The Sunset Limited (2)

December 25

It’s Christmas morning.  There’s coffee in the lobby, and we’re up earlier than most in this night-living town. The very friendly concierge, Gustave von … claims parentage of German Royalty but offers erroneous geographic information about the location of his castle.

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He advises us that Daisy Duke’s is the only place to get breakfast at this hour. It’s a jolly spot near the hotel at the edge of the French Quarter, more Georgia than Louisiana, but the fine-featured copper-colored waitress appears like the essence of Creole.

Jan suggests we go to the Cathedral for Christmas mass being celebrated by the Archbishop.  The narrow  freshly washed streets of the Quarter are almost empty, allowing unimpeded views of its preserved and restored architecture.

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The shop windows on Chartres street display beautiful craftwork and antiques reminiscent of Venice or Kyoto. Almost every building sports a plaque indicating its age and provenance.

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As the Cathedral towers rise above us, we’re joined by converging flows of people heading for the 11 o clock service.

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The light and spacious interior is full by the time an elegant alto leads the parishioners in an opening hymn.  This is followed by a sequence of familiar carols belted out by a chorus and orchestra highlighting timpani and brass hidden in the balcony. Readings from the Bible are familiar and the sermon is amiable, though it seems peculiar to see the altar area crowded with grandly robed men and no women.

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After the service we wander with other visitors through Jackson Square dominated by an equestrian statue of the hero of the Battle of New Orleans and surrounded by eighteenth century balconied buildings.

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Not finding an appealing place for Christmas dinner and longing for a rest, we head back to the hotel along a street enlivened by buskers and a mime.

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Last evening we saw a sign advertising brunch in the glittering hotel restaurant for twenty dollars, a good alternative to searching for reservations in the French Quarter.  At 2:30 the place echoes with the talk of well-dressed multiracial families and the singing of an elderly cocktail pianist.  We’re seated at a table in the bar, but free to help ourselves to anything we want from the splendid buffet.

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Jan enjoys myriad dishes prepared with local shellfish, to which I’m allergic, but the duck in blueberry sauce, the fresh sliced prime rib, the nova scotia lox and the array of rich deserts leave me satisfied.  Though we dont engage anyone else in conversation, we still feel part of the select crowd letting the good times roll.

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Not until we’re brought the tab are we aware that this special holiday meal has cost us $75 each. But we agree it was worth it.

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