Trixie Belden – Road Trip New Orleans
You can find the chapters leading up to “New Orleans” at: http://barbln.org/trixie/gwp-4.htm
Early the next morning…
While Jim settled their account with the desk clerk, the rest of the Bob-Whites loaded the station wagon.
“I’m glad we were able to ship all our souvenirs home from here,” Honey said as she tucked her suitcase into a small space in the back of the car.
“How did we accumulate so much stuff?” Trixie wondered out loud.
“We have been all over the country since we came back from Australia,” Honey answered.
“It’s going to cost a fortune to print all the pictures I’ve taken,” remarked Trixie. “I’ve had to download my memory card four times!!”
Climbing into the car, Honey noted, “But we’ve had the summer vacation of a lifetime! We’ve been to so many places and met so many people! Despite the couple of bad things that have happened, we’ve really had a wonderful time.”
“That’s true.” Mart slid into the car next to Honey. “I, for one, would never have dreamed we could fit so many escapades into such an ephemeral period. It’s the stuff of movies and novels!”
“I think the very most exciting thing we did was to help the F.B.I. capture those KGB guys in Wisconsin,” Di piped up from her seat on the other side of Mart. “Meeting Trixie’s Lucy friend, Anna, was perfectly perfect.”
“Football in Australia,” Dan and Mart said at the same time.
“What are you talking about?” Jim asked as he took his place behind the steering wheel and adjusted the rearview mirror.
“Our favorite things, so far, from our never-ending summer vacation,” Honey replied.
“Gosh,” Jim said. “I don’t know if I can pick just one thing. We’ve been to so many fantastic places since we left New York. There was…D.C., Williamsburg and Alexandria.” The tall redhead tapped the steering wheel bullet-pointing each of the Bob-White’s destinations.
“Knoxville,” Trixie took over from Jim, “Montgomery – which was great until Honey was kidnapped – San Antonio – where Brian was arrested for possession…”
“That was definitely one of the low points of the trip for me,” Brian said. “Let’s see, after San Antonio we went to Dallas; where we got Honey back from the Russians AND found out that Mrs. Wheeler had been a CIA agent.”
“I hated that Daddy almost didn’t let us go on from there,” Honey said. “I’m so glad Mother convinced him otherwise. If she hadn’t, Trixie and Jim wouldn’t have met that Shaman in Gallup…and we wouldn’t have been able to go to Provo and Salt Lake City. “
“Brother DeForrest was interesting, wasn’t he?” Mart interjected. “Even I have to admit that Beatrix may have unearthed a true mystery there. I wonder if we’ll ever find out what happened to the senior Mahonri?”
“I don’t think we will, Mart,” Trixie answered. “But, if he WAS a ghost…well, wow. Just wow.”
“Los Angeles was fun,” Honey said. “Meeting Mark at Six Flags in Santa Clarita was kind of kismet, don’t you think?”
Brian bristled slightly – uncharacteristic behavior from the normally stolid Belden – “He certainly did seem quite taken with you.”
Honey giggled and turned slightly red. “Well, he IS cute!”
Dan, looking to impede further talk from the girls on the cuteness of any of the other guys they’d met on their travels, said, “I can’t believe we went all the way to Australia!”
“Hmmmmm…” Di said. “The Aussie footballers were cute, too, weren’t they?”
There was a collective groan from the four Bob-White guys.
“Honestly,” Mart said, “one would surmise that the Bob-White females had never been subjected to the abundantly handsome and testosterone-filled presence of the male constituency of the Bob-Whites of the Glen.”
“Hmmph,” Di answered, “Martin Belden, I’m not exactly sure what you just said, but I think you need to pull your ego in just a smidgen.”
Mart blushed slightly at Di’s putdown. As soon as she realized she might have hurt the blonde Belden boy’s feelings, Di recanted, “Oh, Mart, there’s nothing wrong with your ego! Truly! It’s no where near as big as your appetite!!”
It may have been a back-handed compliment, but it did the trick. Mart laughed despite himself.
“It was great that we got to see more than just Melbourne while we were in Australia,” Dan said.
“Yes,” Diana said. “Wasn’t it lucky that we got to meet Harrison’s cousin, Tania?”
