As my faithful readers know-and hallelujah!, you are kind and generous souls who return to my sundry Jet Set installments time and again-I was recently down in New Orleans for a spirited long weekend.
Naturally, the Crescent City is all about jazz, Mardi Gras and beignets. And post-Katrina, Nola is quickly getting back on track and tout le monde seems to be letting "les bons temps rouler" again 24/7. But what we didn't expect on our visit was the bevy of museum-quality antiques and fine arts at galleries like MS Rau Antiques, a sprawling, 30,000-square-foot emporium of 18th- and 19th-century wonders. Situated in the center of the French Quarter at 630 Royal Street, Rau has been in business since 1912 and gives new meaning to the term "jaw-dropping."
As perhaps the country's foremost experts and dealers in antiques and fine arts, the Rau family has collected, bought and sold some of the world's most precious, and quirkiest, antiques, silver, objets, music boxes and walking sticks-as well as fine art and estate jewelry-for a discerning clientele all over the world. There isn't a pedigreed antique that hasn't passed through Rau's doors, from silver by Paul Revere and British royal silversmiths Rundell & Bridge (the inventory is breathlessly expansive), to the first edition of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica to exquisite paintings by Monet and Pissarro, or, more recently, an Ice Age bear skeleton and a Charles X billiards table crafted by Chevillotte of Orleans, France. Crazy, huh? I literally spent about three hours in Rau-it's like a museum done up by P.T. Barnum where every object has the most amazing provenance.
But perhaps you seek a less rarefied environment whilst browsing for treasures? Earlier this year, Bill Rau launched Le Salon, a sumptuous, two-floor gallery that showcases some of Rau's rarefied, historical antiques in a more home-like setting.
So when you're ready for some culture, stroll into Rau for a step back in time, and don't say we didn't warn you about any impulse purchases that might wipe out your entire bank account. There was a certain Elizabeth II coronation chair that I am coveting that would cost me about six months' salary.