This week we welcome another autumn into our lives. As a thoroughly predictable human being, every September I fight the changing season, and then start warming up to the idea after reminding myself of all the things to love about fall. I finally give in (short of relocating, what’s a Portlander to do?). This years autumnal equinox is September 22, so as the rains arrive, I’ll be re-reading my annual fall list.
I’ve never had an urge to visit New Orleans. Personal bias is such an interesting part of travel. In my mind, I suppose I had always lumped it alongside Las Vegas (which I haven’t been to either) in the “I’ll pass” category due to the party scene which has never really intrigued me. So when I had the chance to visit, I had extremely low expectations, and over course of four days, the Crescent City absolutely blew me away.
Why New Orleans exceeded my expectations:
So we were wandering down St Peter Street and came across this lovely old building, to which I exclaimed “Wow, look at this amazing building” followed by “Oh. It’s Preservation Hall.” :P Definitely a good idea to catch it on a Sunday or week night if possible, as I’ve heard lines can be outrageous. We showed up 10 min early, got in for the first set, standing right behind the benches, and then after a few people sitting on the floor in the front row left, we got to sit up close for the 2nd set of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Best. Jazz. Ever. (Also, they say no flash photography, no food/drinks, and no video. Well there were 3 chairs on the side reserved for VIP people and they were drinking giant daiquiris and were not familiar with the camera function of no flash. So I took a couple videos. It was a case of apologize later!) And there’s a resident cat. Le sigh.
When you ask a local where they like to hang out to see some music, pretty much every response started with Frenchmen Street. Just across Esplanade Ave is the real deal of New Orleans nightlife from free venues like The Spotted Cat (1 drink minimum required. Also of note: there is a PIANO in the bathroom) to cover venues across the street of Snug Harbor and d.b.a. (which has 2 little rooms with lookout windows that are awesome for some Saturday night people watching). Again. Best. Jazz. Ever. in this city.
The food in New Orleans? Amazing. And if there ever is a city that I’m thankful to be a pescatarian instead of vegetarian, it’s New Orleans. Fish was quite often the only non-red meat option on the menu apart from side dishes and appetizers. So I ate a lot of fish, and a lot of fried things, and it was all pretty amazing. My favorite brunch was at Stanley, which is right on Jackson Square. I even found a veg-friendly place for lunch that was kind of too much Portland, called 13 (shhh… I went back the next night for the tachos. Don’t judge.)
“It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.”
– The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
I had a huge fascination with the Mississippi River, growing up. I loved Huck Finn, and the word Mississippi, and that it was the biggest river in the country, and growing up on a river (well for a few years) it was a huge source of entertainment. So my #1 priority on my first day was to go see the river (after breakfast at Ruby Slipper, anyway). I crossed the trolley tracks and walked up the steps to the river. Ta da. The M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.
There’s so much more to New Orleans drinking than hurricanes and daiquiris. Knowing that I’m not a huge fan of sugary drinks, my coworker recommended I try a Sazerac while in NOLA. So my first night out, I ordered one at dba, and it’s my new favorite cocktail. A Sazerac is rye whiskey, Herbsaint (anise-flavored liquor), bitters, and a lemon peel. I also tried an orange variety at Three Muses, which was also excellent. Another new drink I tried was the French 75, also at Three Muses. This one is a combination of gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. Apparently named after the French 75mm gun for it’s “kick”. I like.
I considered taking a Katrina tour, but then it ended up being my last day and I still hadn’t. I had reservations about booking one because of what I felt could be an exploitative nature of sitting on a giant bus operated by a huge tour company. I could be wrong, but after booking a bicycle tour instead, I learned that our guide used to drive one of those buses and he said he started his bike tour company because he felt like there were only 3-6 people on each bus that he wanted to share his city with. Interesting viewpoint. So while our bike tour covered a bit of Katrina info as we pedaled along Esplanade Ave (known for being on a ridge) where as the Treme was flooded, it was also full of history and fun way to learn more about the city. We also rode through Saint Louis Cemetery #3. Bike tours are my favorite way to learn about a new city.
