a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘jazz’

getting off bourbon street…

Well, I’m already in Puno… but it seems quiet so might allow me to catch up a little bit.  There will be a little more New Orleans when I get home.  There are a couple more half-written posts but I need good internet to look up links for them and I am finding the internet a little elusive in Peru… but I have already made a friend and there are a few stories to tell so stay tuned…

First, though, I am finally going to finish this post for New Orleans that I keep adding to at random moments.

So, we are not sitting beside the highest navigatable lake in world and keeping our fingers crossed we won’t succumb to altitude sickness… we are in New Orleans searching for some decent jazz…

After my two nights on Bourbon Street, I decided it was time to get off the tourist route and check out Frenchmen Street, which was supposed to feature the jazz clubs that used to exist on Bourbon Street before Larry Flynt and college students on spring break took over.

I am known for being a bit intrepid – and know the best way to get to know a city is to walk it!  And that way – if you can’t find a taxi – at least you know your way home in the dark 🙂  Of course you should start navigating your way through an unfamiliar city in the light.

Due to my Friday night revels – and 5am bedtime – I needed a nap pre-dinner.  I can sleep through practically anything but naps don’t present the opportunity for really deep sleep so shortly into my nap I heard a riotous soundtrack on the street.  I wondered what was going on – but I was too exhausted to jump up immediately and find out.

And it ended up I had plenty of time.  For the second time in two days I hit the streets of New Orleans and discovered an unexpected parade!

It’s still not entirely clear the occasion but it has something to do with the Italian immigrants to New Orleans.  Mostly it just seemed like an excuse for a parade – and corollary partying 🙂  No worries I would be walking the street alone! 😉

Luckily the processional was on the street outside my hotel marching in the direction of Frenchmen Street.  So the best plan of action seemed to be to follow the parade route.  And I got some extra entertainment to accompany my walk 😉

I am quite famous for the speed at which I move, even through crowds, so it didn’t take me too many blocks to get in front of the parade so I could cross over to Decatur Street, my original plan.  Decatur runs parallel to the Mississippi and is full of tourist delights.  Including “authentic” cuisine.

I decided to try one of them out as I had to have some classic Louisiana cuisine as part of my cultural experience.  I also thought I should have a “Hurricane”.  Just because…  My server was wonderful so when she informed me they made great Hurricanes and crawfish étouffé my order was settled.  The Hurricane was too sweet for me but I had my first crawfish!  And a signature local dish.  Apparently in Louisiana, cayenne is as ubiquitous as pepper 🙂

The charming server gave me a rundown of the history of Frenchmen Street and gave me directions from the restaurant.  So, within minutes, I had ducked into my first jazz club (Maison). The band was very good but the jazz was traditional so I stayed for a set and then moved on.

I had read my guidebook by then and went in search of The Spotted Cat.  The band at The Spotted Cat was very talented.  And I’d learned to order Ariba beer.  There was decent local beer in New Orleans – you just needed to make the right inquiries.  So I was ready to settle in for the night…

But New Orleans wins hands down for the most ladies rooms out of service in one weekend!  Not sure what girls get up to in New Orleans…  We got to directed to the men’s but it was gross – and meant there was only one tiny, sticky bathroom for the entire bar.

So I listened to a set and escaped across the street to Snug Harbor – and a clean, functioning bathroom 🙂  At first I was standing in a long line but it was late on Saturday night and I hadn’t had to stand in a line to get into a bar in New Orleans yet so I could afford to be patient.  Once inside, though, it got confusing.   When you are alone you naturally eavesdrop so I gathered everyone was lined up to go into a show and the cover was $25 so it was a commitment.  I had already ordered a drink before this was all clear so watched the show on the TV monitor and overheard some interesting bar conversations…

But my goal was to see live jazz… so off we headed to see if the fourth time was a charm… and it was!  This time I just paid the cover.  It was a whole $10 🙂  But I figured maybe my $10 would score me a better show.

And my instincts were spot on 🙂  The club was called dba.  Not jazz this time but roots music with a touch of soul and a definite southern vibe.  The bar itself was impressive but I was there to hear music so headed for the stage.  The band on stage was excellent but they kept talking about Andrew – in a way that suggested he was a bit of a demi-god to the New Orleans music scene.

