Writing Portfolio, Travel Stories & Other Diversions

The Muddy Mississippi: My Journey to New Orleans

This L-shaped charming cottage —that we share with my grown daughter — is not far from a very big, very deep, famously muddy river that runs through the middle of town. The house with its white plastic siding and steel security door sits on a busy street with lots of traffic — a very different environment from my quiet townhouse tucked in the suburbs of serene Sonoma County.frontporch

As with many of life’s best things, the path to finding and owning this home was rather wobbly. Last year, while exiting New Orleans’ Fair Grounds during an inaugural trip to Jazz Fest, became enchanted. I already loved the city, and New Orleans in the spring is famously magical.

As the festival music wrapped up each warm balmy evening, it was so alluringly pleasant to stroll by rows of charming colorful homes on and watch folks hang out, drink and revel on their spacious front porches. As we checked out of our hotel, I was frantically calling a local realtor: I became so engrossed with this new real estate vision that I almost lost track of our luggage as the driver grabbed our bags. A new obsession had taken hold.

But when I began the long-distance real estate pursuit back at home, things went south (as they say) with lady realtor and the rather inept mortgage lender she recommended. They were both somewhat negative about my quest to find an affordable home in the right neighborhood. Their discouragement made me angry —and even more determined to make this work.

After a few phone calls. I found our dream realtor and I’m going to name names: Jean-Paul Villere of Villere Realty. With such an evocative name, what Francophile could resist. Jean-Paul, who was quite encouraging from Day 1, is a fourth generation New Orleanian, the father of four daughters, and has an even-keeled temperament that helped smooth the process of buying long-distance. I spent much of 2014 watching homes come and go (and come back on!) via virtual real estate websites. I became more obsessed. But also more savvy.

A successful path to New Orleans homeownership began to materialize when my husband agreed to be part of this big project, and the local Louisiana bank approved our financing. When my darling daughter – the one who has been teaching in New Orleans for 4 years and is fully committed to living there forever – began vetting properties in early January the quest was underway. As a family, we made an offer on the fourth home she viewed. Tchoupitoulas. No, it’s not near the Fair Grounds, or the French Quarter, but it’s close to the great nightlife, restaurants and boutiques that converge on the charming Magazine Street, just four blocks away.

During the month leading up to the closing there were obstacles to overcome, there were some words, there were some tears, and there were even a few sleepless nights. But we did our best to communicate and share our strengths. Honestly, it may be one of the best decisions our little family has ever made!

Last week I stayed the house– we just call it Tchoup now – to do some fix-it projects, meet some helpful contractors, buy fried chicken and boiled crawfish from Rouse’s, eat brioche from La Boulangerie bakery, hear some phenomenal music at French Quarter Fest, share meals with our wonderful new friends who are also in love with the ever-present resurgence and decay that make up the Real New Orleans.

 crawfishI got used to falling asleep to the symphonic sounds of trains switching tracks, sirens wailing on their way downtown, stray cats introducing themselves — and the unforgettable thwacks and booms of some very serious spring thunderstorms rolling off the River and over our roof.

Nighttime sounds that I miss in the silence of my California suburb.

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  1. Just beautiful! NOLA misses you already!

  2. Bobbi

    Great piece… makes me yearn for another trip to NOLA with my local friend and guide.

  3. Karen D'Or

    Thanks for all these lovely comments. Miss Musingly is feeling quite appreciated today!

  4. Jefra Parlett

    just spent a week in Grand Canyon with four wonderful ladies from there. Will that lovely drawl crawl into your California voice?

  5. Jeri

    Such a lovely story Karen. I can almost feel the humidity and smell the crawfish right here in my bed. :-) It was fun following the journey with you.


  6. Cyndy

    What a wonderful turn of events at this time in your life for each of you.
    Julie Lanza just returned from a long weekend there and loved it.
    Stay young and stay adventurous.
    Xox ,

  7. Jody Delwiche

    Great read, Karen…what a story! Love every thing about NO!

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