“And, don’t forget the Mystery Flight that Jim won!” Trixie was always quick to point out the accomplishments of her co-president. “Perth was great…plus we got to meet Lizzie and Eloise.”
“It was sure good to see Uncle Monty in Arizona when we got back to the States,” Di mused. “I wish he’d come visit more often.”
Jim checked the traffic in the rearview mirror. “Arizona also gave us Liz. Then, we lost her in Las Cruces. If we hadn’t been followed by the KGB, we probably WOULDN’T have met Cheddarcliffe. I mean, Anna.”
For a few moments there was silence in the car as the Bob-Whites thought back to the way they ambushed the former KGB agents with the help of Anna’s crew at McDonald’s.
“I didn’t really enjoy Chicago,” Di broke the silence. “I mean, it started out really nice, but…”
“Yeah,” Dan agreed and ruffled Di’s dark hair from the seat behind her. “Chicago and St. Louis aren’t high on my list of favorite places, either.”
“But, all’s well that ends well,” Diana smiled. “And, now, we’re on our way to New Orleans.”
As the overloaded station wagon zipped along the interstate, the conversation turned to the things the Bob-Whites wanted to see and do in New Orleans.
“I wish we had more time to spend there,” Brian said. “It would be great to help with rebuilding either in New Orleans or along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
“I’m glad we raised so much money for the victims of Katrina with our fundraiser,” Trixie said, “but it always feels so much better to physically help.” Six heads nodded in agreement.
The time flew as the Bob-Whites continued to reminisce about the adventures they had already had and wondered what fun might be awaiting them in New Orleans. Their conversation was interrupted by Mart’s loudly grumbling stomach. He was happy to point out that they were nearing Memphis and had covered half the distance between St. Louis and New Orleans.
“I guess that means we should stop in Memphis for lunch,” Dan laughed. “If you turn onto Union Street, Jim, we’ll drive past Sun Studios, where Elvis Presley recorded his first song. See, there it is,” he pointed out the window at the small brick and white building – the word “Sun” over the door in neon.
“That’s so cool!” Di said. “It’s such a little, unassuming looking place. Who would think someplace like this would launch the career of the “King of Rock and Roll”?”
Jim turned the corner at Union and Beale Street. “I guess the best thing would be to just park in a lot and walk,” he said. “Is that all right with everyone?”
Jim’s question was answered by a resounding chorus of “Yes!”, “You bet!”, “Sure!” and “I’m hungry! Just park the car!”
As they continued down Beale, the Bob-Whites rolled down the windows in the car and perused the restaurants. Outside the King’s Palace Café, beneath a red and white striped canopy, a lone black man stood playing a trumpet. In the window behind him, a sign proclaimed “Best Gumbo in Memphis”.
“Oh, let’s eat there,” Trixie exclaimed. “It looks so….” Her voice trailed off as she searched for the right word.
“Quaint,” Honey supplied.
Jim pulled into a parking lot several blocks away from the restaurant. As they walked, Jim drew the other Bob-White’s attention to the sidewalk. “Look,” he said, “it’s like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre…only for famous Memphis musicians.” He pointed to a slab of sidewalk where a musical note, engraved with the name “W.C. Handy”, was embedded. “Does anyone know who he is?”
All eyes turned to the resident jazz expert. Dan merely shrugged. They continued on – now and then recognizing a name; however, most were unknown to the young rock ‘n roll bred group. They passed a small park that was home to a bronze figure of a man holding a trumpet. The plaque proclaimed this to be “W.C. Handy – Father of the Blues”. “Well,” Mart said to no one in particular, “I guess that answers THAT question!”
When they arrived at the restaurant, they were seated immediately. The décor inside was dark – almost pub-like. Red and green cloths covered the tables. The walls were plastered with framed pictures and posters of local musicians…some autographed, some not.
“What can I get y’all to drink,” the young waiter asked in a soft Southern drawl. Four Cokes, two Diet Cokes, and a strawberry pop were ordered and quickly delivered.
“Everything looks so good,” Trixie said. “Does anyone know what they are going to order?”
“They have something called a “King’s Feast”,” Brian noted. The low light in the restaurant caused the handsome medical student to squint a bit as he read the menu. “We could get the one that serves 6 and supplement it with a couple of appetizers.”
