Saturday, June 13, 2009


I don't know anything about Nashville, hoping my friends who do will chip in with accomodation, music, food, camping, and any other information you think visitors need.

I have found a Nashville Scene website that seems to have music calendars, restaurant listings, and such. Looks very complete to me, but don't know for sure how good it is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Keep Up With Acadiana

A good way to keep up with the latest music and event news for the Lafayette area is to join the Google Group "Acadiana Community List." It is a moderated group, started by Andrea Rubenstein, who previously had a smaller scale e-mail list. You can set it to send you a message every time there is one, or you can set it to send the messages together as a digest, or you can turn off message delivery and just visit the group on Google Groups to see what's new.

So, you just have to get a free Google Groups ID to participate in the group.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gulf Coast Summer Weather

Hot and steamy. There you have it.

The prevailing wind is from the south, blowing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. The normal pattern in summer is for the moisture to build up big clouds in the heat of the day, then in mid-afternoon to early evening, pour back down in torrential thunderstorms. The thunderstorms can last a couple of hours. The bad weather can last longer if a cool front comes from the north to meet the hot wet air from the Gulf.

Dry days are possible but the afternoon thunderstorm is a regular pattern, especially when the high temperatures are 95F (35C) and up.

The heat index readings which combine the air temperature with the humidity to give an idea of how hot it feels often reach 100F (37C) and higher in July and August.

*Note* As of this edit, June 12, the high temp today is expected to be 93F (33C)with a heat index as high as 101F (38C). We are in a dry week, with highs around 95F (35C) and lows around 75F (23C). Humidity is high.

Check the National Weather Service for weather details, and hurricane warnings.

All bets are off if there's a hurricane.

Southern Foodways

Here is a link I found at the Southern Foodways Alliance website. They are guides to past events/tours in several southern cities. Nashville is among them. Since I have never been to several of these towns, I would plan my visit to include a few of these destinations.

Culinary Tourism Routes from Southern Foodways Alliance. There is the Mississippi Tamale Trail, The Southern BBQ Trail, Boudin Trail, and Gumbo Trail.

Summer Travel Tips for the Deep South

Tip #1. Make sure the air conditioning is working in your car. If your car does not have air conditioning, rent one that does. Don't even think you can make it with the windows down. It's so humid that your sweat will NOT evaporate. And when you have to roll up the windows during rain, the condensation will fog up inside the windows. You will feel like you're going to suffocate. The cooling of the air conditioning is good, but its main function is to remove humidity from the air. Southern air is thick like a blanket in July and August.

Tip #2. Stay in cabins, not tents. Once you arrive as far south as Kentucky, give up the idea of tent camping and find state parks with cabins to rent. My friend from Kentucky says it's too hot to sleep and the mosquitoes will also keep you awake all night. (Hope to find links for state parks to include here.)

Tip #3. Drink lots of water. When sightseeing in the south, always carry a bottle of water with you. Heat exhaustion will ruin your day, and staying hydrated will help prevent it. (Although I've lived in the south for most of my life, I get heat exhaustion very easily and it's made me pretty sick once or twice.)

Tip #4. Sunburn. People from northern climates often have an idea that the sun is their friend. This is NOT true in the southern United States. If you are sightseeing outdoors, wear a hat with a wide brim, sunscreen, loose, light-colored clothing. Clothes that cover your shoulders and arms to the elbow, as well as legs to the knee, will be cooler than clothes that expose more skin. In a very short time, it's possible to get a sunburn that will make you run a fever. Even overcast (cloudy) days can give you a bad sunburn.

Tip #5. Bring a light sweater, jacket, or long-sleeved shirt. Paradoxically, this is a warning about being cold in the Deep South summer. Restaurants and dance halls with air conditioning may be cold. The dancers don't want to sweat too much, and a high level of air conditioning is needed to cool the kitchens enough for people to work there. If you are dancing, you won't be cold; but if you are just sitting, and not used to air conditioning, you might need your sweater.

New Orleans

The Crescent City - where do I start?

*New Edit June 28 2009* One tip for people driving in New Orleans for the first time - You are NOT allowed to make left turns at many intersections, especially boulevards (streets with a canal or green space in the middle).

You will see a special U-turn lane either just before the light, or just after the light. Watch for the U-Turn symbol to spot those lanes. It's an upside down U with an arrow. You will also see some intersections where U-turns are not allowed. Nothing is consistent in New Orleans.

In Metairie, especially on Veterans Blvd., the lanes are usually just before the lights. In New Orleans itself, there is a mixture, but the lanes are usually after the lights.

Another warning about New Orleans drivers: They are terrible. And they are proud of the fact that they do not use turn signals. They don't want any other drivers to have advance notice of their intentions. They like to run red lights, too - so don't hurry to go through the intersection when your light turns green.

