Joyeux Noel de la Nouvelle Orleans

28 Dec

Now that was a great trip.

In the year since my separation from my children’s father, my parents have come to the rescue and invited me to some of the most wonderful places in the Americas.  We went to Puerto Vallarta for Thanksgiving last year, New York for my 40th birthday in a snowstorm in February, Chicago in May (oh the flowers!), my alma mater, Sewanee, Tennessee along the Cumberland Plateau in July, nowhere this fall (can you believe that?), but Christmas in New Orleans. 

I have been on some other wonderful trips in 2009/2010, mostly in Texas, but those listed are the parent-planned trips, and they have been a lot of fun.  Of course, the need for them to take me in on holidays and special occasions arose during a parent-participation trip in Florida last August, but we just don’t think we are going to go back there for a while.  Until certain memories have been overlaid by many more good times.

New Orleans was fabulous.  The last time I was there was several years ago for my Dad’s 60th birthday.  We stayed at the same location – the Roosevelt Hotel, but since that occasion, Katrina intervened and shut down the grande dame of New Orleans hotels, and she has re-opened as a member of the Waldorf-Astoria, and the change has been positive.  I thought the hotel was wonderful then, but now the linens and baths are first-rate.  The rooms are large and elegantly-decorated.  For the first time in my memory, the Carters reserved a suite.  That is how you know it’s a special occasion.  Of course, my mom and I noticed how the living room would have been the perfect place to make pallets on the floor for the grandchildren, but they will just have to come on the next trip.  The existing children came on the last New Orleans trip, and it wasn’t nearly this much fun.  They were two years old and five months old.  Not exactly great travelers, but now, they would have a ball.  Especially that Anna.  She could really get into the spirit of the crescent city – she is a party girl.

We had our first dinner at the Grill Room at the Windsor Court.  The food was so delicious, and such a beautiful dining room.  I have heard stories about the Grill Room, but I had never been invited to dinner there.  This was Christmas Eve, and it was such a treat.  After supper, we walked through the French quarter.  You just haven’t reached full maturity until you are partying with your parents on Bourbon Street.  And we were not the only people out.  Lots of Santa hats. and other interesting accessories.

On Christmas Day, we had a nice late breakfast in the hotel dining room.  My mom and I then took a tour of hotel lobbies.  We only made it to the Ritz-Carlton and the Westin, but both provided great places to sit and watch the people.  We are not city people.  We come from the kind of town where everything closes down for Christmas and everyone stays home in their pj’s opening presents, so it was wonderful to see the brunch and pastries set out at the Ritz and to watch the people dressed to the nines – and some dressed in ways that make you scratch your head.  But the point is that it was fun to watch them.

We had dinner plans starting in the late afternoon with friends.  Their home is elegant and old and lovely with modern touches like a wine cooler (essentially a walk-in refrigerator) and hot tub, but still so elegant and uptown. 

We retired early to our hotel, had a few drinks in the Sazerac bar and went to bed.  On Sunday, it was once again time to have another brunch – this time at Commander’s Palace.  It was perfect in every way – from the bloody mary to the eggs sardou.  Then my mom and I shopped while my dad saw a movie.  We reconvened at 5 p.m. for supper at Galatoire’s before an 8 p.m. seating at Snug Harbor – Ellis Marsalis’s jazz club.  The lineup was amazing.  All the artists live in New York and play regularly in the house band at the Lincoln Center, but hail from New York, and loved getting together at home.  Nicholas Bennett, Hurlon Riley, Victor Goynes – they were amazing and finished the evening with funeral procession tunes. (edit: please check my dad’s comment below for their actual names!)

All of these activities were designed to keep my mind off the fact that I was away from my children.  And it worked.  I have heard that when you are digesting food, your blood supply actually diverts to your stomach and you can’t think very clearly.  That was true, because I hardly thought of the little tikes at all.  Rather, I did think of them, but I didn’t weep and mourn about it  – I trusted that they were having a wonderful day with presents and parties in San Angelo.

It was difficult at certain times – such as when I saw any other children dressed up with their bows and shiny shoes.  But I can’t say that I didn’t appreciate having my own bed and not getting up early.  It was a real, grown-up Christmas, and if I am forced to suffer such hardship every other year while the children have Christmas with their dad, well, I will simply have to endure it.  It was all very civilized, but still, I can’t wait to have them at home tomorrow!

Merry Christmas, y’all.


3 Responses to “Joyeux Noel de la Nouvelle Orleans”

  1. dad December 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    A couple of editorial points: Herlin Riley, Victor Goins, Nicholas Payton (and Wycliffe Gordon).

    A wonderful Christmas holiday indeed. Don’t feel like a charity case. I had at least as much fun.

  2. brightenthecorner December 29, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    I am so glad you added them – I put them in so that I would remember, but see how much I had already forgotten? that’s why I am so compelled to write down all the good things. so I can remember them.

  3. Shelly Lodes Ladden January 6, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Claire, I did not intent to comment on every post; neither did I intend to read so many. But New Orleans is only one hour from where I am in McComb, Mississippi. And I drove to New Orleans on Christmas day to retrieve my step-daughter who was flying in. I, too have stayed in the lovely Roosevelt Hotel post Katrina and found it to be fabulous. The next time you are in get to a po boy house called Domilisce’s. It’s off the beaten track but delicious. Also, for Italian try Eleven seventy nine which is at 1179 Annunciation. Authentically good Italian mobster scene.

    Sorry, you had to be away from your children but way to make the best of it.

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