New Orleans, LA

Happy New Year!

We hope you had a wonderful holiday with friends, family, fur balls, etc. 🙂 See the bottom of this post for a link to some photos….

This installment has a focus. Small Things. The small things that made New Orleans special.

When we looked back on New Orleans as a big crazy city, we started to feel a little disheartened by it all. It has some characteristics of Disneyland and Las Vegas gone horribly wrong. This combo seems to suit NOLA nicely and gives way to the “anything goes” personality that is The Big Easy.

The economic disparity in NOLA is sad. I’m sure this is the case in most big cities. I haven’t spent enough time in other significant urban areas to notice these sorts of gaps until now. Those who have, have a lot. Those who don’t eek by with lovely grace and attitude. Algiers Point is closer to those homes that scrape to make ends meet. The median income, just outside the A.P. area is about $10,000. Our neighborhood is about $50,000. That gap is very visible in our 4 to 5 block radius.

There is a patina charm everywhere that woos you and gives you all the Southern aura you could hope for. Then, in the next moment, the place wants to get into your pocket at every turn. This was most apparent when we ventures to the more tourist-oriented areas of the city.

The recovery, or lack of, from Katrina is very apparent. Ten years later, FEMA and the city are just now getting to a $2 billion dollar settlement for road, water and sewer repairs. 10 years later. Wow. There are neighborhoods still completely deserted and falling down with each passing season.

It is hard to describe New Orleans in broad strokes. So I won’t. Instead it’s the little things we noticed that gives NOLA it’s charm and has won us over.

The Natchez

There is a sternwheeler that we can hear from the house. The steam horn/whistle is low and resonates up and down the river. Beautiful sound. The Natchez also has a calliope onboard. You can hear the music for all areas of Algiers Point. It’s really fun to hear it’s carnival sounds lingering in the neighborhood.

The Foot Ferry

This was our main mode of transportation. It is walking distance from the house and dropped us right into the French Quarter. Where else can you pour yourself a cocktail at home; stroll to the ferry with your “to go” cup. Sip and chat on the 5 minute ride across the water. And refill on the other side. Repeat. Often.

The Mississippi

River traffic. Wow. The house we rented is on a substantial bend in the Mississippi. It is a natural bottleneck for all ship traffic. All traffic has to do a “power slide” around the corner. It’s amazing to see ocean liners, cruise ships, barges, etc. swing around the bend. We also enjoyed watching the huge cruise ships “turn around” in the river. Not for the faint of heart.

We’re used to the massiveness of the Columbia River so the volume of water moving through New Orleans into the delta is impressive but not overwhelming for us. But… the size of the “boats” navigating these waters is mind boggling. The freighters, ocean liners, barges run non-stop here. We walked to the levee many times just to watch the shipping traffic.

Home Esthetics 

The gingerbread style homes allow for some really creative color combinations. Purple, pink, lemon yellow, mint green, more pink, turquoise. Did I mention pink? Lots of pink. You can’t help but smile when you walk the streets looking at this 150+ year old homes. Christmas decorations were everywhere. Everything was so festive.

The yards are tiny, but packed with fun near-tropical plants — hibiscus, belladonna, roses, jasmine, daphne, cannas, etc. All blooming. In December. All the scents were delightful.

One idea that Eric and I have embraced, as a result of New Orleans, is our next home may not have to be “a house.” There are may buildings that have been repurposed into homes — banks, gas stations, saloons, brothels, etc.

In complete contrast to the humble houses in Algiers is the Garden District. We had the opportunity to go on a home tour in the GD. There were 9 homes open. All of them 4,000+ sq. ft. and sitting on close to 1/2 acre lots. These are the homes of the original “barons” of the area in the 1840’s – oil, cotton, lumber, etc. money. They are beautiful homes. Well maintained and many still decorated with period furniture and treatments. All of them were decked out in Christmas splendor. That was a treat to see.

Furry and Feathered Friends

Cats. There are as many cats in NOLA as there were in Burley, ID. NOLA cats seems to be better cared for and more friendly. We are greeted by many of the neighborhood felines on our walks. Opal and Murphy were my regular purrers. Many dogs too. There are several bars in the neighborhood that are very dog friendly. We were greeted often by dogs that were bigger than most of the patrons. Great Danes, Great Pyrenees… you get the idea. Big.

Chickens. We have 3 or 4 chickens wandering the neighborhood. A Rooster included. The rooster is a late riser. No cock-a-doodling before 8:00 a.m, thank goodness. The lazy rooster sits on top of our fence and calls to his girls.

The WONDERFUL People

I think I’ve talked to more strangers in the 5 weeks in New Orleans than I have in my entire lifetime. Everyone wants to chat. Everyone has a story. It’s delightful. Every ferry ride, lunch/dinner out, walk, etc. involved some lovely conversation with some character from the area.

Everyone has a Katrina story also. Inspiring and heartbreaking. I still don’t think I have fully grasped the impact that storm has had on this city. It is forever changed.

The Music

We spent an afternoon on Bourbon Street and knew it’s reputation. Got our fill quickly and knew we didn’t want to go back.

After asking our neighbor about music venues, we found our way to Frenchman Street. We fell in love with the music scene in this area of town. Every venue (inside and outside) on Frenchman had someone playing and/or singing. We found ourselves coming back to The Maison and The Spotted Cat. Both are very well known locations for up and coming artists. They didn’t disappoint.

The sagging architecture

I don’t mean to imply anything negative by using the word “sagging” … to the contrary … I’m in awe of how things in NOLA stay standing. Every building in the French Quarter doesn’t have one straight or plumb line. And that’s what is beautiful about looking down the streets. There is a softness and naturalness that draws your eye along those wavy lines.

The sidewalks and curbs

No, really … the sidewalks were a highlight. Throughout NOLA, they are heaved, broken, missing, etc. Most are due to the 150+ year old trees lining all the streets, pressing their way through any infrastructure. On one of our walks, we passed a lovely older woman on her daily walk. We were laughing about “the hike” we were on, navigating all the ups and downs of broken cement. She smiled and said, “That sidewalk will give you a sobriety test real quick.”

There are small metal plaques on many corners that point out a patented curb design.These corners have steel bound curb edges. We not sure why this style of curb is important, but they are pretty cool to see. The newest curb, we saw, was installed around 1903 and hanging in there.

The Thunder Storms

YOWZA! The lightening and thunder in this area of the country is over the top. The thunder shakes hard enough to make me feel like there are small earthquakes happening.  I wasn’t sure I would like them, but now that I know what to expect I look forward to storms blowing in. They don’t last long either.

We have ventured onto Panama City Beach, Florida. We’ve been here for about a week. The view of the Gulf of Mexico is beautiful, but the town is blah. The weather is warming up a bit, so we’ve had a couple of golf rounds. Haven’t had the opportunity to golf since Idaho. Good to get back out and swing a club.

We’ll be following the warmth for the next couple of months before heading up the Eastern Seaboard.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some lovely details about our time in New Orleans. Overall, we liked it very much. Couldn’t live there, but want to go back and experience more of the music scene.

I do love hearing from you too! Drop me a note with the latest in your lives. We’d love to hear!!!

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