St. Pat’s Week

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 22, 2010

One would-be St. Patrick’s Day parade spectator peaked too soon along the Magazine Street route.

On the balcony at the Freret Street home/workshop of John (far back in photo) and Madilyn Nelson (not pictured) are visiting kinfolks (from front) Charlotte, Lauren, Blair, John Jr., Nelson, Jennifer, Hunt and David. The Nelsons have recovered.

Looking toward Downtown on Magazine Street from the Louisiana intersection — the parade before the parade.

Lauren headed downtown on the St. Charles steetcar.

Streetcar stop at St. Charles and Washington. Live oaks are shedding their old leaves and sprouting their new, all at about the same time, giving their branches a sparse appearance.

Rosemary and Lauren walking past shotgun house en route to streetcar stop.

Real life New Orleans street character joins statue of fictional character Ignatius J. Reilly on Canal Street at the entrance to the old D. H. Holmes Department Store.

Petunias survived winter’s cold on Laurel Street because we brought them inside in planters. More tender and exposed vegetation was killed or drastically curtailed by freezing temps.

St. Patrick’s Week in New Orleans coincided with spring break for many schools in Mississippi and Alabama which also coincided with the NCAA basketball tournament and a five-alarm family visit.

David, Charlotte and Lauren arrived on Thursday, March 11; John Jr., Jennifer, Hunt, Nelson and Blair on Saturday.

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David and his bunch were on hand for one of several St. Patrick’s Day parades scheduled around town on Saturday, March 13, a beautiful day for a parade. Rosemary joined them as they claimed a spot near Magazine Street and Louisiana Avenue where they actually saw two parades.

This first is an impromptu event performed by the spectators as they walk the streets in green regalia and costume such as only New Orleans parade spectators can assemble. They greet friends as they tour the blocks along the parade route, seeing and being seen. That must explain why we go there at noon knowing that the real parade won’t arrive until at least 2 p.m.

The real parade appears to be a marathon to see how much beer and whiskey Irishmen and wannabes can consume during the course of the day and still make it — marching, strutting and finally staggering into Parasol’s Bar at Constance and Third in the Uptown neighborhood known as the Irish Channel. Parasol’s is a parade sponsor and the marathon’s finish line.

I returned home before the parade to rendezvous with our other guests’ pending arrival. Hours later, the four parade spectators walked home tired, sun and wind burned, carrying a cabbage bag filled with parade loot that included beads and other trinkets. And cabbages.

That night we ate at Casamento’s, arguably the best place anywhere for oysters. Founded in 1919, it is owned today by third generation family members. Interior walls and floors are covered in tile, giving the inside a gleaming, spotless appearance. Located on Magazine Street near the Napoleon intersection, it’s within easy walking distance.

Casamento’s is first-come, first served and cash only. They are so oriented to their specialty that the restaurant closes altogether during June, July and August when oysters are out of season.

We waited about 45 minutes until the wait staff could arrange seating for 10. A neighborhood regular assisted. He volunteered to move his party of three across the aisle so that we could be seated at adjoining tables.

Regulars at Casamento’s are like that. They would like to keep it a secret to themselves, but as long as you’re there, they want you to appreciate it as much as they do. And we did.

Oysters are the specialty; shrimp also. And then there’s as fine a  gumbo as I’ve ever tasted. That’s as far as I got into the menu that night and during a repeat visit the following Friday.

Granddaughter Lauren stayed with us when everyone else left for home early in the week.

Our itinerary included travels by street car and ferry, roaming through Canal Street and French Quarter souvenir shops that I normally avoid and more St. Patrick’s Day Parades.

I’ll post photos with this column online at if you’d care to see more.