Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hangover Alleviation - The Cafe Du Monde

OK, enough politics for the moment - back to New Orleans.
After my first grand night of 'party 'til dawn' and an over indulgence of Hurricanes and "Rum and Cokes" (my drink of choice) I was suffering from a pretty heavy hangover. You know, the kind where the drums in your head are the only thing numbing the soreness in your knees.... So I got up and set out on a quest for some fresh air and a cure. My wanderings took me to Jackson Square and the word famous Cafe Du Monde in the French Market. Being a history buff this place was simply magic. Sitting in this little cafe drinking good Cajun coffee, eating Beignets (Beignets are square French -style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar) I found myself fully refreshed by the cool breeze coming off of the Mississippi River and watching the shops and street merchants getting set up for the days rush of bargain hunters. For those of you who enjoy history, let me tell you about the French Market:
The location of the French Market and of New Orleans dates back to the Choctaw Indians, before the Europeans settled the New World. The Choctaw Indians used this natural Mississippi river levee location to trade their wares to the river traffic.
The early European settlers came by boat to this location to sell produce and dairy products. The City of New Orleans was established on this location of the Mississippi River in 1718 by Jean Baptiste LeMoyne. This old New Orleans is called the "Vieux Carre" or French Quarter.

The French Quarter has a collection of old buildings that exhibit the architectural styles of the countries that once held power in Louisiana. At one time or another, Louisiana has been under the influence of the French, Spanish and British governments. The first French Market building was put up by the Spanish in 1771. This building was destroyed by a hurricane in 1812. The following year it was replaced by the building which now houses the Cafe Du Monde. Back then it was known as The Butcher's Hall.. In the 1930's the Works Progress Administration renovated and added to the French Market buildings. The French Market now comprises of seven buildings anchored at the Jackson Square end by the Cafe Du Monde and on the other end by the Farmers and Flea Market sheds.
The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market. The Cafe is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It closes only on Christmas Day and on the day an occasional Hurricane passes too close to New Orleans.
The Original Cafe Du Monde is a traditional coffee shop. Its menu consists of dark roasted Coffee and Chicory, Beignets, White and Chocolate Milk, and fresh squeezed Orange Juice. The coffee is served Black or Au Lait. Au Lait means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk.
After recovering from my hangover, I sent the entire rest of the morning wandering around Jackson Square and the French Market. I especially enjoyed walking through the old sheds that house a flea market where there are hundreds of tables covered with tee shirts, handbags, gold jewelery, radios, paintings, scarfs, hats - you name it, it is there somewhere. The people selling these items where just as interesting and the stuff they are selling. There are Cajuns (of course) and Indians (from India), Vietnamese, Phillipinos, again, you name them and they are there -all doing their best you give you a 'bargain'. I had a great time doing some good old fashioned haggling to get the best possible price on the trinkets I was buying.

At one point I was walking along a line of artists who had set up their easels and were painting portraits for the tourists when 2 teen aged black kids stopped me and one said "Hey, Mister. I'll bet you a dollar that I can tell you where you got them shoes." I was surprised by that and thought, "I don't know these guys, how could they know who I am, where I am from or where I got my shoes" - but, being in a good mood I figured I'd go along with the scam so I said "A dollar? You can tell me where I got these shoes for a dollar? OK, I'll bite. Where?"  The kids got a big grin and said "You got them on your feet!" -- Well, I laughed and paid the dollar. I have since been accosted by this scam every time I have walked through the French Quarter on every visit - it is apparently a sort of 'right of passage' for us gullible tourists.
Next time - an afternoon on a Mississippi River Boat.

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