Oh, When the Saints Go Marchin’ In to 2012
As you receive this, I will be winging my way back to “Gray Paree” (what I affectionately call Paris during the winter months) after 10 days Stateside — five nights in New York and then five in New Orleans. I am several pounds heavier thanks to great dining and less walking — but getting back to a daily routine in Paris to shrink the fat cells (you never lose them, you know) won’t be difficult.
Being in New Orleans has been a temptation to return to my home town — it feels so comfortable, so real, so familiar. The street names are so much the same as Paris, even if pronounced differently: Marais, Paris, Dauphine, Chartres, Elysian Fields, Napoleon, Baronne, Carondelet, Fleur de Lis (once my home address)…and the list goes on and on and on. Signs of French and France are absolutely everywhere, if not on the street signs or the names of restaurants and boutiques, but also in the New Orleans culture of art, music, cuisine, fashion, architecture…yes, absolutely everywhere.
The city is looking better all the time since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The lower 9th ward has new houses thanks to good citizens such as Brad Pitt and Harry Connick Jr. who greatly contributed to the revitalization of this devastated area. I also visited the Lakeview district and saw the house in which I grew up that was one block from the levee that broke — it’s had a face lift and the neighborhood is slowly coming back.
There is new blood injected into the city that is determined to bring back the New Orleans we all used to know and love…and improve upon what they’d like to change. The film industry in New Orleans is growing and the city officials are promoting and supporting it. They call it “Hollywood South” and there are tax incentives for investors to the tune of 30% (see Film Makers Tax Incentives for more information)! You see as many films being made on the streets of New Orleans as you do in Los Angeles or Paris.
Over the course of the last few days, I dined at a few of my favorite restaurants: Kenner Seafood for boiled crabs, crawfish and shrimp; Bozo’s for the best oyster loaf in the city; the Cake Café and Bakery, where my niece is a chef, for crab omelet and biscuits; Martin’s Wine Cellar for gourmet lunches…and of course, Antoine’s for New Year’s Eve. There is no finer dining than in New Orleans (I actually think the French could learn much from the French who settled in Louisiana and created New Orleans-style cuisine)– no wonder New Orleans is one of the top 20 fattest cities in the U.S.!
No trip to the U.S. is complete without an excursion to some large retail store to purchase the things either one can’t get in France or are very expensive there — the kind that even the French versions cannot compete with in size and quantity of product. The one I chose was the king of retail stores — Walmart. The aisle of deodorant alone is longer than the aisle at Monoprix for all personal care products. The funny thing is that only about 1% of the deodorants/antiperspirants in the U.S. are roll-ons, while in France, roll-ons account for 99%, while the stick version are 1%. Go figure.
Another acute difference that ‘bowled me over’ were the racks upon racks of what Bette Midler called in one of her songs “over the shoulder boulder holders” — bras in the 40+ Double D sizes. Women of any ‘substance’ find lingerie shopping in France frustrating since French women tend to have tiny breasts (happily and proudly) and therefore bras over “B” cup size are rare. (Yes, lingerie fits fine, if you must know.)
Over the course of these few days, I visited with childhood friends who have made names for themselves…such as prominent New Orleans artist Alan Gerson, who joined us for brunch at “The Cake” and Times-Picayune reporter and actor, Martin Covert in his uptown home. Cedric Martin, proprietor of Martin’s Wine Cellar, visited with me twice at his formidable deli in the shop that is the ‘in’ place for lunch in Metairie, and each time he poured out another great glass of wine. Evelyn Rodos, Feldenkrais practitioner, is another childhood friend who sees patients in her home on rue St. Ann — a typical French Quarter house in an amazing location next to the Presbytere of St. Louis Cathedral just one-half block from Jackson Square.
Long-standing friend and career consultant, Al Stewart, who lives half the year in Paris and the other half in Florida, came in for the weekend to share New Year’s Eve with me, staying at Schuyler Hoffman’s Chez Palmiers B and B in the Faubourg Marigny that welcomes visitors all year long. Schuyler is the editor and producer of this nouvellettre® as well as French Property Insider and has worked with the Adrian Leeds Group since 1998. He and his partner, David Peterson, are some of that ‘new blood’ that came to New Orleans after Katrina to make the city strong again.
