Monday, May 30, 2011


After all the planning for Memorial Weekend, we decided to postpone our Iowa-Illinois Lincoln Highway road trip. Originally we planned to leave work early on Thursday, started driving for about 5 hours which should take us to Iowa by early Friday morning. Then we would have Friday, Saturday and Sunday for driving and exploring "the Father Road". We already completed Route 66 "the Mother Road" last year. Monday would be for driving back to St. Louis. Knowing the weather would not be fitting for the T-bird and our schedule has been full the last few weeks, we thought it would be wise to take it easy. On Friday (May 27th) CP took care of the yard and together we worked around the house. I assisted CP with fixing the drive belt on the dryer drum. It was interesting to see all the components while CP took them apart and how he put everything back together.
I consider the photo above is one of the best I took in New Orleans. The blue sky, the wrought iron balcony, the green door against the red paint and the American flag, together in a perfect image of things I love. The flag is also in the photos below of St. Louis Cathedral and the sculpture of the 7th U.S. president, Andrew Jackson at Jackson Square, across from the cathedral.

The current St. Louis Cathedral was re-built in 1794, remodeled and expanded from 1845 to 1851. It is the oldest continously active cathedral in the United States. The first building was destroyed in 1722 by a hurricane (back then hurricanes were not named). Sixty six years later, on Good Friday of 1788, a fire broke out and burned down the Cathedral.

I wanted to attend the 5:00 p.m. Mass on Saturday (May 14th) but the bus tour took longer.

Above is the sculpture of Andrew Jackson, also a local and national hero, leading his troops in the Battle of New Orleans in January 8, 1815. The sculpture is on display at Jackson Square (of course) where artists display their work, musicians pour out their hearts and souls, jugglers, fortunetellers and all kind of entertainers looking for their big break.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


This past week was filled with severe thunderstorms and heavy rain almost every day. On Wednesday (May 25th) we were again under threat of tornadoes. We don't have a basement in the building where I work. Our office is on the second floor. I sure hope we have sufficient time to run down to the first floor and into the restroom which is in the center of building. We were planning a road trip on Lincoln Highway going thru Iowa and coming back thru Illinois. The forecast called for cloudy, rains and in the lower 60s. Since we wanted to take the T-bird, this kind of weather would not be enjoyable in the convertible! We heard the music combined with the joyous laughter as CH and I were coming out of a coffee shop at the corner of Royal and St. Louis Streets. There it was, a wedding procession with the bride, the groom and the entire party dancing on the street, the ladies twirling the umbrellas or waving the handkerchief, having a great time on their way back to the hotel.

I was so happy to capture these images. What a treat to watch this wedding procession. It was so New Orleans. It was one of the experiences that made the city special and gave long lasting memories to visitors.

As you could see that I am posting more photos from New Orleans. You could also tell that I really enjoyed my visit there. Frommer's wrote about the "never lefts" those people who came to New Orleans as tourists, listened to street musicians, danced to brass bands in clubs at night, gazed at lush tropical courtyards hidden behind unassuming building fronts, ate beignets and so many incredible meals and they never left. The next time I see a wedding procession while in New Orleans, I will be sure to join in, waving a tissue if I have to (since I don't carry handkerchief) and just be part of the party!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


In 1925 William Faulkner lived at this house (I took a photo of my sister CH (below) while she took a photo of the house) at 624 Pirates Alley and worked on his first novels, Mosquitoes and Soldiers' Pay. (I must admit that I did not read any of Faulkner's novels.) Actually, a contributor named Matthew Teague, wrote in the book, "Don't Quit Your Day Job", that when he first read Faulkner's book, The Sound and the Fury, "after the first paragraph I suspected he was insane. He performed terribly in school. And yet - the brilliance - he had persuaded all these people, including the people who gave him a Nobel Prize and a million dollars, that he had something to say." (Wish I was that brilliance!)

Talking about quitting, it was exhauting when I went back to work after being out for 10+ days. I stopped writing about my workplace because I don't want to waste any more of my time on such unpleasant topic. I read blogs where people write about how much they hate their job, yet when they are not at work, they blog about that stupid job, incompetent, immature co-workers and their idiotic boss!
The building above is located at 500 Chartres Street and is known as Napoleon House. According to its website,, even though the French Emperor never stepped foot into this house (because he never came to New Orleans), the house got its famous name after the mayor of New Orleans (1812-1815), Nicholas Girod offered the house to Napoleon as a refuge during his exile.