It took a few minutes, but finally the group decided to order fried green tomatoes (“It sounds SO southern,” Di had exclaimed), the King’s Specialty Shrimp (“How can you go wrong when bacon is involved?” was Mart’s input), and stuffed mushroom caps (“Yuck!” Trixie wrinkled her nose at the thought of eating the fungus – even if cheese was also involved) in addition to the King’s Feast of BBQ ribs, BBQ pork shoulder, gumbo, crab cakes, voodoo potatoes, and coleslaw.
When the food arrived, except for the occasional utterance regarding the superb palatability of the food from Mart – and the agreement of his friends and siblings – all conversation stopped. Thirty minutes later, there was nary a speck of food left on the Bob-Whites’ plates.
“No derision meant to Moms, or to the cooks at Manor House and Lynch Estate, but that may have simply been one of the paramount meals of my short existence,” Mart proclaimed as he wiped a lingering spot of BBQ sauce from the corner of his mouth with the green cloth napkin that had previously lain in his lap.
“If you continue to eat like that,” Brian said, “you WILL have a short existence.”
“I think ALL of us can feel secure in the knowledge that our memberships in the “Clean Plate Club” will not be revoked any time soon,” Jim laughed. The waiter approached the table and asked if they had left room for dessert. He was met by a round of groans…and one “Well, what have you got?” Mart was out-voted, Jim paid the bill, and the group headed sluggishly for the car.
“What do you say we take time to see Graceland, as long as we’re here?” Dan cocked an eyebrow toward the downtown billboard announcing the exit for Elvis Presley’s mansion. “I know I could use the exercise.”
“Young Elvis was so dreamy,” Di sighed, a far away look in her eyes.
“Well, if he ate like we just did,” Trixie rubbed her very full belly, “it’s no wonder old Elvis WASN’T so dreamy!”
Shortly, the Bob-Whites were standing in front of the gates of Graceland.
Honey, her brow creased in concentration, studied the white columned building at the top of a curving drive. “It’s certainly not as big as I was expecting,” she noted.
“Well, Honey,” Mart spoke up as the other’s nodded their agreement of Honey’s assessment, “it’s a lot smaller than Manor House, and Lynch Manor. Obviously, it only has two stories, if you don’t count the basement, and it’s less than 18,000 square feet in size.”
Trixie studied her middle brother for a moment before shaking her head. “I don’t know how you do it,” she muttered.
“Know something about EVERY thing!” she answered in a tone not so much of disgust but more of something akin to awe…which she would never actually admit to her verbose brother.
At the gate each of the Bob-Whites was handed a walkman and headphones for the self-guided tour. They then spent the next two hours wandering through the “visitor’s” areas of the house: the music room, the television room, the kitchen, the dining room, the billiard room, and the infamous jungle room. They wandered through the trophy room, past Elvis’ gold records and many of his heavy, bejeweled costumes. Finally, they ended up in the eerie quiet of the meditation garden where Elvis and his parents were buried.
After they turned in their headphones, they talked about the tour as they walked back to their car:
“Can you believe how bright the TV room is? Yellow and blue?”
“I was amazed at the green shag carpeting on the walls and ceiling in the jungle room!”
“Do you think we could fit a 15-foot sofa in the clubhouse?”
“I wonder who exercised the horses?”
A quick stop at one of the many souvenir shops along Elvis Presley Boulevard and then the group headed south for New Orleans!
Two days after they left St. Louis, the Bob-Whites arrived in New Orleans. Interstate 10 took them past the airport and toward the Central Business District.
“Look at the cemetery!” Trixie exclaimed, as white mausoleums appeared on either side of the highway. “We’re going to do a tour, right?”
Honey shivered next to her best friend. “Ugh! Trixie, that’s morbid!!”
“It’s not really, Honey,” doctor-to-be Brian answered. “Because New Orleans is below sea level, they don’t bury their dead in the ground. The tombs are famous. Beautiful.”
