Monday, October 20, 2008

Five Things To Love

I've been asked by katiedid to tell you five things to love about my state: Louisiana.
I have a confession to make. Louisiana is not my state. New York is. But we moved here eight years ago, driving from west to east. I had already relocated from New York to California to be with my tangoman, and together we decided to move to New Orleans. We had been there once before to teach a tango workshop. A year later, we sold the California house, sent a moving van ahead, and packed the dog and cat into our ancient BMW and started driving east. We stopped along the way teaching workshops, and finally crossed the state line to be greeted by this fabulous sign. I loved it! Bienvenue indeed!
The number one thing to love: The way you are welcomed to the great state of Louisiana:
Another welcome to love is the huge mural of jazz musicians and singers that greets you at the airport. You can pass the time trying to name all the players...
The unique and mysterious scenery welcomes you over countless bayous and swamps. The bald cypress is the state tree.
Snowy white egrets, alligators, and zillions of other swampy critters live in these waterways.
Another thing to love are the Live Oak Trees, (and the lovely plantations on the River Road from Baton Rouge to New Orleans).
They are ancient and huge, ranging from 100 - 300 years old. We live on a street lined with them, and it is a constant visual joy,
Whilst on the subject of nature, the state flower is the fragrant magnolia. Many fragrant white flowers bloom here: Jasmine, gardenia, sweet olive, ginger - the air is always intoxicating.
The state wildflower is the iris. It looks like the fleur de lis, translated from French as "lily flower" is a stylized design of either an iris or a lily.
...and that's the third thing to love - the symbol of the Fleur de lis.
I must mention the state dog. I didn't even know that states have an official breed. Well Louisiana does, and it's the Catahoula.
The state bird is the Brown Pelican, and this one was painted by perhaps the most famous bird painter John James Audubon in 1821 in New Orleans. Audubon was born in Saint Domingue (now Haiti), the illegitimate son of a French sea captain and plantation owner and his French mistress. Early on, he was raised by his stepmother in Nantes, France, and took a lively interest in birds, nature, drawing, and music. In 1803, at the age of 18, he was sent to America, in part to escape conscription into the Emperor Napoleon’s army.
This brings me to New Orleans, which is the place I know best. I really haven't been around the state very much. The boat here going under the Crescent City Connection Bridge, is named the John James Audubon, and goes from the French Quarter all the way uptown to the Audubon Zoo. It's a great ride, because it is one of the only ways you get to see the mighty Mississippi River. Most of the time the river is hidden because the city is below sea level.
The next thing to love, is the architecture. This is the Edgar Degas House, where the artist lived with his family. You can go HERE to read more about this house, which is now a Bed and Breakfast, and also has a very nice restaurant.
This painting done by Degas in New Orleans is called, Portrait of Estelle Musson De Gas (1872), and was the last in a series of portraits Degas made of his sister-in-law.
The fourth the thing I love is the food culture. This is a picture of Hippolyte Begue, who owned a restaurant along with his wife Elizabeth Kettenring. She came to New Orleans from Germany in 1853. She married Louis Dutreuil and opened a restaurant in the French Quarter in 1863. After Dutreuil's death, she married Hippolyte Begue and changed the restaurant's name from Dutrey's to Begue's.
Madame Begue served only one meal, a "second breakfast," at 11:00 a.m., a popular time for those who had been at work since before dawn in the Quarter and on the docks. When tourists came to the city for the Cotton Centennial in 1884, the late breakfast at Madame Begue's became very popular and this is where the concept of "brunch" originated!
Begue's 1903

Madame Begue died in 1906. In 1914, Tujague's Restaurant, which had been in business just a few doors down the block since 1856, bought Madame Begue's Restaurant and building. Tujague's, a favorite of locals and tourists alike, remains in the same location today.
Traditions that go back 300 years are remembered and loved and still go on, especially when it comes to food preparation, and the enjoyment of dining. Louisiana is unique producing and fostering a unique regional cuisine that is world class in every way.
A place that's on my list to see is Avery Island where Tabasco Sauce is produced. They grow the peppers and make it there, and sell it all over the world.
You have to love a place that even uses the Fleur de lis on top of Creme Brulee, which is the way they serve it at...
...Commanders Palace, still one of the best eateries in the world, and training ground for a whole generation of celebrity chefs who have gone on to create huge careers for themselves.
The fifth thing to love is the party! Carnival season is the best, and Mardi Gras is something everyone has to experience at least once in their lives.
The party takes on many forms, including dozens of social and pleasure clubs who celebrate by dressing up and taking to the streets to second line.
Even though I'm over my limit of five things to love, I must add The French Quarter to the love list. It was the first place we lived when we came to New Orleans. This twenty block neighborhood was originally the entire city or New Orleans 300 years ago, and it is really special to live in a 200 old house and walk the gas lighted cobblestone streets. Every nook and cranny has a hidden courtyard, beckoning you in, even if only for a look.
When we first told people we were moving to New Orleans, the big question was "why on earth would you want to live there?" For us it's the bohemian atmosphere, the European flavor that reminded us of Buenos Aires, the old lovely houses, the colors, the music, the sub tropical climate, the welcome visitors get from every New Orleanian - well it was intoxicating, and it remains so for us.
Even though I don't know much about the state of Louisiana, I know I love New Orleans.
The four people I would like to tell us about their states are:

