Audubon Park and the French Quarter | New Orleans Part V

Yesterday was our last full day in the great city of New Orleans.

We started out with a trip to the Audubon Park in Uptown, just across the street from Loyola and Tulane Universities. The streetcar ride was quite long, but the houses just seem to get larger and more elegant as you go along, so I was happy just to stare out the window.  Originally, we had planned to jog about 3 miles in Audubon Park, but I was having some foot issues, so we decided to walk it instead.  The park was beautiful.  The riverside walk south of the zoo, not so much, but it was nice to log some extra walking time anyhow.

The trees were massive, old, and beautiful.

There were some murky waters.

I got too excited about the hanging moss.  I could tell Jordan was worried that this three mile walk was going to take forever if my photo-snapping did not subside.

[Insert some hilarious joke about Air Jordan here]

After the walk, we then showered and I headed back to the conference for the late morning and a good chunk of the afternoon. The exhibits were winding down.  I noticed that many librarians seem to be much better than I am at collecting free swag at the exhibits.  I was proud of myself for securing a lanyard, a notebook, a coffee mug, and two free books for our collection (the library’s, not our personal one).  But many of these people had to stop by the UPS store to ship home all of the free stuff they collected.  Later I talked to another branch manager who said that she likes to collect enough swag so that she can hand it out to all of her staff at the next staff meeting.   I wish I had thought of that and been able to collect enough stuff to do so!

After leaving the conference, I met up with Jordan again.  We spent our evening wandering the French Quarter yet again, stopping for coffee and turtles (the pecan cluster kind) at Community Coffee.

While in the French Quarter, I had a solid “duh” moment.  Of course parts of New Orleans ought to remind me of South America.   The Spanish influence in New Orleans is strong.  Oh, colonialism.

We were planning to eat at Napoleon House, but learned that the kitchen was closing at 5:00 because they were winding down for a summer break.  We decided a barley pop might do the trick while there.  It is seriously the best serving establishment (aka bar) I have ever seen.  They play classical music, the servers seem like they are making careers out of it instead of simply working jobs, and the place is over 200 years old.

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Since we were still in need of some food, we asked for another local, inexpensive, and tasty place to eat that was within walking distance.  They recommended Coop’s Place on Decatur Street.  I phoned some fellow librarians and we met up with them for supper.  Jordan went traditional and tried out the Jambalaya.  I had a simple pasta dish.  Good though.  Our night ended with a street car ride “home” to the hotel.

Unfortunately, we never worked in the ghost tour I wanted to take (nerd alert: I wish I could take a historical ghost tour in every city I visit) or the swamp tour we talked about taking.  I guess this means I have still got some excuses to return.  And this time, I will make sure I know who is willing to serve those vegetarian muffalettas.

P.S. we made it home in time for Pretty Little Liars!

Vegetarian in New Orleans | NOLA Part IV

Honestly, I was a bit frustrated. It has been more difficult to find good vegetarian options here than I thought it might be.  And vegan options in New Orleans?  Not so many.  Sure, I tried Green Goddess, Surrey’s Juices, and went to Slim Goodies for breakfast.  I tried to seek out the options.  But I want to experience the city.  I want to say I’ve had a po’ boy, a muffaletta, and red beans and rice.

I had a vegan Chinese supper….that might have had MSG.

I have already mentioned that Slim Goodies was great and veg friendly.

Surrey’s has delicious juices and great choices, but is only open until 3 PM.

I mentioned that my veggie pasta (at Mulates) was boring.  Sure, the non-vegan dessert was great (I might have said life-altering?)  Does all red beans and rice need to have huge chunks of sausage?  Maybe to be authentic, I guess?

Green Goddess served up delicious (and I mean delicious) food in a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.  But my three tomato slices and three stalks of asparagus did not do the trick for my hunger.  Not even when covered in that manchego cheese.  There were really only vegan options if you had them hold the cheeses, which seemed to play integral parts in their meals.

We wandered around after eating at the Green Goddess, looking for another place to grab a snack, treat, etc.  When I am hungry, I am less likely to resist dairy.  And gelato it was!

