Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Ain't no city like New Orleans

"Ain't no city like New Orleans" so wrote the blues singer Earl King of his hometown. It is a place most of us know because of the devastating effects of hurricane Katrina in 2005.  It is also well known for it's music heritage, noteably the earliest style of jazz.  Louis Armstrong was a native of New Orleans and the international airport is named after him.
This brings me to the primary reason for visiting on this occasion ... (not to mention wanting to sample the delights of the French/Cajun/Creole cuisine) The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival!  "The Festival celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana, so the music encompasses every style associated with the city and the state: blues, R&B, gospel music, Cajun music, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk music, Latin, rock, rap music, country music, bluegrass and everything in between. And of course there is lots of jazz, both contemporary and traditional."
With only three days to sample a small slice of the city along with the jazz fest, after a delicious lunch at August, the first afternoon was spent walking along Canal Street to the famous Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. The street is alive with restaurants, bars and strip clubs but relatively quiet during the day. Mardi Gras would be something to see - I think I will need to come back for that! We came across a bar with bras hanging from the ceiling! Apparently if you donate your bra you get a free beer!!  Prior to my trip I was warned by a number of people to be aware of pick pockets but I have to say I never once felt threatened or saw anything of the sort .. the vibe was friendly and inviting.

You cannot leave NO without sampling the beignets and coffee so it was breakfast the next morning from Cafe Du Monde. The Original Cafe Du Monde is a traditional coffee shop. Its menu consists of dark roasted Coffee and Chicory, Beignets, White and Chocolate Milk, and fresh squeezed Orange Juice. The coffee is served Black or Au Lait. Au Lait means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. Beignets are square French-style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar. In 1988 Iced Coffee was introduced to the cafe. Absolutely to die for but if I had those everyday I would be the size of a house!!  Don't expect anything else there .. no eggs and bacon at this cafe!!
Dinners were sampled at Dick and Jenny's .. a fairly casual setting serving Louisiana cuisine .. the corn bread was the best I've ever tasted!!  And Le Foret .. delicious French food in a beautifully renovated building.
The Jazzfest took up the bulk of the weekend and it was a fantastic atmosphere with great local food, culture and music.  Next time I'm coming for both weekends of music and using the days in between to explore NOLA and the surrounding areas more fully!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Rainy spring in New York City

Central Park
Spring in New York is usually very beautiful - blue skies, fluffy clouds and spring blossoms in the park and beyond.  Well there was a little of that but mostly it was cold and wet on my recent trip to the city.  As you should know by now the weather never gets in the way of fun and entertainment and there wasn't much down time left over with all the places to go and things to see!  Here's a quick overview of all the places we had time to frequent in the 5 days leading up to the trip to New Orleans!  Click on the links for more info!
On the first night we went to see Graham Parker perform at the City Winery situated in Varick Street, Soho .. it's a place created for people who share a passion for wine, food and music.  The next night it was back to Don't Tell Mama in the theater district for the superb Hole-o-matic show with Michael Holland and Karen Mack.  I wrote about them when I visited NY last year .. so much fun and would love to get them over to London and spread their brand of entertainment here.  Next stop was the Music Box theater to see James Corden and the original West End cast in One Man, Two Guvnors.  I wondered how this would translate across the pond but it went down extremely well and was wonderfully funny and entertaining. If all this wasn't enough it was dinner at The Stanton Social on the lower east side the next night .. the sister restaurant of Beauty in Essex and situated just around the corner, it's a hip and trendy place to be and the food is fabulous!
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
The highlight of this whirlwind few days was attending Sleep No More an off Broadway production set in an abandoned warehouse in Chelsea .."a mash-up of Shakespeare's Macbeth and 1930s film noir that combines elements of theater, dance, and haunted fun house for a unique evening that engages all of the senses." (Entertainment Weekly)  You have to check your bag and coat as you will need your hands free to explore the rooms, drawers etc and you will be on your feet for most of the 2-3 hours unless you choose to stay seated in the bar area!  You are required to wear a white mask (provided) which distinguishes you and all the other spectators from the actors and are also requested not to speak.  Also be aware that you can easily be split up from your partner/party but that is part of the appeal.  You have your own unique experience of the show. "There are five floors and nearly 100 rooms, each one decorated better and more elaborately than the next.  Some resemble asylums, with rows of metal beds and cabinets full of medicine and sharp tools while others look like homes and still others taxidermy shops.  Take a turn and you end up in a graveyard, or a bed, or a dark bar in which strobe lights illuminate what turns into a naked rave.  We won’t tell you anything else other than 1) if an actor takes your hand, follow and 2) if you can’t figure out what’s going on start opening drawers, reading notes, and thinking in terms of Macbeth." (Elle.com culture) This truly is a different take on anything you thought theatre would be.

You'll be glad to know that I did have a much needed night off before heading off to New Orleans for the next stage of the trip!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

New York and New Orleans .. coming soon!

Bourbon Street
April was a busy month for the Holiday Queen .. all work and not much time to write but give me a day or two and I will fill you on in another of my fabulous trips to New York plus an amazing visit to the City of New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival way down in the southern state of Louisiana.  It is definitely a contender to be one of my new favorite places to go!!