The Hubs had a conference in New Orleans that serendipitously fell on my Spring Break. Obviously, I had to accompany him. On my second day out on my solo adventure (while he was in meetings), I decided to take the street car to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). It seemed simple enough with Google Maps to make my way. There was only one hitch in my plans. I picked the wrong street car. I realized halfway through the ride that I would have to debark and walk a mile to the museum. I got on the red “cemeteries” streetcar instead of the green “city parks” one. Doh!
I need to segue here a minute and state that The Hubs used to live in New Orleans. When he was about eight-years-old, his family moved there from Washington state. (My FiL is an engineer and worked with the oil industry for years.) This would have been in the mid- to late-1970s. Their house was broken into numerous times and I recently found out that my MiL would “pack heat” as she walked to work. This was the culture that The Hubs associated with New Orleans (that and Catholic school!). In fact, when we visited NOLA about fifteen years ago, he instructed me on the plane down that if “someone comes up to us with a gun, I will push you behind me and you just run.” I thought he was joking. The look on his face suggested otherwise. He was dead serious (no pun intended). And, didn’t New Orleans once have the distinction of being the murder capital of the world???
Yes, dear readers, this was all running through my mind as I realized I would have to get off and walk over a mile to my destination.
Luckily, there were some tourists sitting behind me that kept talking about a cannoli place. (Like I wasn’t a tourist???) All throughout the ride they had been pointing out one location or another that had been on the Food Network. They were getting off at my stop so I decided to follow them. They led me to one of my foodie destinations: Angelo Brocato’s Italian Ice Cream Parlor. I had a delicious Amaretto gelato there before I decided to just buck up and walk by myself the rest of the way.
There was only one potentially sketchy area (and that was mostly in my imagination). I powered through that half block to be directed (by Google Maps) through a beautiful old neighborhood with immaculate yards. The street ended in City Park. Truly, it was a fine walk with no worries.
I highly recommend taking this trek if you are up for a mile hike and some delicious Italian treats along the way.
I also highly recommend NOMA. This beautiful museum is set in City Park near the Botanical Gardens and other points of interest. The Besthoff Sculpture Garden is also worthy of another leisurely stroll.
Cafe NOMA (by Ralph Brennan) is almost worthy of a trip in itself. It was super crowded when I was there so I ended up sharing my table with some Dutch visitors (who bought both a bottle of Prosecco AND a bottle of wine for their lunch). Everything looked delicious but I had the Roasted Pear Salad (mesclun greens, walnuts, dried cherries, blue cheese, grape tomatoes, Champagne vinaigrette). This is another salad I must replicate.
Besides the food, the highlights of my trip to NOMA were twofold:
Art in Bloom is apparently a fund raiser that allows different garden clubs, restaurants, business, artists, etc. to design artistic flower displays around a central theme. Some of these designs were inspiring.
In another room, the Garden Clubs of New Orleans were battling it out for blue ribbons and best of show.
I had never heard of Mel Chin, his art or his political views, but I was so moved by this exhibition.
I could not take photographs (obviously) in this exhibit, but I encourage you to seek out his works.
After a stroll through the sculpture garden, I did catch the right street car back with no incident.
In creating this installation, Gaudet wanted visitors to feel “as if one is moving up and out from being underwater.” “I thought about all the things floating in the water after the storm,” he explains, “and all the people in need.” The etched bottles allude to hurricane Katrina’s death toll. The vessels protect messages, delivering them to a safe haven. Glass hands represent the countless, often unsung, individuals who rendered aid to the residents of the Gulf Coast. “Even during the storm and the trying times after,” recalls Gaudet, “people still helped others.”
In the foyer of the museum lay Fats Domino’s grand piano, sitting as it was found in his flooded home. Really, I can’t tell you how moving this entire exhibit was. One can’t imagine the suffering and loss that occurred when Katrina wrecked this area.
I thought about Katrina often as I walked around New Orleans. As we walked by restoration, I wondered if this was still damage from Katrina. There was a vacant high-rise building that sat on the edge of the RiverWalk area. Was this just abandoned, waiting to be razed? I saw bricks and cobblestones missing from some of the streets. Had these been washed away or otherwise damaged during the storm? Is it even possible that Katrina was almost ten years ago?
I really don’t know if I would have had the fortitude to return to my home after that kind of devastation. The force of New Orleanians must be awesome.