Friday, March 30, 2012

New Orleans Visit, Part II -- Botanical Gardens and Metairie Cemetery

The one day in New Orleans that we took our car out of the hotel's parking lot, we drove to Metairie Cemetery, which is an interesting combination of old tombs and current burial areas. Some New Orleans cemeteries are even older, but they are crowded with a jumble of mausoleums that serve, unfortunately, as cover for muggers and others. Visitors are advised to go there at the busiest times, perhaps with a guided group. Since our purpose was to visit a "drivable" cemetery and see the above-ground burial which the high water table and frequent heavy soaking of the ground requires in this area, Metairie was just right. New Orleans' largest cemetery, it covers over 65 acres (web sites seem to differ on its exact size), and was established in 1873 on the site of a former racetrack. The grounds are beautifully kept, a peaceful "park" full of birds singing their hearts out. Mausoleums of many leading families, tombs of former governors and mayors, and towering military memorials share the grounds with lavish displays by less upstanding (though certainly no less wealthy) citizens, such as the elaborate tomb of Josie Arlington, once the leading madam of Storyville.
Not far from that cemetery, New Orleans boasts a 1,300 acre city park, which includes the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and many other scenic features and recreation centers. We strolled through the botanical gardens there (a treat for my master gardener husband). One photo from the gardens shows the conservatory (in a style complementing the main Pavilion across the promenade) which houses a tropical rain forest exhibit and "living fossils", plants with a lineage going back to prehistoric times. The other garden photo shows a corner of the Japanese Garden section.
We were very fortunate with our weather while we were in New Orleans (mid-March)--quite warm each day (mid to upper 80s), but not oppressive or excessively humid and beautifully clear, as you can see. I had made plans for activities we could have done if we had heavy rain or too much heat for extended time outside, but will save those for another visit. As I mentioned in the previous post, New Orleans exceeded my expectations as a fascinating destination, with much to see and do for visitors with a variety of interests.
Question of the day: When and where have cemeteries been among the attractions you have visited in your travels?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A New Orleans Vacation

We have returned from several days in New Orleans, a delightful vacation break! Today's photos are all from the French Quarter, which we visited a couple of times, riding the excellent street car system to various destinations from our hotel on a quiet, beautiful, tree-lined block in the architecturally rich Garden District. I think we enjoyed the best of both worlds by visiting the razz-ama-tazz in the daytime and staying in a quieter (though still urban) area. Historic mansions made exploring the Garden District fun, and Magazine Street, a few blocks from our hotel, is famous for antique shops, boutiques, and galleries as well as some lovely restaurants. We strolled down to the Lilette Restaurant there for an elegant, delicious French meal our last evening in town.
Our first afternoon, we hopped on the streetcar after settling into our room (a $3 day pass got us all the rides and transfers we wanted--a real bargain--and no parking headaches or expense), riding to a stop near Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter. A mule-pulled carriage with a friendly, lively driver provided us with an orientation tour of the Quarter--a fun, relaxing way to get a feel for directions and to learn about the area. The photo of the building corner gives a flavor of the lovely places and beautiful balconies there. Then we stood in a verrrrry long and slow line for the famous beignets and coffee at Cafe Du Monde nearby--quite tasty, but once was enough for us. Besides, they are so filling that a serving of 3 beignets each around 5 PM left us too full for any dinner that evening!
Jackson Square's main attraction is the St. Louis Cathedral, seen in two photos, outside and in. Historically fascinating, the basilica remains an active force in the life of the city today. The final photo shows a jazz group performing across from Jackson Square. The stairs on which the listeners sat lead up to the promenade along the mighty Mississippi. In a future post, I show you photos from our paddle-wheel boat ride the next day.
Although I love to travel, this particular trip was more my husband's desire than mine. However, I kept an open mind and was rewarded with a much richer, more interesting experience than I had expected. Of course, there is amazing food and the well-known nightlife in New Orleans, but there is so much more--in historical neighborhoods, natural beauty, and southern charm. We both thoroughly enjoyed our time there.
Question of the day: If you have visited New Orleans, what were your impressions of the city?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

For Health and Enjoyment--Fresh Ginger Root Tea

Is anyone else out there fighting a cold or some other respiratory ailment? Although my husband and I very seldom have colds anymore (at our age, we seem to have accumulated multiple immunities--a small comfort as other age-related troubles come around :>), we have each suffered a very bad cold in recent weeks. Hopefully, mine is beginning to wind down. One home remedy that is very soothing is ginger root tea. According to the nutrition expert Joy Bauer, ginger root is also a natural anti-inflammatory substance helpful for arthritis and other forms of inflammation. However, she cautions that it may also thin the blood a bit, so check with your doctor before using if you take blood thinning medications.
The first time I decided to try it, an internet search turned up all sorts of recipes and ideas, some fairly complicated. I tried instead simply slicing some ginger root and boiling it up to drink with lemon and honey--that worked fine for us. We like it quite strong, to the point that the tingle in the throat it causes could be termed a slight burn. With some experimentation, you can find the best strength for your taste.
To make simple ginger root tea,
- break off a length of the root and wash it as you would a baking potato (I leave the skin on for tea since we don't eat the pieces)
- cut slices, anywhere from quite thin to 1/4" thick at the most
- put the slices in a pot of water and bring it to a boil
- boil for 10 - 12 minutes
- strain into a mug
I add about 1 tsp. of lemon juice and honey to taste (probably a Tbsp. for me--I don't measure it) and drink up. It is both tingly and soothing for a sore throat and helps open up clogged sinuses. The photos show the amount of ginger root I used for about 3 cups of water, with a quarter coin for size comparison (after they posed for me, I cut the larger pieces into fourths for boiling).
Ginger root tea has become a favorite alternative to black tea for me, even when I feel fine. It is refreshing and restorative, as well as adding significant anti-oxidants to the day.
Question of the day: What is your favorite home remedy for a cold?