19 June 2016
We had a fun weekend with our nephew David, my sister Susie’s son. He was due to be in London for a Mozilla conference and, bizarrely, thought he might come a few days early to spend some time with us. It’s clear that the TripAdvisor review Greg the Younger completed following his visit that the Guest Wing at Framington House is on the “Must Do” list. His visit was a delight and pleasure.
We met up with Nick, Lucy and Annabelle on Saturday in our old stomping grounds of Radway and Edgehill. We trekked up the hill, through the woods and down again for a picnic in the Grange grounds. Although it wasn’t warm and sunny, at least the rain held off (mainly) and it was a splendid day. On Sunday we dragged him around Oxford which, again, was lovely if overcast and damp.
We have the EU Referendum this week – we’ll be voting Remain next Thursday. The latest polls have the “Outers” in the lead by as much as 6%, a prospect too dismal to contemplate. Their position is based on outright racism and smoke and mirrors economics. It’s lunacy, somewhat akin to turkeys voting for Thanksgiving. That little bolt hole in France is looking more attractive every day.
And so, back to our travels: We set off from Natchez on a gloriously, glorious day for the drive down to New Orleans. The sky was bright, bright blue with wisps of clouds, the sun was shining with temperatures in the mid 70s – absolutely splendid. We meandered down the freeway and arrived in the early afternoon, locating our hotel fairly easily after only one detour by way of the airport parking lot. At the hotel, we met up with Ben who had flown in earlier from LA to spend the next few days with us in New Orleans.
We were at the Pelham Hotel which was very comfortable and splendidly located just on the edge of the French Quarter, even if our bedroom had no windows. We were warmly greeted by Troy, a marvellously flamboyant cross-dresser who checked us in with splendid elegance and tried to sell us a great deal on swamp and plantation tours. We declined but thanked him for the suggestions and made our way up to our bedroom to dump our things.
New Orleans was a lot of fun! I suppose that’s somewhat redundant for those of you who have been there but we sure had a wonderful time. After getting settled into the hotel, we spent the afternoon wandering around the French Quarter admiring the architecture, soaking up the atmosphere and taking in the sights and sounds and, of course, consuming the odd cocktail or several at the Gazebo Cafe.
I have to confess, we ate like kings in New Orleans on the recommendations of our newest best friend, the Maître d’ at McEwan’s in Memphis. He’d suggested four places for dinner and the three which we were able to try were excellent. The first night we made our way, after a short walk, to Cochon, a southern style restaurant with a number of delicious variations of pork, as you might have guessed, all of which were outstanding.
Our second day in New Orleans we adopted a nature theme – we visited the Jean Lafitte National Park just south of the city and wandered through the swamps where the Park service has built miles of boardwalk and bridges. Amongst the highlights – a quartet of baby armadillos and a standoff with a raccoon over who had right-of-way across a footbridge.
After lunch in the thriving metropolis of Lafitte itself, we drove up the road for a quick traditional swamp tour. As we pulled into the parking lot our hearts sank as we witnessed four busloads of middle school aged children disembarking for an end-of-term adventure. What would the chances be of hearing or seeing any wildlife when surrounded by the cacophony produced by a gaggle of early teenagers? Fortunately, the receptionist assured us that we would be joining another small group of folks which would keep well away from the four barges of squealing students. Our tour guide was as corny as it is possible to be but entertaining nevertheless and we enjoyed spotting turtles, alligators and bird life by the dozens.
Dinner that night was at Herbsaint, again just a short stroll from the hotel, another fine recommendation from our kind Memphis friend. It was fabulous and the pork belly I had was sublime.
After a breakfast of delicious beignets and coffee at the Café du Monde we spent the second day touring a couple of former plantation homes up the river. We visited the recently opened Whitney Plantation and, after lunch, the Laura Plantation just a bit further up the road. Both were fascinating and informative visits. As well as the renovated house and outbuildings, the Whitney Plantation has several very moving monuments and memorials to the slaves who lived, worked and died there and some very lovely and emotive sculptures of young slave children scattered around, especially in and around the church.
When Ben booked his visit to New Orleans he hadn’t been able to get all three nights in the same hotel as us – they were full on the Friday night. So, we walked him across to his new hotel and, on the stroll back we heard, not too far away, the unmistakable sounds of a brass band. As we perked our ears it was clear that it was approaching and, as we wandered towards the sound, it came around the corner – a wedding party being serenaded by a small brass band as they made their way from wherever the wedding had taken place to the hotel which was to host the reception. The bride and groom at the front were jiving and dancing while many members of the wedding party were happily waving white handkerchiefs as they boogied along the road. We joined in but unfortunately they couldn’t find our names on the guest list.
Our final king’s meal was at Root, another excellent restaurant just a ten or fifteen minute stroll from our hotel. Pen had the meal of the trip on this occasion, a whole fried chicken! While Ben and I had modest portions of wonderfully prepared and seasoned delights, Penelope’s chicken must have been the size of a moderately sized turkey. Both Ben and I helped her on the night and there was still enough for the two of us to have a chicken lunch the following day on the drive to Montgomery. More of which next time.
And finally, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers amongst you. For the first time in my 65 years, my father is no longer with us to receive his Father’s Day solicitations, including my thanks to him for being such an astonishingly fine father.
Much love to you all,