Back to my low expectations of this city. I was, for whatever reason, expecting the French Quarter to be full of drunk college students and hillbillies. I guess I’d heard too many stories about NOLA & Bourbon Street. While I crossed the path of quite a few staggering folks, the French Quarter also has plenty of little empty side streets to take in all the amazing architecture (and do a few jumping shots. I always wear Lululemon running shorts under this dress — good for jumping, well and not flashing people when I sit down wherever I please). How about all the wrought iron and shutters? Magnificent.
Open container laws are fun. While Portland is pretty lax about drinking in parks (I’ve never heard of anyone having a problem with bringing wine on a picnic or beers while playing bocce), it’s also kind of fun to be able to leave a restaurant with your unfinished drink. Now there’s a reason that some of these stores are still in business… because you’d have to be drunk already to shop there? And every street in the French Quarter has at least one shop with a wall of daiquiri machines. I asked for a sample, and it tasted like an alcoholic Slurpee.
I love exploring cities by train, public transit, bikes, and walking. I suppose I could just say I have a fascination for non-car transportation. It’s fun to see how people get around a city… both in the present and the past, so I thought it was cool that New Orleans has the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world. For $1.25 you can take the St Charles line all the way through the Garden District until the end of the line. A great way to spend a lazy afternoon. On the return trip, we got off to check out Magazine Street for dinner and then walked back to the French Quarter. Oh and the Garden District homes? I didn’t understand what the big deal about the Garden District and houses was all about, but it turns out that St Charles street is lined by mansions and old historic buildings. There’s plenty to look at on the 13 mile trip. I was also pleased to overhear an older gentleman on the streetcar complaining that this $1.25 trip was better than a “real” tour of the Garden District that they’d taken previously (which I imagine was on a bus).
Coming from Portland in October, the weather was just perfect in New Orleans. There were a few locals in boots and sweaters, meanwhile I was in a sundress. Come on people, where I’m from this is summer. :)
After visiting New Orleans, it’s hard to believe that Hurricane Katrina (and all the horrific images of the destruction) was only six years ago, and that the city and it’s amazing people have recovered their city.
A few things that surprised me about New Orleans?
Oh, hello fall… time for a new 10 things that make me happy…
1. MacBook Aaaaaair - My laptop broke last month (can we blame my lack of blogging on that? Ok, good) My sweet little Dell 710m was a trusty little lappie for almost 5 years! So after comparing newer Dells and Macs, I ended up deciding on the Air. Reason #1: It’s tiny and cute like a netbook, but still has just enough of the necessary laptop features. #2 (heh): Price. I thought about getting a Pro, but a basic Pro (same price range) is kind of the worst of both worlds. #3: this will make my occasional “work from a coffee shop” time so much easier since it’s super-light and starts up in oh 1/2 a second. I’m officially back to the dark side. The iPhone = gateway drug. apple $1299
2. Old-school FAIL – Classic Home Shopping network ladder fail, from Fail blog. It’s one of my YouTube favorites, and I still can’t stop watching it… “Actually I didn’t have it locked… it is very safe to operate…” youtube
3. Things Organized Neatly – I came across this tumblr via Swissmiss a few months ago, and still take a peak every few days. It reminds me of the scene in Amelie where her mother cleans out her purse. thingsorganizedneatly
4. New places to eat and/or drink around Portland – I love trying new restaurants… I managed to
tear myself away from my favorites go out too much this month… new places I would return to: Tabla, Muu-Muu’s, Night Light Lounge, Cabezon, Red Flag (this place cracks me up), and Broder… Mock all you want, but Foursquare is amazing for cataloging everywhere you’ve wandered into each month. Place I really want to try next: Secret Society. foursquare
