Well, reluctantly, I'm back from a fabulous few days at The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival--and I just have to say, if you haven't been to New Orleans, go now, and if you have ever been, go now. I'm in serious withdrawal. Here's why:
We stayed at The Hotel Monteleone. When you walk into the lobby, you feel like you've gone back in time. It's also the perfect location, right in the heart of the French Quarter on Royal Street. The Carousel Bar, just off the lobby, is the perfect place to meet with friends. Which we did every day.
Then, there's the food. Nothing like it (which my scale this morning attested to). Each meal was better than the one before it. And I doubt there is anyplace else where breakfast comes with a first course AND dessert. And not just any dessert, but Bananas Foster in the place where that recipe was created: Brennan's. For a more casual, but no less yummy, meal, visit The Napoleon House--for muffalettas. We actually ate there twice--the first day and the last. It seemed like the right way to say goodbye. Four other dining adventures not to be missed are Muriel's, Bacco, The Pelican Club, and NOLA.
Oh, but wait. It's not just about the food. I was there for books. And here's what I love about this festival (and most others, too) people who love to read and people who write are among the nicest, most interesting people in the world. And I always come away with new favorites, like Ron Rash--if you ever get a chance to listen to him read, jump at it. His voice, a soft Appalachian accent with words that resonate to your soul, will leave you hoping his stories will never end. I was also glad to see that Calvin Trillin is just as charming and witty as I'd hoped, and Richard Ford is smart and funny and embodies my definition of "patrician"--plus he wore rose-colored cashmere socks. Michael Lewis is smart and hot. And, Bev Marshall, who I already knew but wish lived next door, has got to be the most fun, most supportive fellow writer I could ever imagine. Plus, she's got more pairs of cute shoes than Imelda Marcos. And I have to put in a plug for The Garden District Bookshop; they took care of selling everyone's books and somehow, magically, managed to rearrange the table during each session so the books of whoever just spoke were always front and center.
Two other authors I met who just catapulted to the top of my "to be read" pile are Louise Shaffer and Margaret Sartor.
I love attending book festivals--both as a writer and as a reader. And, if it means I have to spend five days strolling around the French Quarter, discovering alleys and rediscovering beignets, so much the better. Everyone in New Orleans, from the luggage handlers to the maitre d's were gracious and grateful. They all thanked us for visiting and asked us to spread the word. I'll happily comply--the Quarter is open and ready for visitors. Don't wait any longer.