Closer to the Central Business District, the SuperDome loomed on the skyline. Scrubbed clean now, it had been the site of much unrest and mayhem in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Jim followed the directions that Liz Dickinson had given him to St. Charles Avenue
Oak trees lined both sides of the avenue, guarding the old, stately homes that had managed to survive a century or more of heat, humidity, hurricanes, termites, and Louisiana politics. Though smaller than the Wheeler’s home by half, Liz’s family home had “lived” through more than 50 years of American history by the time ground was broken for Manor House. Both homes had played host to the rich and famous of their respective communities long before their current inhabitants had been born.
Dickinson House sprawled over a corner lot in the Garden District. It was easy to see how this area of town had received its name. Many homes, especially those with big lots had beautiful gardens and landscaping all around their outer perimeters. The sidewalks showed the effects of the century-old oak trees; they buckled in places where roots grew further than the confines of the median between sidewalk and street allowed. The Bob-Whites were greeted by one of the house staff and shown to the rooms on the second story where they would be staying. After freshening up, they met back on the first floor where Liz’s uncle was waiting for them in the library.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to meet y’all,” Mr. Dickinson said after introductions had been made all around. He was barely taller than Trixie, and had the dark-haired, brown-eyed appearance of the people who are known as Cajuns. “I’m very grateful for all y’all did to help Liz.”
“We were glad to be able to help her, sir,” Jim answered.
“And especially glad to know that she wasn’t a thief!” Trixie interjected.
Mr. Dickinson laughed at Trixie’s honesty. “I’m glad she isn’t a thief, too. Although, she wouldn’t have been the first in the family, but that’s a story for another time. What are your plans for your time here?”
“We’d love to have a couple weeks to explore the city and do some work for Habitat, but we really only have two or three days to spend here. We need to get back to New York before school starts,” Brian answered.
“We’d be most grateful,” Mart interjected, “if you could propose the spectacles you feel it is imperative a day-tripper scrutinize.”
Trixie shot her almost-twin a scathing look. “You have to excuse my brother, Mr. Dickinson. He thinks using big words impresses people. He forgets that we know him and it’s way too late to try to impress us.”
“Please, call me Frank, or, if it makes you more comfortable, Mr. Frank. You’ll want to visit the French Quarter. As far as tours go, I understand the haunted history tour is good, and a cemetery tour is a must…” he paused to consider what else might interest his houseguests.
“Cuisine, Mr. Frank. If you might suggest the establishments with the most authentic and delectable samplings of your city’s renowned cuisine.” The look on Mart’s face was beatific.
“And, someplace to hear some New Orleans jazz would be awesome,” Dan added.
“Shopping!” Di and Honey said in the same breath, then “Jinx!”
Seven grumbling Bob-White stomachs determined that lunch would be first on the agenda. At Mr. Frank’s suggestion, they decided to have lunch at a restaurant called Mother’s, and then spend the afternoon in the French Quarter before meeting their host for dinner.
Luckily, the lunch rush had already passed by the time the group parked the wagon and walked along Poydras Street to the restaurant. One could almost miss the fact that the non-descript building on the corner was a restaurant if they weren’t looking for the tiny sign swinging above the door at the top of three steps.
As he was (always) the most hungry, Mart stood at the front of the line to order. “I’d like the Ferdi po-boy, red beans and rice, and bread pudding,” he responded when asked for his order.
“Dressed?” asked the young man behind the chest high counter. Mart looked doubtfully down at the t-shirt and jeans he wore. It seemed appropriate attire for what would best be described as a hole-in-the-wall (if there were a wall…and a hole).
“I was when I left the house,” he said.
“No, mister,” explained the young man, “when you order a sandwich “dressed” means with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.”
“Oh, then, yes!”
Carrying his utensils, soda (or “cold drink” as the girl at the register called his Coke), and a straw, Mart secured a large round table while the rest ordered. One-by-one their names were called as their orders were prepared and plates were handed across the counter in a very self-serve manner. Mart had to make two trips and, in the end, actually passed the large serving of bread pudding around the table to share.
“Wow,” Brian pushed back from the table and patted his stomach, “that was good!”
“It was – and now it’s a good thing we’re going to do some walking,” Honey replied.
A few minutes later, Mart was maneuvering the station wagon in a U-turn on Canal Street and turning into New Orleans’ famous French Quarter. Traffic on Decatur Street was light, but slow moving. Horse drawn carriages were to blame for the latter and a lack of tourists for the former. Still, parking on the street was not available, so Mart parked in a lot next to the Jax Brewery complex.
