New Orleans: A Magical Tourist Destination

Mules for Hire

After disembarking from the Natchez, we soon found ourselves among hundreds of people in nearby Jackson Square. Named in honour of the famous general and later President Andrew Jackson, the square is a lively gathering place for tourists. It was crawling with people sauntering about in the sunshine enjoying drinks. Semi-talented buskers tried hard to display their expertise. Street singers sang fervently to anyone who would listen. Horn players belted out their renditions of familiar tunes. On the curb opposite the mini-amphitheatre where the buskers performed, dozens of colourful, ornate carriages stood, hitched to well-fed, bored mules. These quiet, long-eared animals dozed while waiting to take tourists for carriage rides around town. It was too appealing to resist. So we climbed aboard an available carriage for a leisurely ride while our driver, directing his well-loved 20-year-old mule, expertly pointed out the highlights.

Best Southern Fried Chicken in America

After enjoying our carriage ride, we grabbed a taxi to Willie Mae’s Restaurant, a famous eatery. Surviving through three generations of family ownership, it had somehow gained the reputation as serving the best Southern fried chicken in America. Even President Obama made a special point of dining there when he visited New Orleans. After taking a circuitous route through very ordinary, but well-kept Creole neighbourhoods, we finally arrived at this run-down, hole-in-the-wall. It was located on a corner lot across from a spanking new public school. With worried glances, we paid the taxi driver and exited beside the tattered building that was in need of a paint job.

Our spirits rose somewhat when we found ourselves in a line-up of more than 20 customers waiting to get inside. After 25 minutes, a frazzled, frowning waitress curtly waved us in through a tiny, ugly dining area into a dingy back room with a dark counter against one wall. At the next table sat a very obese man and his tiny wife. He was so overweight that his huge stomach pressed against the table edge causing his head to rest three feet away from his plate. He appeared to be almost lying down, and was clearly enjoying his meal. We, on the other hand, were wondering what we were doing in this place.

A sour-looking, orange-haired waitress rushed up to us, took our order, and disappeared. With growing anxiety, and now with only ice-filled glasses of soda to sip on, we waited and waited. Finally our chicken dinners arrived. Three large pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes and peas filled my plate. After the first bite it was clear why customers lined up. On the way out we encountered people in the other room who had been ushered in ahead of us. They were still waiting for their dinner! To cheer them up, I volunteered that it was well worth the wait.

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Dr. James F. McDonald is a retired elementary school principal who lives in Dundas, ON.
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