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Yesterday was a day for a bit of an excursion, and also to tick off a few ‘must’s’ in a day long swoop. This city is quite spread out, and for me to get across town to areas like City Park, takes a bit of thought – as I’m not staying in the French Quarter, and my confidence levels on the bike, coupled with heat, and consciousness of safety in unknown areas, means I do need to think through and plan how I want to get places and how to use my time the best.
For example yesterday, I wanted to end up at the New Orleans Museum of Art, in City Park – but it crosses some dodgy underpasses and highways, from my place, and I knew it’d be dark by the time I headed back, so that ruled out the bike or walking. To uber straight there would have felt a waste.
So instead, knowing that the iconic cable car ran up Canal Street, to city park – doing one, and seeing the other from the car, are two good things to tick off – I decided to Uber to Canal Street, brunch at another iconic joint, then cable car got City Park.
I like to be spontaneous when I travel, but also, I get infuriated when time is wasted or you needlessly exhaust yourself on boring things like transit, when your energy and time should be spent of nice, fun, things. I’ve been on plenty of trips with others where this has been one of my biggest peeves, especially with men – “oh we’ll just walk there” – and three hours later you’re in some god awful backwater of town, tired, grumpy and feeling uneasy. A lot can be said for a $10 taxi or Uber, eh.
So I do tend to spend half an hour each morning researching where I’m heading and formulating some kind of very loose plan in my head to get me going, primarily asking the questions 1) Where do I want to go 2) How will I get there? 3) What’s an amazing place tho eat once I get there, or en route 4) A few things I can do once there. I’m very casual beyond that, allowing myself to just wander and see what I find, stop as I feel – but a day needs to start with some kind of concept.
So my goal for yesterday was to visit NOMA which is up in City Park, a beautiful, huge park, bigger than Central Park, located North of the French Quarter. I’ve been desperate to go here, as I’d heard only amazing things about it – but held off until Friday, as they have been having a John Waters film festival there, once a month, and yesterday was John Waters day. I love little more than seeing iconic old films on the big screen – so to miss the chance to see Pink Flamingo’s in such a beautiful setting would have been a shame.
So as mentioned, I Uber’d to Downtown for brunch and to get the cable car. My Uber driver was a local guy, probably in his 50’s, who was an interesting conversation. He was telling me about the infrastructure repairs going on here and the disruption to the roads and frustrations – i know, I know, doesn’t sound fascinating – but at home, in Christchurch, a city in our own phase of disaster recover, we’re have precisely the same issues and it’s quite a political matter. So it really was interesting to hear that the same is happening here, only they are 12 years on, not 6, like us.
He also told me about Katrina, and his experiences. He was the first I’ve met who has spoken of it. I’m fascinated to hear about it, but I never ask. Again, having my own traumas, and triggers, around our event, I respect and I do not ask…just because you never know what someone’s experience was. Even though floods/ hurricanes and earthquakes are very different things, there was a lot about his stories that resonated with me, and I identified with – including things like the shock of military barricades and seeing your city lights off, shut down, dead. He spoke of returning to the city not long after, being let through the barricade, after showing his residents ID, and being overwhelmed by the smell of death. As we drove through the French Quarter, stuck in traffic from all the taxis and horse carts carrying tourists, it was hard to believe this was the same place. But it is. And the roadworks, and pot holes, and USAR sprayed signs on the side of houses are still reminders of this. This stuff lives on within, you know?
For brunch I decided to make the most of being in this area and hitting up another iconic NOLA spot. A place called Mother’s – home to the world’s best bake ham. I had no idea what to expect, but had heard it was a must-do and the line of 50 people outside meant that it must be something. Luckily the line moved fast, and soon I was handed a menu and let in. I was expecting a table service type place, but actually it very much reminded me of Katz’ Deli in New York. Line- at the counter, order, and then sit in the very relaxed dining area. It’s noisy and fast paced and buzzing. Mother’s, as I said, is famous for it’s ham and roast meats – also beef. When in doubt I always go for the signature dish – so here it was was the special – a ham and roast beef Po Boy. Very soon the food arrived, and it was epic in size and scale. Ham and beef, with dressing, and a sprinkling of lettuces, in a huge bread roll. The bottom half of the bread has been dipped in the beef gravy making it quite moist and soppy. The Po Boy is an iconic NOLA dish, and this is my second whilst I’ve been here. And you know, I have a confession to make:
I’m not crazy about the Po Boy’s.