“Do we have a strategy?” Trixie asked her friends as they opened their French Quarter map over the hood of the car and huddled around.
“Why don’t we see about the haunted history tour,” Jim always paid close attention to his co-president’s desires. “Here’s Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar,” he pointed to a spot on the map. “Mr. Frank said the tours leave from there. Why don’t we walk that way and see when the next group leaves.”
As luck would have it, a group was gathering for a tour as the Bob-Whites arrived at the tiny bar on Bourbon and St. Philip Streets. A sign on the outside of the building declared Jean Lafitte’s to be one of the oldest buildings in the Mississippi River Valley. The haunted history tour was conducted on foot through the streets of the French Quarter. Besides the many stories of hauntings, the tour guide, a man in his mid-fifties who said his name was Zeke, provided a running commentary that included New Orleans history in general. He was happy to answer any questions the group had.
Zeke walked the group down a few blocks to Bourbon and Orleans where he pointed across the street to the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. “Now, see here,” he said to the group who huddled close so they could hear everything he had to tell them, “this here’s the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. The oldest part of this building is the ballroom, which was built in the early 1800s. It was opened by an entrepreneur called John Davis. He specialized in providing entertainment that catered to the well-to-do in New Orleans…the ton of society. Back in the day, it was known as the Quadroon Ballroom. Young quadroon girls were brought here, usually escorted by their mothers, to be sold as mistresses to wealthy, white “gentlemen”.”
“What is a quadroon, Mr. Zeke?” Diana politely asked.
“A quadroon, pretty girl, is someone born to one parent who is half white/half black and one parent who is white. These girls would be able to “pass” as white…they were not slave girls, but, rather, free women of color.”
He continued on, “As things tend to go, Mr. John’s luck would eventually turn, and the building was acquired in 1881 by the Sisters of the Holy Family, an order of African-American nuns. The sisters had their convent and ran St. Mary’s Academy for Girls from this location for nigh on 80 years. It was only after they moved that the building here became a hotel. Now, it is known to be very haunted…mostly by ghosts of children, but oftentimes one can see the image of a gowned woman dancing across the ballroom floor.”
“Gleeps!” A bit of a shiver ran down Honey’s back and she unconsciously moved closer to Brian.
Zeke chuckled at Honey’s reaction. “Miss, that’s one of the tamer tales you’ll hear this afternoon!”
The Lalaurie House on Royal Street was another stop on the tour. “This house belonged to a beautiful society woman and her husband, who was a doctor. Invitations to their lavish parties were considered very desirable. However, Miss Delphine and her husband had a very dark side. They owned hundreds of slaves and rumor has it that they were a very cruel master and mistress. One night, a fire broke out in the kitchen when the good doctor and his wife were out. Luckily, the fire was quickly squelched. Unluckily, for the Lalaurie’s, it was discovered that the fire was set by the slave who was chained to the kitchen floor. Later, the bodies of dozens of slaves were found in an upstairs room…chained to the wall, the floor, tables. It appeared that experiments had been conducted on some. The Lalaurie’s couldn’t recover their place in society and fled to Dr. Lalaurie’s homeland of France.”
The stories continued as the group made its way through the streets of the French Quarter. On nearly every block, Zeke would point out one or another building, or apartment, or hotel and tell the story of the people who had once inhabited the space as living beings and were, as yet, unable to leave the space as spirits. Even New Orleans’ famous St. Louis Cathedral had the ghost of Pere Antoine who wandered the alleyway alongside the church.
Stories of children’s ghosts playing in hotels brought tears to the kind-hearted Honey’s eyes. She had not had the happiest childhood. Her parents were often away on business and Honey was often in the care of nannies and governesses, or shipped off to boarding school. “It’s just so sad,” she exclaimed. “Surely these are just stories.”
“Sad, it is, miss,” Zeke smiled at her. “But, I’ve studied all of these hauntings, and except for one case, I’ve experienced them all myself. There is the story of a Confederate soldier who only appears to women who stay in a particular room at the Hotel St. Pierre. It seems that he is looking for his wife. You see, he’d gone off to war and been gravely wounded. Word got back to his missus that he’d been killed. She took up with the man who’d been the soldier’s best friend in life. After the soldier had been brought back to his good health, he returned home to find his wife in the bed of that best friend.”
