Saturday Night's Alright (For Music)

Trip Start Apr 04, 2011
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Trip End Jun 14, 2011


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Where I stayed
Fountainebleau State Park

Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Saturday, April 23, 2011

 We had decided that Saturday night would be spent in town experiencing the local music scene so instead of getting up and heading right back to the city it was to the beach for us! As our family has always been avid campers I can say I have spent many a day on lake shores up and down the West Coast but I would have to rate Lake Pontchartrain right up there with some of the best. Before you even get to the lake you pass a fairly large children's water park and a large pond that must be stocked as there were a dozen or so people fishing when we walked by. There was also a long covered area filled with throngs of people sitting at picnic tables enjoying lunch and decorating eggs. There were hookups so you could boil the eggs right there and as we were leaving we saw others cooking with 10 gallon pots, getting ready for a crawfish cookout. The white sand around the lake is more like very fine rocks so it doesn't stick to you the way it does at the beach and the water...well the water was warmer than I ever would had predicted. The lake (truly an estuary if you want get serious) is the second largest inland body of salt water in the US after the Great Salt Lake. The funny thing about it is that on average it is 12-16ft deep and only deeper where they dredge it for ships. This means you can walk out an extraordinarily long way and still be no more than 4 ft out of water. It's an odd feeling to watch someone who is barley a dot out in the water suddenly stand up and only be up to their knees. We enjoyed a couple hours of sun bathing, swimming and people watching and then headed back to camp for some lunch and a shower before going back downtown. Liz had looked up a few of the lesser known attractions in town and we decided to check out the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum which happened to be back in the French Quarter. The museum, founded in 1950, is just what the name implies. In 1823 the first licensed pharmacist in the United States, Louis J. Dufilho, Jr., opened an apothecary shop here. The Creole-style town house doubled as his home, and he cultivated the herbs he needed for his medicines in the interior courtyard. Inside we found old apothecary bottles, voodoo potions, an old glass cosmetics counter (pharmacists of the 1800s also manufactured makeup and perfumes), plus 19th-century surgical instruments (which made Derek particularly squeamish) and some questionable medical devices such as blood-letting instruments, live leeches and a whole slew of opium products. The second floor, hidden from the street, had more of the same including an office and sleeping chambers and focused a great deal on the role alcohol, especially absinthe played in medicine...the whole place was interesting (and a bit unsettling) from top to bottom.

Following our stint back in time we strolled through the quarter towards Frenchmen St., stopping at the famous Café du Monde for a beignet. Multiple people had given us the tip telling us to check out the live music and local flavor that flourished in the area. As we were there a bit earlier than most of the 8pm performance start times we weren’t quite sure what the plan would be. But as we wondered up and down the street taking in the eclectic sites of obvious locals and music-enthused tourists enjoying the early evening warmth we stumbled upon Maison. It seemed that some of a group of 7 or so men talking out front could have been part of a band with their straw fedora hats and suspender-ed pants and as we entered there was a mix of instruments sitting on the little stage up front. While we perused the beer list, an alligator sausage po-boy caught Derek’s eye and a pair of well-loved flowered couches sitting on a raised platform at the front interested Liz so we decided to stay awhile. The couch was in a perfect location by the window for people watching and directly across from the stage.   As the first pitcher of Abita beer was poured the group of men wandered back in and 4 or so got up on stage and grabbed their instruments including a standing bass, a guitar and a banjo. They were great, belting out a mix of gospel, bluegrass and folk songs that made you smile and tap your foot.  We couldn’t quite figure out how they were able to project and sound  so well using only one mic between them and having no mics on their instruments but maybe just the soul of places in the south lend themselves to great acoustics naturally.  Following this band of late 20 to early 30 somethings we made it official and committed to dinner. Derek got his po-boy and go figure it changed his world.  The veg-en-ator sandwich Liz ordered which included "all the veggies in the house" on po-boy bread with melted mozzarella got a thumbs up, and the crawfish balls I ordered (I know) consisted of crawfish cake balls (think crab cake consistency) battered and fried and were delicious with a spicy Creole sauce that made it all just a bit better. About the time dinner was served the next act came on, a jazz band that meant business, and we were treated to another side of the local music scene. This band consisted of about 8 members including 3 saxophones, a horn, and trumpet player. There was also a female singer who looked just a little older than us but had a voice that took you back to the 40s. All and all a great live music experience and just the right thing to put us in the mood to round out the evening with a little dancing on Bourbon Street before heading back to camp.

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