Friday, April 29, 2011

Remembering Autumn

I remember a day back in Autumn... we had dinner with two wonderful friends, Derrick & Liz. I was blissfully pregnant and it was still warm enough to sit outside. We ate at a lovely Greek restaurant for the very first time. I remember what I had-- a sort of Greek lasagna. My friend Liz had the same.

We talked, joked, and shared in such a wonderful moment. Liz shared through her prayer of thanksgiving before our meal that she was expecting. It took me longer than Ray and once I realized what she had said, I was beaming. We were both pregnant. To think we'd have babies within months of one another who would share experiences together, play together, and be in the same grade at school. Derrick is a CPA, so tax season is his busiest time. They were expecting their baby just as tax season ended! What a joy! Well, that day of expectation is today.

They were the first friends here in Illinois we shared our early pregnancy with over dinner at a Spanish tapas restaurant. We couldn't wait to tell people and we had a feeling these two would become great friends. During my entire pregnancy leading up to their news, I was hoping they would become pregnant, too. I wanted to share this journey with a couple we both greatly admired. And for awhile, we did share that same love and joy new parents have.

And sadly, both of our stories are incomplete. I suppose they are complete, but with endings we so sadly realize as unfortunate. Liz miscarried sweet Autumn, and because of when she was conceived, that became the name of their first baby.

Today, we remember Autumn and all the joy we shared in carrying our babies. Forever loved and never forgotten.

NOLA Adventures Day 3 + Airplane Diaries Chicago-bound

I spent yesterday walking the streets of New Orleans once again. It's like a different city from the daytime to nighttime. There is no denying the energy that the people of this city have. Our cab driver who took us back to the airport was incredible. He clearly loves his city. He told us about how he left the city after Katrina but how he was drawn back. He shared stories about the Po' Boy and Muffuletta sandwiches and beamed when we asked questions.

We were a bit sad to leave just before the Jazz Festival kicked off (starts today!), but think it would be amazing to attend in the future. That's right. Despite my interest to poke fun, I also would love to return and soak up the rich music culture. Just as I thought Paris was both beautiful and absolutely unsanitary all at the same time, I also think New Orleans has both positive and negative attributes. As does every city. The streets were considerably packed yesterday and our cabbie explained how great tourism has been for them and did not foresee it slowing down anytime in the future.
These charming train cars travel all around the city.
They're not all red, but just as the people here, they are multicolored and multifaceted.
Whenever I see an old printed building, it excites me. I just want to time travel back to when the sign was created and walk the streets in a totally different era-- one that left remnants and roots, but that have since faded from site. And I personally think a Ginger Mint Julep sounds delicious.
I was fond of this door and the fleur-de-lis that adorned it. This symbol has quite the history that does not isolate itself as a strictly NOLA lily flower.
So very European-esque are these women sitting on that balcony. Could be a better picture, but alas, I was using el cheapo camera and in quite the hurry upon snapping. As it is for any city while being a female, alone, I almost left my purse at the hotel... I wasn't about to bring our fancy camera out with me! Can you say, "please steal me" in a more blatant way?
I needed a picture of music. Taken at Jackson Square where artists of all kinds congregate... if one would consider tarot card readers to be "artists" anyhow.
Inside the St. Louis Cathedral. Yes, this one.
Jackson Square Park shot in front of the St. Louis Cathedral.
More incredible art from some talented folks...
Sarcasm alert. How is it that in the 3 days we spent here and walked past this shop at least three times, no one noticed that their employee clearly spelled the name of their restaurant wrong and never bothered to change it? Pat Sajak, I'd like to buy a "c" and place it between the "s" and "e" letters.
Didn't eat there, but it seemed packed!
I did eat this, though. Felipe's Taqueria. Mmmm. In all honesty, Chicago is pretty lame in the Mexican food category. Whenever I find a place in another city that looks promising, I try it. When you grow up 2 hours from Mexico, burritos run in your bloodstream. It was just a promising as I'd hoped.
As I was walking past these buildings, I met a woman who walked with me the majority of the way back to my hotel. She was a lawyer in town from St. Louis and asked for directions. Being the savvy traveler that I am, I was able to answer with promising results! I noticed she had an Anthropologie bag and we had a nice conversation about our favorite store.
...this post wouldn't be complete without more airplane diaries... so to end our trip, here's the scoop:

I wasn't originally scheduled to visit New Orleans, but after Ray being gone for too many days this month, we decided to purchase me a plane ticket about 2 weeks ago. We saved $80 by booking ourselves on two different airlines. Our planes were leaving within 20 minutes of one another and arriving at O'Hare within 10 minutes of one another. The $80 extra bucks in our pockets meant we'd be flying alone and would therefore have different seat partners than if we were flying together. I took a United Express flight on one of those small airplanes (Embraer) that sat 2-2 on each side. The man I had the pleasure of sitting next to seemed nice but surely took both armrests. Can you tell I hate flying? I hate the claustrophobia, discomfort, and potential death time spent in the air on any given flight.

Back to the seat partner. Once we achieved a safe altitude, the 40-year old man switched on his electronic device, iPhone, to listen to some tunes. Except, he apparently did not understand that the entire plane of people did not have an interest in listening to his selection.

I was busy reading Elizabeth McCracken's sad memoir about her dead baby and needed silence to really soak in the weight of a life I parallel.

