This year I am spending Taper Week in the most magical place on earth, New Orleans. The Big Easy. Specifically, the French Quarter. What an ideal environment for resting actively, i.e., still walking a lot, maybe snagging a three-miler here and there, some hotel room yoga, but overall just slowing down and gathering up lots of good energy for next weekend. Enjoying nourishment for body and soul from all the sights, sounds, smells (okay not every smell here is divine), flavors, and just… vibes. All the incredible feelings that pulse from this unique cultural microcosm my husband and I love so much. If ever a city within a city were well suited for intense active rest, it’s the Quarter. I always go home deeply refreshed and fully inspired after a few days here.
This morning I spring loose from our hotel and walk a couple of miles in search of perfect coffee. Office workers and traveling business people are buzzing around at a much faster pace than me, briefcases and shouldered messenger bags flying behind them. Lots of runners are out on the streets too, sweating it up in the glorious Coastal South humidity. This makes me a little happy-antsy and I have to force my legs to take softer, slower strides. Wearing three-inch wedge sandals helps. As I walk through the streets and clock one landmark after another, I notice feeling less like a tourist than ever before. I am even able to give a woman directions successfully (I guess)(probably) (good luck lady). How many visits to the city earns me honorary residence? If NOLA could only know how much I love her.
Street sweepers are finishing their work as traffic increases. They spray lemon scented, sudsy water that foams up and runs in spirals around every curb, rinsing away last night’s debauchery.
I can’t stop smiling as I pass so many (dozens! thousands!) of familiar shops. My heart is glowing just to recognize these little places. The same fern-collared potted evergreens. The same painted wooden signs and chalkboard menus on the same uneven sidewalks. The same changing artsy window displays behind glass next door to the same haunted hotels. So much opulence and rusticity all in the same space. Everything together in harmony and contrast, it’s all so beautiful I have to choke back tears.
Is it silly to see bohemian artists setting up shop at Jackson Square or on Royal street, displaying painted work I know well, and have to suppress the urge to rush up to them with tight hugs and lots of encouragement? They are so young. They remind me of our oldest, and I want to make sure they’ve eaten today and that their boyfriends and girlfriends are treating them right. (Then I Snap-chat that beautiful girl and say about the forty-seventh prayer of the morning for her and her little sister.)
Eventually, big goofy smile plastered to my face and tears drying in my eyes, I land at my favorite shop to sit and drink perfect coffee for an hour or more. They are so nice here. They smile at you and cheerfully offer refills. You can sit by the window and people watch and notice mule-drawn carriages pass by under the ancient shade trees. The windows here are tall and arched, not insulated, the wooden frames painted maybe a thousand times by now. Across the street from where I always sit is an ocean-themed mural boasting an impossibly blue “water” background, sea turtles, dolphins, a plain yellow jellyfish, and one huge black and white killer whale not quite in the center. I’m pretty sure this building is a school.
Food is of course a big part of the New Orleans experience. And despite some recent efforts to slim down, I do intend to enjoy myself this week. Selectively. Last night for dinner I ate a good sized omelette loaded up with mushrooms, tomatoes, craw-fish, and shrimp. It was delicious! So so so good. And around here you add “Crystal” hot sauce, not Tabasco. It’s the local thing to do. So we do it. Next I’m looking forward to big salads topped with more Gulf-fresh seafood. Lots of fresh produce from the French market. Maybe some gumbo or red beans and rice. And toward the end of the week, closer to the race, some kind of amazing local bread like on a muffaletta sandwich. Or pasta. Or both.
Being here always refreshes me. It always gives Handsome and me a boost of romance, and the time spent in this culture actually deepens our appreciation for all things good and nourishing about the farm. I am so grateful to enjoy all of this and also get myself rested up for the marathon. Less than six days friends!!
Here’s hoping your week is just as lovely, however you are spending it. I wish for you provision and comfort beyond your wildest dreams. Reflection on lots of blessings (because remember that gratitude is an attractant), hope for the things that break your heart, and strength to meet every single challenge. And watermelon. I wish for you watermelon if it’s in season and perfect coffee every morning. Thank you for stopping here!!
“In the spring of 1988, I returned to New Orleans, and as soon as I smelled the air,
I knew I was home. It was rich, almost sweet,
like the scent of jasmine and roses around our old courtyard.
I walked the streets, savoring that long lost perfume.”
~Anne Rice Interview With a Vampire