6:30 and I'm listening to one of my new vinyls - golden hits of Louis Prima - and I've been dancing in my living room. I'm also thinking about the past weekend, in which I was one of the instructors for Dark Oak Press' genre writing conference. Although we had a small number of participants, we still had a rockin' time, complete with many added extras that just made it all the sweeter.
The hotel/conference center was located in the Warehouse District, also known as the Arts District, complete with many art galleries, restaurants, luxury hotels, and other places that would satisfy any interest. The area was also quite close to the French Quarter, as I discovered during my morning power walk on Saturday. Although the Arts District was less crowded than the Quarter, it was no less fun and exciting as I walked the streets and soaked up as much as I could.
Howling Wolf was our "host" for Friday night as we reunited with old friends and made new ones with such delicacies as crawfish "beignets", a dirty rice mixture with sausage and chicken and cheese ravioli. The bar/restaurant was the perfect place to kick back and relax while getting into the swing of all things Big Easy. As I wolfed down my second bowl of crawfish "beignets" and rice, I felt the city's loving arms wrap themselves around me as they had done countless times before. As I like to tell people, I have been visiting New Orleans since I was five years old and I consider it to be my second home. The sun soon gave way to the night and I was home again.
Saturday consisted of panels regarding the Way of Writing Genre Fiction that led to a lunch break. While others made their way to seek out food, I decided to be adventurous and seek out my own nourishment. After walking for several minutes under the blazing sun, I found myself at Peche Restaurant, a seafood and grill establishment with a style that carefully blended clean rustic and hipster modern. As I made my way to my table, I noticed that all the waiters were dressed in flannel shirts with carefully rolled up jeans and soon, my lovely waiter handed me a menu filled to the brim with oceanic and gulf delights. I soon decided on a Louisiana shrimp roll with blueberry cornmeal crisp for dessert, as recommended by my waiter and the food did not disappoint.
The Arts District of New Orleans is a softer yet flavourful area that will delight and tempt your appreciation for art in all forms. Thankfully, I was able to visit several of the galleries and simply view the current exhibits in blessed silence. As I walked from one gallery to another, I kept my cameras ready to be used and soon, I posted my discoveries to my online photography profiles. Suddenly, I had Gallery Orange, a contemporary art gallery located in the French Quarter, follow my work. I knew then that I had to make a special trip to visit their gallery and make that contact through the aether. I love making that extra move to meet people in person after "meeting" them online. Such was the case with Matthews Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico several weeks ago.
Sunday proved to be the day of days for me; after I made an early leave from the conference, I made my way to the French Quarter and set my sights upon visiting Gallery Orange. However, I located my favourite used bookstore, Librarie Bookshop, and quickly darted in. There is nothing like the smell of a bookstore and I took several deep breaths while grinning like an idiot. The aisles are narrow and packed with books yet I couldn't have been happier; twenty minutes later, I left with four books and picked up my journey to visit Gallery Orange. When I finally reached the place, I stepped in from the heat and made small talk with one of the gallery owners. The gallery was small and intimate and I loved looking at the bright colours of the pieces while trying to look "hip" - not easy to do when you're sweating from the heat!
After leaving Gallery Orange, I continued my jaunt through the Quarter, only to stop and peer into the windows of another gallery named AFA. I was stunned as I stared at the art then quickly walked in and asked the nice woman behind the desk if what I was looking at were original Tim Burton pieces? The woman smiled and said yes. Twenty minutes later, Barbara and I acted as though we had known each other for years as we discussed the future of libraries. With a friendly wave and one last glance through the gallery, I moved on only to stop five minutes later at a small yet inviting store that I had heard about the previous night during our tour of Haunted New Orleans. I had arrived at the Boutique du Vampyre!
If you seek anything and everything vampiric, this is THE store for you. Shirts, candles, Tarot cards, books and more all had that vampiric touch. I was in heaven. I picked up a copy of The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden after hearing about the book from the author herself and her friends, not to mention after visiting the Ursuline convent in the Quarter. It was a necessary purchase for someone as myself. After leaving the dim and comforting vampire store, I returned to my car and made my way home.
If you ever find yourself in New Orleans, make time to visit the Warehouse District and also visit the places I mentioned above. If you seek art in its many forms, New Orleans is the place for you.