“My wife and I spent several nights in the room and she assured me that the most frightening thing she saw the entire time was our bill at the end of our stay.” Laughter lightened the mood of the group as they came to a stop in front of a house on St. Ann.
“This was the home of one of New Orleans’ most well-known, and possibly most feared, residents, Marie Paris – otherwise known as Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen.” Zeke indicated a quaint little home on the street corner. “Marie was born to a white man and a free woman of color. She lived out the end of her life in this here shotgun house.”
Mart, always interested in architecture, interrupted their guide, “Sir, what is a ‘shotgun house’?”
“It was a very popular style of home during the Civil War, young man. It’s really just a long rectangle broken up into several rooms in a row. If you opened the front door, you could see straight through to the back door.”
Then, he continued on with his story. “Many people believe that Marie didn’t die in 1881; but her daughter, who was also named Marie, looked just like her and followed in her mother’s footsteps.”
“Marie Laveau is said to be entombed in St. Louis Cemetery #1. People write three x’s on the tomb and leave gifts in hopes that she will grant their wishes. You may wish to take a cemetery tour while visiting our fair city.”
“But,” Zeke warned, “the cemeteries are dangerous. You probably do not have to fear the spirits of those spending their eternal rest in the tombs, but crooks lurk in the cemeteries. Many unsuspecting tourists have been mugged in the shadows of a crypt.”
The tour continued on until the group stood across the street from Louis Armstrong Park. “In Marie Laveau’s day, the land across the way was known as Congo Square. As New Orleans was a mostly Catholic city in those days, the slaves were expected to convert to the religion of the master. This is where the practice of voodoo came into being. Practitioners used many Catholic ceremonies and rites as part of their voodoo ceremonies. Slaves would gather on Sundays in Congo Square to celebrate the Sabbath in their own way.”
“And that, my friends, concludes this tour. If you are so inclined, tips are most welcome. If you turn and follow this street back, you will find yourselves once again on Bourbon Street.”
The Bob-Whites gladly tipped the tour guide and made their way back to Bourbon Street.
“We still have three hours before we need to meet Mr. Frank at Masparo,” Jim said as they walked. “I know we were going to start on Bourbon and walk toward the car, but after two hours of walking, I could use a drink and a place to sit for a few minutes. Do you want to go back to Café du Monde and have some beignets?”
Jim’s suggestion was met with much enthusiasm, so they continued walking back toward Decatur and the green and white striped awning that marked the open air Café du Monde. They found two tables next to each other and ordered three orders of beignets and water all around.
“I’m glad I didn’t wear black today,” Diana commented as she picked up one of the powdered sugar laden fried donuts.
“Even if you had,” Trixie said, “you wouldn’t have a speck of powdered sugar on you. Look at me! I’m wearing white and I’m a mess!!” As if to punctuate her statement, an explosion of sugar erupted from the beignet Trixie was eating.
“If I lived here, I’d weigh so much,” Honey said from behind her own cloud of sugar dust. “I can’t imagine eating like this all the time!”
“You know,” Mart wiped sugar from his lips and took a drink from his bottle of water, “New Orleans is one of the fattest cities in the U.S. So much fried food – and the humidity kind of makes one lethargic…”
When the nine beignets had been devoured by the seven Bob-Whites, it was time for more sightseeing.
“I want to look at t-shirts and maybe get some beads for the twins,” Diana said, turning into one of the dozens of such stores on Bourbon Street. Beads hung on the wall and display towers all over the store. Though purple, green, and gold are the official colors of Mardi Gras, the beads came in every color of the rainbow. Some were plain, some had plastic animals or flowers or lips strung between the beads. Some had one big medallion in the middle. Most professional sports teams were represented, as well as quite a few college football teams. The Bob-Whites had fun picking out beads for friends and family. A few voodoo dolls and different types of hot sauce also made it into their shopping bags.
At the end of Bourbon Street, the gang crossed over to Royal Street. The group mostly window-shopped the antique stores and art galleries as they strolled down Royal.. Finally, they reached Jackson Square which is flanked on one end by St. Louis Cathedral and on the other end by Decatur Street. Around the perimeter of the square many artists and fortunetellers had set up tables and were hawking their wares and services. Brian and Mart steered their sister wide of the palm reader who called out to Trixie.
