Sunday, January 25, 2015


day 3 was the day of traveling along the periphery of nola. i woke up pretty early to catch the 81 bus to the end of the line in st. bernard parish (south of the lower 9th ward), which also was one of the areas hit worst by katrina. at the time, i had no idea. 

we then walked a mile and a half to our destination. it was crazy how when a train is crossing a street there are no bars to stop the cars from driving over. instead, the train just honks and cars race over until the very last moment. it was nerve-wracking. overall, it was a very pleasant walk. very small town southern feel. most of the land was just big empty lots sprinkled with few businesses. i felt like i was right out of the movie 'the outsiders,' one of my all time favorites.

i actually almost walked past the chalmette battlefield, operated by the nps and part of lafitte national park. you were only greeted by the sign below and had to walk a long dirt driveway. chalmette battlefield is where the battle of new orleans was fought during the 1812 war (though the battle was fought in 1814-15). this battle also allowed andrew jackson to become a household name. he was the american general during the battle. his war-hero reputation definitely helped him become president. in the end, thousands of brits died, while only twenty american died.

fortunately, it was a beautiful clear day.

the door into the chalmette memorial.

the malus-beauregard plantation house (c. 1830s)

view of the mississippi river.

also on the site is chalmette national cemetery. most of the graves are of civil war soldiers, but there are a few from the spanish-american war, wwI, wwII, and the vietnam war. it was surprising to see just how many graves were unidentified and just said 'u.s. soldier.'

it's crazy to think that the tree is probably older than the cemetery.

after, we made our way back to the french quarter. it took a while for a bus to come. there was a parade in the middle of the street. i came to conclude that it was probably part of the mardi gras celebration (it starts january 6). the french quarter is just so wonderful. i wish i could go back and explore some more. we also stopped at the french market to buy some little momentos. this day, the quarter was much crazier. who knew so many people would be swayed by the rain.

of course i had to stop at cc's again for the white chocolate latte, and some king cake.

the we made the long-ish walk to the warehouse district where the national world war II museum is. i knew i had to see it when i found out it was funded by the smithsonian. they are so good at museums. i love how interactive they are and how they use and present space. the exhibits are not just about the artifacts but how they design the "negative space." it was a bit expensive, $24 for an adult, but so worth it.

the main artery of new orleans.

a little beauty i walked by.

some of my favorite exhibits were on the personal items returned to family after young soldiers' deaths, the enigma, the battle of the bulge exhibit, the victory garden, and the sprinkling of powerful photojournalism throughout the museum. like i have said before, i have such respect for wartime photojournalism.

there was a little area where you could dress up as propaganda posters (the other one was rosie the riveter)

the air war exhibit is such a great example of using up negative space. this "hole" in the airplane hangar showed war planes flying by. another great example is the battle off the bulge exhibit where they had fake snow falling in a forested area with a war car in camouflage.

the air room

the victory garden, where i learned about how broccoli grows. such a strange looking plant. who knew.

then i made my way back to the french quarter. what can i say, i like it so much. i wanted to see the french quarter at night without all the rain. we went to eat at the market cafe. it was actually our first day eating indoors, it was a nice change. we shared a bowl of gumbo, a shrimp po' boy, and a mufalletta. it is an italian/new orleanian sandwich with mufalletta bread, cold cut meat, provolone, and an olive salad spread.

and one more walk through bourbon street. it was crazy this day. so many drunk people...

now for a song! "i'll come running back to you," by sam cooke.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


day 2 was the busiest day (and with the most pictures). as with every trip, i wake up early in the morning. i am much more of a morning than night person. i like to see the city before it wakes up. unfortunately, it was a very, very rainy day. so much rain. it was not ideal, but it did make the city glow. also, it kept the crowds away. we made our way to the french quarter...and got lost a few times.

the first stop was the lafitte national park service's french quarter visitor center. they have ranger led history tours at 9:30 in the morning. the tour was from the center down to the levee and mississippi. i love visiting the nps. they are so friendly and a joy to be around. while there, my dad made a joke about the ranger's hat and smokey the bear. i responded that smokey the bear was part of the national forestry service, not nps. the ranger said i should be an honorary ranger and get a nps certificate for knowing the difference. i was happy. 

the levee and mississippi river

then i went to jackson square, where many of the museums are at. the first stop was the cabildo, a building from the spanish colonial period and where the louisiana purchase was signed. today it is a museum about the history of the area from the indigenous to the american occupation.

the cabildo (c. 1795-99)

next was the presbytere which has museum exhibits on mardi gras and hurricane katrina. this was definitelty one of the highlights. the hurricane katrina exhibit was so fascinating. i was rather young when it happened, 12, and did not have a good understanding of what happened and the impact it made. it was the biggest american civil engineering fail. also, as someone who studied public history, it was interesting to see the different artifacts that may not be deemed to some as traditional items. for example, a pair of a denim pants one local businessman wore that had his name, emergency contact information, and his social security written with sharpie. he stayed behind with his business and took precautions so his body could be identified of found. so interesting and eye opening. i wish i could go back and really take my time looking around. unfortunately, i was in such a rush.

the entrance of the hurricane katrina exhibit, with glass bottles and little hands.

a garage door from a local home after katrina.