Schuyler worked for Antoine’s for a long time, who’s CEO, Rick Blount, is a neighbor of my mother’s. Small world fortunately for us, as Schuyler managed to score one of their precious private rooms –the Escargot Room — for our small party on New Year’s Eve. Antoine’s is a true ‘institution,’ established in 1840, and claims to be the country’s oldest family-run restaurant. For our NYE treat, we dined on “Pommes de terre souffles” (puffed potatoes Antoine’s popularized), “Huitres en coquille a la Rockefeller” (oysters baked on the half shell with the original Rockefeller sauce created by Antoine’s in 1889), “Epinards sauce crème (spinach in a light cream sauce), “Filet de truite amandine” or “Crabes mous amandine” (fried fillet of trout or soft shell crabs with hot melted butter and toasted sliced almonds) and to top it all off, “Baked Alaska Antoine!” It was not a low cal meal, to say the least, but certainly memorable.
We stumbled out of Antoine’s after many glasses of champagne and wine to a massive crowd in the French Quarter headed to the Mississippi River’s edge to watch the annual fireworks. There must have been a half-million people in the Quarter watching the Fleur de Lys on the top of Jax Brewery drop at the stroke of midnight and then began the incredible show of light and color in the sky over the river.
Not surprising, New Orleans is one of the country’s top ten destinations for New Year’s Eve. New Orleans Bonnie Boyd’s Destination Management Web site notes that Travel & Leisure’s 2009 America’s favorite cities survey ranked New Orleans Number One in 10 categories (Type of Trip: Wild Weekend, Hotels: Stylish Boutique, Nightlife: Cocktail Hour, Nightlife: Singles/Bar Scene, Nightlife: Live Music, Shopping: Antique and Vintage, Food/Dining: Cafe and Coffee Bars, Food/Dining: Neighborhood Joints Quality of Life: People Watching, Holiday Travel: Spring Break). I had the pleasure of meeting Bonnie as she was also dining at Antoine’s on New Year’s Eve — and discovered she is a big fan of Parler Paris and Paris as a prime world destination. (Don’t we all agree?)
The New Orleans Saints “pounded” the Carolina Panthers Sunday 45 to 17 and made the city proud…again. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was wearing Saints T-shirts or black and gold or some symbol, such as the Fleur de Lys. This French symbol of royalty, which has never been adopted by any of the French republics since the French Revolution (for obvious reasons). Once when I wore a Fleur de Lys lapel pin in Paris, a French colleague was shocked and asked me why I was supporting the aristocracy! I had no idea. It has become THE number one symbol of New Orleans. Every home, every establishment, every everything is swarming with the Fleur de Lys (also spelled Fleur de Lis).
As of tomorrow, I’ll be back in the City of Light and re-acclimating to the French lifestyle and speaking French. While the “séjour” in New York and New Orleans has been one wonderful moment after another, it will be very satisfying to be back in France where bras are little lacy things, football is soccer and the players are svelte, and the symbol of note is the Eiffel Tower.
Happy New Year!
A la prochaine…until 2012!
Editor, Parler Paris
(with Evelyn Rodos and Schuyler Hoffman at Antoine’s)
P.S. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, January 10th when Julie Vetter, Online Marketing and e-Reputation Services Guru, talks about “Inbound Marketing and the Laws of Attraction” at Parler Paris Aprés Midi. Visit Parler Paris Aprés Midi for more information.
Then add Saturday, January 14th to your agenda for Parler Parlor’s annual KING CAKE PARTY (La Galette des Rois). Come for conversational exchange and celebrate the New Year over Galette des Rois with Vin Chaud. Make new friends, practice speaking French and English, get to know the members and save money when you buy 12 sessions for the price of 10, or 24 sessions for the price of 20! Visit Parler Parlor for more information.