Archives for October, 2011

Whether or not you believe in vampires and witches, the city of New Orleans is filled with them. I know because I spent my pre-Halloween weekend surrounded by both. On Friday night I attended the Anne Rice New Orleans Vampire Ball, a decadent and dimly-lit festival of enthusiasts dressed either as fanged bloodsuckers or buxom…

Adolfo’s

“Monica! MONICA!” A short, wiry-haired man in a rumpled suit coat yelled a woman’s name down the stairs. Three seconds later, a party of four  scrambled up the slanted wooden steps and took their place at one of the tiny square tables not far from where I was sitting. The one-room upstairs restaurant was cramped…

Ornate, whitewashed stone cemeteries are as much a part of southern Louisiana as the cypress trees and dangling Spanish moss. French Catholic tradition and the extremely high water table mean that many Louisiana cemeteries are built above ground. The jumble of crosses and melancholy statues definitely adds to the gothic feel of this strange corner…

Another night, another great musical discovery. I have to say, the music never stops in this city on the river. After a luscious meal at Arnaud’s, I head on over to Mimi’s in the Marigny, a bar and music club that’s so effortlessly cool, I felt all the cool seep into me the second I…

Eating beignets at Café du Monde is a New Orleans tradition that goes all the way back to 1862 when the coffee stand first opened up in the city’s French market. Today it’s the most renowned café in the city, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and serving their amazing powdered-sugar lovelies…

Voodoo with a U

If you throw a mandrake root on the ground, it will point to whomever is lying; angelica has strong protective properties, while dragon’s blood is simply powerful and magical. Among the dozens of jars of dried flowers, roots, powders and oils lining the shop’s walls lie a thousand possible cures and charms. “I sell supplies…

The problem with New Orleans is having too much of a good thing. Too much good food (beignets, pralines) and far too much good music. Walking down Frenchman Street last Saturday night felt like spinning the radio dial and listening to one great station after another every few paces. Imagine a dozen clubs side by…

62 to 7. I would call that a victory. Such was the final score of last night’s game between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts–a game that I was able to watch firsthand right in the famous gold-sided Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But wait–not only did I get to watch the game live in New…

“That man does not love you, he is not in love with you.” From behind the closed curtain I can hear a smoker’s voice rasping into a speaker phone, “He has never loved you but don’t worry baby, I see another marriage for you next year and then another baby–healthy, of course.” The psychic reading…

In an unnamed house in an unnamed town in a state named after King Louis XIV, I met a ghost. We were never introduced properly – in fact, the housekeeper denied any and all ghosts the minute I walked in. “Oh no, it’s not haunted – at least I’ve never seen anything,” she announced as…

Baby Alligators

I say, nothing’s cuter than a baby alligator, especially when you get to cradle it in your hands! I know I’ve been lucky with my wildlife encounters. So far in my travels I’ve been able to cuddle baby Tasmanian Devils, swim with baby sharks,  hatch baby green sea turtles,  and feed a baby moose.

Not everyone likes oysters, I realize this. But I do. Oysters are a kind of culinary litmus test and folks tend to fall on one side or the other — enthusiastically for or vehemently against. But traveling in Louisiana has quickly taught me that oysters are truly a way of life around here. Oysters live…

Fisherman

“Yesterday I caught 400 pounds of crab. At $1.25 a pound, that’s not bad money.” The man in the cowboy hat grinned with all his teeth and shook his head. He goes fishing three or four times a week, and “fishing” can be for just about anything: crabs, crawfish, fish or shrimp. If it’s available,…

Cajuns like to eat and they like to cook. It’s that simple. And like all good French people, they like to talk about food, too. Traveling around Louisiana has been a smorgasbord of spice and good eating. But even more fun for me are all the fantastic things I’ve heard Cajuns say about their food.…

Gator Girl

Shelby is pretty much your typical, all-American girl. She’s in the 4th grade at the school down the street and she likes living out in the country on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. She has a pig named “Tiny” that she’s raising for 4H . . . and she once had a pet alligator named “Wild Cajun.”…

It begins in the cluttered corner of a closed music shop. A lone, white-haired man tunes his viola, gliding his horsehair bow across the bridge and sending out one sweet note of music like a suspended sigh.  Soon a guitarist steps up and offers him a C; the viola answers back with a harmonious A.…

Hot Momma

Could you eat hot sauce all day every day? That’s exactly what Louisiana-native Leslie Hall does for her job at McIllheny Co. where she works as the Quality Assurance Industrial Specialist for Tabasco sauce. While visiting the Tabasco factory on Avery Island, I caught her dipping a plastic spoon into a giant plastic jar of…

It’s 84 °F in Delcambre (del-kum) Louisiana today, but not if you work in the freezer. Every day for for the past fourteen years, Coty Broussard has bundled up in a padded snowsuit for his job at Bayou Shrimp Processors, where he spends his entire shift inside several freezers, some of them covered in ice.…

Jerome gets one scrambled egg, one bacon and one biscuit. “Mr.Paul gets one poached egg, grits and biscuits. Doc gets one over easy, grits, patties and biscuits. Sandoz gets cornflakes and banana,” Sisters Vonetta and Tramika Davis can keep on going. They know every order by heart for every regular at the long table here…

Captain Gene

“If there’s reincarnation God, then please don’t let me come back as a crab.” Such is the mumbled prayer of my fishing guide as he rips all the legs and pincers off a live crab, then cracks the body into four pieces. He sticks the quivering meaty bits on hooks and then casts a line…

Bayou Bonjour

Welcome to Louisiana everybody! After zipping all the way around the world, my taste for the exotic has only strengthened. This time, though, I’m finding it so much closer to home. My flight to Louisiana was less than three hours from home, but right away, I felt as if I’d landed in a separate country.…

In the last month, I went all around the world. My first time, ever, believe it or not. I did not set out to circumnavigate the globe—my schedule just evolved in such a way that traveling on many one-way tickets was shorter than several round trips. And yet, my many one-way tickets turned into a…

So, what exactly was I doing in Budapest? I was speaking at a conference: TEDxDanubia to be exact. My subject: enjoying the uncertainty of travel. I never like to get to preachy about travel because frankly, travel is very personal — we all do it differently. But I have certain opinions about how I like…

I always wanted to go to Budapest. Somehow I knew that I’d make it there someday. I’ve learned to not be impatient with all of my many dream destinations. A life of travel is a life of surprise and so it’s best to dream hard but then to accept the places that come our way.…

Do layovers count? I often wonder. When sharing travel stories, we typically differentiate between the places we’ve “been” and those places where we’ve laid over.  And yet layovers — the intermittent geography between one place and another — are fundamental to travel. They are non-destination precursors to the destinations we aim for. And whether or…