So I knew I was waiting for Andrew just like everyone else… except they knew what to expect.   I was already pretty close to the stage but just before Andrew came on some girl directly in front just went into free fall.  Apparently she had a posse and they scooped her before she hit the floor and no one had to call the paramedics.  But they had to carry her off to a bench – or a bed – and it opened up a large gap on the dance floor right in front of the band.  A dark-haired girl and I looked at each other and mutually agreed that it would be acceptable for us to step into the empty space.

I still had no idea who Andrew was but I had a front row seat to his show – and he seemed to have a lot of fans!  It ended up being an unforgettable night, ending on the kind of high that only comes from being willing to live a little and take some calculated risks.

It ended up that it was the dark-haired girl’s birthday, a couple of days before mine, so we had an impromptu mutual celebration.  And her friends had ordered mini cupcakes!  They offered me one.  I loved the music and Andrew was promoting a new CD so I went to buy one on the break and got a second mini cupcake!  And because I was so close to the stage, it was easy at the end to meet Andrew and congratulate him on a fantastic show.  Supporting young talent is one of my things…

It’s a great CD.  Here is the link to him…


I am especially into the song “Beautiful Girl”… it’s on my regular music rotation and every time I hear it that whole night comes back to me.  The wonderful power of music…

In the end, I couldn’t get a taxi… so had to walk all the way home from Frenchmen Street.  But I knew my way…   the only hard part was actually going directly to the hotel and not stopping in the bars I heard along the way to listen to more music…

Make sure you get off Bourbon Street… you won’t be disappointed… and maybe you too will have a magical night full of serendipity …

how to celebrate your birthday :)

check out beads on the cat!

check out beads on the cat!

I made the right call 🙂  It has been raining all day and I have been working since 6:30am…

Technically Sunday wasn’t my birthday but I decided I would do a swap and celebrate Sunday and work Tuesday so it felt like a special birthday day to me :).  It ended up being a truly wonderful birthday.  The whole trip really – but especially my last day in New Orleans.

It started when I met up with the new friend I had made on Thursday night (another lovely Southern gentleman even if he was originally born in the north :).  We went to a place called Café Beignet.  It’s something you will want to remember 😉   It’s at 334 Royal Street and is a charming European style café.  But what is even more exciting is that apparently its beignets were featured on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”.


The first time I went in I hadn’t yet learned about beignets so ended up with carrot cake.  But I read the Food Network advertising and thought I would have to go back to have a beignet.

By Sunday, I had already been to Café du Monde, another place you must go when you come to New Orleans.  Café du Monde is next to the French Market.  It is open 24/7 and all they serve are beignets and beverages.  It is apparently one of the most famous places in New Orleans and you will wait in line to buy donuts.  I remembered fondly my trip to Voodoo Donuts in Portland as I was standing in line…


Having a beignet at Café du Monde is an experience and I would encourage everyone to do it once.  But the beignets at Café Beignet are much better!  And the line is shorter.

My friend had to catch his plane so I took him to see Jackson Square and the Mississippi en route back to his hotel.  By then I was a bit of an expert on what to see in the French Quarter and he had been in business meetings for most of his visit.  I then strolled around the Quarter a little more and tried to get some better photos for this blog!

looks like england :)

lafitte’s blacksmith shop bar

Eventually I got to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar.  It’s one of the oldest bars in New Orleans and another stop you should make on your visit.   Apparently Jean Lafitte operated it as a blacksmith shop as a cover for his pirate enterprises.  Not quite Pirates of the Caribbean but….


The drinks are the same as anywhere else but the ambience is special.  You can imagine you are drinking with pirates 🙂  I also went to Pat O’Brien’s because it’s very

a little old, a little new

a little old, a little new

famous but I would give it a miss.  Maybe the courtyard… but there are lots of more charming places to check out.

I then went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner – and sober up 😉  I planned to go to the Palace Café for dinner.  I am sure it is a fine place but it’s famous too and it seemed impossible to get a place to sit.

And serendipity kicked in again!  I was actually headed for K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen (which was recommended by the bartender at the restaurant I actually ate at so certainly worth checking out) but before I got there I spied something that looked like home 🙂

Generally I like to go with the local culture and not just do things I could do in Vancouver but supposedly this was one of the top 10 new restaurants in Louisiana in 2012.  And I thought it might be a nice change to have a meal without rice or beans on the plate.