a seahorse mardi gras costume

next we went to the 1850 house, another house run by the state of louisiana.

the back balcony of the 1850 house.

the servants' quarters

next we walked for hours winding up and down the french quarter. i could have spent even more time walking these streets. so many beautiful homes with beautiful little details, wrought iron gates, and colors. we also made a pit stop at cc's coffee house, a coffee chain in southern louisiana. they have a very tasty white chocolate latte.

many buildings have these signs.

to the right is madame john's legacy, believed to be the second oldest building in the french quarter (c. 1789) and of creole architecture.

fancy mardi gras door.

next, i made my way to the old u.s. mint (c. 1838). today, it is owned in partnership with the state of louisiana and the nps. inside there is a jazz museum, which also houses louis armstrong's first cornet. it is the only mint to make both u.s. and confederate currency.

clarence "gatemouth" brown's instrument, which was ruined by katrina.

we then walked more through the french quarter and saw this funny sign.

it was last minute, but i decided to go to the voodoo museum. i know there are a few in nola and they can be quite gimicky, but this was one that i heard was not too bad. when in nola, you need to at least see one voodoo museum, right?

we then walked even more through the french quarter (i could have continued for hours). also, i stopped at the new orleans jazz national historical park, run by the nps.

jackson square

and right behind jackson square, a jazz street performance.

here is another song by the same band that i found on youtube. i love his voice. i tried for hours searching what song they are performing, but i give up. boo. it kind of sounds like 'minnie the moocher,' but the few lyrics i can understand don't match. it could have been improvised. who knows. one day i will find it.

and now a walk down bourbon street... 

we ate at a little place in musical legends park, called cafe beignet. they also had live jazz music and really decent prices. i had a plate of fried goodness (fish, shrimp, okra, and potatoes), red beans and rice with french bread, and sweet tea.

now for a song...i chose cab calloway's rendition of st. james infirmirary (it's the song from the linked youtube video). his voice is crae crae.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


so recently, i left for my trip to new orleans. staying in DC for almost 3 months and having a daily adventure sure did give me the travel bug! i was sitting on the fence a little thinking should i really spend my money and go (flights are the worst to pay for)? i finally decided yes and justified it as a college graduation present for myself.

new orleans has definitely been on the top of my list. to me, i always got the impression that nola is one of those few places in the united states that really has a unique culture all its own that is non comparable to any other city. i also considered  boston, but opted out because of the winter weather--this southern california girl cannot handle the cold! like i said earlier, i was originally going to go by myself, but my dad really wanted to go. even though i was not alone, i planned this trip on my own. i booked the flights/hostel and put together the itinerary.

leaving LA during sunrise.

i left really early in the morning (4 o'clock) and got there about 1:30 in the afternoon. the first day was cold, 40 degrees fahrenheit, and cloudy but it was not miserable. it eventually started to rain during the night. the first destination was city park. here they have thousands of oaks with moss growing on them. the west coast girl in me mistaken them as weeping willows. this park was so beautiful and unlike anything i had ever seen.

i then went to storyland, a children's playground. it may not sound fun for the average 22 year old, but i really wanted to go. here they have sculptures that illustrate different fairytales and nursery rhymes. if i am not mistaken they are made my mardi gras float designers. i wish i could have visited this as a kid, but i still had fun.

next, i walked around the park and went through the sculpture garden. most of the time i am not very drawn to sculpture gardens, but i would say this one beats the one in DC.

fancy oaks wearing necklaces

this was creepy. the body would just blow in the wind.

 i knew one of the places i had to go to was the morning call coffee stand. a 24 hour coffee joint. i heard they had the best beignets in the city. morning call was one of the highlights of the trips. at first, i noticed tour buses circling around (like that scene out of spongebob) and thought, "oh know. it's just a tourist trap." i could not be more wrong. also, the name is so misleading. it looks much more like a parlor or "coffee" shoppe without being gimicky (after all, it is over 100 years old). also, they have really good beignets, says the amateur foodie. they are slightly crispy but so fluffy inside and not greasy. i tried beignets at other places and they do not compare. also, all the workers are such characters, a random one started to play the flute. so much fun.

beignets and cafe au lait.

after, i ran into some problems. i went to buy some jazzy (bus) passes, and it just sucked up the money. to get the tickets, i had to go the rta hub. it was unfortunate, but at least i got to learn more about nola's rta (thats what the urban planner in me keeps saying). new orlean's, just like san francisco, uses a streetcar system for some of its routes and it is not just a trourist trap. the locals use it all the time. makes me wish even more that LA would start something like this.

i then made my way to the hostel, nola jazz house in mid city new orleans. it was a nice place. i am not complaining, but i feel i was spoiled by my other trips. the HI downtown san francisco hostel and the philadelphia house were so great in there different ways. i think a lot of my disappointment has to do with the lay-out the building. it is just impractical that is really not meant for a hostel.

the private room

later we had dinner down the street at "katies." they serve homestyle food with a southern flair. we had crab cakes with remoulade sauce and a catfish po'boy with the dressings. it was delicious.

now for a song!i thought for this series i would choose a set of jazzy/bluesy songs. for today, i am sticking with an og nola jazz artist. louis armstrong and ella fitzgerald with "love is here to stay."