For a different meal, the husband and I were hoping to hit up Central Grocery for Muffalettas, which traditionally have salami, ham, cheese, and tons of olive tapenade.  I had heard that they were more than happy to make vegetarian ones upon request.  But Central Grocery is closed on Sundays and Mondays.  We went with Plan B: the Napolean House, which was also closed.  So we made a Plan C and went across the street to Pierre Masperros.  The ambiance suited me, but when I ordered a meatless muffaletta, the waiter seemed as though I was insulting the integrity of the sandwich.  He said it would be plain and dry and basically just bread.  But I could try the hummus.  The hummus was fine.  But I have had hummus many-a-days at home.  Grrr.  The husband had the muffaletta.

And he was nice enough to scrape away some meat and let me try a bit of olive and cheese sandwich.  Some out there may think I compromised by eating the bread and cheese that have touched the meat.  Think what you like.  It made me feel better.

When I get frustrated with the food options, I force myself to think about how great the conference sessions have been.  Or I force myself to look at and appreciate the architecture.

And if that stops working, I will console myself by dreaming of the Tomato Head.

Quintessential NOLA Experiences | New Orleans Part III

Don’t you worry.  I am still alive in New Orleans.  I just fell asleep while drafting my post last night and was unable to get internet time before my 8 AM conference session.  Moving on to the photo-heavy post.

Jordan is here!  It is much more fun exploring a city when there is someone to do it with (that is not to say that I don’t think vacationing alone may be soothing for the soul as well).

Yesterday, we started our day early and ended it late (well, not too late).  We walked from our hotel to Uptown New Orleans. There are numerous beautiful homes along the way.  I stopped to marvel at many of them.  I always wonder if someone is just sitting inside watching me take pictures of their home.  It must be satisfying to know that your home provides aesthetic value to the neighborhood.  I loved, loved, loved the old trees that remained along the roads, even if they did make the sidewalks more difficult to walk on.

It is maybe a mile and a half walk from our hotel to what is now one of my top breakfast places of all time.  I feel like just stepping into Slim Goodie’s helped us add a few hipster points to our wannabe scale.

I was originally interested in Slim Goodies because of its vegan options, but when we got there I just could not resist “the Guatemalan” breakfast option.  I hadn’t had eggs in a long time–wrapping them up in tortillas seemed to lessen the shock.  Jordan went with the Crawfish omelet, which he seemed to be more than happy with.  Slim Goodies had sweet potato pancakes on the menu.  When sweet potatoes in any form are on a menu, I need them!  I will be trying to replicate that guy at home.

After breakfast we wandered through Uptown for a bit longer and then stumbled upon LaFayette Cemetery.  If you have been reading for a couple months, you know I like to smile in cemeteries.

No one else in all of New Orleans is wearing denim btw…

We caught the street car that was not named Desire over to the Canal Street. It’s been a little while since I have had to stand at bus stops and make sure I have my fare for a bus/metro trip.  The street cars move petty slowly, but fast enough to create a bit of a breeze, which I am thankful for.

We hopped off and made our way through the French Quarter for the first time. It truly felt like we had left the United States.  I know it is called the French Quarter and while I certainly understand why, something about the the area makes me feel like I am in South America.  I cannot really put my finger on what it is.

We took an obligatory walk down Bourbon Street.  Sorry, we did not buy anyone a shirt that said “I got Bourbon-faced on S*&! Street.”  I was relieved to be walking Bourbon Street in the day.  Not because I think I would feel unsafe at night, but because I do not feel that it would be my scene.

We made another obligatory New Orleans stop yesterday: Cafe du Monde!  We had to try those beignets.  We fought our way to an empty table.  You really cannot wait for a cleared table–you must grab one as soon as some other group stands up.  We looked at the table mess for a while, wondering how the last group of customers could have been so careless with their powdered sugar.  Ha.  It doesn’t take long to understand why there are piles of powdered sugar everywhere.  When you eat beignets in New Orleans, don’t wear anything black.