Eeep! I said it. I think, the thing for me, is that I’m not the biggest meat lover. I mean, if a meat is beautiful then I love little more. But can usually only do it in small doses and there is a thing as ‘too meaty’ for me! And well, these Po Boys are just too meaty. I need a good ratio of salad in there, or something to cut through it. It’s all beautiful food, and the meat and everything is beautifully made, but I just find them overwhelming and feeling pretty heavy.
So there we go, I said it. But I came, I tried, and I can say I gave it my best. Maybe a more non traditional one would be a better shot for me.
After brunch I got onto the cable car – a very happy Making $1.25 for a ride – which runs straight up Canal Street. And enjoyed the about 30 minute ride up to the park. Enjoying the views, the architecture, the contrasts on my way. It was a great way to see a big part of town and took me straight to the park.
City Park truly is a gem of NOLA and is just gorgeous with it’s lakes, wetlands, Spanish moss covered trees, paddle boats, amusement park. It’s wonderful and really I got to see nothing of it – just not on foot, or in the 35 degree heat.
NOMA is a very highly regarded as far as Art Galleries go and I can see why. It’s 100 years old and started with just 8 pieces of work. And now it’s the most beautiful gallery. It’s big but not overwhelming and has perfectly formed and curated little galleries, outlining so many different movements and periods in Art History.
My favourite exhibit was on the ground floor, and showcased a collection donated to the gallery recently, by a NOLA collector who has been collecting for over 40 years and really has had his finger on the pulse in regards to local NOLA art and artists collectives. Really, interesting, beautiful, varied, contemporary stuff. A lot of it political, racial, or relates to Katrina – but a lot is whimsical and fun too. It was a wonderful collection.
The real jewel in the crown for NOMA is the sculpture garden. Sculpture gardens are always my favourite part of any gallery that has one. They’re just always so beautiful and serene. This one was no exception. I was blown away by the quantity and quality of the pieces – over 50! And all in beautiful manicured gardens with bridges, water and more of my absolute favourite – Spanish Moss. God I love Spanish moss trees! They’re so romantic and mystical.
On the cable car up, Canal Street became lined in these trees. Mardi Gras beads still hanging from them, 6 months after the event. Heck, probably years in some cases. I’m growing more of a fondness for the beads since I’ve been here, I admit. Probably due to my association with the Spanish Moss, now.
At 5pm I was able to get a ticket for Pink Flamingo’s which was due to start at 7pm. The ticket was free with my admission, which was awesome. They also had a late night on, with live jazz, a bar, and guided tours, which was cool.
But to kill time before the film, I had one last iconic thing to tick off for the day – somewhere that i never heard about until I scratched under the surface – a coffee shop called Morning Call. A historic 24 hour coffee shop, located in city park, famous for it’s Beignets and Chicory coffee. And I was not disappointed. In fact, I loved it. Firstly the place is in this ornate open building, with arched windows, and rows of mirrors with rows of yellow lights string around. A big marble bar in the middle. It was very grand on the surface, but had this seediness. Like, it’s somewhere that hasn’t closed, like ever. There’s damp on the ceilings. And everything is just a bit tired. A bit like the staff. They all looked done with it too. In these traditional paper hats, with MORNING CALL emblazoned in red on them. Droopingly sat on their heads, uniforms rumpled. It had an elect of comedy or Rock Horror to it. One waiter was even a clone of The Room’s Tommy Wiseau – like could have been his twin in appearance, and strange mannerisms. The whole place was utterly fabulous and I loved it!
Also! 3 Beignets for $2.25, and coffee for $3. The Beignets as good as those at Cafe Du Monde – but the difference here is that you apply your own powdered sugar that sit in little tin canisters on the tables and counters. The humid makes it al clump in the tin, so you gotta bang it firmly on the marble counter to loosen it. Again, a quirk that I adored. This place was so great, so weird, so right, so wrong, and I strongly recommend it.
And then back over to NOMA for Pink Flamingo’s. The front lawn and lobby studded with plastic birds on wire legs. The place was packed, and it was such a fun, one-off experience. Lot’s of people won’t go to the movies my themselves, which I don’t understand. Well I say to those people, try going to Pink Flamingo’s alone, in a strange city, in a foreign country. Watching Divine eat shit in a room full of complete strangers, well that’s an exercise in independence building!
A glorious day!