Glen alluded to approaching the “end” of our time here in New Orleans. It’s no different than many other “endings” that we as humans experience. There’s a sense of loss and of sadness. And yet, there’s also excitement at the thought of returning home. Home to family and friends. To the comfort of a place that I love.
AND this time, there’s also a sense of urgency because you see…we will be home for something like 26 days before we head out again; this time for our longest and furthest journey…
So what do we do in my last days here? I return to the places I have loved and I continue to do some of the things that are still on the “list”.
Yesterday, my something “old” was a return to Bywater Bakery with Dug. We wandered through the neighborhood enjoying the architecture, the people, the flora and fauna. Then we had an especially enjoyable breakfast chatting with others seated around us. What fun to have become the “semi-local expert” as everyone seated around me was visiting and they were asking me for recommendations which I am always happy to share! And bonus – then…the “bacon” lady came out to give Dug his treat. I love the neighborhood aspect of the Bywater. It’s very welcoming and friendly and I find myself returning again and again. On our return to the apartment, we chose to walk through Crescent Park and enjoyed the eternal breeze that comes off of the Mississippi River. I guess Dug didn’t really have a say in the direction, but he’s like a cow going home when we head back…it’s hard to slow him down! One thing of note…this city is a late-rising place; I guess largely due to the late nights that people enjoy. So even at 10:30, there were few people out and about as we strolled home along the great Mississippi.
For my something “new” I went on the “Secret Gardens” tour hosted by a local charity. Seven French Quarter homes opened their gardens (and three opened their homes) to raise funds for their annual “caroling” event that is held in December. I learned about this event from a woman who is renovating an apartment in the building next door to us. She gave us a great restaurant list and this hot tip. (She’s in the business and is opening a restaurant a couple blocks away later this summer.)
As I have been wandering the streets of New Orleans, I’m always trying to get a glimpse into the courtyards and even into the homes to see how they live. For the latter, it’s easier to be a voyeur at night when the interior lights are on! While it was a super hot afternoon to be hoofing it around the streets of the Quarter, this tour gave me a great sense of how these homes and gardens provide the residents an incredible oasis from the heat, noise and even smells of this city.
A highlight was a Creole cottage that’s actually in Marigny just a couple blocks from us. I’ve passed it bunches of times and have as it’s an historical landmark, I’ve always thought that behind its walls, there were a lot of secrets, a lot of stories, and a lot of history. When I arrived and realized that it was on the tour, I was excited to get a peek into the home, the yard and its owners, past and present!
Bernard de Marigny was born in 1785 and died in 1868. His French family was wealthy, owning a plantation just outside the French Quarter. His father died when he was 14 at which time Bernard inherited the estate. He was sent o London to be educated and be trained in the ways of running the family fortune, but he did not apply himself and was brought home.
As the population of New Orleans grew, he realized that he was sitting on a gold mine and started selling the plantation off as plots for homes. He named the community Faubourg Marigny. Faubourg means false city in French which alludes to it being a suburb of a city. Some say that this development was the first suburb in America.
So back to the Creole cottage. One thing that Marigny did bring back from England was his love of gambling – be it cards or dice. It is said that he brought the English game, Hazards to New Orleans where it was called crapaud which means frog. I’ve read a couple versions of how it got its name. One thought is that it was named for the French in New Orleans who ate frog legs and another thought is that it was named after the Americans who began moving south from Kentucky and who were looked down upon as being inferior, therefore frogs or possibly after the frog-like squat that a craps player takes while throwing his dice. All for a good story!
So here’s where the house comes in…Bernard de Marigny may have used this house (or one like it) for his quadroon. A quadroon was a free-woman of color who was a mistress to an elite man. By law, men were allowed one quadroon and they had to provide for her and her children as if he were married to her, including educating the children. It was here that his friends came to play craps. (Note that there is growing discussion that the number of quadroons in New Orleans was not as large as the story goes. And in fact, historians are debunking the story because records indicate that free women of color married at the same rate as white women and were successful businesswomen and pillars of the community.)
This Creole cottage is now owned by a lovely couple who have lovingly and beautifully created an oasis and finally…here are some photos of their incredible back yard. And mind you, the size of this yard is an anomaly in New Orleans. The house sits on a corner and sort of wraps around it which creates a “C”-shaped house wrapping around the yard.