Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Weekend in New Orleans

I just got back from a little visit with Brigid down in New Orleans! I had never been there before, but it's a place I've always wanted to see, so it's super exciting that one of my children actually lives there. Brigid works full time, teaching, so when I arrived last Thursday morning, I was on my own for a bit. (Jon stayed home. With our work schedules, his speaking engagements, and the needs of the dogs, it is increasingly difficult to travel together.)

As much as I love solo travel, I really hate driving in an unfamiliar city, and since I arrived before the check-in time at my hotel, I drove straight from the airport to a museum, partly to view the exhibits, but also to get my feet on the ground and have a chance to get oriented. There are many museums in New Orleans and I chose the National World War II museum, at Brigid's recommendation. (Bonus, but unbeknownst to me at the time, it turned out to be within walking distance of my hotel.) I'd say this museum is a must for anyone who is interested in the American experience in WWII. Exhibits cover everything from domestic life during wartime, to military uniforms, weapons, and many artifacts of all kinds. Particularly well done were the short informational films that played on loop, in various places throughout the museum. Of course I remember learning about the major events of the war in school, but these films, made up of actual footage from the time, really expanded my knowledge of and brought to life the raid on Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and the development of the first nuclear bomb. (Indeed, the short film about the Trinity Test - when we blew up a plutonium bomb in the New Mexico desert - was so compelling I sat through it twice and would have watched it a third time, but I felt like I'd hogged the bench for too long.) It was also a shock to see the displays of nazi symbols and regalia, as these are no longer just exhibits in a museum, but had been worn openly by the terrorists who invaded my city.

A typical WWII-era kitchen exhibit

I spent a lot of time in the domestic exhibit. :)
Please forgive the terrible quality of these pictures.

I drove to Brigid's house in mid-city and we walked along the bayou and then had dinner at a delightful mid-eastern restaurant, 1,000 Figs. We shared the spectacular felafel platter and a dish of spiced lamb hummus.

Empty plinth in mid-city where there used to be a confederate monument.

Friday was very bad, as I was sick the whole day. I'd had a bad headache after landing the day before and even cut short my visit to the WWII museum because I wasn't feeling well. I rallied in the evening after Brigid gave me some ibuprofen, but Friday I felt awful. I did manage to walk to a nearby pharmacy on St. Charles Avenue and buy ibuprofen and ginger ale. Back in the hotel, I spent the day throwing up and sleeping, just like when I went to Buffalo in August. I'm starting to think that flying must be triggering migraines because I'm never sick so it's weird that I would become so very sick whenever I fly and there are all sorts of articles on google about protracted air sickness and flying-induced migraines.

Saturday morning, still somewhat shaky, I ventured into my hotel's cheerful, sunny dining room and had a piece of toast and some coffee and felt amazingly better almost at once. My hotel (actually a bed & breakfast) was the Creole Gardens, set in an 1840's house and outbuildings around a courtyard.  Based on the conversations I overheard in the dining room, many of the guests were French. It's a beautiful building, located on the edge of the Garden district and very close to the famous St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. (Hint: I discovered when buying the ibuprofen that you can buy passes for the streetcar at Walgreens, which is handy because the ticket machines on the streetcar itself don't give change. A single ticket is $1.50 and a 24 hour pass is $3.00.)

Brigid and I strolled around the French Quarter, looking in art galleries and shops and we visited St. Louis Cathedral, where I lit a candle in thanks for my returned health.

One fun feature of the French Quarter is the street poets!

This poet must have gone off to get a hot drink. It was freezing!
Brigid's friend Zaq wrote me a poem about "resistance."

We had filled crepes for lunch at Cafe Conti in the French Quarter. After lunch we went to the Bywater neighborhood and walked to the "end of the world," a levy along the Mississippi, busy with industrial shipping. Brigid tells me that it's slated to become the launch point of a future Disney cruise, so the End of the World is at the end of its world. :(

We walked to The Sneaky Pickle, a vegan restaurant on St. Claude Street for hot tea and a snack. (New Orleans has so many great restaurants! I wouldn't have known what to choose but Brigid is familiar with lots of great places.) We poked around in a used book store, The Rubber Library, and I bought a vintage Duncan Hines cookbook and an old copy of Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore LappĂ©. 

The Rusty Rainbow

After that, we stopped in a bar for a glass of wine and a chance to look at our books and then walked over the "rusty rainbow" a humpbacked bridge over the railroad tracks and viewed the New Orleans skyline. 

Brigid sews costumes from assorted old garments and some of them were to be exhibited at the "Sustainaball" an event sponsored by Grow On, a community urban farming and sustainability organization. 

The back of a cloak Brigid made

Since it was Second Saturday and there were gallery shows going on everywhere, we went to a show at a ceramics gallery, where I couldn't resist buying this:

We finished the night with a late dinner of po'boys at the Parkway in mid-city. Goodness this post is getting long. I think I'll save the rest of the trip for a second installment.


  1. I loved New Orleans when I visited in the early 1990s. I think it's probably changed a lot and the only review I've had since then is from my son, who visited in 2014 and said it was "dumpy." I refuse to believe his review is accurate.

    1. I would say magnificently shabby, but not dumpy.

  2. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. I spent large amounts of time there in college, dallied with the idea of moving there upon several occasions - including attending grad school there (I had the application to Tulane ready to mail when I met Pat) as well as Pat & I considering moving there in 1997, when we decided to come to Charlottesville instead. I adore New Orleans but haven't been there since 1997. It's always been a bit magnificently shabby. I can't wait to hear more about your trip!

    1. Oh wow, I didn't know you were considering Tulane. I wish I had seen it before Katrina. It's absolutely beautiful, but there's even now a hint of convalescence.

  3. I still have my copy of Diet for a Small Planet. The recipes are as dated, in their charming way, as the ones in Duncan Hines!

    1. Ha ha! I'm looking forward to some Old Skool vegetarianism. I bet there isn't even a single recipe for kale salad.

  4. Your souvenir is fantastic! Years ago when we were dating New Orleans was our first trip together and I remember all of it fondly. Such a vibrant and delicious spot to visit.