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“Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for.   
~Tennessee Williams, Camino Real

God only knows what it is that draws a person to a thing. I know a young girl who was once attracted to an older, unattractive man for whatever reason. I never doubted her attraction. Had the older man been a kind-hearted man, the attraction might have lasted. Instead, it ran its course after three children.

I don’t believe my attraction to a thing will ever come to an end.

I am drawn to a small hotel in the French Quarter and I have been since my first stay there many years ago. Olivier House Hotel is a small, family run hotel that started life as a home for another family in 1839. Some people have come through and chosen not to stay. Wall paper peeling in corners frightens them because in their minds, adhesive is a thing that should always remain attached. In my mind, the peeling wallpaper in the corners has experienced one of the things I love most about New Orleans: air so thick with moisture it glistens your skin within moments, defies adhesion,  and makes the ladies of the city appear twenty years younger.

I am in good company. Francis Ford Coppola was a regular visitor at Olivier House before acquiring his own French Quarter home. Robert Olen Butler has written a new novel about the place titled “A Small Hotel” (to be released in July of 2011). And when European musicians are in town for French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest…guess where so many of them stay?

You got it.

Right here.

Home-away-from-home.

When Breezy and I step into the entry, we breathe in the air of familiarity and exhale a quiet sigh of relief. Just like our last visit here, Bobby is still somewhere between the entry and the parlor this time of morning. Another family member is taking reservations at the desk. And when we are very, very lucky, Miss Kathryn is nearby to take us into her arms in a hug so loving and maternal you could melt into it forever.

This was one of those very, very lucky times.

Miss Audrey, housekeeper extraordinaire, is another story. We usually arrive around the time she is heading to the desk for the day’s assignments even though she usually knows them all by heart. On this morning, she looks at me, then toward Breezy and says, “I saw her hair and thought that was y’all.” No one has hair like Breezy. She told us that she slept in our room last night and it was almost ready. I smiled at the thought.

We climbed the winding staircase, passed through a hallway and went up another flight of stairs that overlook the pool.

We settled in and listened while Miss Audrey told us the story of the fire not quite a month ago. Room 204 caught on fire because of someone’s cigarette. There is no smoking inside–there are beautiful outdoor areas for that–but that doesn’t always deter people with cigarettes behind closed doors. Bobby and his friend managed to extinguish it before the fire department arrived. It sounded like a God Thing to me. They managed to pull together a dream team to restore the room in a week’s time.

Miss Kathryn came to our room and invited us to see her new baby–a room they’d just finished. We followed her to 401 to see a cozy room with dormer windows and a huge light-filled bathroom with an uncovered treasure: an original window that had been hiding behind sheetrock for no telling how many years.  When they uncovered the window, they also exposed gorgeous, old ceiling rafters. The rafters were hung with chandeliers and I knew that someday when Heath visits again, this should definitely be his room.

This is how we always begin visits to our home-away-from-home. This is why we love coming back to this place time and time again. There is such comfort in familiarity.

Lunch was at El Gato Negro where we shared Queso Fundido con Chorizo, Guacamole made fresh table-side, and the best Chicken Enchiladas I’ve ever tasted outside of our own kitchen. Fresh squeezed margaritas and a warm breeze in the courtyard made our much- anticipated lunch date perfect.

We spent time at the River and otherwise, had a very chill day.

We always work into the wee a.m. hours (Vampire shift) before heading to the airport for the earliest flight out. And we always fall asleep early on our first night in New Orleans.

To be honest, we fall asleep early every night we spend in New Orleans. That’s why we have Old Lady Names.

There was no agenda for the day other than our favorite people, great food, and Old Man River.

What a beautiful day it was.

“A prayer for the wild at heart, kept in cages.”  ~Tennessee Williams

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