Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thanksgiving in New Orleans

St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square

Dear George,

We’ve had many terrific trips to visit our family in New Orleans over the years, but this Thanksgiving was clearly the best. Our grandchildren V and L are growing up by the day, and they become more wonderful each time we see them. This time we went for a full week and did a whole bunch of things. Here are some photos which track our adventures.



At the Races (J, L, V, & Katja)

It was opening day for the 2011-12 horse-racing season at the Fairgrounds, and J took us over to check out the scene. They’ve held races here since 1852, the third oldest thoroughbred meet in the U.S., and the day’s events featured a $75,000 purse. V and L liked the brisket sandwiches and pork and beans, and we all enjoyed the horses. The best part, though, was the motley crowd, with women in extravagant hats and couples dressed in 40’s vintage clothes. New Orleanians seem to love their finery.

The Audubon Zoo Carrousel (V & J)

The New Orleans Zoo, with its 58 acres and 2,000 animals, is a gorgeous place, one of the nation’s top ten zoos. That includes the best merry-go-round we’ve seen in years (maybe ever). V chose the alligator for her ride, and L (accompanied by Katja) picked the orangutan.

City Park

Our family spends a lot of time at City Park which is within walking distance of their home. It’s the sixth largest public park in the U.S., about 50% larger than Central Park in NYC. K took me over with the kids on an outing, and I could see why it’s so beloved. City Park contains the world’s largest collection of live oaks, some over 600 years old. Definitely one of New Orleans’ most splendid features.

On Bourbon Street

We made multiple trips to the French Quarter, usually riding the trolley down Canal Street from Mid-City. On our very first trip to New Orleans with my parents and Jean and Ann W. in 1970, we all fell in love with the Maison Bourbon jazz club, and we’re pleased that it’s still thriving four decades later.

Drinks at Arnaud’s

Speaking of family get-togethers, we met up with my sister-in-law Faith, my niece Jessica, and her husband Sean for pre-dinner drinks at Arnaud’s on Bienville Street. They’d come down from New York state and Michigan. Arnaud’s was founded in 1918 and is one of NOLA’s four classic creole restaurants. A great bar.

St. Louis Cathedral

We always visit the Cathedral on Jackson Square. It’s been around since 1718, though the current structure was built in 1850. It’s very beautiful, inside and out. After taking in New Orleans’ seamy side on Bourbon Street, St. Louis Cathedral reminds us that there are also more spiritual matters in the universe.

Café du Monde

As soon as possible, Katja headed for the French Market and beignets and café au lait. Café du Monde has been there since 1862 and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (except Xmas and hurricanes). We snacked on beignets three times during our stay, could easily have done many more.

On the Way to Domenica’s (JML photo)

We enjoyed two big downtown nights out with K and J, first at Ruth Chris Steakhouse, then at Domenica’s Restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel (once Huey Long’s hangout). Here we’re in the Roosevelt lobby, dressed up for dinner at Domenica’s.

Lunch at Drago's

Lunches were oyster time for Katja, Po-Boy’s for me. We finally got into Bourbon House Seafood for lunch after a couple of failed tries on previous visits (too filled up). Katja also had great oysters at Drago’s. The oysters were gigantic – at the very peak of the season.

In the Sculpture Garden

We thoroughly enjoyed the Sculpture Garden in Audubon Park, beautiful for its lagoons and live oaks, live oaks, and pines, as well as its fifty-seven elegant sculptures (Henry Moore, Jaques Lipchitz, Louise Bourgeois et al.). We’ve been going there since they opened in 2003. And we visited the wonderful Art Museum too.

Doing the Art Fair

At J and K’s suggestion we took in the monthly Sunday Art Fair on Carrollton Ave. in Mid-City. With fifty or sixty excellent vendors (paintings, photography, wood, jewelry, etc.), it was lots of fun for browsing.

Trained Elephants

We haven ‘t been to a circus for a long time, and we’d forgotten how magical it can be (especially in the company of the young). We sat up close at the Shrine Circus and enjoyed the trained animal acts (tigers, elephants, dogs) and well as the clowns and trapeze artists. The daredevil motorcyclists, doing acrobatic tricks 50 feet in the air, blew our tiny minds.

World War II Museum

We think that New Orleans’ World War II Museum is one of the best museums we’ve ever been to. Originally centered on the D-Day invasion at Normandy, it’s been expanded to cover the Pacific Theater, and plans are underway to quadruple its size. We found ourselves choking up since my dad, Uncle Kent. and family friends and acquaintances were stationed in combat zones in Europe and the Pacific. We keep forgetting what a catastrophic, terrible war this was – unlike anything before or after.

At the Saints Game (JML photo)

We wound up our trip watching the Saints play the New York Giants at the Superdome (now the Mercedes-Benz Stadium). We hadn’t gone to an NFL game in years, and it was thrilling. Quarterback Drew Brees was at the top of his game, and the Saints fans were out of their minds. New Orleans won 49-25, and the newspaper the next morning said it might have been the most perfect game the Saints ever played.

V and L with Iko and Titus (JML photo)

Of course, compared to pro football players, giant elephants, abstract sculptures, speedy horses, stately cathedrals, and char-broiled oysters, we’d have to conclude that cutie-pies L and V remain the number one highlight of our most excellent trip!



G-mail Comments

-PSS (12-18): Dave, What fun. You make me want to go there. Especially the park…. Merry, Phyllis

-Donna D (12-15): how wonderful! donna

-JML (12-15): hey dad, nice memories already…. J***

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