New Orleans

May of 2016 I visited New Orleans. This was not my first visit – in fact, it was probably my 4th or 5th. In the past I had always gone for Mardi Gras, festivals, New Year’s Eve, or any other reason to party. (These were all college trips.) This trip I went to actually enjoy the city for more than just the party and to also learn about the culture.

Magazine Street

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Magazine Street is a great place to do some boutique shopping, bar hopping and visit some nicer restaurants. I took an Uber ride there and the driver told me this is more of where some of the locals will hang, but I still found plenty of tourist type shops. I found a cute little boutique with a shirt stating, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” -Tennessee Williams

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Not far from Magazine Street is the Garden District. My pull to the Garden District was based on the traditional southern architecture of the homes. I was pleasantly surprised to find a walking tour online which included celebrity homes.

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Anne Rice‘s home is in the heart of the Garden District.

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Right outside of the Garden District is the location of the American Horror Story, Coven house. I am a fan of the show so I definitely wanted to make the stop.

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I had always heard that the cemeteries in New Orleans were worth seeing. They are often referenced as the “City of the Dead.” The graves are built above ground because the water table below the city is so high. The tombs are quite elaborate and worth seeing.

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While walking Metairie Cemetery, I ran into a local who was walking the grounds for exercise. (Yes, the cemetery is that big!) He told me that the location was built on the former grounds of a horse race track and prestigious club. A wealthy northerner from Baltimore named Charles T. Howard attempted to join the club but was repeatedly denied. The Civil War caused the race track and clubs to decline, so Mr. Howard took the opportunity to take his revenge by buying the land and turning it into a cemetery. 

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Sometimes you just need to be a tourist and Mardi Gras World offered that opportunity. Having been to Mardi Gras before, I knew that the floats were some of the most amazing creations I had seen. Mardi Gras World walked you through the history and process of creating the floats. The tour guided you through the warehouse where the floats were created and eventually to where many of the floats are stored.

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City Park is a must see in NO. The park is at the end of the trolley line and is free to visit. There are sculpture gardens, walking paths, children’s story book themed park, and beautiful scenery.

Additional must-sees in New Orleans:

Jackson Square one of the big tourist areas that includes St. Louis Cathedral, views from the levee, Cafe Du Monde for begniets and coffee, and a short walk to either the French Quarter both including the French Market and Bourbon Street.

A Wedding with Chihuly – Phoenix, AZ

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to attend my cousin’s wedding in Phoenix. I was super excited about going to see all of my family as well as taking my first trip since returning to the US. I was pleasantly surprised when I found Chihuly present throughout the wedding reception!

Dale Chihuly is a blown glass artist. I fist learned about him on the Travel Channel, and shortly after, saw his work at the Bellagio in Vegas and Atlantis in the Bahamas.

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Atlantis in the Bahamas

Credit: Dale Chihuly Web Site

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Bellagio in Las Vegas

Credit: Dale Chihuly Web Site

As you can see, Chihuly is famous for blown glass in vibrant colors and shapes, often interwoven in large masses. I have always found blown glass to be beautiful and Chihuly’s work is extremely impressive. 

For the last 6 months or so, Chihuly’s pieces have been exhibited along the desert blooms at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. While the garden itself is lovely, inserting Chihuly’s pieces made it extraordinary. During the day the pieces glistened in the sunlight and at night they glowed over the cacti. We were in for quite a treat without even knowing it!

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The Chihuly Exhibit has ended in Phoenix, but based on the Desert Botanical Garden’s web site, it seems that it has occurred several times. Keep an eye out for it’s return and don’t miss this amazing mix of modern glass sculptures and desert flora.

Visiting a Shrine or Temple During the New Year

In Japan it is tradition to ring in the New Year at a shrine or temple – no big parties there! Just family time and praying for good fortune in the upcoming year. Last year in Kobe, I didn’t realize just how important it was for people to visit a shrine on New Year’s Day until I got caught in the foot traffic leading to the Ikuta Shrine. All car traffic had been stopped due to the number of people visiting the shrine and food vendors lined the path. It was amazing to see the crowd!

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Fun Fact Friday – Tourism Slogans

The Guardian recently released a list of humorous travel slogans from around the world. Here are some of the funnier ones:

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Photo Credit: The Guardian

Latvia – Best enjoyed slowly

New Zealand’s Hutt Valley – Right Up My Hutt Valley

Israel – Size doesn’t matter

Anguilla – Feeling is Believing

Greece – You in Greece

Grenada – Live the Rhythms of Spice

Slovakia – Little big country

Panama – It stays in you

Incredinburgh

Visit Bangladesh before tourists come

The Story Behind the Picture – Helena, AL

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I was fortunate enough to grow up in the great state of Alabama. Now some of you may be shaking your head wondering how I could call Alabama a ‘great state.’ Well, you wouldn’t understand unless you’ve lived there. While ‘Bama gets a bad rap due to its history, primarily during the Civil Rights Movement, there are still some great things about the state: the people are friendly, the food is good, it’s not densely populated, most people have a yard, many people don’t lock their doors and everyone asks about your family. These are all positives for me.

I was in Alabama in 2010 for LJ’s wedding celebration and by this time I had made the best purchase of my life: my camera. I wanted to capture some of what felt like home. Well, for year’s I had passed by the sign for the Cherokee Campground and never thought anything of it, but this particular visit it really struck me that Jesus and a Native American were on the same sign. While Alabama has all those good qualities I listed, it still has quite a few quirks that make it truly ‘Bama!

Fun Fact Friday – Beijing’s House of Poo

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Photo Credit: CNN

I am no stranger to themed restaurants: I’ve been to a cat cafe and a butler cafe while in Japan; but I definitely draw the line at a toilet themed restaurant.

CNN reported on the House of Poo restaurant in Beijing, China. The seats are all toilets and your food is served in mini toilets. (ugh!)

For the full article follow the link.

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Photo Credit: CNN