Since we don't drink, CH and I did not go inside to see why this 200 years old building is one of the most famous bars in America.

This is 632 St. Peter Street (above photo) where Tennessee Williams lived and wrote A Streetcar Named Desire. CH and I took turn taking pictures of each other standing in front of the house, looking up to the wrought-iron balcony, and yelled "Stella!" "Hey Stella!" - I looked a bit out of character, a very funny looking short chubby Stanley Kowalski!

I have been publishing about New Orleans the last two weeks, yet I still have enough photos and stories for another month! I read about bloggers experienced problems with their blogs and some blogs just disappeared into cyberspace. I am glad that this little boring blog of mine is ok, for now. If something happened to this blog, my adoring fans and faithful readers would come to St. Louis, stand beneath the Arch and yell, "TOTA!" "Hey TOTA!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


After more than 10 days off starting May 5th when CH came into town, followed by our road trip to Nashville and Memphis, then our visit to New Orleans (May 11 thru 15), I took CH to the airport on Monday, May 16th, for her flight back to New York. Al Green, the airport parking lot security, tried talking CH into moving to St. Louis. I told Al I would not have any more relatives coming to visit for awhile after CH.
Since we did not win the $81 millions jackpot, I had to go back to work on the 17th. Things got back to normal around the house with just CP and I. It was nice to be home, even when we had to stay in the basement because of constant tornado warnings. The heavy rain and strong wind dampened the weekend but we are thankful that we did not experience any major damage.
During my walk on Thursday (May 12th), I saw the long line in front of Mother's Southern Deli at 401 Poydras Street where the locals and tourists waiting to get a taste of Mother's famous Ferdi Special (another name for po'boy), a giant roll filled with homemade house specialty baked ham, roast beef, and debris. Debris (don't sound very appetizing) being the bits of roast beef that fall off from carving mixed with the gravy.
The next evening (Friday) CH and I went back to Mother's for dinner. There was no line so we walked right in. We quickly found a table at the corner near the kitchen. We were told to go up to the counter, place our order, pay the cashier, come back to our table and then a server will come to take our ticket/reciept. He/she would ask what we would like to drink and later bring our food to us. We did not get a free meal at Mother and she did not ask us to wash dishes!

The bus only made a quick stop in front of this well-known neighborhood dive bar, Mother-in-Law Lounge, created by Ernie K-Doe. Named after K-Doe's 1961 pop/R&B song, Mother-in-Law song, the Lounge was opened in 1994. It was completely under water during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, renovated and re-opened a year later but currently struggling.

Named as the prettiest restaurant in town by Frommer's, the Court of Two Sisters has a huge, foliage-filled courtyard, located in a 2-centuries old building at 613 Royal Street,

Legend has it that if you touch the black wrought iron Charm Gates (shipped from Spain in 1832) in front of the court, you would have good luck. CH and I put our hands on the gates but did not get much luck with winning the lottery. As far as charming, I personally did not get much of that either!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


The tour bus passed by but did not make a stop at Louis Armstrong Park. It looks like it never recovered from the damage done by Hurricane Katrina almost 6 years ago.

My favorite part of the bus tour was when we were able to spend 15 minutes at Citypark. I immediately rushed to the sculpture park and took these photos.

How I wish I could sit for hours under these ridiculously picturesque weeping willows and Spanish moss hanging on these hundred years old trees.

Spanish artist Jaume Plensa created the above piece (stainless steel) entitled Overflow (2005). Look closely or enlarge the image and you will see all the alphabets or words or sentences that represent human emotions overflowing!
Patinated Bronze sculpture, Riace Warriors I, II, III, VI (1983-1988) by Elisabeth Frink (British Scupltor 1930-1993).

I forgot to throw a coin down into this pond to make sure that I would be back to New Orleans. It was my first time visiting and I really had a great time there. Citypark will be high on my favorite places to visit the next time I am back in N'awlins.

