Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On the Road Again - The Roundabouts 2300 Miles See the USA Road Trip Part 2

French Quarter Street Scene - New Orleans, LA  2015
from travel watercolor sketch journal
by jojo sabalvaro tan
A ubiquitous scene, musicians performing on the streets of New Orleans. One gets so immersed in the vibe of the city, one can almost forget Hurricane Katrina never happened.

 The Original Roundabouts is a group consisting of my husband and I and my Prep school pal Dennis. We have journeyed together to see the Devil's Tower in Wyoming, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, saddled the Mekong River to Angkor Wat, explored the Romantic road of Germany, drank beer in Belgium and followed the ancient pilgrims route to Mount St. Michel in France. Most of the time, we have a fourth person with us. This time it is Dennis' wife, Lulu. It is her first road trip.

 New Orleans, Louisiana, the next stop on The Roundabouts road trip is about a 6 hour, 400 mile drive from Memphis, so we left Memphis right after lunch in order to be in New Orleans before dark.This time, we went on US 55 which took us almost through the full length of Mississippi, with a glimpse of its capital, Jackson, to get to Louisiana. In Mississippi, one can't help notice the giant southern magnolias blossoms, its state flower. Louisiana also designated the magnolia as its state flower. They are gorgeous. Another reason to visit the Southeastern United States in the spring.

Magnolia Grandiflora 2015
From he watercolor travel sketchbook journal
by jojo sabalvaro tan
The southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is a medium size hardwood tree that grows in the southest USA (also called evergreen magnolia, bull-bay, big-laurel, little gem or large-flower magnolia). The large, fragrant white flowers and leathery evergreen leaves make the magnolia tree popular around the world as an ornamental. (From www.statesymbolsusa.org)

We made several stops in Mississippi to find a souvenir magnet which Dennis started collecting when we began our road trips and has since collected from every place he visited. The gracious Mississippi tourist information lady agreed that magnets seem to be scarce and have had lots of people inquiring about where to find them. It amused me that we were not the only folks stopping at a state Tourist Information Center who are asking about magnets instead of directions, maps, points of interest or history. To appease us, she gave all of us lapel pins with a map of Mississippi and suggested that we stop at one of the truck stops, especially one called Loves. That was a good lead. Although their selection was limited, at least they had some.

When the Saints Go Marching in New Orleans

US55 turned into US 10 which we followed into New Orleans CBD (Central Business District). It was amazing that most of the road we travelled into New Orleans were built over swamp lands. This is our first road trip to New Orleans.  I have been here several times but always arriving on an airplane. Somehow arriving by car is more exciting. It is like following the arc of a rainbow and finding a pot of gold. After all the miles of flat vistas, we see New Orleans sky-scape colored golden by the sunset against the backdrop of the mighty Mississippi.

Our hotel, The Lafayette, is located next to Lafayette Square. It is a small boutique hotel designed in the Parisian style. It is clean, well furnished and felt luxurious. The staff is very helpful and friendly. We broke another one of our road trip rules when we picked this hotel since it is not one of the hotels you find in every city, it is not cheap but it was very close and convenient to all the places we wanted to see in New Orleans plus it had secure parking, enabling us to leave our big suitcases in the car and only take what we needed for the two nights we were in New Orleans. It also had a well-known and popular restaurant, Desi Vega's Steakhouse. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to eat there.

The Lafayette Hotel New Orleans

Lafayette Square
A homeless man's bedroom.
As in many large cities, homelessness is a problem in New Orleans. Many shelters are available but many still choose public areas as sleeping areas. in 2012, New Orleans started a 10 year program to eliminate homelessness.
We decided to dine at the French Quarter but on our way there, we ended up walking in the opposite direction so we double backed to our hotel and just ate at Cibugnu,  a nice Italian restaurant in front of the hotel. We had a pizza and some arugula salad which were pretty good. We asked our waiter to suggest a place for breakfast and he was all praise for a place called Ruby Slippers. So the next morning that's where we had breakfast. It was really delicious and some of the dishes are uniquely New Orleanais. We said we would return the next day.

