunedì 22 aprile 2013

Laissez les bon temps rouler

Those who have been to New Orleans know what this delicacy is and also know where to get it: at the worldwide renowned Cafè du monde where the line sometimes gets almost a mile long. Beignets are fried and covered with sugar but man do they taste good... I was in NO last month for a conference held in Tulane Law school where I took my Master of Laws. Yes I had the privilege to spend a year in this fantastic city and I can certainly say it was one of the best years of my life. I left before Katrina hit and I was told that the situation was very bad then. Actually it stayed bad until last year o better until february 2013 when the Superbowl was held since in preparation for that, the city has become magnificent. I could hardly recognize it when I got there. Especially the downtown area was so different. I use to live uptown close to the law School which has also changed although it stays beautiful and great. Downtown and uptown are connected by a streetcar service which is one of the nicest thing you could see. It tends to be very slow though and when I took it this year it was packed with tourists who had come into town for Saint Patrick weekend. Uptown is a completely different world from downtown: quiet, green peaceful, a lot of beautiful mansions on St. Charles and the two great campuses of Loyola and Tulane Universities. When I used to leave here, most of the time I would go out uptown or on Magazine Street where a lot of bars and venues were at the time. One is still there Maple Leaf and it's one of the best places where to go and listen to very good music. I used to go there every Tuesday to listen to Rebirth Brass Band. If in town check it out: it's definitely worth it. Another really famous place for music is The House of blues and Tipitina's where I managed to see James Brown and boy was that amazing! As far as food is concerned uptown there used to be many places but one stayed exactly the same: The Camellia Grill. We used to go to this diner-like place after partying as the English say for the greasy spoon. Very greasy spoon indeed! I love that place: it is somehow hard to handle given the state of the kitchen but the waiters and the ambiance are unique. It's not really the food you go for(burgers, omelettes, fries, sandwiches, milk shakes etc.) but the atmosphere. Now you actually have to queue up to get in there . As far as the other restaurants are concerned I actually went to a lot of places with my friends where I had never been when living there. The first one was Bourbon House on Bourbon Street of course. I have to say that unlike the majority of people I am not a big fan of Creole Cuisine and I think the cuisine in New Orleans is good but way too heavy for me. Well let's just say that when I was there I gained 10 kilos in 6 months (I was partying a lot and when I say a lot I mean A LOT). Fifteen years have passed since then and I can tell you that my stomach, which at the time could digest stones, definitely can't do that anymore. So when in this beautiful restaurants with great company I had a delicious fish with a crayfish remoulade it took me hours to digest. This place is called Bourbon House because you can actually taste 10 or 20 different kinds of bourbon there. I passed since bourbon before dinner would have killed me now but I would have done the tasting in those times and believe me I would have done it egregiously. The next place I went to was Muriels beautiful place on Jackson Square where I participated to the Alumni lunch. Oh it was great to be in the warm sun of Mid march on a balcony in the Quarter while it was cold and miserable in Europe. I love New Orleans did I already say that? I have missed it so much in the years and I was really heartbroken when I heard about Katrina. If I could live in between two cities now I would love to spend half of the year there. Anyway Muriel's is very ancient and has a wonderful location. If you go, make sure you check out the table near the stairs which is set for the ghost of Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan, the man who build the house who is said to inhabit the place together with other souls. Check this out Muriel's ghost. Then I went to Antoine's one of the oldest restaurants where they have about 10 private rooms with a different theme for private parties apart from the main dining rooms. It was founded by Antoine Alciatore who went to the States from Marseilles in the late 1800's and founded this restaurant which still remains one of the most famous ones there. The food is good but(with a good dose of butter, cocktail sauce, mayonese etc.)as I said, a little heavy. however the ambiance is so nice it is worth dining there anyway. The last one was Iris an American Contemporary cuisine restaurant which I liked very much. Also the bar is nice and the cocktails apparently are very good. I really liked the atmosphere of the place and had a wonderful evening. As far as bars are concerned in New Orleans you only have to pick and choose: there are so many you can hardly decide. I have to say that in crowded times like this one the bars in the Quarter have become a little too much though. This time I went to Lafitte's where I used to go quite often when living there . It's a fascinating dark place at the end of Bourbon street away from the noisiest crowds and very nice indeed. Nothing really special in the look of the place : wooden tables and candlelight basically but very intriguing. Try to believe. Another place I was taken to was the Carousel Bar in the Monteleone Hotel. It's called like this because it revolves around very slowly and apparently it is very trendy lately. I also went to the historic Pat O'Brien's,home of the famous Hurricane: a cocktail which (for those who have lived in New Orleans)represented a habit especially on Mardi Gras. I have pictures of me and my friends during Mardi Gras drinking this vicious drink with our lips and tongue red from its colouring. Now I wouldn't be able to drink it I'm sure... Speaking of Mardi Gras we now have come to the end of my week which was the Saint Patrick's day weekend. Mardi Gras is a very big celebration in NO. A lot of people come from every part of the States to party and gather on the streets to see the parades where floats of every kind go up and down the city and there's music, dance and a lot of booze... The main thing is the beads which are thrown from the floats to the people who stand in the streets. I didn't believe it but it does become a war to get more and more of those. Also the bigger the better. Women find an excuse to " flash" their breasts in order to get beads from the men and now the bargaining has become even more hardcore. Yes hardcore like in a porn movie.. Last time I was in NO for Mardi Gras it was a giant Sodom and Gomorah atmosphere. So after a while I got bored. The nice thing about Mardi Gras is to go to private barbecues and parties which go on all day and participate to the parade. When I used to live there I really had a lot of fun. I basically partied for a week non stop day and night. In March there is another celebration similar to Mardi gras since there are floats and beads and parties but since it is Saint Patrick's day it's all green and Irish themed. Let's say that when I was living there it was a small thing but now it has become a giant celebration just like Mardi Gras. People go around dressed in their green clothes and men dressed in smoking jacket and kilts give paper flowers to the ladies who are standing at the side of the road and kiss them on the cheek. Then everybody dances and drinks green beer or Guinness and people from the floats throw beads, stuffed animals, lucky charms, even cabbage and potatoes to make Irish stew. I had a great time once again as you can see in the pictures. Oh New Orleans my big easy I'll come back again so y'all get prepared 'cause next time I might just stay there.
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