On our second day around the city, we woke up bright and early, and took off to one of the large attractions of New Orleans to the north of the city: City Park. We only ended up exploring a fraction of it, but it was beautiful from what we could tell. We took the Canal Street streetcar north, which wound through Mid-City and some other neighborhoods that are more residential. While they did look a bit rundown, they seemed more real and authentic than much of the French Quarter we were walking through. We disembarked at the end of the line and walked down a wide street set with trees on either side to the New Orleans Museum of Art. It wasn’t open since it was Monday, but the white columns and classical architecture were quite pretty. We moved on to explore its Sculpture Garden which was outside and indeed available to enter. There were some very modernist and even surreal sculptures, some plaster statues and giant safety pins and disturbing sculptures of morphed, long-limbed monkeys that had human hands but also limber tails.
Afterwards, we moved on to the New Orleans Botanical Garden, which is a small gem of a garden set within City Park. It wasn’t the best day to go, since it had rained the night before, and water still permeated much of the earthen walkways within the garden. But the conservatory was small and gorgeous, with a Christmas tree of poinsettias in the center. Outside, it was painted butter yellow, and contrasted gorgeously with the stone statue of a mermaid outside in the fountain. We roamed about a bit before coming out to see more of the City Park. It had been well-restored since the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. Many of the city’s oaks still stand, gorgeous and gnarly with curtains of silver Spanish moss hanging from the branches. We saw a bit more before going back to the streetcar and taking it back down. Continue reading City Park and the Mississippi River.→
We woke up this morning bright and early, and headed out for one last breakfast. The first thing I noticed was that everyone was dressed quite differently – instead of flowery beach wear or white sheer shirts and dresses, people had much more workaday clothing and sweaters on as they ate eggs and oatmeal. When you disembark, you can either opt to put out your luggage early in the morning or before you sleep with colored tags, or you can disembark any time in the morning as long as you can carry all your bags. (This option is called “Easy Walk-off Disembarkation,” I kid you not.) I used to be one of those people who packed gigantic bags that I could fit in. Now that I’m a seasoned traveler, I have a lot more scorn if you couldn’t fit everything you need into a carry-on bag. After all, Steve and I have gone for week-long, month-long, and even year-long vacations using just a carry on! All right, I’m getting down from the soapbox.
We emerged into the humidity and heat that is New Orleans after a short disembarkation, and walked off to our hotel near the French Quarter. Our room wasn’t anywhere near ready, of course, at 9 am, so instead, we simply put our luggage away and set off to explore the French Quarter. Our first real stop was the St. Louis Cathedral, which is a prime landmark. It’s a beautiful cathedral, initially built by the Spanish and carried on by the French, and the seat of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. It’s the oldest cathedral in continuous use in the US, and we didn’t end up walking around very much because there was a mass and then a christening in progress. I took a few pictures, and we milled about Jackson Square checking out the flowers and the crowds. We had only been drifting around for about half an hour before we ran into two of the same couples we had enjoyed dinner with last night. We knew one pair was going to hang out in New Orleans for a few days, but the other pair had a flight around 9 pm, so we ended up hanging out for the rest of the day. Continue reading Return to New Orleans.→
For me, Edinburgh will always evoke an image of calm and comfort, a cup of fragrant earl grey, and a scone piled high with butter and jam. Steve and I spent almost three days here (July 14-17), walking through very historic streets and scaling its heights to see the surrounding scenery, and braving the occasional showers. We left too soon, but I have hopes that we’ll be back.
We stayed for three nights at an apartment in Edinburgh’s Old Town, and spent most of our time wandering up and down the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a gently sloping road which bisects Edinburgh, dividing the New Town (not so new, dating from the 1700s) in the north from the Old Town in the South. On the western end is Edinburgh Castle, and after walking by about 45 stores specializing in kilts and cashmeres, on the eastern end is Holyrood Palace, where the Queen keeps her apartments when she comes to Scotland. Just south of the palace is Holyrood Park, a vast inverted green bowl that rises hundreds of meters into the air. It is punctuated by brown rocky craigs and hills, and from street level, you can see people climbing their way up the hill like so many ants. It is an imposing height, but not at all an imposing hike, as we covered the highest peaks of the park within three hours (including a half-hour nap!). Continue reading Wandering down the Royal Mile.→
It has been five days since we got into Lyon, and we are slowly beginning to learn this French city, walking the hills, crossing the rivers, accustoming our ears to the language, and memorizing the street names.
Our apartment is located in the 6th arrondisement, on the very edge of the upper northeastern corner of Lyon. Our street is bare meters from the dividing line that marks the beginning of Villeurbanne, a neighboring city to our north and east. Some parts of Villeurbanne are distinctly different — three blocks to our north begins the quartier Tonkin, which is some sort of suburban housing development from the ’60s and ’70s. The large apartment buildings resemble ones I’ve seen in China, but with much more geometric, artistic, and interesting architecture.
The Tonkin complex has within a hospital, an elementary school, and some large playgrounds. It really has a flavor of its own, and we really enjoy wandering around this part of town. There is also a large Muslim population in nearby Villeurbanne, which comes out not only in the populace, quite a few of whom wear headscarves, but also in the streetfront kebab restaurants which hang “Hallal” signs above their shop. Due to the May 1 (Labor Day) holiday, many normal restaurants were closed, and as a matter of last recourse, we visited twice a place with I got pretty decent kebab sandwiches (for 4.5 euro, the normal price). Steve ordered a “taco au choix” with steak, which turned out to be a thick burrito with steak, vegetables, and fries inside. Continue reading Promenades en Lyon.→