It is called SoBou and is unlike anything else I saw while I was in New Orleans.  It’s a place for hipsters :).  My guidebook mentioned some spots for hipsters but I think she isn’t too familiar with what hipsters really do…  They would definitely be right at home at SoBou, which stands for South of Bourbon.  A little piece of hipster Manhattan in the heart of the French Quarter.

Definitely go to this place!  The bartender mixed me up a lovely cocktail.  Unfortunately I can’t remember what he called it – but it’s the kind of place you can trust the bartender to just make you a cocktail 🙂  And the food was divine!

I was a bit obsessed with crawfish due to a random conversation I had had with some locals on Friday.  I’m still not totally sure what a crawfish is and I know I need to eat more of them but I will be back in New Orleans :).  Apparently this is crawfish season so definitely look for some crawfish if you come in March.

They didn’t have any crawfish on the menu so I had to settle for a crawfish bisque with crawfish popcorn, which was divine!  And then I had some Gulf shrimp that had seen some mesquite to go with my apple and pear salad since I was craving some greens – and not collared ones.  It was an exquisite meal and a wonderful birthday present – happy birthday to me 😉


They didn’t have any music though and I wanted more jazz since it was my last night in town so I headed back to the Maison Bourbon where I had had a fleeting visit on Friday night.  Since it was Sunday, it wasn’t too crowded and I actually managed to score a seat at a table.


The house band was playing and they were fantastic!  And they were playing the great jazz of the 50s with lots of solos and improvisation.  I had hit the jackpot.  There was only one small problem.  The ladies room was out of order.  So I decided it was time to find a place with a functioning restroom and went up at the break to buy a CD since the band was so good and I wanted to support them.

Jamil is a modern day Louis Armstrong.  He plays a mean trumpet, has a booming voice that doesn’t need a mike and is a showman with charm to spare.  I mentioned New Orleans was a birthday present to myself and he was determined I should stay for the last set so he could play “happy birthday”.  I told him about my ladies’ room problem.  So he got someone to escort me the ladies in the bar next door so that I didn’t have to leave.


It really is something to have “happy birthday” played by a jazz band!  I highly recommend it.  Apparently the Maison Bourbon is dedicated to the preservation of jazz.  It really felt like I had stumbled into a different era.  Since I was at a table all by myself, they asked if I would share with another couple.  It ended up the lady was from Switzerland and had been to New Orleans to hear jazz 40 years ago!

A lot had changed, for course, so I wrote down all my best recommendations for her to try and get a good experience of the music scene in New Orleans.  I didn’t want her to be a random tourist on Bourbon wondering if all had been lost… it really hasn’t… but you need to know where to look.

One of the most poignant moments during the performance was when Jamil and the band did “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  His voice is very close to Louis’ so you really feel like you are listening to the real thing.  I had to fight for it but it was the song we played to close my father’s funeral and I thought it was a great representation of his attitude toward life.  The last time I talked to him was on my birthday so, needless to say, my eyes were moist listening to the song, but in a good memories sort of way.

You would think that would be enough to make it a perfect birthday.  And that was almost the end… I really wanted to hit the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone before I left town as it was one of the few things left on my list I hadn’t yet done.

we are in the south :)

we are in the south 🙂

But it was really late by then and it was Sunday night so when I first arrived it looked like the bar was closed.  But then I spied a side entrance that was still open and there were people sitting at the bar so I managed to order a shot of bourbon just before last call.

The Carousel Bar is pretty cool… it actually rotates just like a carousel, so it’s not that you think the room is spinning – it actually is!


What a way to finish my birthday – a glass of bourbon on Bourbon Street at a spinning bar.  Made even more special because my wonderful 49th birthday in Portland courtesy of the US Air Force all began because I was drinking bourbon – and they were intrigued by my bourbon flight… that story may make it onto the blog sometime…

getting to the “big easy” not so easy…

I have not abandoned my blog. I just made the usual mistake of booking travel time a couple of months in advance when my future schedule looked really quiet.  Eventually I will get to my semi-retirement phase and that will be true.  But working does pay for the travel so happy to NOT be unemployed 🙂

Last year I threw a splashy, almost year-long birthday celebration.  As I learned at 41, not many people are interested in non-milestone birthdays (unless you are under 21).  So I decided to take myself to New Orleans to celebrate.

It’s been on my list for a long time.  The image in my head comes from a few divergent sources.