Friday, May 20, 2011


A visit to New Orleans would not be complete without going to the cities of the dead as the cemeteries are called. On Saturday, May 14th, CH and I signed up for a 2-hour bus tour that included the residential area of the French Quarter, City Park, Garden District, the Ninth ward and the cemeteries. We thought it would be safer than going there ourselves, even during the day. The bus tour also would be much easier for CH than the walking tour. According to Lonely Planet, "Saint Roch Cemetery is one of New Orleans' more interesting cemeteries, and arguably the most eccentric chapel." The tour bus did not stop there so we could not see "all sorts of ceramic body parts (ankles, heads, breasts), prosthetic, leg braces, crutches and false teeth, as testaments to the healing power of a sacred site in front of a particularly tomb."

It is called "the cities of the dead" because of the non-traditional methods of above the ground burials. The bus driver/tour guide only drove by St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. He did not stop there and we did not ask why, so we could not see the crypt of voodoo queen Marie Laveau. I took these photos when the bus made a 10-minute stop at St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.

According to Frommer's guide, St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 is unsafe compared to No. 1 and it recommended not going there unless with an official tour group. I must say that I was bit nervous even when it was during the day and the bus was only a few feet away because the tombs are very tall and a short person like me could be dragged away without anyone seeing!

I could not help taking the above photo of the tombs and in the background the billboard showing Powerball lottery reaching $81 millions on Saturday, May 14th. I thought the saying, "You can't take it (money) with you (when you are either six feet under or above ground)!" Later CH and I purchased a few lottery tickets just to try our luck. We thought if we won the jackpot then we could stay in New Orleans for another week! We won $4 on one of the tickets, enough to break even :)

Above photo shows the building of University of New Orleans in the background. When a person dies, could that be considered graduating from living?

The statue on top of the above tomb is very popular because it is being used in tour guides and many of the promotional brochures about New Orleans cemeteries.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


On Friday, CH decided to skip the afternoon workshop so we could go to the French Market. Even though the Market is within walking distance, we took the taxi to get there because it was rainning. The Market has everything for everybody, from typical items normally found at flea/farmers market such as handbags, decorated jewerly, knockoff fashion, crafts, locally grown fruits/veggies/spices, souvenirs and of course, food stands. Too bad we would have to miss the annual Great French Market Creole Tomato Festival coming up in June.

I learned that the Market is part of the French Quarter. The taxi dropped us off at the east end of the Market, corner of Decatur and Govenor Nicholls. The Market reminds me of Cho Ben Thanh in Sai Gon. My Mom used to take me there when she went shopping. Since Viet Nam was also heavily influence by French culture, I was very comfortable while in New Orleans.
After lunch, we walked the six blocks along the riverside, passing Ursuline Avenue, St. Philip, Dumaine, St. Ann Streets, Orleans Avenue, St. Peter, Toulouse and at St. Louis Street, we decided to walk toward the Cathedral.

The rain stopped as we strolled down the streets, filled with live music and enjoyed lunch at an outdoor cafe (photo above). We both selected Po'Boys, a fried oyster for CH and catfish for me. (Po-Boys is a sandwich on French bread with different fillings). We became daring and shared an order of fried gator meat. While waiting for our food, we talked, relaxed, commented about people walking by and listened to the band playing Get Your Kicks on Route 66! It was a great afternoon with my sister.

At the edge of Jackson Avenue, is the famous Cafe du Monde, serving cafe au lait and beignets, since 1862. We stopped there to take photos but could not find an empty table. All the tourists went straight from the airport to here because the travel guides stated that the Cafe is a must stop when in New Orleans.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The next day, Friday, while CH was at the conference, I continued to explore the Big Easy. At the corner of Canal and Carondelet), I stood in line (you could tell the regular riders based on how they dress and what they carry going to work or daily routines different from tourists like me just riding the streetcar for the experience of riding the old-time vehicle) waiting for the famous St. Charles streetcar.

The St. Charles streetcar, an iconic dark green wooden streetcar, is a National Historic Landmark. It takes riders from downtown (Canal and Carondelet) to the end of the line at South Carrolton and South Clairborne Avenue. For only $1.25 each way, the 6 1/2 miles offers the best views of beautiful Southern mansions in the Garden District. Running along Carondelet, the route passed Common, Gravier, Union, Perdioso, Poydras, Lafayette, Girod, Julia, St. Joseph then turn around at Lee Circle Monument on Andrew Higgins Drive and back to Canal.