“Uh-uh,” said Brian. “That gypsy with the fortune in New York caused enough trouble. We’re not letting you anywhere NEAR a fortune teller here. We don’t need a mystery!!”
Crossing Decatur, they walked past the stores of the French Market. Drawn in by the smell of candy, they stopped to buy some freshly made pralines.
Finally, it was time to meet Mr. Frank for dinner. While many of New Orleans’ most famous restaurants stood in the Quarter, the Bob-Whites weren’t dressed for “high-end” eating. So, Mr. Frank had suggested that they meet at a family-owned casual Cajun restaurant called Masparo.
“Did you enjoy your afternoon?” he asked his guests, once they were all seated at a table near a window.
“Oh, yes!” Trixie answered first. “We went on a haunted history tour – it was really cool!”
Honey shivered as she remembered the stories they’d heard, “It was interesting, but sad – and kind of gruesome.”
Mr. Frank nodded, “Yes, our city has quite a history. If you want gruesome, you should hear about some of our politicians!”
After another delicious meal, Mr. Frank suggested that they walk the few blocks to Preservation Hall where they would hear some live local music. As they walked, Dan remarked on the height of the curbs.
“They are rather high,” Mr. Frank agreed, “but that’s because the streets flood so easily here. Since New Orleans is technically below sea level, the ground is very saturated. When it rains, sometimes the sewers have trouble keeping up, so the curbs are high.”
Three hours later a tired, but happy group turned in for the night – the sounds of New Orleans Jazz still ringing in their ears.
The next morning dawned bright, hot, and humid. Trixie scowled at her reflection in the mirror as her curls revolted against that humidity. Deciding she was fighting a losing battle, she finally pulled a brush through her hair and met the rest of the Bob-Whites downstairs.
“What’s on your agenda for today?” Mr. Frank asked his young visitors.
“We really have to get on our way tomorrow, even though we’d love to spend more time here,” Honey answered for the group. “And, there are so very many things we’d really like to see, but if we don’t go on a cemetery tour…”
“I’ll just die!” Trixie finished her best friend’s sentence.
“And, we’d hate to have to explain that to Mr. and Mrs. Belden.” Jim gazed fondly at his co-president.
“Also, we were hoping that we could take you to dinner this evening, as our way of thanking you for your hospitality,” Diana said, tactfully directing attention away from Trixie’s pinking cheeks. “Daddy made us reservations at Commander’s Palace. Luckily, we all packed one nice outfit in case we needed it. Would you please join us?”
It took a couple minutes to confirm all the plans, and then the Bob-Whites headed to St. Louis Cemetery #1 for a tour.
The group spent the next couple hours mesmerized by the tour guide’s stories and the history of the famed New Orleans Cities of the Dead. Standing next to the tomb with the three big Xs on it, Trixie tried as unobtrusively as possible to leave a few coins among the other offerings to the Voodoo Queen. Jim had been keeping an eye on his special girl, and smiled as he watched her dig deeply into the pocket of her favorite jeans, count the change in her hand, and try to determine whether or not forty-seven cents would be considered an insult that would only bring bad luck. Sidling up next to her quietly, Jim added the change from his own pocket to the coins in Trixie’s hand. Glancing up at him, Trixie had the good grace to blush at being caught.
“Hey,” Jim murmured close to Trixie’s ear, “I know I can always use a little extra luck. You and my sister have a way of getting into some dangerous situations, and if Marie Laveau can keep you safe, I’m all for it!”
The rest of the day passed quickly, as the Bob-Whites rode a St. Charles streetcar from the Garden District to the French Quarter and back. Using one of Mart’s many guide books, they took a walking tour of the Garden District, Mart pointing out Anne Rice’s family home, among other interesting residences.
It was a short trip from Dickinson House to Commander’s Palace. Mr. Frank’s driver dropped the friends in front of the green restaurant with the white trim and green and white striped awning. Diana went to the maitre d’ and requested the Lynch table for eight.
