Posted by: Sally Ingraham | December 10, 2008

Waking from the dream…to Jam Poppets!!

Already my trip seems like a happy dream. I am back in Maine at my parent’s house, and I brought warm weather with me so what little snow there was has melted away, and the day passed gray and overbearing. As the taxi driver in Boston said, with an impressive shrug, “It’s New England”.

My last days in New Orleans were wonderful – sunny and pleasant, filled with music and food and laughter. Nova and I attended a cooking class Saturday morning at the New Orleans School of Cookery, and were fascinated by history and culture and fed gumbo and jambalaya and bread pudding.

City of the DeadAfterward we went on a tour of the St. Louis Cemetery #1, where we learned about New Orleans’ strange but necessary burial practices, and the camera crazed among us got more than a little excited about the photo ops this “City of the Dead” presented to us at every turn.

The rest of the afternoon was filled by wandering deeper into the French Quarter, looking for cornices more wonderfully carved than the last ones were, and determining which lovely iron balconies were wrought or cast.

We ended up at The Gumbo Shop for dinner, and ate Crawfish Etouffee and Blackened Catfish in one of the classic old French Quarter buildings. This one started it’s life in 1795 and was among other things a woodworking shop, and the home of John Watkins, who was Mayor of New Orleans in the early 1800’s, before becoming the restaurant in the 1920’s.

We wandered a bit farther up the street, and as it was our big night out, we got tickets to attend that evening’s performance at Preservation Hall. Yet another very old building, this one was built as a private residence in 1750 and had been a tavern and an art studio and an inn before it opened it’s doors in 1961 as a haven for New Orleans Jazz.

Open 7 nights a week, the place regularly fills to capacity with people eager to watch veteran musicians tease sweet, beautiful sounds out of clarinets, trumpets, slide trombones, and upright basses. The evening we were there the NoLa All Stars were gettin’ down – not a member of the band younger than 60, and all of them jamming.

Our tapping feet carried us home (with some help from the streetcar) and we slept late into the morning, dreaming of street musicians and voodoo queens.

Outside the Blacksmith's ShopWe met Nova’s aunt and uncle again for lunch in Baton Rouge, and then returned to the Rural Life Museum as promised for the Christmas celebration. We wandered in and out of the old buildings, peering into dining rooms and slave quarters, watching a blacksmith beat iron into pretty shapes and an old woman cane a chair seat. There was dancing and music, candle making and sugar boiling, and cracklings to eat. We took a long wander in an overgrown wooded garden, looking for mossy statues and finding mossier trees.

We drove back to New Orleans through another lovely sunset and managed to get to bed fairly early. Before I knew what had happened, it was 7 o’clock the next morning and I was seated on the train, farewells already made to both friend and city, and my face turned homeward.

The “Crescent” carried me with tolerable speed to Baltimore where I changed trains and rode on to Boston, arriving there with plenty of time to catch the “Downeaster” at 11 last night and get dropped off very early this morning in Wells, ME where my car was waiting, and a short drive took me to the family abode and a very welcome (horizontal) bed.

I woke this morning essentially where I had left – having come full circle from the pre-dawn rising that began my trip a little over three weeks ago. It feels unreal to me at the moment – so much is tangled up in too little time, and yet that first week in New Mexico seems so long ago.

Good thing I have all winter to iron out the details, look at all the pictures, and come to some conclusion about it all! I know it was a vacation, but I also knew from the start that it was much more than that. What I’ve learned and seen matters to how I will live the rest of my life – even the seemingly small things – and I am eager to find out just how much impact a couple of weeks of travel will have on me!

Don’t worry – I’ll keep you posted.

For the moment though, I am going to take a nap. I am a great believer in the post-vacation vacation, and am delighted that I still have a whole 15 days before work demands my interest, and my only decisions will be ones of this sort:

“Should I eat a strawberry or apricot Jam Poppet, fresh out of the oven, flaky and golden with a jewel of jam in the center? Why not have one of each! And then the nap.”


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