After an early doughnut lunch, I headed to the conference for the afternoon.  My sessions yesterday were both extremely helpful, inspiring, and practical.  One was about programs in rural public libraries and the other about Southern authors.  Hearing the authors speak about their methods and inspiration was very beneficial for me.  I am also still trying to wrap my mind around the concept of “being Southern” so I was curious to hear the authors’ feelings on being labeled as “Southern writers.”  Many authors also touched on how long and grueling the writing process can be.  Tayari Jones (writer from Atlanta) said that she hates to hear anyone call him or herself an “aspiring writer.”  If you are writing, you are a writer.  🙂

Post-sessions, Jordan and I met up with one of my former co-workers (from my National Gallery time) and many of her librarian friends.  I think we might be a bit out-cooled when around that crew.  But they were a friendly lot of cool librarians.  And I am very excited to have met some other young public library branch (and district) managers!  It is comforting to know that I am not the only one out there.  Unfortunately, I have got no pictures for you from that meet-up 🙁  I slacked.

In the evening, we met up with my former boss (who took a job in the Cayman Islands…).  I was very pleased to talk to her, hear her reassuring thoughts on how to handle certain situations, etc. She makes me grateful that we’ve got this thing called the internet, so that she is never more than an e-mail away when I am in need of a mentor.

I got no pictures of our food from this night.  I had a mediocre veggie pasta, but Jordan went for the alligator.  He said the sauce that came with it was good, but the alligator itself tasted just like your basic grilled chicken.  Nothing to get too excited about apparently.  If you want to get excited about something, get excited about the bread pudding with rum sauce that is so popular here.  I think that dessert changed my world!

Busy day full of food and librarians!

ALA Conference in New Orleans

Some days I love being a librarian.  Well, really, most days.   But today definitely falls into that category.

I started the day with a run.  I know, it’s hard to believe.  I do not normally make a point to exercise a bundle on vacation (hiking just happens to fall into that category), but we have that 5K coming up next Saturday, so I figured I better try to make an effort.  I found some suggested running routes on www.befitnola.com.  I ran only about 2.5 miles of this 5.3 mile route.  Because I am realistic, and it is really humid here.

I really enjoyed the route.  There were beautiful historic homes to wish I owned along the path.  When I returned to the hotel, I hit up the continental breakfast, which was your typical breakfast.  I had a bagel and two plums that I had brought with me from yesterday’s road trip.

And then in true Graesser fashion (I love you, Leah :)), I headed off for my second breakfast at a juice bar around the corner from us.  It is so close and so refreshing that I think I will become a regular during the few days I am here.  Now, I normally make it a point not to eat things that glow (or things that have gimmicky rhyming names–think ooey gooey), because they usually are not natural.  But this orange-carrot juice was glowing.  And I was too–from the humidity.

I finished this on my way to the convention center, which I was headed to for registration purposes.  I had not received my badge in the mail like most attendees, so I had to stop by the “Special Assistance” booth.  They got things all squared away once I showed them my payment confirmation e-mail.  (Smart phones are nice!)

And then I received a badge, a monster program booklet, and an enormous ALA tote bag.  This bag makes playing “Spot the Librarian” a whole lot easier.

But let’s be real, our “I <3 the Library”,  “Mysteries are bloody good”, and “746.43” (the Dewey numbers for knitting) tote bags already gave us away.

After registration, I headed over to my YALSA (Young Adult) preconference session.  I had signed up for this while I was the manager at a smaller branch that did not have anyone designated for Teen Services.  But with our Teen Services staff member at part-time (and on leave at present), I think it was still very beneficial.  I am now excited and curious about what can be done in our library system.  I had fun chatting with some pretty nifty fellow librarians while there.  YA librarians have so much energy!

I headed back toward the convention center after the preconference.  Librarians stood waiting anxiously outside the Exhibit Hall until 5:30.

Unfortunately, since my preconference session was not over until 4:30, I was not able to attend the opening speaker session with Dan Savage.  But while I was waiting in line, I was able to catch part of his speech on the television in the lobby.  And then I moseyed into the Exhibit Hall with all the other librarians.

