Heavens to Betsy!

Monday night ends with a bar hop across the city. First, the Circle Bar in the shadow of the Robert E Lee statue. Among the modern buildings and plush hotels, the Circle is a ramshackle Victorian style building which would look more in place in a Scooby Doo episode than in downtown New Orleans. It’s website promises live music, but tonight’s act has cancelled.

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“His agent said, like, there’d been a mistake with the booking,” explains the girl behind the bar.”But knowing Eric, he probably couldn’t be bothered to show.”

Another couple of performers turn up, but spend an age trying to get their keyboards to work. “Dude! It’s like awesome to see you. I’m so pleased you could make it.” It seems the half dozen people who’ve showed up are mates with the band. And the sum total of the Circle’s custom for the evening. When they start tuning up, it sounds like an electronica durge, so I head back to the French Quarter.

I hate cliches, especially when they come in the form of theme bars. So at first I’m a little reluctant to delve into Fahy’s Irish Pub. But it’s just across the corner from my hotel, and a million times more appealing than some of the dives I’ve seen this evening.

Fahy’s excels itself on a friendly welcome and good service. And it should too. A lot of the chefs from the Quarter head here after their shifts – always the sign of a good bar. I meet two couples from England, brought together by the fact that the men married two sisters. Originally from Bristol, one of the couples now live in New Zealand. It’s their first time in New Orleans and, like many visitors, they’re finding it a little overwhelming. Things get more exciting, and equally relaxed, when one of the men challenges a local to a game of pool. It’s winner stays on – and he wins!

I think it’s Tuesday. Probably. I’m in proper holiday mode now and letting one day melt into another. Although the current weather isn’t likely to let anything melt anytime soon. In a continuing cold wind, I head on the streetcar to Mid City – a district I’ve not visited before. But it comes highly recommended thanks to Betsy’s Pancake House.

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“Sit wherever y’all like,” says Brandi the waitress. “What you decided on, then?”

I thought I’d seen authentic at this week’s other diners. But this is on a different level. A great choice, friendly service and a true taste of local.

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I order a Short Stack. It seems appropriate given my build. What arrives is something the size of a cottage loaf – three enormous pancakes with a large helping of butter. The side order of toast was a bad idea.

All of the reviews I’d read about Betsy’s were positive. Even given the nature of these sites, none of them were wrong. But some of the references to the diner’s owner, Betsy McDaniel, are sadly out of date, as she was murdered in 2008. A man was convicted of being involved yet the killer has never been found.

“Streetcars? They’re the worst thing this city got!”

The man in the queue for the St Charles service was clearly a local, so I asked him why he disliked them so much.

“They slow, they got no air con, they hot in summer and cold in winter. But they all we got!”

His frustration was being tested some more by the fact there were three streetcars waiting to leave, but all of the tourists insisted on getting on the first one,cramming the aisles when they could have had a seat. I wait for the next one and take a trip through the Garden District. It’s by far the prettiest suburb of New Orleans, with old wooden houses kept in pristine condition, just like their gardens.

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Thanks to some track maintenance, our journey is cut short. But it allows me to take a walking detour across Audubon Park and catch a bus back along Magazine Street. It’s six miles long and contains some of the most diverse shops in town. A great way to spend a relaxing afternoon.

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