A is for Angelo Brocato ice cream shop. Mid-City, on Carrolton just east of Canal Blvd. intersection. A is also for Audubon Institute, including the Zoo, in uptown New Orleans on the site of the 1884 World Cotton Exposition, the Aquarium at the foot of Canal St., and the Insectarium, in the historic Customs House on Canal. ** Note: They have made changes to ferry service  - I don't think the Algiers Ferry carries vehicles any more, pedestrian only. Check before you set out. ***The Algiers Ferry at the foot of Canal St. will give you a unique view of the city. It used to be free for pedestrians, not sure if it still is. Since New Orleans is really all about the river, riding the ferry will give you a river experience. You can get off in Algiers, or you can just stay on for the round trip. A is also for art - New Orleans has many museums. You can start at New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) in City Park. There's also the Ogden Museum of Southern Art close to Lee Circle on Camp St. Google for New Orleans museums to find more.

B is for beignets at the Cafe' du Monde. Across from Jackson Square in the Quarter, you can sit under their open-air pavilion, be served cafe au lait and beignets, and watch the people go by. I think the Cafe' is still open 24 hours a day. Before Katrina, if you walked around to the river side of the building, you could look in a window and watch them make the beignets. Not sure if it's still like that.

B is also for Bed and Breakfasts. I've always wanted to stay at Degas House on Esplanade, and my contacts in New Orleans say they have relatives that stay there when they visit, love it. I also have gotten recommendations for Oakview Bed and Breakfast on City Park Ave. I have also gotten a recommendation for Rose Manor in Bucktown. It says it is in Lakeview, but it's at the border of Lakeview and Bucktown (the old lakeside fishing district of Metairie) at the West End, close to the lake. There are also a variety of B&Bs on Prytania, Uptown. My mom stayed in a nice one when Ray was working at the World's Fair, but that was in 1984. Google on B&Bs on Prytania to scope out what's there now.

C is for Central Grocery at 923 Decatur St. in the French Quarter. Plan on popping in for a muffaletta (pronounced "muffa-lotta"). At lunch time, they make them ahead, and you just tell them you want a half or a whole. Two people can split a whole one and be stuffed. A quarter will leave you hungry before suppertime. Last time I was there, they had a few places to sit inside the store but you can buy a drink and take your sandwich to Jackson Square or to the levee to eat it. Also, you don't bargain about what goes on it. You just say, "a half" or "a whole". They will wave you out of the line if you start to tell them what you want on it. Cash is good here, I can't remember if they take cards now. Back in the day, they didn't take cards.

E is for expensive. Some other famous, more expensive, places are: Antoine's, Galatoire's, Delmonico's, and Commander's Palace. These are places that require more than the casual dress you usually see in New Orleans restaurants, plus a good bit more money. I have actually never eaten at any of these places. They are destinations in and of themselves.

J is for jazz. Preservation Hall has music 7 nights a week in the Hall on S. Peter St. in the French Quarter. Check out the shows on their web site. Snug Harbor, on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny, is also a fantastic jazz venue; music 7 nights a week I think. Ray highly recommends the Palm Court Jazz Cafe, at 1204 Decatur St. He has fond memories of going there during the years he worked about 2 blocks away, on Royal St. in the French Quarter.

M is for Maple Leaf Bar on Oak St., not far off Carrollton. Ray used to play music pretty often at the Maple Leaf in the 1980s. Check out their calendar, it is a genuinely funky New Orleans music venue. It's where the locals go. I remember when it had the laundromat; my first visit was with my New Orleans-bred college roommate in the 1970s.
Also, Mandina's Restaurant on Canal, close to Carrollton. I haven't been since early 2005 before Katrina, but they used to have these old surly waiters who would tell the daily specials in a thick New Orleans accent spoken too fast for me to understand. Even though they were speaking English, sometimes I felt like I needed English subtitles. It makes them surlier when they have to repeat themselves. The last time I was there, I got a young courteous waiter and it wasn't the same. I used to love the marinated crab claw appetizer, and the softshell crab amandine. Everything is good there, you can't go wrong. Don't forget - cash only, no cards, no checks of any kind, even traveler's checks. One of my favorite evenings was to eat at Mandina's then cross Canal, walk a little ways down Carrolton, and get gelato at Angelo Brocato's.

N is for the neighborhoods. New Orleans has many of them. Tourists mostly see the French Quarter, the Central Business District (CBD), the Foubourg Marigny, Bywater, the American Quarter (mansions on St. Charles Avenue, Audubon Park, etc., also sometimes called Uptown or Garden District). Uptown has many sub-neighborhoods. There is also Mid-City, Broadmoor, Jefferson (old), the Irish Channel, Holly Grove, Algiers, Lakeview, Lake Vista, Gentilly, City Park, the 9th Ward, and the list goes on. The areas closest to the river did not flood during Katrina, but just about everywhere else did.I'm not sure if any maps exist showing the neighborhoods, and I'm not sure if they have exact boundaries. When people give directions, they often include the neighborhood name to give an idea of the location.