There were a number of songs I could literally sing along to... Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, and his favorite selection, Muse's Uprising. But every time he came to Muse in his playlist (twice), he would shoot the volume up tenfold. It was entertaining to watch this man get so excited about this song. Fingers tapping, legs moving, head bobbing. And my goodness... eardrums busting. Just on this song though. I almost asked him why he hates authorities so much, but carried on with my dead baby book. Here's the video for your listening & viewing pleasure:

Or maybe he just likes American Idol and James Durbin got him excited about the song? I'm quite the people-watcher. It makes me think of what people say about me when they watch me do idiosyncratic things like apply lip balm every 15 minutes despite my reapplication being completely unnecessary.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NOLA Adventures Day 2

We're having a great time here in New Orleans despite my sarcasm and condescension. It's my personality. End of discussion.

Ray headed to work and I headed to Starbucks for this lovely breakfast. I prefer steel-cut oats, but since Starbucks said it's "perfect", I guess it is, right? ;)
Walked through Jackson Square Park...
 St. Louis Cathedral. From the other side while walking on Bourbon Street past strip bars, I saw this church with a symbol of Jesus Christ projected on the exterior. It was interesting... I'm sure many drunks have walked by quite convicted. Haha. Just behind me and my camera are a bunch o' stinky horses!
 Love the art culture. They surround the park.
 A local artist
I was excited to try a Meltdown gourmet popsicle! They're located just past Cafe Du Monde on the corner of Dumaine and Decatur. I read about them on Yelp and people rave about their unique flavors. I'm all about supporting the local business that serves a unique treat! I paid $3 for a pineapple-cilantro popsicle and really enjoyed it. Around 85-90 degrees and a decent amount of humidity along with serious winds = popsicle disaster... but I made it happen. :) It could've used more cilantro, but altogether it was pretty yummy. In a blind taste-test, I wouldn't have been able to tell there was cilantro in the popsicle, but still thought it was delish. Some of their other flavors include: lime-basil, strawberry-hibiscus, salted caramel, passionfruit-ginger... Kinda cool, huh?
I kept walking on Decatur and stumbled upon this place. Plenty of people walked in, so I joined them. Why not? Since 1906? They must be doing something right! I read the word muffuletta and I was sold. I LOVE muffuletta. I thought it was muffaletta, not muffuletta. LOVE. Nevermind that I walked by about 2 hours after eating oatmeal and a popsicle. I wasn't very hungry but decided that eating was logical entertainment.
Go there if you're ever in NOLA. The best sandwich I've ever had (and yes, vegetarian or not!) was from Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica, CA. They have 1,507 reviews on Yelp with 4.5 stars. It rocks the house. You wait in line 100-deep just for a sandwich and don't mind... that's when you know it's amazing. I'd say the place I went today was second in line.........if you like muffuletta.
About to open up my amazing sandwich of high quality cheeses, amazing bread, and their special muffuletta mix. Perfection. I sat on a park bench listening to some outdoor entertainment from a nearby cafe and dug right in. I ate about half the sandwich and my hands were covered in olive oil. While it was absolutely worth all the extra calories, I had NO napkins! I managed to work my way over to a bar leaving my sandwich on the bench to grab cocktail napkins before heading on my way.

Except... I didn't walk far before the man and his wife on an opposing bench approached me. The man says something like, "Is that a muffuletta sandwich? From that place down the street? I was talking with someone yesterday who is a local and they said their family has been going to that same deli for generations. Was it pretty good?" Needless to say, I raved about it.
Ah, calories galore. Nummers again. Cheese, bread, and olive mix = my personal heaven.
When you keep heading down Decatur you eventually find yourself at the French Market...
Once I got to this point I started to head back because my feet were telling me that it was time. I wanted to capture some of the ornate and beautiful architecture that is all over the city. Stinky as it is... I still think it's charming.

I could probably research... but I don't know what these are here for. To tie up horses? Anyone care to educate me?

 This is just so charming!

 Love these stoops and the shutters.
I love this blue wrought iron!
This was recommended to us and Yelp agrees, but we passed on Preservation Hall. It looks like an awesome, rustic jazz hall, but since we don't have discerning ears for jazz, we didn't want to pay the $12 cover each to stand in a room without bathrooms or drinks. I'm sure there are some amazing artists who perform there, but it was not worth the extra cash since we're not as familiar with the genre.
 Preservation Hall from the opposite side

I needed to use the restroom and found it quite difficult to find a public one, so somehow I ended up in the Canal Street Mall... and then ate the rest of my amazing muffuletta sandwich... and happened to walk directly into an Anthropologie at the end of my escalator. It was like fate. I love them for oh-so-many reasons... here's one of them:
Dang. If only I had the cash to spend on a personal shopper! But in hindsight, stuff like that doesn't really matter since I know retail therapy only lasts a matter of hours... but while I'm still on the subject... I bought this:
Thought this old-school Walgreens was pretty cool. Or in coupon world, people sometimes call it Wags. Did you figure that out yet, Alli? ;)
 This seemed like a really charming hotel... but we stayed just down the road at the Hilton instead.
I headed back to the hotel in the afternoon and had a fun g-chat date with my friend Laura. She laughed much of the time as I looked to have a lampshade hat. After our date, I made sure to grab a glass of wine from the hotel bar. Mmm, wine.
When the husband came back to the hotel room after a day of meetings, we headed out to dinner at Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street. We walked through a load of drunk people near the Mississippi at the Railroad Revival Tour watching Mumford and Sons and enjoyed the warm evening. Great Day 2 in Louisiana! It's funny how much I remember from our last trip to NOLA in November 2008. Here are a few photos from memory lane...

I did contemplate bringing my green pants for this trip... but didn't. I seemed to forget a lot of things, honestly! Not my best work.