The Bayou Contessa - Julie Neill is a born and bred New Orleanian, and she says she will stay here until it sinks, clinging to the last piece of rock until the bitter end. I am sure she can tell us many more interesting things than I have about Louisiana .

PVE - Patricia lives in a very pretty part of New York

Strange Closets, a charming guy named Tate from Chicago

Seattle Sketcher - Maybe Gabi will tell us about Washington state in his special way

I could ask everyone on my blog roll, but some of you have already gotten tagged, and also your state has already been covered. However, don't wait to be tagged if you want to tell us all your unique point of view about the five things to love about your state.


Country French Antiques said...

Great Post! I've always loved New Orleans. One of my fantasies is to move to the French Quarter. Lucky you! Merci

Visual Vamp said...

Oh Shawn,
You have seen the motherland of France in the most complete and intimate ways.
Poor little Louisiana is a pale version of France, almost a distant memory being erased as the population of French speaking Cajuns and Creoles dies out.
The French Quarter in New Orleans still has its charm, but it is an uphill batttle to keep it from becoming a hollow shell of a cheap version of Disneyland, a facade only for tourists (who we so badly need here).
You will always find totems and homages to the French here, in the way we decorate and dine, by the names of the streets and the people, by the lovely things sold in the shops- it's all still French enough to be recognized as such.
As someone so well versed in the culture of France you would find much to love in New Orleans, and I really hope you come here sooner than later.
Like Megan wanting to do in Los Angeles (Beach Bungalow8), I dream of organizing a bloggers get togeher here in New Orleans.
Of course I am at your service in all ways anytime you decide to come to New Orleans, to help make your trip the best it can be.
xo xo xo

beachbungalow8 said...

I'm there vis vamp! just tell me when. I'll bring some extra steaks : )

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this great post! I love learning about other parts of the country, and this was wonderful!!!

I am so sorry it took me so long to complete the survey, but I've done it and have it posted on my blog today!

Hope your day is going well :)

Courtney said...

This made me homesick! I am so excited to go back to LA this weekend to see my family. Great post.

Pigtown-Design said...

Great post! I spent a lot of time in LA, but up in Opelousas, and loved every minute of it. Do go to Avery Island - it's incredible with the beautiful old gardens. Did you know that the workers there used to get a bottle of Tabasco with every paycheck?

E-mail me about Baltimore...

Visual Vamp said...

From my neighbor Julie, who forgot her password so she can comment - she sent this to me via e-mail:

I was going to post this under comments for the VV blog, but I couldn't remember my password.

- You might have included a shot of the fabulous Live Oak shading your own house in your beloved oaks pics.

Also, I might mention the architecture in the French Quarter is actually Spanish. Fires in 1799 and 1794 destroyed most of the early structures and the French inluence "waned in favor of the more Mediterranean forms of the Spanish." I have always loved this about the French Quarter, that's it's really mostly Spanish - in New Orleans, you don't get what you expect. (Quote from French Quarter Manual by Malcolm Heard.)

Love the blog,

Sabina said...

Great post Val. I love that you start with the welcome visitors receive. So true, from my first trip in the 70's (3 hippies in a beat up station wagon) to our last one earier this month in your beautiful home. Do visit Avery Island, go in the spring when the wisteria is blooming. But anytime is a good time to visit Louisiana. I miss it so much.

katiedid said...

I love Louisiana! I am glad to see alot of things I remember! (I went to school at LSU for a year ages ago). Thanks for rekindling some very wonderful memories!!!

Visual Vamp said...

You and Joe were the best welcome of all when our feet hit your driveway eight years ago!
Maybe we'll do Avery Island together the next time you come and stay with us!
And I am amazed at all of you gals who have ties to Louisana! Please feel free to call on me whenever you get to New Orleans!
How about a blog girl get together here soon? I can organize it for sure!
xo xo xo