S is for streetcar. *** Note added February 10, 2014:  They have been doing lots of work on the streetcar lines, and substitute buses when there is streetcar construction going on. Consult the RTA web site to confirm schedules and operational status. *****

A fun, inexpensive thing to do is ride the St. Charles streetcar. The link has details of fares. You will ride down the American Quarter, also known as the Garden District from the Central Business District (downtown). You will ride by Loyola and Tulane Universities, and pass Audubon Park. I'm not sure what the status of the Canal Street streetcars. They had re-worked all the line down Canal St. to Mid-City before Katrina, but there was extensive damage to both the line and the cars during Katrina. Ask a local about the Canal Streetcar. If it's active, you will see a much different city on that ride to Mid-City than you would on the St. Charles streetcar.

T is for Tujague's  (old Creole restaurant in French Quarter) and Tipitina's music Uptown. Tujague's always has lunch specials, and great atmosphere.

W is for West Bank. I have recently had a restaurant in Crown Point highly recommdended, as well as the Bayou Segnette state park. There is also the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park Barataria Preserve which is a wetland environment.  Lafitte the town is another destination.

St. Francisville, LA

St. Francisville has some important must-do's and must-sees. I was there fairly recently visiting some historic sites, have some info to pass on.

*New Edit* June 12 2009. I just saw an ad in the paper today for the St. Francisville Hummingbird Festival, July 24-25, 2009. They are banding hummingbirds, and it looks like an up-close and personal look at the resident hummingbird population. I had a similar experience last month at a friend's house.

There are lots of plantation houses, which I will include links another day. You can stay overnight in many of them. Some of them are supposed to have ghosts.

Audubon State Park, location of Oakley Plantation, is a wonderful thing to see. It is out in the middle of nowhere but it's only a few minutes from St. Francisville. It's a great example of its architecture style, and admission is very reasonable because it's a state park. If you Google on Oakley Plantation, you will find lots of information from a variety of sources.

More historic house information in St. Francisville to come.

***New edit 2014. The St. Francisville ferry is no more. In 2011, the river flood stage inundated the ferry landing. They hurried up to finish the new bridge, and the ferry was not reinstated after the flood. We rode the ferry with some Canadian friends only weeks before it closed. It was an awesome experience to cross the Mississippi in flood.

On the west side of the river, you will be on the edge of the town of New Roads, on False River (an old oxbow of the Mississippi). It is easy to drive through town and end up on Hwy. 190, which you can either follow west to Opelousas, then south to Lafayette, or you can keep going south to I-10 and cross the Atchafalaya swamp on a 26-mile long bridge.


Food, music, history, we've got it all. It's hot and steamy in late July. More details to come. I will supply descriptions and links as I go along.

Blue Moon - Lafayette
Artmosphere - Lafayette
Grant Street Dance Hall - Lafayette

Prejeans Restaurant - Has live music - Lafayette
Randol's Restaurant - Live music - Lafayette

NuNu's - Arnaudville
The Liberty Theater - Eunice (Saturday nights only)

McGee's Landing -restaurant, live music, swamp tours - Henderson

La Poussiere - dance hall- Breaux Bridge
Cafe Des Amis - restaurant with live music some days - Breaux Bridge

Vermilionville - sort of a living history museum with occasional music events
Lake Martin - alligator and bird habitat
Henderson - swamp tours
Butte La Rose - at I-10 exit - Atchafalaya interpretive center

Avery Island - New Iberia - Tabasco hot sauce plant, jungle gardens, salt dome
St. Martinville - Evangeline Oak, Acadian Culture Center, Longfellow-Evangeline State Park with historic house, more


I will expound on my favorite things in Memphis. It's been a dozen or so years since I've been but Memphis is timeless.

It would be nice if Memphians and others would post any comments or information about music venues; every time I've been to Memphis, my entourage included a preschooler so I am ignorant about nightspots.

I LOVE the Memphis Zoo, with its Egyptian-style entrance and excellent exhibits. The Mud Island museum, including the scale model of the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico is very interesting too.

We stayed at the Peabody Hotel for one visit, and enjoyed the ceremony of the ducks very much. (Stephanie was three and four years old at our visits; the perfect age for duck ceremonies.) The Peabody has always had very good food, both expensive and moderately priced. And it seems to me that it's a quintessential southern experience to have a drink in the lobby of the Peabody. The last time I visited, the worn shabby sofas contrasted with the elegance of the marble fountain and ornate flower arrangements and seemed to be a metaphor for the contrasts of the post-Civil War south. It's been at least a dozen years, so they've probably replaced the sofas by now.

There used to be a barbeque place downtown, walking distance from the Peabody. I remember looking out my window and seeing a stream of people emerging from the alley with styrofoam take-out boxes. We didn't eat there because of scheduling issues, but it was supposed to be one of the best in town. Memphis is known for its BBQ. If any Memphians know what its name is, please tell me. Latest news, just in. The BBQ place is Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous. Don't get intimidated, it's not hard to find. This is a Memphis must-do.

Haven't been to Beale St. in many years. There were some restaurants/bars with live music, but I don't know where the good stuff is. We walked to Beale St. for an early dinner from the Peabody Hotel, nice walk, but got stopped by many panhandlers (beggars) on the way.