I talked with a few vendors.  One was LiveMocha, which is starting to move away from its free model.  I love the idea of LiveMocha (think RosettaStone with Social Networking instead of the automatic computer feedback), but I wish my patrons would not need the library to subscribe to it.  I also asked a couple places about automated check out services and wireless printing capabilities for library patrons.

I’ve marched back over the the Garden District and am preparing to pick Jordan up from the airport.  His flight has been delayed.  I should be looking through my conference guide and planning out some other sessions.  Or reading more of “To Timbuktu.”

We are planning to go out for supper when he gets in.  But I got hungry.  And I ate a Snickers.  And some free grub at the Expo.  Good thing I made that run a priority….

Arriving and Dining Alone in New Orleans

I made it!  After nine and a half hours of driving (can you say leg cramps?) and four states, I have arrived in New Orleans.  I haven’t seen much of it yet, since I haven’t ventured far from the hotel, but I like what I have seen.  I am staying on St. Charles Avenue, and am enjoying watching the street trolley go to and fro.

We do stuff on the cheap, you know, so I was looking for a bargain of a hotel.  I went with the same chain that we opted for during our Atlanta stay.  That didn’t turn out to be the best, but I am not disappointed with our accommodations here.

 

The hotel is actually made up of a handful of older buildings, almost all of which have courtyards.  It’s nice to see something other than a cement wall for a view.

Apparently, the Mardi Gras parade runs down St. Charles Ave.  I was a bit amused to see the random strings of beads atop the power lines.  The tree in our courtyard is full of beads, even if you cannot see them in my picture.

After settling into the hotel, I headed out to the nearby Walgreens and then found myself a place to eat.  I was on a cheese overload from last night’s amazing trivia extravaganza, so I tried to look for a place with some meat/dairy free options.  Asian food is a blessing.

I thought about just getting my order to go since I would be eating alone.  But really, I don’t mind dining alone too much.  As long as the wait staff is not repeatedly asking you in their pity voices “Will anyone else be  joining you?” Table for one, please.

My vegetables were stir-fried to the perfect degree and the brown sauce was tasty enough.  The tofu could have used some serious work, though.

And Asian food is not a blessing if it’s got MSG.  Toward the end of the meal, a one-sided headache started to settle in.  Boo.

Tomorrow I will be heading over to the convention center for registration early in the morning.  At noon, I will be attending a pre-conference workshop that I am excited about.  It is related to Young Adult (YA) librarianship, which would have been a bit more applicable before I switched branches, but will still help me out.  I’m also very excited for Jordan to arrive tomorrow!

Signal Point to Edwards Point Hike

As I mentioned before, we were considering a weekend camping visit to Chattanooga.  Mainly, we wanted to get in some hiking and sight seeing.  On Friday, we checked the weather, saw that there was a chance of thunderstorms and decided a day trip might fit the bill.  We left Knoxville around 8:30 AM, and got to the Chattanooga in about an hour and 45 minutes.

We stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up some trail food.  I used to take forever in Wal-Mart because I would find tons of things I didn’t know I needed until I saw them.  Now I take forever because I am skeptical of the food brands offered.  We spotted some familiar brands of bars and got excited when we saw the mini-bananas.

Our hike actually began in Signal Point, Tennessee, which is just north of Chattanooga.  Our directions were a little iffy, but between the guide book, Google, and TomTom we managed to find the trailhead by about 11:30.  Our book said the hike was 5.2 miles round-trip, but we learned that it was actually a little more like 5.9.  Our hiking guide book listed this hike as “difficult,” and it was the first time we had opted for one classified as such.  (Our Mt. LeConte hike is not listed in the book, but I might classify it as difficult due to length and constant climb).  That made me a little nervous.  But we saw a few fit and adventurous seniors heading out on the trail, which made me a little less nervous.

The trailhead starts at this easily-accessible overlook.  Makes you think that the trail will hold good things.

Soon after, the trail is steep and rocky, but easy to follow for the most part, thanks to the white blazes along the trail.