The first – my mother’s obsession with everything Disney, which led to an early visit to New Orleans the way Walt visualized and imagineered it.  Part of me is expecting to see the entrance to a Pirates of the Caribbean ride down an alley off Bourbon Street 🙂  And a French quarter as pretty and fake as the one in Disneyland.

The second voice in my head creating images of New Orleans belongs to Richard, a boyfriend from my twenties.  The man who introduced me to jazz.  He felt it peaked with bebop and that the tenor saxophone is the most perfect instrument.  Not only do I still have his pictorial “history of jazz” in my memory box, I also have strong feelings about jazz, including a love of bebop and a weakness for great improvisation on a saxophone 😉

The final image I bring to the city is Dennis Quaid in “The Big Easy”, an early crush.  Not really on Dennis Quaid, but on the cop he played in the film.  The good guy with a gigantic slice of Cajun charm capable of seducing uptight northern girls…

I am writing this in the Denver airport en route…  so we shall see what kind of stew – or jambalaya – the city of New Orleans really is.

Will there be some cute Disneyesque architecture?  Will I hear some great jazz?  Will a Cajun gentleman with a southern accent sweep me off my feet?

That is the wonder of travel.  The anticipation of the unknown.  The discovery of other cultures.  The personal voyage as you mix with the new place and learn new things about yourself.

This is my first visit to the south.  Granted this is not really “the south” of the Confederates.  But they ain’t no Yankees!  Or laidback west coast Liberals.  I will be in a country I have travelled extensively but yet be in a foreign land.

Louisiana represents a fascinating piece of North American history.  Had the French played their cards better in this part of the world, we might all be learning French as our lingua de commerce instead of English.

Stay tuned for the full report on the REAL “Big Easy” circa 2013.  Post Katrina.  Post Saints Super Bowl victory.  Sans Dennis Quaid 😉


places to bring your mistress ;)

Sorry about the time travelling but the travel stories end up this way cause there are too many stories 😉  imagine it is Sat, Sep 15th

I am sitting somewhere in East London, slightly disorientated – but having a wonderful time.  I was waiting for my server to bring my Manhattan so was just checking out the venue.  I looked up at the ceiling and it’s spectacular – and unique.  It’s vaulted and filled with white beams intersecting with glass panels.  Two ceiling fans are whirling away beneath octopus shaped hammered silver chandeliers.  The cuisine is French and Malay and each ceiling fixture evokes a sense  of one of those locales.

What caught my attention though was the sparkling blue light that shines through the glass ceiling.  I’m not sure what it is.  It shines like a supernatural celestial being.

When you get old, your brain synapses with all kinds of strange connections 😉  The sparkly blue light sent me back to the 80’s and a place called – I think – The Stardust Café.

I am enamored of food – and architecture, art… I don’t eat at McDonald’s 🙂  As a result, I have now been to so many memorable restaurants a lot of the memories have blurred together and only the truly unique experiences are easy to channel in the current day.

My friend Karen was the one who introduced me to the Stardust Café.  Back in those days I didn’t have a lot of cash for restaurants so a night out was an event.  And we were always on the lookout for a value proposition.

That was the attraction.  Karen had been there before so suggested it for our catchup session.  I was young then so maybe it wouldn’t impress me so much today.

The food was good – but it was the atmosphere that made it stand out.  The lighting was very subdued.  You walked up a staircase covered in black carpeting and lots of glitter.  The fairy dust of my Brownie years 🙂  Maybe that’s where my love for glitter began…

Because it was a great value proposition, it became our meeting spot at that point in time.  Because it was in the part of town “across the tracks”, it was hard to find, you had to walk up a staircase to get to the dining room and it was filled with low lighting, mirrors and glitter, we decided on one of our visits it was the ultimate place to take your mistress 😉

The place I found in London because I got lost on my way home from Waterloo station because they were doing the constant upgrades on the Underground and the Jubilee line was down fits the same sort of bill.

But it was also a great discovery.  The food was excellent, the cocktails were first rate and the staff were lovely.  Apparently it is a family who used to manage Ronnie Scott’s.  Everyone is really friendly and the jazz is shockingly good for 5 pounds!  The plan is to do it every Friday.  It is a tiny room and you can chat with the musicians in the break.

They have only been open for a month or two so right now you can bring your mistress – but if it catches on, it might be trickier 😉

For those with no mistresses in tow, here are the details…


p.s. London has been amazing and there are fresh stories as usual – bear with me as it might take some time to get them on line!

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