Not Fade Away

In the fall of 1872, painter Edgar Degas found himself in a creative dry spell. To find a balm for what ailed him, Degas left Paris and travelled to his mother’s hometown of New Orleans. During the five months he spent in the colonnaded mansion of his Creole cousins, the Musson family, Degas witnessed the still-vibrant spirit of a city struggling to maintain its unique culture during post-Civil War Reconstruction. That vibrancy can be seen in the paintings Degas created during his stay, most notably “A Cotton Office in New Orleans,” which depicts his Uncle Michel’s brokerage house. Degas returned to Paris with a renewed spirit and his new works in tow. A short time later, “A Cotton Office” became the first Impressionist painting bought by a museum, ushering in a new age in the world of art. While most of today’s Crescent City visitors don’t possess Degas’ ability to create their own images of the city, there are myriad options for those who want to take a little piece of New Orleans home with them. 

The timeless flicker of the gas lamps is theirs for the having

There are few American settings more sublimely romantic than a rainy evening in the French Quarter. For generations, couples have found themselves huddled arm-in-arm under the shelter of an iron-lace balcony, cooled by a balmy breeze, watching through the rain drops the interplay of shadows and the flicker of copper lamps, their light reflected in street puddles casting a warm glow on the night. While the balmy breeze will be carried home with visitors only in their memories, the timeless flicker of the gas lamps is theirs for the having. Since 1945, Bevelo Gas & Electric Lights has employed Old World craftsmanship to create traditional gas (and electric) lamps found throughout the Vieux Carre, a number of which have been burning for more than six decades. The lamps are manufactured in Louisiana and designed to last a lifetime, giving visitors the opportunity to take home a memento that will keep the warm glow of New Orleans with them wherever they live. 

Wearable art that proudly embraces its New Orleans roots is at the heart of NOLA Couture, a line of clothing accessories featuring iconic New Orleans motifs. Cecile Hardy started the company in 2006 as a means of showing civic pride while the city was rebuilding following the Hurricane Katrina levee failures. For men and boys, there are patterned silk ties featuring the New Orleans flag, shotgun houses, oysters, or the St. Louis Cathedral. Women will find tote bags and sashed beach hats playfully depicting pelicans, fleurs de lis, crabs and snowballs. NOLA Couture also offers many of the same designs on dog leashes and collars. And a new line of homewares features the local iconography on glasses, candles, pillows and beach spikes (like raised cup holders that keep drinks and phones out of the sand). 

Those who want to savor the sweet taste of New Orleans can find their fill at Laura’s Candies. When this French Quarter shop first opened in 1913, “Miss Laura” only sold her homemade pies and fudge. But today the store is chock-full of Creole and Cajun confections. Laura’s Original Creole Pralines feature Louisiana mammoth pecans and local cane sugar, heated in 100-year-old copper pots to create that Old New Orleans flavor. The shop’s signature item is a traditional Mississippi Mud for the true chocolate lover. Available in either milk or dark chocolate, this decadent confection features multiple layers of chocolate, pecans and caramel. Laura’s Cajun Bark provides a dance of sweet and savory by combining creamy white chocolate, roasted macadamia nuts and Creole seasoning. And no New Orleans menu would be complete without the inclusion of some libation. At Laura’s, that nice warm feeling at the back of the throat comes courtesy of Rum Balls. These dark chocolate ganache creations are full of flavor via an infusion of spiced rum and a finish of Louisiana pecans. 

They are full of flavor with spiced rum and a finish of Louisiana pecans

Forever New Orleans is an ideal French Quarter stop for visitors looking for a wide variety of New Orleans-themed gifts and souvenirs. The shop is brimming with locally made art, jewelry, clothing, cookbooks, candles, and soaps. One way to remember the charm of the Crescent City is with an actual charm. Forever New Orleans carries an intricately crafted line of charms featuring a crown (representing Mardi Gras royalty), a fleur de lis (the symbol of New Orleans), and a tiny magnolia (the state flower). For those who want to learn a little more about New Orleans culture, the shop carries a variety of travel guides, history narratives, and cookbooks (some exploring the art of local cocktail mixology). Other locally created gifts include handmade soaps that look like cupcakes.

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01 Mar 2016

By Terrie Bravisse