If you cross Esplanade Avenue along the northeast side of New Orleans’ French Quarter, you’ll find yourself in the neighborhood known as Faubourg Marigny. On our last trip to NO, we stayed in the more sedate eastern side of the French Quarter and walked across Esplanade Avenue into Marigny to sightsee and eat gumbo. Word is the music scene has moved to Marigny. Plenty of clubs, particularly on Frenchmen St, which is an extension of Decatur. Being early risers, and therefore early retirers, we didn’t got to any clubs that trip. Maybe next time. At any rate, the atmosphere in Marigny is a more authentic and more earthy alternative to the frat-boy entertainment over on Bourbon Street.
Marigny has a fascinating history. The area was laid out in the early 1800s on what had been a large plantation. Must have been one of the first suburban developments! It quickly became a favorite spot for white Creole gentlemen to build cottages for their second families–light-skinned mistresses and their illegitimate children. In my forthcoming novel Evermore, I chose Marigny as the natural location for the home of Lucinda, Marcel Chamard’s mistress and the love of his life. One reason I love visiting New Orleans’ older neighborhoods is that I feel Lucinda and Marcel, Nicolette and Cleo, strolling along Rue de Chartres right along with me. The mint at the corner of Esplanade and Decatur is the site where Deborah Ann, Marcel’s wife, spies Lucinda on the street, follows her home, and . . . . At the other end of Decatur is the huge gray granite monolith, not quite finished but finished enough that Union General Butler made it his headquarters during the Civil War occupation. Just down Canal Street from that building, Admiral Farragut arrived, the conquering naval presence, and in front of it, up Canal Street, marched the conquering Union. Nicolette and her brother Marcel watch that parade with very different feelings about their beloved city being occupied. I’ll get that novel out toward the end of 2011. It just needs polishing.