But there are a couple rewarding views along the way.

About halfway to Edwards point, you’ll find Middle Creek which affords a nice swimming hole.  We didn’t stop for long on the way out, since we were a bit worried about possibility of afternoon storms rolling in.

 

In order to continue past the swimming hole, you have to use the suspension bridge to cross Middle Creek.  I’m not really afraid of heights, but found the bouncing bridge to be a little unnerving.  Jordan, who is afraid of heights had no problem.  He said it wasn’t high, so there was no problem.  Maybe it wasn’t high exactly, but I still don’t want to fall through.

In the second half of the “out” trip, we saw many amazing rock structures.  We actually didn’t get any pictures of the rocks that are slowly forming into arches, but they were fun to view.  Because I was so busy looking at rock shelters and structures, I didn’t even realize that we were climbing in altitude.  It was not until the way back down that I noticed the change.

We scrambled a bit more on rocks, and then reached a mile long flat stretch.  The last third of the trip to Edwards Point was very easy compared to the first section.  We spotted a Bigroot Morningglory along the way.  Pretty, especially for a weed.

Eventually, we reached Edwards Point.  And we had it all to ourselves.  This made the trip worth it.  The sky actually started to clear for a bit while we were here.  The sun peeked out around the other clouds.

We explored a bit, and discovered how sheer the drop was.

And we ate our snacks and drank some water.  The minis made the trek.  Unfortunately, they did not taste anything like the sweet mini-bananas we were expecting.

And I pretended to be Rodney Yee, who practices yoga in amazing natural settings.

We decided to get a photo together before heading back toward Signal Point.

We headed back along the rock formations and decided that we should stop at the swimming hole.  I still found it charming, even though the waterfall is obviously not natural 🙂

We soaked our feet.  Which felt awesome.  But we decided against an actual swim, even though we were prepared with a towel and swimming attire.  The temperature just didn’t seem like it would allow for a leisurely swimming experience.

As we were almost back to the trailhead, we bumped into a couple hikers who were just starting the hike to Edwards point and back.  They had about a half a bottle of water between the two of them.  They mentioned the river valley being the “Grand Canyon of Tennessee.”  I had to laugh a little.  Don’t get me wrong, this hike was beautiful, but I am expecting big things from the Grand Canyon.

About fives minutes later, we had arrived at the car. Our hike, including our stops, took about 3 hours 45 minutes.
We changed out of our sweaty clothes and started to head into Chattanooga to catch an early supper.  An ominous cloud rolled in and the sky fell upon us.  We couldn’t help but think about the hikers who had just started the hike.

We drove around Chattanooga and finally settled for some good, cheap Mexican at Taco Mamacita.  You can see that I got started with a large glass of post-hike water and we shared some chips and salsa verde.  You could tell the salsa was freshly made and not sitting around in a large tub.  I ordered the vegetarian jerk taco (delicious!) and a black bean taco menos el queso.  They had sweet potato fries as a side option, and there was really no question that I would be getting them.  Jordan went with a fish taco and the black bean–both with corn tortillas, and a jalapeno corn slaw.

I’ll definitely be recreating their sweet potato fries and attempting a vegetarian jerk taco soon!  We didn’t get to see much of the Chattanooga sights due to our hike and the rain, so we may be returning in the future.  Still, I don’t feel guilty about that.  This hike was one of my favorite hikes in Tennessee so far.

Recreating Food Memories and Celebrating Summer Flavors

I like to recreate my favorite food experiences.  After my long post about the experiences that made me curious about trying new things and seeing new places, I remembered a dessert I had while hanging out with awesome, retired women in Madison, Wisconsin.  The woman I stayed with gave us ice cream with fresh peaches and a homemade raspberry sauce.  This is the first time I remember eating a fresh peach.   All these memories gave me a crazy craving and needed to take care of it.  I picked up some almond ice “cream” and some peaches at Earthfare and made myself a little sauce.

It might look like a mess, but it was a delicious mess!

I cannot remember having quite the same combination since last time.  And it was just as wonderful this go round.