Monday, June 11, 2012

New Orleans Museum of Art

Friday, June 8 - Sandy made a visit to the NOMA Sculpture Garden.  Some very cool art!

Crossfit in NOLA

Friday, June 8 - Ok, ok... So this is my last Crossfit visit on the road trip.  This time I worked out at Crossfit NOLA 504 with Coach Jeff (next to me in red bandana).  Another great group!  Thanks, guys!

And they were all game for sweaty post-workout photo...  Man, was it humid!!

Dancin' in the street

Friday, June 8 - We stumbled upon this little bit of entertainment on Bourbon Street.  Keep an eye on the lady in the white shirt at :16.  Yeah!  Love it!

Sightseeing around NOLA

Friday, June 8 - We had a great day exploring New Orleans.  Some highlights:

We took the streetcar to the Garden District.  This streetcar line is the oldest continuously operated street railway line in the world, since 1835.

Most houses in the Garden District have light blue ceilings on their porches.  
It supposedly is a deterrent for bugs to nest there.

We explored Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District, 
which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

We had an impromptu tour from a caretaker of the cemetery.

We had lunch at the Camellia Grill at the other end of the Garden District.  
Recommended by Sandy's neighbors, Terry and Marty.  Lots of entertaining local color!

A new take on Spanish moss -- Mardi Gras beads!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Green Goddess in NOLA - Must Eat Here

Thursday, June 7 – My sister’s colleague Kim pulled together an amazing recommendation list for us for places to eat and drink in NOLA.  We were hoping to meet up for dinner with my friend Carrie who I grew up with in Michigan and who now lives in Baton Rouge.  She was planning to drive down to meet us until she had car trouble.  I had sent Kim’s list to her to see if anything looked good, and she said that her suggestions were so good that she was going to save the list for future reference, too!

Since Sandy had never been to New Orleans, we started the night with the obligatory visit to Pat O'Brien's for a Hurricane.  I'm not sure if I've had one since I went to Mardi Gras in college... but one sip and it all comes back quickly...  Rum and fruit punch.  Don't drink it too fast... it's dangerous.

Our first pick from Kim's list (other than Pat's) was a tiny little place in the French Quarter called Green Goddess.  In Kim’s words, “Small place, amazing food, great chef, very progressive, inventive.  Also vegetarian friendly.”  We arrived at it’s small, open storefront which is down an alley called Exchange Place, a little after 9pm, not realizing that they usually close the kitchen at 9.  There was only one big table of 6 or so, a couple of seats at a bar and the open kitchen visible. After giving the woman at the restaurant the “oh, no!” look after she said they stop serving food at 9, and saying that our friend had recommended that we come, she said, “ok, go down this hall and take the empty table in the back on the right.  And so we did.  There were only two other tables of two in the back, which was more like a small atrium with stairs and a balcony on a second floor.

The woman who sent us back to the table was Tessa, and we learned that she has a story as interesting as the eclectic items on the menu.  But first, the food:  we had a strawberry and blueberry salad with goat cheese and a caramelized creole tomato with Manchego to start (pictured), and then Crabmeat Isleno with a warm arborio and black rice cake, and South India Uttapam, a savory pancake with curry veggies and tamarind chutney.  All fantastic.

Tessa, in her early 20s, had recently arrived in New Orleans after coming from the east coast… on her bike.  By herself.  Impressive, and brave.  She said sometimes she would knock on people’s doors and ask them if she could pitch a tent and camp on their front lawn overnight.  She had intended to go all the way to the west coast, but fell in love with New Orleans because the city was good for her soul.  We thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Tessa throughout our meal.

When we sat down to look at the menu, we consulted the tips on Foursquare for Green Goddess.  Tips on Foursquare have come in handy throughout the trip, and if they weren’t useful, they were usually entertaining.  In the case of Green Goddess two things stood out: 
1.) mention the “password” to get a special treat, and
2.) Bacon Sundae.   There are many mentions of it.  Our favorite: 

"The Bacon Sundae will make you slap your mama... It's so good!"

Bacon Sundae?  So, we asked Tessa about both.  First, “Do you still have the bacon sundae?”  Yes.  “Ok, we’re in for one of those.”  Second, “does the Password still work?”  There were contradictory tips on Foursquare whether it still worked or not. She didn’t know, but checked.  It turns out there isn’t a password anymore.  It ended when one of the chefs left.  No worries.  However, the bacon sundae was very tasty and memorable: praline ice cream with whipped cream, bacon-infused caramel, and crumbled bacon.  Wow.

It was a perfect start to our two nights in NOLA.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Back in Louisiana

Thursday, June 7 – This was a triple-state day:  Woke up in Alabama, drove through Mississippi, and will go to sleep in Louisiana.  At the suggestion of our friend Chris before one of our road trips a few years ago, we try to always stop at the state Welcome Center/Rest Area after crossing a state line.  As we saw in Mississippi, you never know what you’re going to get.  (After the Mississippi Welcome Center, the next-best Welcome Center was probably in New Hampshire as we drove up the East Coast in 2010.)  Another added bonus:  they often have a great state sign for good photo-ops.  (We’ve found this to be the case more in the South than in other parts of the country.)

OK, so admittedly, this picture is pretty cheesy.  But heck, it’s rather appropriate given that the start and end of this trip was in Louisiana, right?  We are not embarrassed…

Once again, another storm was a-brewin’ as we crossed Lake Ponchartrain.  We’ve seen these storms daily since hitting the Charleston/Savannah area.

Biloxi and Mississippi Gulf Coast

Thursday, June 7 – It’s really shocking to see the scars from Hurricane Katrina.  There are so many empty lots with only foundations left, and tress that still look mangled after all these years.  The lighthouse right at the start of the drive was one of the few landmarks still standing after Katrina.  One interesting thing is that there is an artist, Marlin Miller, who made carvings of some of the tree stumps along US-90/Beach Boulevard, turning them into public works of art.  They are now one of the top attractions along the Mississippi coast.

There is also some building still going on, along with a lot here and there that has what looks to be a relatively new house.  Most of them are on stilts.  It definitely feels "empty" overall.  While we've never been there before, let alone before Katrina, you get the sense that there is still a lot missing.  While the landscape may not be as beautiful as it was pre-Katrina, it still was a very interesting drive.  Thanks to both Sandy’s cousin Jane and my friend Carrie for suggesting this route!

Thursday, June 7 - Now we’ve entered the state along the Gulf Coast, instead of mid-state when we went through Jackson last week.   When we got close to Biloxi, we got off the interstate to take the scenic drive along the coast. 

The added bonus of getting to this route is that we got to drive the ENTIRE length of another interstate: I-110.  Our avid readers will remember that we did the same thing along I-16 in Georgia.  However, this route was much shorter, only 4.1 miles, and it needs to be qualified because there are several I-110 spurs throughout the country.  However, we can definitively say that we drove the entire length of this spur.

One added note:  The Mississippi Welcome Center on I-10 going west was definitely the best state Welcome Center we’ve ever seen.  It was more like entering a nice colonial-style museum than a rest area.  And the ladies offering us coffee when we walked in the door couldn’t have been nicer.  Southern Interstate Highway hospitality at its best!