5. The Shining @ Bagdad Theater – Groupon had a free Secret Screening event at The Bagdad. I knew buying too many Groupons would pay off eventually! Anyway, it was sufficiently fun… plus free beer and the movie was not as scary as I remembered it being 10 years ago. Bagdad Theater free
6. Gifting – You know when you find something that someone would absolutely love, and it’s so “them” that it’s just kind of automatic to snag it for them? Makes me happy. Excited for Christmas. :)
7. Mad Men – Yes, I know. I’m about 4 years late to the Mad Men party. Everyone has been telling me I would love Mad Men since oh, their first season. I finally checked out the first 3 episodes on Netflix and was [obviously] hooked. Thankfully I have about five months of dreary weather to catch up on Mad Men. netflix $eriously, why only 3 episodes on 1 DVD, Netflix? Why$
8. Betsey Johnson tights – To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Betsey Johnson anything. Too pink, too over the top, too gaudi. And then I ran across a 4-pack of tights (grey, grey, argyle, and black textured) in a Rue La La sample sale for Target-ish prices. Anyway, I’m a huge fan! I’ll still be giggling and/or cringing at most of their products, but the tights I love. ruelala $25
9. The XX – I got a few free songs of The XX earlier this year, and added to my Pandora station, and I’m still kind of obsessed with them. amazon $6.99
10. Portland, rain, pretty leaves… – I took this pic from the tram up to OHSU. Another reminder of why I love Portland and fall. :)
What’s on your list?
It’s been a few months since I did a 10 things that make me happy post… so stuff that has my attention lately…
What’s on your list?
I’m officially declaring it spring in the Pacific Northwest and here are 10 things that make me happy right now…
1. vitamin d – how amazing is our early spring in Portland? Pretty frickin’ amazing. This 60 degree (sorry non-Americans) weather in February is stellar — skirt and flip flop weather — inconceivable! free the sun photo by notsogoodphotography
2. opi over the taupe nail polish – I prefer to call this color Kalamata Olive, as taupe is such a boring color. I’m not a big nail polish fan, as documented by #84: take care of my nails, but I really like the mix of purple/dark. And who knew painting your nails was so easy? For some reason I remember it being extremely difficult to stay in the lines… I may have missed my calling. ;) $7 opi
3. blue birdie lariat necklace – I finally spent my Groupon coupon for Relish — well most of it anyway (I’m waiting for all the new spring items to finish my shopping). Anyway, Relish is such a lovely shop and they stock Marimekko fabric, that was begging me to start a sewing project, but I really don’t need anything at the moment. Regardless… <3 $52 relish
4. my kitteh – My cat is taking over my blog! She should have her own category, yes? So 2 weeks in, I’m well on my way to becoming one of those cat ladies. I’ve also been cleaning my apartment like a hypochondriac because the thought of having a “cat smell” apartment scares me. Thankfully, Mr Essa Selleck is quite the tidy cat. $85 oregon humane society
5. ristretto roasters – I’ve started a bad habit of going here for an afternoon or lunchtime wander. Superb coffee (ok, ok and an occasional ridiculously cheap donut) $1 ristretto roasters
6. tulips – my favorite flower of all time. I bought a tulip plant at the grocery store for $3, (cheaper than flowers!) and then it promptly died a week later, but it was still worth it. $3 safeway photo by smpte101
7. chalkdots – these are so cool! I got a set of three chalkboard paint wall stickers last month. Apparently they’re for children or some such nonsense. I’m using one as a menu board in my kitchen… now what to do with the other two… $15 gilt groupe (invitation)
8. mini flat iron – whoa, nail polish and a flat iron all in the same list? I’m on the road to high-maintenance… but my excuse for the straightener was that it was on sale at Rue La La & it wouldn’t hurt to add it to my travel packing list… and I do what I want. $25 linea pro
9. the guinea pig diaries: my life as an experiment – AJ Jacobs’ third book did not disappoint. And I apologize for being that person giggling on the bus all week. $10.20 amazon
10. zipcar – I still kind of want a car again, but Zipcar is pretty cool… except for when I misplaced it the other night at the gym… that never happened when I had my own car. :P $6.30+ zipcar
What’s on your list?