NoLa Diary #8 – Glimpses of St. Mary Street

Corner of St Mary and Camp

Now that I’ve been in New Orleans a little over a week now, I’m glad I made the decision to stay in a neighborhood (not a hotel) because I feel in touch with the rhythms of the locals, and local businesses than I would have if I stayed in a hotel in the French Quarter. This is important to me since I’m here for 3 weeks, not the typical 3 day tourist stay.

Near where I’m staying is St. Mary Street. It’s part of the Lower Garden District. St. Mary’s runs from the Mississippi River to St. Charles Avenue. Running along St. Mary are several neighborhoods, which if I had to decide where to say “one side or the other” was I’d choose Magazine Street because it is such a “busy” (all things being relative in New Orleans) street with a majority of the local restaurants, antique shops and art / photography galleries.

I’ve walked St. Mary many times now since I’ve arrived, and the more often I walk along the sidewalks I’m coming to know, the more I like it. Just like I did on Magazine Street a few blog posts back, I decided to take a few shots of St. Mary to give a flavor of the neighborhood.

Half Moon Bar - St Mary

Above: The afternoon light casts a stark shadow from the Half Moon Bar sign across the face of the building, on St. Mary Street. A few empty tables and chairs sit on the sidewalk because the bar is quiet in the afternoon during the week. On the weekends it perks up a bit more.

Lucky Ladle - corner of St Mary and Magazine

On the corner of St. Mary and Magazine, as you can see from the image above, the corner building is undergoing renovations. Two doors down is the Lucky Ladle, a great breakfast spot. I’ve eaten at the Lucky Ladle a few times already. In addition to the wonderful food and good service, the works of local artists hang on the walls, and I admit, I have a soft spot for such places.

The first time I went in I met Bob, a local who eats there all the time. We chatted for a while and he shared his stories about himself and the neighborhood, which was fun. Then Bob let it slip that he goes to the Lucky Ladle so often they named a special after him on the menu! (It’s called the Bob Special and I can report it is completely delicious.)

Strangely, I feel more like I’m in New York when I’m in this neighborhood than when I’m anywhere else in New Orleans, so far. I’ve mentioned this to a few people I’ve spoken to, and they say others say that about this neighborhood too.

Maybe it’s because many people are from out of town and it’s a big mix of locals and transplants, or maybe it’s because art galleries are mixed with restaurants and antique shops and funky looking people walking down the street now and again; I don’t know. But I like it.

Light and shadows on St Mary

 

Nola Diary #7 – A NoLa Secret – Old U.S. Mint free Jazz concerts

Would you like to know about a well kept secret spot on the edge of the French Quarter? Well, I found one: the Old U.S. Mint building near the French Quarter Flea Market is holding regular jazz concerts for free in their new beautiful state of the art performance space on the 3rd floor.

This building’s upkeep is sponsored by the state of Louisiana in conjunction with the National Park Service. Yes, you read that right – the building is a part of our national treasures in the U.S. National Park system. The park is called the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park, and it might just be the only national park in the country dedicated to a uniquely American musical art form – and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have stumbled upon it.

Today I saw a one hour jazz piano presentation along with a ragtime and jazz history talk by Steve Pistorius which was a lot of fun. They have other concerts planned with Jim Hession, Phillip Manuel and the park rangers themselves who also play jazz. You can pick up a schedule of performances either at the U.S. Mint building, or at the Jean Lafitte National Park location at 419 Decatur Street.

 

Steve Pistorious tells us about Ragtime beside the new Baby Grand piano in the beautiful perfomance space on the 3rd floor