I wanted to ride the 952 because it was the streetcar (named Desire) that Blanche DuBois was told to take but I did not wish to transfer to the one called Cemeteries, ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields, so I got on the 906!

Claimed to be the oldest continuosly operating street railway system in the world, St. Charles streetcar is not air-conditioned. It does provide a good map of all the stops along the route (above photo) and if I had more time, I would love to hop on-and-off at all the interesting points or ride around a few times. It would be the least expensive way to see the town at my own pace.

We missed the celebration of the famous playwright's 100th birthday took place in March. A 5-day event from the 23rd to 27th, was not confined to just Tennesse Williams but also readings, literary discussions and musical performances by other New Orleans playwrights and artists.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Thursday, May 12th - After our walk around the Quarter, CH and I got back to the hotel around 5:45 p.m. to get ready for the bus to pick us up at 6:30 p.m. for a tour and dinner at Mardi Gras World.

The tour and dinner was organized by the conference people. There was bit of chaos because everyone just gathered in front of the hotel. There were two busses but no line was formed and no directions so people could not orderly getting on the bus. I tried to stay with CH so I could help her. When we got on the bus, there were available seats but we were told that they were saved. I was so ready to use a few "French-Creole" words I learned while walking along Bourbon Street!

We were able to find two seats together towards the end of the bus. The ride was short and at city streets speed limit, so I did not experience any motion sickness. The Mardi Gras World was located on the Riverfront, in an isolated industrial warehouse area.

According to the brochure, Mardi Gras World is the place where magic comes alive. We walked thru the gift shop into the theater for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. We were divided into three groups and followed the guides for a behind the curtain tour of the warehouse where all the mega-floats from previous parades are kept and maintained. We were told that the artists already began planning for next year's parades.

After the tour, we enjoyed a real N'awlins dinner that included jambalaya, seafood gumbo, pasta rue bourbon (seasoned crawfish cakes atop rigatoni pasta tossed with Cajun crawfish cream sauce) and white chocolate bread pudding (I took one bite and got drunk - there was probably a whole bottle of rum in the cake).

We enjoyed the tour having the opportunity to see the giant props up-close, in the making and the actual floats used in the parades. I was surprised to learn that the props were made of styrofoam because the material is light and easy to form into shape.

We learned that it is very costly to create the props, the costumes and a lot of people spent a lot of time on making the floats.
There were strings of gold (for power), green (for faith) and purple (for justice) beads on the tables. We were told to take the beads at the end of the dinner as souvenirs. We took the beads so we did not have to wait until next year parades!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Top photo - Louis Prima, playing beautiful music.

Thursday, May 12th - I met up with CH at the hotel after her seminar. CH already ate lunch, provided at the conference. I had a muffin in the morning and drank lot of water during my walk, so I was not hungry. After 45 minutes of resting in the hotel room, at around 2:40 p.m. CH and I walked from the hotel to Bourbon Street.

We sat down at the Musical Legends Park at 311 Bourbon Street for a cup of cafe au lait. (I thought it was silly that we pretended to enjoy this hot drink while the temparature was in the high 80s.) We placed an order of beignets, New Orleans famous golden squares, served in three, (I could not find the reason why the beignets are sold in 3) covered in powered confectioner's sugar. (I thought beignets are just French pastry wannabe American fried donuts!) CH and I each enjoyed one and shared the 3rd beignet.

The cafe has a nice setting outside, I especially like these scupltures of famous musicians. Left to right are Antoine "Fats" Domino, Al "Jumbo" Hirt and Pete Fountain. The sculpture below is Chris Owens.

Below is Ronni Kole, adorned a string of red beads.

One of the things I like about New Orleans is the music. You could be walking the street and be drawn into lively performance at cafe, on the street or from a courtyard garden, hidden from view, yet so inviting that you could not resist the urge to seek where the sound comes from.

Benjamin was so drawn by the musicians (above) that he decided to have a jammed session with Al, Pete and Antoine.

Since I already saw most of the Quarter earlier in the day, I became sort-of a personal tour guide showing CH around. CH wore a red shirt and I had a navy pants, so we both had white powered sugar all over our clothes, just like the way it should be so everyone knew that we just ate three beignets.


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