“Ah,” he said, smiling at the pretty young lady in front of him. “Your father requested the Chef’s Table for your group, Miss Lynch. Please follow me.” He led the group through the dining room, into the restaurant’s kitchen, where they were seated at two booths facing the busy, controlled chaos of the busy kitchen. They were barely seated when they were greeted by a man dressed in white, wearing the traditional chef’s tall toque on his head.
“Welcome to my kitchen! I’m Chef Tory. My staff and I will be caring for you this evening. You will be having a seven-course meal. If you see something go past, and if it looks like something you would like to try, please don’t hesitate to ask one of us. Do you have a special request for an entrée?”
Eight filet mignon were prepped per Chef Tory’s instruction and the feast began: three mini cups of soup were followed by a prawn appetizer. Oysters prepared three ways were next. Then, a comparison of truffle oils. The first entrée was a small filet of pecan-crusted redfish. The filet mignon was topped with shaved truffles. Finally, the dessert bomb was served. Seven plates, each holding a different dessert, were placed on each table. The plates were slowly passed around the tables and the evening came to an end as the last bite disappeared into Mart’s mouth.
“I take back what I said in Memphis,” Mart said, rubbing his full stomach. “THIS was easily the best meal I have ever been privileged to participate in. I am so happy I may cry tears of joy.”
“I think we need to stop and get your dad something special to thank him for this treat, Di,” Honey smiled at her raven haired friend. “Do you think Chef Tory would autograph a menu for us?”
The Chef happily obliged the request, signing eight menus for each of his dinner guests, and a ninth for the Bob-Whites to take home to Mr. Lynch.
Early the next morning, with promises to keep in touch with their host, the Bob-Whites left New Orleans and headed east.
Thank you so much to Jill (franollie) and Ronda (rolyru) for their editing prowess! I really, really (that’s one for each of you!) appreciate you both taking time to read and comment on my stories. Any mistakes herein are mine. My most sincere apologies to Zap for holding up the Road Trip for so long.
Of course, the Bob-Whites do not belong to me. I’m not making any money, etc., etc.
I have been to Graceland and I have eaten at the King’s Palace Café. The food there IS delicious. The information about Graceland was gleaned from a couple places on the Internet. The most helpful being: www.elvis.com.au/presley/biography/elvis_presley_graceland.shtml . The parts of Graceland that are open to the public are the same today as they appeared at the time of Elvis’ death in 1977. So, much of the décor is – for lack of a better word – gawdy. Guests are not allowed on the 2nd floor of Graceland. While Elvis was alive, it was the space for family only.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar is where the ghost tour that I took in New Orleans met. For a picture, check www.virtualtourist.com and search on the name of the bar.
Some of the stories related by “Zeke” I’ve got in my memory, but couldn’t find any books or websites to relate the same stories or remind me of the locations. I used the book “ISPR Investigates The Ghosts of New Orleans” by Larry Montz, Ph.D. and Daena Smoller and did a whole lot of googling. I tried very hard to put the stories into my own words. Seriously, this tour was one of the most interesting “touristy” things I did while living in New Orleans. And, our tour guide stated to us what Zeke says in this story – he personally had investigated each of the haunted sites on his tour and felt that the hauntings were legitimate.
Very little is really known about Marie Laveau. It is believed that she was a practitioner of voodoo, but no one can really say for sure. After her husband died, Marie took a lover named Glapion. She had children by him and Glapion is still a very common name in New Orleans. Beside the memories from my own haunted history tour, I found the date of Marie Laveau I’s death at Wikipedia.
I have also eaten at the Chef’s Table at Commander’s Palace. Of course, being as the Bob-White’s are mostly underage, they did not partake in the seven-courses of wine that my friends and I did. And, there is only one table in the kitchen at Commander’s Palace that seats four. In order for all seven Bob-Whites and Mr. Frank to eat together, I embellished. My apologies to the Brennan family. Also, since it has been quite a few years, I don’t remember the exact courses we had – I know the 1-1-1 soups, the foie gras, the filet mignon, the truffle oils, and the desserts are spot on. In fact, we got an eighth dessert because I mentioned that we didn’t get the pineapple sorbet that was that day’s special dessert. Chef Tory McPhail was the Executive Chef when I ate there, and is still the EC today. My autographed menu is framed and hangs on the wall in my dining room.