This morning, in the hotel courtyard, I sat before breakfast looking at the the terra-cotta architecture above me, watching the lizards jumping off the trees, bobbing and displaying their red throats, and smelling the gardenia behind me – the scent swelling as the humidity deepened – and, after last night's elegant party by the Tchefuncte River, wondering why it is a gardenia corsage or, for that matter, a gardenia buttonhole is no longer worn, even at weddings. The most heavenly of scents, gardenia, mixes well I find with smoke from the first cigarette of the day – not mine, for I gave up smoking thirty-six years ago – but that of the lank-haired trio tapping ash on the floor all the while ignoring the ashtray on the table between them. I wondered, too, at the other scent of the morning, coffee; why it is that however great the flourish with which it is presented and however risibly high the prices, this or that institution's weak and bitter swill is still served "with great pride "the continent over. It being too early in New Orleans for any Muse other than Moolah to be attentive. answers came there none.
I made two discoveries yesterday. The first that the Sazerac cocktail as made in the bar of the W Hotel – Sazerac rye, brandy, bitters, an absinthe rinse and a lemon twist – when combined with a good lunch, high heat and humidity, is one of the best reasons for an afternoon nap ever poured. Tasty, too.
The second discovery, recommended by a friend, was M S Rau, an antiques business, begun in 1911, the likes of which I have not seen outside Europe or New York. Here is the real New Orleans, I thought, cultured, learned, and almost hidden by the tourism-beset streets. M S Rau's business, of course, is rarely from people like me who, on a Saturday, walk in from the street and occupy the ever-patient staff members, but from museums, collectors, decorators the world over. I spent a brilliant hour or so looking at everything – from the exquisite Aesthetic Movement gasolier (now electrified), to the Hester Bateman silver jug; the Faberge cufflinks; a Belter child's slipper chair; a French Compendium clock; a micromosaic table; to the most moving set of photographs of Marilyn Munro (not, generally speaking, an object of interest to me) – the photograph of Monroe's ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, with his son at her funeral, August 8, 1962 is an eloquent portrayal of loss and regret.
One very noticeable aspect of New Orleans, and I suppose it is true of any popular destination on this continent, is that casual clothing, judging by the hoards that overrun this city, is any variation of clothing more suitable to the gym – be it fitting or no.
As to Bourbon Street after dark – best left to be the hell it is.