Red Slipper

Signature dish of Egg Cochon
Slow-cooked apple braised pork debris sitting on homemade buttermilk biscuit topped with poached eggs, finished with hollandaise

After breakfast, we booked a city tour and steamboat cruise for 9am so we can squeeze both tours on the same day. We opted to do the steamboat cruise on the Mississippi river first. Although, today hordes of tourist are onboard, it still evoked the time when the characters like Brett Maverick, the roguish endearing gambler on the TV show Maverick added spice as these riverboats plied the Mississippi. While on the boat, I felt the need to belt out the song, Ol Man River from Edna Ferber's best selling novel, turned into a Broadway musical, Showboat. Luckily, there was a Dixie band playing on the boat and I was saved from embarrassment

Waiting to board the Natchez, the last authentic steamboat operating on the Mississippi River. This particular boat was built in 1975 and evokes the time of antebellum mansions, the Civil War and the Gay Nineties.
 According to www.steamboatnatchez.com, "The NATCHEZ resembles the old sternwheelers VIRGINIA and HUDSON in her profile and layout. Her powerful steam engines were built for U.S. Steel Corporation’s sternwheeler CLAIRTON in 1925. Her genuine copper and steel steam whistle is a treasured antique. Her copper bell, smelted from 250 silver dollars to produce a purer tone, once graced the S.S. J.D. AYRES. Her 32 note steam calliope was custom crafted and modeled after the music makers of the Gilded Age."

The boarding area for the Natchez

Tugboat on the Mississippi River 2015
From the Watercolor Travel Sketch Journal
by jojo sabalvaro tan

Views of the New Orleans from the river. In the foreground are tugboats waiting to guide large ships and barges on the Mississippi.

From the boat, we went on our bus tour of New Orleans. The tour took us to see the beautiful and well preserved old mansions at the Garden District on St. Charles St., the New Orleans City Park where we stopped at the Morning Call for the New Orleans' tradition of coffee and beignets and at the St. Louis Cemetery # 1, where Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau is buried as well as other points of interests in the city. Unfortunately, we could not take in most of the sites in detail due to heavy rain. Inspite of that, we enjoyed the tour immensely since our guide was very informative and funny. Of course, we did not need the rain to be reminded of Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster in 2005, whose damage to the city and its residents is immeasurable. Katrina will always be attached to the history of New Orleans. Its effect can still be felt today.
Some of the street art you see at the New Orleans CBD

Mercifully, the rain stopped after our tour is over and we were able to roam the French Quarter. We were planning to hangout at Bourbon Street but once we got there, we felt that it was too noisy with music blaring and folks with drinks in hand having too much fun. I hate to admit it, but it must be old age on our part. 

Bourbon Street sign on the pavement

So, we decided to walk on the quieter streets parallel to Bourbon St. and visited the art galleries, antique shops, boutiques and souvenir shops. We gawked at the intricate wrought iron work of the railings on the buildings which is a very typical feature in New Orleans architecture and many southern states.
Street scene against the backdrop of buildings with wraparound balconies with wrought iron railings.

Wrought Iron railings decorated with festive and colorful festoons, flowers and beads, a typical sight on Mardi Gras, where all buildings along this street will be similarly decorated for the parade and celebration of Fat Tuesday.
We also tried to visit the St. Louis Cathedral  but it was closed for a private event. We had planned on having beignets at the nearby Café du Monde but we were still full from the ones we had at Morning Call. So we sat around people watching at the Parisian-style garden encircling the statue of Andrew Jackson for whom the square was named. Actually, we were kept entertained by a group of students who were also on the steamboat. It was fun to watch the interaction of these teens ad preteens. We were reminded of our own educational tours when we were in high school. Those were some of the most sweet and fond memories of our high school days.  
St. Louis Cathedral in the backdrop
The statue of Andrew Jackson at Jackson Square

New Orleans  or La Nouvelle-Orleans was founded in 1718 and was named for Philippe d'Orleans, Duke of Orleans. It was once part of the Kingdom of France and then Spain and again France until Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States in 1803. Today, it is a major city and port. In 2018, New Orleans will be celebrating 300 years since its founding. Since its inception, New Orleans has been an amalgam and fusion since American Indians, Africans and European settlers were encouraged to share their culture and intermingle. Today, such interaction continues making New Orleans culture, food and music unique and distinctive in the United States. One thing I noticed in New Orleans is, unlike many cities, the skyline is not dotted with cranes building towering skyscrapers, to me a sign of progress. Probably, all the building efforts are being spent on restoration in the wake of the aftermath of Katrina.  Maybe if we get to come back for the 300th anniversary, it will be a different story..

Next Stop: Florida

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