Thursday, January 24, 2013

Inspiration from New Orleans

Jon and I just got back from New Orleans.  For our anniversary, we stayed for a blissful 5 days over Martin Luther King Day weekend.  I am happy to report that The South in general is a charming and friendly place, and that New Orleans specifically is full of wonderfully quirky and friendly people.

Sometimes I felt like we were in Disneyland.  The St. Louis cathedral here looked like the Cinderella Castle to me with its contrasting turrets


The architecture stopped me in my tracks.  I couldn't get over this French-styled portico that looked more like Parisian Art Nouveau metro station.

The streets in the French Quarter begged me to keep walking.  All of the rules were accidentally followed that New Urbanists champion: buildings pulled right up against the sidewalk, short crossing distances, mixed uses in the buildings, buildings that are 2 and 3 stories tall, variety of activities accommodated in the public spaces.

Mardi Gras decorations were everywhere, and we even caught sight of the first of many parades.  This holiday has been mis-branded.  Turns out Mardi Gras is a family friendly event where adults are allowed to act like children again.  Generous float participants throw fun souvenirs from St. Charles Avenue and each day another creux competes to give the best party.  Only the frat boys from out of town are a drunken mess down on Boubon Street.

The antique stores stopped me in my tracks!  These chairs had me gushing as I took numerous pictures with and without a flash.  I HAD to get the green leather seats captured!!  Look at the contrasting wood on the seat back and the lighter color of wood stain for the table top.  The pedestal part of the table was beautifully carved with ribs before the leg splay, and the owner of the shop has taken the time to decorate with a table scape of china and a vase of paper whites.  Dreamy!  The rug is amazing too, and these crystal chandeliers where hanging in abundance in every antique shop all around the French Quarter.  Look at that oval guilded frame behind the chair, leaning against the Duncan Phyfe sofa.  The patina.  Hmm!

I glimpsed these courtyards way too often as we walked around.  Most of them are private, part of a restaurant, or hotel.  BUT this one we were able to walk around in as part of a historic tour.  The home is left as is from the late 1950s, but built in the early/mid 1800s.  The upper floor was a bedroom and the lower floor a living room for a famous philanthropic couple who left their home as a foundation for New Orleans history.  LOVED the tour and felt so sad that no pictures were allowed inside . . .

This antique store doubled as our bike rental shop, and we couldn't get over these chairs with the red velvet seats.  I could barely get to them to take these pictures, the shop was so crammed with treasures arriving once a week from Europe.

We toured Oak Alley Plantation where pictures WERE allowed, and I snapped away to my heart's content.

We splurged one night to eat at this upscale restaurant, called "R'evolution".  The murals on the walls are only months (a year?) old, and so classic.  Each corner has a scene of New Orleans history depicted.  Notice the handles on the back of the armchairs . . .

Antoinne's Annex was another eatery that begged me to get out my camera.  Classic black and white floor and stripped awning.  So charming.  The doors at the bottom of the display cases (to the left) were not paneled.  Molding had been attached and then the whole thing painted white.

Jon and I also went on a Swamp Tour.  I have a special affinity for Cajuns and the bayou now.

We highly recommend New Orleans for bedraggled parents of three boys looking for a warm place in January where the architecture is amazing, the food plentiful and outstanding, and lots of easy to get to inspiring sites.

UPDATE: Jon posted about New Orleans also on his bike blog:

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